Sunday, November 21, 2010

Slump & Consolation: Fall of 2010

Cirro stratus over the Kigs on a Friday night in September from my doorstep in Icy View (left), right on time to create the illusion of Job one more time to cap off the school week, a week of fine Fall weather held  prisoner prowling the playgrounds smelling out trouble before it happens, all the meanwhile huge arrangements being made for the forthcoming weekend expedition and asses being made of oneself in one's family, all for the sake of climbing in the Kigs,  followed by Expedition Friday and  the sudden inexplicable rising of huge barometric pressure changes at the 3,000 ft. level, wind rising, the Nomens hunkering down to only party, the agony of defeat.  Is this what life is like in El Chalten?

       This pattern has been manifesting for a year and a half:  a precise and maddening enhosement, the weather bad when time is available, weather good when harnessed to responsibilities and the GLUE of town.  I have been through slumps before in 32 year career, but this one has really settled in.  What is implied by SLUMP is a failure to goal-achieve the BIG things.  There is always bouldering in this Arctic bouldering paradise, there is perpetually climbing, almost every day come moves with a move of the pure isolation over a particular section of stone, almost every weekend comes with a GRATEFUL TO THE WIFE mountaineering adventure of a surprisingly high cast—  but the thing that one lives for is the LARGE, the EXTENDED, the CAN'T FIND MY WAY BACK HOME of total commitment and wisdom-enhancing NO FEAR.  And a summit.  In this range, the tippy-top counts, it's part of the mathematical fun.

 Nothing coming in a year and a half.  Enhosement.
 (above) Penny Boulders, crazy meta-sedimentary a mile or two north of Penny Bridge, looking south in this photo, Teller Road in background:  homo traverse boulder and top of the orange lichen alpha clump of this group, the raptor tor, a fine klettergarten.

    Searching for causes of mountaineering slump, I consider this blog, this VERY BLOG.  There exists an exact correlation between start up of blog and beginning of slump.  COULD THIS BLOGGING B.S. YOUR ARE READING NOW BE AFFECTING CLIMBING OUTCOMES?  It's a proven fact (i jokes) that the nonentropy of minds participating in a mass consciousness structure (such as an internet site) can affect the probabilities of a climb.  More concretely, maybe keeping a blog is messing up my climbing brain.  The reintroduction of Ego after all that work to annihalate it! 
     Or, blame it on the GLUE of TOWN.  Muir had Martinez; I have Nome.  But this seems grossly unfair.  For the time has come to reveal a truth.  The slump is the result of an awakening.  The slump is transcendence, a stage of enlightenment.  The slump is the product of a slow awakening to the BEAUTY of the precious gifts of the GLUE?  It is time to look through the skin of this conceit and view the heart of the concept, the truth behind this term, "GLUE" OF TOWN, and see what really lies therein...  
so many blessings i cannot speak of them without the fragile flame of what they are blowing out like a candle:  love, family, friends— don't speak of them for they are the truly sacred— spray of climbing, but spray not of the sacred, love, family and friends... 

now the truth comes out:  the GLUE of town is composed of these wonderful things,

 these blessings...  this quagmire, this nemesis, this THING I had reified into a Chimera, is in reality the very fabric of which life is made, everything that is good, respectable, likable, warm, and human, everything that I cannot describe because my subcription is to the gloom and doom...   climbing is not important— it is the GLUE that truly feeds the spirit...

no wonder it takes such STEELY FOCUS to turn away from town

    (above) Consolation:  Penny Crags, from Penny Boulders, September 25, 2010.  Denied the copious Chi-intakes of the high Kigs, a great bouldering day between storms can forestall the onset of the climbing demons...

into white, the sudden giving way
one foot is gonna be on ice today
and one foot on rock, and rock was my bottle,
look at that white creeping in.
well, let it cover over,
let the whole thing go down,
i'm tired of the spray, 
let the machines resound,
once more into the iPodstream,
the roaring and the Kougarak,
heading into the Kigs today
with four bottles in eight socks.
the blog goes from tundra
into a blanket of snow,
now you've become an icecap
with your secrets below,
let go of summer,
it was overrated anyway,
the Cobras are out, and
now it's time to play
you crunchety-crunched,
you were stemming on rime,
don't push too hard,
ooh, that delicate spine!
the clouds were shrieking,
faith is absolute
live to see another day,
it's all turning to white.
(above) Rocky Mountain on the left, Pk. 2374, 100 ft. Bluff on the right, October 17, 2010.  Consolation in the form of a slog up the main mountain, my third time up this hill.  Too warm temps that day for the choss bluff.

 (left) Earp starting up the Bluff in a previous, more frozen-up year than this one is shaping up to be.

(above) Tom's Cabin:  rocks are visible as smudges up on the ridge.  Upon closer inspection, they open up to reveal,surprising depths of bouldering.  Not the Kigs, but a sweet Fall consolation.

(right)  October 10, 2010 (10-10-'10!  No wonder that day was such fine consolation), late afternoon, up at Tom's Cabin Rocks.  Pictured are a pair of aretes I slimed up.  Anything under 5.6,  I probably slimed up that day, including top-outs on each of the surprisingly exposed pinnacles.  However, the slime parameters were high that day, post extended Autumn rainfall, the lichen saturated to the point of mush. I know Graham and Jeff had slimed up a lot of these problems in previous years during their summer residence at the haunted cabin, and, for all I know, so did Tom, before them.  Increased ectoplasmic readings in this gulch...
(above)  The Discovery Goldfields, my ice hunting grounds on Sunday, November 7.  No ice to be found, but the snow was the finest consolation imaginable, silky sibilant grain snow parting with a sigh over steel edge of touring ski, perfectly weight-supporting.
   TINMIURAQ (above)   What privilege to be an integrated part of a hillside for a day.

     And indeed, these are times of wretched SLUMP.  The Kigs are but a distant memory, the Alaska Range so far away now I can no longer imagine facing those looming seracs.  No throne have we sat upon for many a month.  Only the gnarled clumps that cling to the ground, closer to home.
    Yet, zoom in, zoom in.  These clumps contain fractal depths and thrones in their own right...  flex and strain down in your tundra pit, hidden away from sight wrestling with rock puzzles...  what difference be a move whether it is one foot up, or thousands of feet off the deck?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Bringing Out the Bucket

     This "Prindle Bucket" (above) stashed in the moraines at Crater Creek is an indication I am still in the game.  I am a climber who has gear stashed in the mountains.  My next attempt is imminent.  I'm a player.  To the question, "Been doin' any climbing lately?" I am able to answer in the strong affirmative, yes, how are you, as a matter of fact I AM climbing at this moment, simply by virtue of having a bunch of hardware and ropes in a 5-gallon bucket cached deep in the mountains (because my back is trashed and I have to double-carry everything these days.)
       But now, September had come.  The bucket was coming out.  Summer rock climbing in the Kigs was coming to an end.  The beginning of Loserdom once more....      
       Saturday, September 17...  Town had ravaged me...  Too many proboscises had been reamed into my chakras...I had completely lost the plot... a chance opening of circumstances allowed escape from the glue, the terrible GLUE of TOWN, the glue that requires such shameful and embarrassing self-absorption to overcome, to simply get out and do some climbing.  
      Yukon Jack acted counterintuitively as a stimulant, and got me out of Nome on Friday night.  But then, hours later, mounted on a four-wheeler with no high beam in pitch darkness out by Salmon Lake, one mile from my destination after a long ride on a long Friday evening, I drove straight into a large herd of Muskox on the road. 
        OOMINGMAK!!   Drat!    I had only been wanting to get to the cabin and collapse in my bag.  Now I would have to bull my way through this crowd of head-butters like a Polaris Centaur.  Again I would wear the hat of wildlife harasser. 
        One calf did not grasp the concept of get outta the road.  His mom, like Jim Otto, squarely in my headlights.  I rode in tight, quick circles, advancing forwards in incremental loops, my little bobble head swivelling, waiting for the awful contact with the great skull-plate coming out of the darkness.  It took 25 minutes to sweep the herd slowly off, and certainly constituted the most perilous moment of the whole trip.  I was grateful to finally fall asleep in the utter serenity and peace of the most grateful cabin at Salmon Lake... (below)
    Ostensibly, this bucket trip would also be a rematch with the lumpen heap of Pk. 3535, scene of my fog and ennui the week before.  And indeed, the day dawned beautiful, one of those not-quite-freezing Autumn days suspended in time,  but the familiar Kigsborne ennui of hiking up a hill and calling it a climb persisted, like vestigial fog on a sunny day. 
        I followed my trail along the bluffs on the south side of Crater Creek.  AKLAQ was all around, including the polite brown one that Janet, Carl and I had met a week earlier.  But the Aklaitch were fat with fish and berries;  situation non-stressful.  I dozed and power-lounged on tussoks, captivated by the thrumming humming marvel of the Kigs...  That weird thing happened, where the mountains cease to be inert stone, and reveal themselves to be sentient presences, ever communicating....  no way to translate it. 
      The climbing day slipped away.  I had been defeated (for the umpteenth time) by the debilitating power drains of town, coupled with my own foolish inability to patch them. 
          As consolation, I went for a hike (above) up the upper east fork of Crater Creek, a valley I'd never seen before.  Up some high moraines until I could see around the corner, lusting for a view of the hidden north face of Pk. 3325—  it proved to be another of those brown facades on the clash zone between the schist and pluton, reminiscent of False Tigaraha:  not worth climbing, unless some ice drip were to drip it on down, which looked entirely possible, north-facing cauldron like it is... A stupendous view down the length of the entire upper Crater Creek canyon—  but I had forgotten the camera down at the bucket.  You'll just have to slog up there yourself.