Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pk. 3595, Oro Grande peaks

    ... and a desperate DEATH MARCH of SCHOOL ensued during the month of May... blogganeering was OBLITERATED.  I became a full-time editor of edgy 6th Grade Literature.  KIGSBLOG lay dormant.  (The weekends, however, held ACTION, fueled by Tyler's rage for the fine Spring skiing.)
     While the blog slept, Spring emerged.  But here, now, from this memory station at the beginning of big blue summertime, KIGSBLOG must fly back to where we left off:  the unfinished post from April, concerning Ryan and Ian's errant voyage into the mystery lands of the Oro Grande by snowmachine, and the near-death experiences along the way...
 (above)  Basecamp in the Oro Grande, April 2011, looking north.  Pk. 3595 at left edge of photo. 

      The GLUE OF TOWN was fierce.  Like a cartoon character who has stepped in glue, Ryan labored against long sticky tendrils of causation that stretched, but never quite let him go.  Great matters of life and death portended in all the signs, but neither he nor Ian recognized their significance in the present, blinded as they were by the sunny weather, firm snow, and desire to get into the remote and mysterious Canyon Creek.  ...how was i to know that Ryan himself was in violation of the NO SKETCH PARTNER rule?  
         Pulling out of Crowley's gas, the first 30 seconds of the journey, Ian escaped the wheelchair only by the grace of God when the skid on his machine augured into a meter-deep furrow in the snow— a furrow dug by the very Snow Cat vehicle on board which that very morning he had ungraciously turned down an opportunity to ride.   ...knowing NOW what i did not know THEN, this horrible flip from the machine appears to have been a nodal confluence point for several threads of causation forming a synchronicity attractor of significant magnitude:  emotions, fractured friendships, reproduction, self-confrontation, all were to follow in the intervening weeks, with the nasty, near-miss accident, as so often happens, lurking in the matrix, exerting its own gravity... how do i get so lucky time and again?  Thank you to Arctic Cat for designing the cockpit of the BEARCAT so the rider does a perfect 360° flip over the handlebars...
 Admitting possible internal injuries, they continued;  their collective will to get into the backcountry and go camping on the most beautiful snow-machine mountaineering weekend of the year became the MACHETE which sliced through every problem, every obstacle the GLUE could throw in their path, and soon they were roaring down the Teller Road like Wyatt and Billy in Easy Rider.
(above)  Pk. 3595 viewed from adjacent peaklet to the west, looking northeast.  A way led through slough-avalanche slopes to the main summit, but the NO SKETCH PARTNER rule forced a retreat. The NO SKETCH PARTNER rule states: always prioritize the needs of your partner ahead of your own ambitions. The terrain in the picture would probably have taken me three hours round-trip, but I had told Ryan I'd be back in one, as the GLUE OF TOWN seemed to be pulling at his ankles like a strong rip-tide.  I pretended to be Rudi Matt in Banner in the Sky, forsaking the summit in consideration of others, but the truth was, I was nauseous from all the pain killers I had ingested the night before to treat my snow-machining injuries.  in other words, hungover.  How many John Barleycorn bails have my afternoons seen? 
         I would have done better to ascend from the Oro Grande directly to the notch just in front the summit in the photo, but the snowpack had been sort of crackling with chain-reaction, avalanchey noises that morning, so it didn't seem wise at the time to venture onto plus forty-degree slopes.  By the end of the day, however, I had gained a bit of confidence in the snow, however, and was able to ignore the disconcerting crackle-echo noises.   

(right)  Bouldering on crumbly paragneiss halfway up Pk. 3595.  
   Ryan came halfway up the route in his shoe pacs.  We stopped at a nice ledge, and he took this picture.  The Oro Grande tors on the crest of the ridge are composed of the good old "pre-Cambrian Thompson Creek Orthogneiss," but the rock on the way up seems to be more in the manner of "highly resistant, coarse-grained pelitic paragneiss and schist" (according to the Amato map). 
     The snow slope in this area was criss-crossed with tracks from an AKLAQ freshly sprung from winter sleep.  As evidenced by the tracks we saw, the bear had, at one point, had been getting rad just for fun, jumping and sliding repeatedly off a dangerous cornice.
     The tracks also told a story that explains why Seward Peninsula AKLAT are so wary of humans.  No sooner had this poor AKLAQ emerged from its den, blinking in the morning sunlight, then it was beset upon by human predators.  Ramon's party (see below) had seen the bear and high-marked up to the den. Then Ryan and I camped a half mile away. As we were setting up the tent, a Super Cub on skis swooped in and landed up by the den.  The next morning, a young hunter from Nome came motoring breathlessly up to our camp inquiring about the very same bear.  Man!  The people are after you right from the get-go!  No wonder the mothers teach their cubs to run at the very sight of us. Up among the very highest tors, I saw how the AKLAQ had outfoxed everybody by climbing a circuitous route into an obscure valley to the northwest.    
(above)  Isabel Pass, chance meeting with other snow-machiners between Glacial Lake drainage and the Oro Grande.  Other people?!  In the Kigs?  Shows you how nice an April weekend it was.  Here we see the redoubtable Ramon and his posse of snow-machining fiends telling us that we are lost.  An astute reader will remember that Ryan and my destination was Canyon Creek.  Ramon is explaining that the pass to Canyon Creek is not the one we are in;  we needed to hang a left ten bumpy miles earlier. (see map, below)  It was at this point that Ryan and I decided the Canyon Creek camping trip had turned into an Oro Grande camping trip. 

(right) Region north of Glacial Lake  
1.  Glacial Lake  
2.  Isabel Pass. Dennis H. told me that was the name of this pass.  Is that right?  
3.  Pk. 3595.  I call it 'Oro Grande Peak' but that is my own appellation.  This is merely the high point of a long, prominent ridge, but Pk. 3595 as a distinct entity seems to be quite prominent from all over the range. 
 4.  Unnamed Pass.  This, I am told, is the snow-machine shortcut to Canyon Creek
(above)  Suluun, the Dorsal Fin, viewed from Oro Grande, looking southeast.  One of the biggest chunks of granite (gneiss) in the Kigs. Andy and I climbed several routes there, including the left skyline:  trip details here and here.
(above) Tor detail, Oro Grande peaks.  Amato, my patron geologist for the Kigs, told me he climbed "all" of these peaks in the nineties, but was vague on details-- at least, those details not relating to the geologic. 
(Above) Pk. 3595 (the one on the left) is merely the high point on a prominent, tor-studded ridge that forms the north side of the Oro Grande drainage, visible from village of Teller as a classic row of Sawtooths, hence, Kigluaik.  Is this the namesake ridge of the entire range?  This ridge, which I personally refer to as "the Oro Grande peaks," proved an exception to the rule that the north side of a ridge in the Kigluaiks will always be the precipitous side--  these tors poke out of the top of the ridge like true tors should, but there's not the usual fearsome drop-off on the north side. 

(Above) View to the south from peaklet to the west of Pk. 3595.  The little conceit of Kiganeering is to get to the top of something, so I put on crampons and labored, sweating Yukon Jack, to the ridgecrest. There might have been some Class 4.  This picture was taken from the same spot as the one earlier showing the main peak.  

Views from the DRIVE OUT of the mountains from Oro Grande via Mosquito Pass. (Above) we see the long wall of the West Face of Mt. Osborn (Pk. 4714), the mini-Emperor Face of the Kigluaik. I'm sure people have snow-machined up into the cirque, but what are the odds someone has climbed Osborn from this side? Not high.... 

(Below and bottom) Two views from the drive out of a hill I call "Turncorner Mountain" (Pk. 3250) because it is where you finally turn the corner to get to Mosquito Pass when slogging from the Kougarak Road.  My sweetie Kristine and I climbed the lefthand ridge in a 13 hour epic (Class 4/5), years ago in the pre-Raina days.  
somewhere we are still there