Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Distin Bluff Chicken Out

(left) Distin Bluff (Pt. 1129), Saturday, April 2.  The pixelization is due to  blowing spindrift.  I spent last Saturday huddled in relative warmth and sunlight against this hundred-foot cliff underneath great umbrellas of snow-streamers that blew out horizontally off its top.

       The object of any April weekend is penetration into the "real mountains."   Stopping partway in the foothills to play is a failure, a "chicken out," a mental turpitude stemming from an unwillingness to motor out into the deep water completely alone.  It is the nature of the Kigluaiks that a 20-mile slog from the foothills from a busted machine is a doable thing without frostbite;  on the other hand, a 35-mile slog from the inner mountains from a busted machine would be a HELL OF A SLOG, and the rescue party would probably intercept you before you ever reached Nome the next day.  Then the locals would  excoriate you mightily.  Hitting your rescue beacon is practically unthinkable;  one would most likely never be able to visit the mountains again, your machine would be stripped from your good name, and the headline would make page 1.
         So, wherever I use the term "chicken out," substitute the words GOOD JUDGMENT.  Last Saturday I saddled up for a solo penetration into Glacial Lake, my ego puffed with dreams of the blogganeering accomplishments I could engender there:  a mixed route up the south face of the picturesque peak that rises from the northeast side of the lake.  Years before I had tried this route and been defeated by post-education weariness halfway up when a violent nap overtook me in the warm winter sun.  On a second attempt  with Marshall Earp, we rang the CHICKEN OUT bell instantly upon arriving at Glacial Lake to find there a wind of such ungodly ALLAPA proportions that there was no question of shutting off our warm little machines.  Without a word we had turned around and went back to Distin for fun and dry-tooling in the regular old SUB-Arctic at the end of the sixteen-mile Glacier Creek Road.

(below) Reruns of Joni bouldering on Distin Bluff last year.


            And now for the CHICKEN OUT!   I got to the pass at the end of Glacier Creek Road that leads to the Stewart River and on to the heart of the Kigs.  How deep the snow was!  Although  Crusteo, my battle-scarred Polaris 340, was going good, he was pretty much submerged and streaming snow into my face, plus he was eating a lot of gas.  Two deserted valleys separated me from Glacial Lake, and the mountains were all FUZZED OUT with that tell-tale WIND GAUZE.  A Russian hard man would have continued on towards the goal.  Too long in the flesh pots, I repeated the pattern from last year, and formed the bight-of-shame leading back towards Distin.

       The game of 4-season bouldering seems to involve the capacity to hang out in little micro-climates out of the wind, behaving for all the world like tattooed, fat-pad Californians hanging out at the V11 all day, except without the chicks, plus you're alone and freezing to death.  The least windy place is always at the top of the mountain, in a little nook pressed right up against the cliff.  There you can hang out next to the radiant stone and listen to the mountains rage all around you.  I was sad because I could see the whole sad sweep of time and I never let you know I cared about you.  Then you climb up and down the cliff, sinking good sticks into turf, torquing and hooking the marble, stemming and mantling and swinging and daggering, occasionally finding yourself way off the deck in situations that pass instantly from the hedonism of bouldering into the cold, psychopathic indifference of alpinism.  It's all in the kinaesthetic movement.  You're looking for the Csikszentmihalyi moment, which you will never remember anyway, lost as it is in the eternal sunshine of the bouldering mind, but you will feel better for it all at work on Monday.

      The coolest part of the day was stopping in the evening for a telly ski in Hatcher Pass quality powder in some nameless bowl among the wastes of the Snake River Valley (below).  Life can be sweet, enjoy for all it's worth.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Nugget Pass Powder

(left)  Allapa at Nugget Pass area, Grand Central in background, Sunday, March 27.  As I came even with Tyler, his celebrated time machine already drawn and aimed, I unconsciously broke out of parallel and into telly snob.

March Powder Storm

The FLUFF is on
There'll be no climbing today.

No perching, pasting and grunting,
Your hooks will stay in the pack,
No stemming and slamming your wallet 
Into slabs that gain no purchase.
They'll be over there sucking down the lines
And I'll be there with them;
the FLUFF is on, and
There'll be no climbing today.

The silken sound of graupels
Swishing aside by the millions
Has got them in a kind of trance;
if my skin stays on
I'll be able to pet the monkey on my back,
He pops on at the bottom of the run,
Gets off at the top and hucks another one,
But they'll be no climbing today
For the FLUFF is on,
It's like skiing on a cloud.

The monkey came back at the bottom of the run, so
We climbed the mountain again;
Crazed with the powder,
The silk and sinuous sliding,
We never crossed each other's tracks,
The waves were all synchronized;
And none of us we
Battled the gravity,
No one offered fealty
For the FLUFF was on,
It was all just winging.

Someday we'll return to struggle,
Offer ourselves to the jaws of the mountain,
Instead of smooth over the sinuous curves;
We'll be clinching and closing with constrictions and praying
For the Lord to spare us one time;
But for now the FLUFF is on,
The stairs are all coated with vapor
Get boards for your feet and take to the machines,
Leave your Cobras for shovel and beacon,
There will be no climbing today.

(right) Skinning up.  Erica and me, our trusty little machines looking like turds left behind in the snow.  These are the hills east of the Kougarak Road.  Tyler was instrumental in helping us achieve TOWN ESCAPE VELOCITY on a hungover morning that broke windy and gray in Nome, on a day when many a local outdoorsman failed to break through the low psyche, but a day that proved to be calm and transcendently beautiful in the mountains, the light unreal bright, with downy feathers all over everything.