Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Third C-Tog North Buttress attempt

(left) The objective: North Buttress of the "Third C-Tog," the righthand skyline, last week on the July/August cusp.  I went in to Crater Creek thinking the route was 5 pitches;  I came out realizing it was probably twice that.  Base to summit we're looking at about 2,000 ft. in the picture;  the route itself might be 1,600 ft.  I got one pitch up and BAILED.  I could justifiably blame my retreat on the rainy weather, but deep inside, I know the bail was due to my chronic, deep-rooted failure of will.  (I count COMMON SENSE as a factor in this chronic failing!)  In fact, the weather was so-so during the six days of my trip, constantly threatening, but never precipitating all that much, fine, of course, for the approach days, deteriorating markedly on potential launch days.  In 2009 I bouldered my way to the summit via intermittent cliffs and 4th Class turf on the northwest side of the mountain, but the mountain still needs a truly technical ascent.  From the back (south) side, the  third Tog is a Class 2 walk-up.


                      The critters:  First, the 'Skox (OOMINGMAK) on the hike in, imperiously dominating the right of way (left), then the AKLAQ hanging around our camp the first night (above). He was a young male, and appeared to be nothing more than intensely curious about humans, as if he hadn't quite been paying attention to his mother's lessons and now needed to make up for his inattention in school by studying us closely in real life. He just couldn't get enough of us;  he showed off for a while with prodigious swimming feats in a nearby lake, then climbed up class 3 slopes and scree just so he kick back on a high ledge and study us for an hour or two, all the while giving off an air of youthful carefree abandon.  I had persuaded Rick Anderson to hike in with me for the first night.  After years hiking alone in the Kigs, both Rick and I are a bit jaded on being prey animals all the time.  I was so deeply grateful to Rick for being there as we stood by our tents with guns drawn, rendering the whole thing a lighthearted situation.  
      It was awful lonely bidding goodbye to Rick the next morning.  I moved my basecamp up, and was destined to spend the next few days in hyper-aware solitude twitching with constant Bearanoia, both in sleep and wakefulness. Never did see another AKLAQ, but they saw me.  They dominated my thoughts completely;  but this is the last I shall mention of them for now....

(above)  The route:  A very pathetic act, here...  I went for the Photoshop and drew the little red line EVEN THOUGH I have not yet completed the route.  Has the Internet freed us from the penalties for such a transgression?   This is the age of transparency.  I spent days scoping the route through my shiny new binoculars, and it was SO MUCH FUN drawing the little red line.  The crooked arrow points up the anus to a tremendous, sinuous, CHASM that penetrates the heart of the mountain like an intestine.    
(above)  The foot:  these are the initial cliffs of the north buttress.  The green parts are generally pretty easy climbing, but in a good drizzle, the green can be utterly treacherous, promising good footholds, but with suddenly variable coefficients of friction.  I'm still learning the art of Kigluaik route finding;  it's difficult not to let a route default into a GREEN LINE of least resistance.  The actual route here needs to go over the overhangs visible on the left.
(above)  Proof of climbing.  My new Beal rope hanging down 4th and 5th class slopes.  This is kind of embarrassing.  It might look like one could just SOLO ropeless, and one certainly could, and yet, when one is there, it all feels vaguely treacherous, especially with a scottish mist in the air.  In fact, there was a little 5.5 on this pitch; it provided a fine shakedown, no Gri-Gri, just using knots for rope-solo technique.   Kigluaik GNEISS is so preposterously fractured that climbing is like that old Mousetrap game:  one false move, one twitch, one spasm, and one risks unleashing catastrophic rockfall.  Rope soloing makes for such ridiculously slow climbing on this kind of ground that one longs for winter, when it is all frozen in place.
(above) KAYUQTUQ (Fox), Pk. 3950(?), on the divide between Crater Creek and Fox Creek, in essence, the Sixth Tog, and possibly the second highest summit in the Kigs besides the mighty Osborne, which stands nearby to the southwest...  I personally don't have access to a map which gives me a reliable altitude for this hill.  It pops into view from the Kougarak Road around Fox Creek at Salmon Lake.  KAYUQTUQ is only a little sobriquet I have applied in order to track the thing in my cluttered head.  If it has a name, could somebody please emerge forth with it?
         Kayuqtuq is included in this post by way of a RETRACTION.   For, I have already sprayblogged about this mountain in other posts, including the following post last April...     Fox and Foxy     ...which came after the second of two fun attempts on the mountain's north face the previous winter.  In the April post, I revealed myself to be completely befuddled as to which was the true summit. The photograph above, taken from Tog 3, shows which is the true summit, and myself to have been an idiot last April.  I shall not feel embarrassed, these types of befuddlements are de rigueur in the convoluted Kigs.  I still have not actually summited this mountain.  Somebody must have... yes? 

(above)  The Breach:  the preCambrian Thompson Creek OrthoGneiss has these features I call

.... one might simply refer to them as "gullies," but this term lacks the onomatopoeic grandeur of the former word to adequately describe these grand hidden canyons, formed along fault lines within the pluton that act as enormous debris chutes that shed the run-off as the mountain thrusts higher through the lithosphere over time.
        The best climbing of this trip occured after I coiled the ropes for the day, and peeked my head around the corner into this mother of all chasms, the very Breach itself.  Chasms often have very good rock, because they contain actual granite that was on the inside of the pluton and didn't get cooked into gneiss.  The Breach was no exception.  I bouldered upwards on the sidewalls of the chasm for hundreds of feet, losing myself in the continuous movement of granite climbing, sometimes looking down to find myself over that palpable limit where you suddenly say, who are you kidding, this isn't bouldering, it's free soloing...  A chasm is, however, a very very very terrible place to be for long, a hanging house of giant beartraps, an enormous playground slide littered with multi-ton boulders, NOT a place you take the boy scouts on the geology tour, a place where the foulest words you could utter are "SEISMIC ACTIVITY..."
(above)  The bouldering spot:  disgorged from the very maw of the Breach above, it's the Breach Boulders.  Some SWEET lines!  Friction, layback, offwidth, highballs...  Very nice stone...  the creek babbles among cobblestones...  can't say much for the landings.  Worth carrying the shoes for if you venture up Crater Creek....  

(above)  The Corner:  Togs 1, 2, and 3, looking west.  The C-togs are not seen from the Kougarak Road, they are AROUND THE CORNER of this T-shaped, obviously glaciated canyon.  The first miles of the hike are rather botanical, until you get up on the old moraines in the corner area.  I have not yet located any nub of a still-living glacier in Crater Creek, but one may be hiding at the top of the valley. 
(above)  Togs 1 and 2: looking northeast.  Fourth-classed a fun route on Tog 2 in '08 up the right hand side of the main buttress in this picture.  

(above) Togs 1 and 2 again, this time looking south.  After due consideration, I decided these were two independent structures.  Geologically, the C-Togs seem to be the very striking edge of the pluton where it is poking up through the mantle of schist, like a Humpback whale snout breaking up through sea ice.  You can pretty much see where the tattered edge of the schist (the sea ice) is riding up on the summit of the granite mountain (the whale's snout).
     Why "C-Tog"?  What the hell is a C-Tog?  Please remember that for all matters geological pertaining to the Kigluait, I regard my ultimate authority to be Amato & Miller's "Bedrock Geologic Map of the Kigluaik Mountains, Seward Peninsula, Alaska, 2004."  It's rather like my bible.  On the map, the C-Togs appear as little fingernails of pink pressed up against a big zone of brownish-green schist, with a little code that says the pink is pCtog.  The map key tells us this is "preCambrian Thompson Creek Orthogneiss."  That's the shit!  In the absence of any other names, that's what I call the peaks of Crater Creek South Fork...

(above) C-Tog 3 and 4, looking southeast.  The little red line shows a very silly but very fun bouldering/scramble excursion I soloed in 2009.  (link to silly related post:  Crater Creek Scrambles, featuring Carl White )  The yellow line is the north buttress that was the main topic of this post.  The outcome of this climb is still very much pending, though it looks like the rains of August may be dampening further prospects for now.

      If Norman Clyde had had Photoshop, would he have been able to resist drawing in the little red and yellow lines?

    Crater Creek is a fantastic place once you get up there.  It's as good as any National Park.  It's the epicenter of Nome climbing, which ain't saying much, brother, let me tell you, but it's a better hike any day than Grand Central Valley to the south, where the masses go...

      HIKING ADVICE:  I would recommend the south side of Crater Creek Valley (left as you're looking up Crater Creek from the Kougarak Road.)  There's a bluff paralleling and slightly elevated above the river to the south;  if you keep strictly to that bluff, that should keep you out of bushwhacking trouble.  When you reach the beginnings of the moraines (a deep unnamed drainage joins in from the left, or south) it is time to cross Crater Creek and swing wide to the right (north) as you travel left around the Corner.  Don't be too tempted to cut the corner on the inside (southwest), it gorges out into some less pleasant, rocky hiking.  
      As for the parking on the road...  man, I just don't know, lots of camps and private property, good luck, don't piss anyone off, camp on the shoulder of the road, get permission from someone, figure out something unobtrusive...  I like to park a quarter mile or so south of Crater Creek bridge, and then angle northeast towards the hiking bluff

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sampson Creek Boulders

(left) Sampson Creek boulders visible from the Kougarak Road-  as i pulled up to park on the shoulder of the Kougarak Road during the rains of July, just to the north of what must be the most dangerous ramp on the entire road, i  was informed by a fellow named Ken who came motoring out to greet me that this— he gestured toward this hill- was Sitnasuak Corporation...

phase one, JOY OF DISCOVERY Nome rockclimbing, when you are getting to know all the roadside crags thinking you are the first, you are going to be the Fred Beckey of this obscure little rock clump  (not understanding that ishigaitch, the little people, have been cragging here since the Distant Time, not to mention probable instances of visiting climbers to Nome through its 100-year history, and undoubtedly the centuries before...)

typically, it goes like this:  from one of the four highways the climber espies a dark rock sticking up from the tundra fields, maybe only ten feet worth by the looks of it, but let's go check it out...   after a short hike through blueberries the climber gets to the rock and discovers that in addition to the 10 feet of vertical seen from the road, another 15 feet of vertical was hidden behind a fold of tundra, the result being a fairly sweet little 25-foot crag, with scattered dudes of 10-foot boulders, which will, from here on in, provide year-round bouldering— hooking, camming, and moss in the winter, marble and schist in the summer 

but now, after 10 years of frequent 4-season bouldering, "phase one JOY OF DISCOVERY rockclimbing in Nome" is drawing to a close for me;  i've climbed out all my favorite spots (up to the .10c level, of course-  plenty left for the V2 crowds of the future)...  which is why i was so happy, several weeks ago during the rains of July, to be exploring a brand new set of boulders, ones i had never noticed before despite how many passes, a new slant of sunlight driving by one day, a chance sighting of a rock hitherto camoflagued as bush:  potential JOY OF DISCOVERY and new fresh meat boulder takings... 

(above) A pair of Mew Gulls (Larus Canus)  i think, help me out here...  the first issue with a new crag is always:  RAPTORS:  where's the nest?  whadda we got this year?  a serene and welcoming eagle?  a stressed and strafing falcon?  a pair of ravens with marital troubles?  but as i approached the Samson Creek boulders, i was surprised to see a pair of gulls on sentry (no, they weren't jaegers or terns)-  they put up almost no resistance to my intrusion... i'm not sure they even had a nest up there.... they flew away, i never saw them again...

(above) Delilah's, a one-move 5.6 offwidth, which you will know is an oxymoron if you are student of climbing, offered here as a sarcastic comment upon the general paucity of this area for any worthwhile bouldering...   The score for Sampson Creek Boulders:  ZILCH...   one star,  not the next Cloggy, NO COLOR IN THE PAN, not worth a return visit, of which i was relieved to inform Ken when he came motoring out to my car once again as i was leaving...   
(above)  Pk. 3922 ("Aapa") in the distant Grand Central region framed through a "hole in the wall" at Sampson Creek boulders.   i'm assuming the boulders in these pictures are meta-sedimentary MARBLE, they had these awful white plates that broke at a touch, maybe this stuff:

PLATEY MARBLE (light to medium gray, medium to coarse grained, with grains 0.25 to 1 mm, heavily weathered, marble composed largely of 85% calcite and subordinate amounts of quartz anhedra (5%), tremolite (3%), locally diopside in disequilibrium (1%), and white mica (8%). Platy nature caused by thin interbeds of white mica-chlorite lenses and wisps usually less than 1 cm thick.  Frequently isoclinically folded and sheared along fold axes.  Less resistant than [other marbles] due to white mica content and folded nature, which produce broken, sheared outcrops and rubble.) (Bundtzen et al. 1994)

but i am SO NOT SURE what kind of stone it was...  i departed Sampson Creek early, and returned to the "plagioclase porphyroblasts" of the Windmill Boulders to work on the proj., mildly depressed because of the rains of July, though little did i suspect, my fortunes were soon to change in the greater mountains....