Monday, November 21, 2011

Borehole Traverse, Windmills

(above) East side of Lower Wall at Windmill Boulders (nee "Shooting Range boulders.")
1. Borehole. A small tunnel. Get horizontal and worm through tunnel, turn around and worm back, without touching the ground, for extra squeeze chimney workout before resuming the lowball traverse.
2.  Borehole Exit. Enduro section. 5.9.
3.  First Crux. 5.10a, until you locate the key holds, then the rating plummets to 5.6.
4.  Second Crux. 5.10a. Some loose flakes, risk of crushing. Rating fluctuating wildly.
5.  South Wall pull-around. 5.10c.  For Lahka Peacock, it would be 5.6.

THE RULES:  This is a low-ball traverse.  Default to low.  There is a fairly well-defined horizontal line running the length of the wall.  In places, this horizontal demarcation truly is the top of the wall, other places it's like a mid-line.  Your center of gravity must stay underneath this line.  In places where the distance between this demarcation line and the ground is less than one bodylength, one may use holds located on the demarcation line.  Also, if you feel you are imminently to be crushed by traversing too low, by all means, higher holds can be allowed.  Otherwise, holds must be located below the line:  in other words, you can't just hand-traverse the top of the cliff, except where the lowness of the cliff forces you to do so.  In general, the quality of this bouldering problem comes from reverting as low to the ground as possible, chalkbag grazing the tundra, body vulnerable to complete crushage under tons of overhanging ""Chlorite rich, metaturbidite schist."  Rules may be adjusted when the potential for body crushage comes into play.

         The solidity of this metamorphic crap pile varies with the weather.  The rock is only as strong as your mind tells you it is.  Better in winter.  The cliffs are directly lined up with the old shooting range.  The moving of the shooting range with the coming of the rock creek mine came as a revelation:  in the past, you'd never dare climb there, people were shooting night and day.

      Absurd, blogging an obscure, utterly contrived, low-ball traverse.  A token of modern silliness, replicating the minutia of experience through digital representations. Were it a true summit, the apex of a prominent geological swell, maybe, but this is nothing more than a man sitting, on the ground, mostly, his body half wedged under a rock, fondling its surface with arms raised in lonely supplication, grunting occasionally in sudden spasms of pointed but failed movement.        
      Years of work went into this bouldering problem.  It was my proudest send of the summer.  The Borehole required I venture into new frontiers of focus and persistence. Sending at your free-climbing limits allows no mind pollution, there can be no weight of self-negation.  It becomes a matter of what Arno calls "plugging the power leaks" and giving the rock 100% of your Sharmic attention. 
(above) East-facing side of the Lower Wall.  No great challenges on this side of the Borehole circumnavigation, except for the "Scoop," the dark patch near the right side of the wall in this picture, a pretty cool overhang with flakes that rate only 2 on the death scale.  In winter, this side of the wall takes on a wonderful character:  that snow patch is a huge curling wave, the Scoop is an enclosed cave with dry-tooling challenges, and all that ugly turf becomes prime ice-climbing bouldering terrain, in the lee of the alapaa, alapaa, north wind.

      Try, try, try try, try, try, try.  Most falls are controlled, a few are not.  Now you're pumped and done for the day.  Each time you're charting out a body memory in your brain and muscles, neuron by neuron, the morphegenetic field strength of the climb increasing, the climb one degree closer to becoming a reality.  Herein lies the workout:  you're going to have to EXCEED the amount of effort you made the time before.  "Sweet" is the word when you finally nail it.

(above) Andy, 14SA, on one of our mini-top ropes, the narrow south wall of the windmills.  He happens to be poised near the third crux on the Borehole traverse.  

        WIRING a rock-climbing problem provides a classic experiment in Rupert Sheldrake's formative causation. Each new crux seems extraordinarily difficult when first encountered, yet, as the body memory of the moves needed to solve the problem are put into place, the difficulty rating seems to magically come down, which is absurd, of course;  a problem's rating is meant to be objective.  But there can be no objectivity until the morphic field has settled down, until enough climbers have ascended the problem to stabilize the rating.  Now that I have solved the Borehole, it will seem easy.  It's probably 5.6.  V-5.6

(above) The "Courtyard Traverse," another not-so-low lowball at the Windmills.

   The Borehole has yet to receive a complete dry-tooling send.  If anything, the traverse takes on added value in Mixed mode.


There is a notch between the rocks.  Go there and wait.
See our house, down upon the plain.
Think about the blessings raining down like rain.
Rock is the thumb in my photograph. 

Is this a Cobra I see before me, the handle toward my hand? 
Like a key in the lock, the Cobra turned inside the rock.
I pendulumed to a fat side-pull;  
I yarded through the broken backs.
Took the highway, the ground piled with snow,
The fall factor was low so just let it go
And trust the bite of steel on choss that's frozen fast,
Horizontal cam to a shaft,
Can't find a love that's built to last,
Into the Borehole where I rest in chimney stance,
Start the long traverse and stop all time,
A long time ago you were thinking about your mind,
But now you are only hunted.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Supertramp Buttresses Revisited

(above)  MagicBus of the Seward Peninsula visible from Teller Road around Mile 29.  It belonged to a miner in the fifties.  Geiger counters have clicked on the bluff nearby.  

     Every wilderness area in Alaska should have a bus.  A good old, transit-style, schoolbus.  There's something about the parabolic configuration of a bus placed upon barren tundra which focuses the SINH TALA constantly streaming through the Earth's pores like solar wind, causing an ever-so-slight time distortion within the walls of the bus.
(above) Kirk, Spock, security team, and Lazarus, ill-fated time-traveller, just prior to another cosmic energy wink— a rip in the fabric of space/time is about to occur within the walls of Lazarus' spaceship—  "Arctic Tundra Magic Bus Phenomenon" is not unlike the time-distortion event depicted in the The Alternative Factor, though without dilithium crystals, the effect is greatly diluted.

      It is never a good idea to sleep inside such buses.  If the wilderness-traveler spends TOO LONG within the bus, a desynchronization between mind and society ("society" in this context being synonomous for the purposes of this blog with "GLUE of TOWN") occurs.  The ensuing schismogenesis of awareness can be injurious to the mental health of the wilderness traveller, as in the famous case of Alexander Supertramp in the MagicBus over by Healy. 

(above) Alexander Supertramp in front of Bus 142.  A victim of Arctic Tundra Magic Bus Phenomenon.  Like Lazarus, his doppelganger traveled from a parallel dimension through the time portal of the bus, cancelling out his life force.  This is a possibility overlooked by Krakauer.

       Visionary, or idiot?  
magicbus1       magicbus2       magicbus3     directions to the      
       In 1992, my friend Jeff spent a night at fifty below in that bus on Stampede Road, nine months previous to the Supertramp episode. He had committed the rookie boge of thinking that the bus, with all its connotations of urban homeostatic control, would provide a warmer bivvy than his own tent.  I was in Fairbanks that same night;  the cold metal of the bus transmitted live images across the Interior through the crackling air to my dreams showing my friend Jeff hovering like a reverse-fetus on the cusp of between life and death.  But the coming years would prove Jeff difficult to freeze.  Visionary, or idiot?   If Lazarus crept up on Jeff that night in the bus, I have no doubt he, like Captain Kirk, wrestled his insane counterpart back into the other dimension, a 5.10 move Chris was unable to onsight.   I still believe the emergent Fairbanks hardman skirted the same MagicBus Death Attractor that would eventually fell Alexander Supertramp.   

   (above) The MagicBoat at Grub Gulch, Goldbottom Creek, Old Glacier Creek Road.  Incongruity with landscape seems to be a causative factor in Arctic Tundra Magic Bus Phenomenon.  This boat may pose a potential trans-temporal rift.

Great loops of thought
Huge tangles of confusion
Dense thickets of epistemology
Fogs of unified awareness
A victim of my own tribe
They'll never find me here

(above) The white patches below the pin are two patches of chossorific marble, visible on the hillside from the Sinuk River Bridge though one can seldom discern whether they are cliffs, or just steep patches of barren bluff.  They are, in fact, 80 ft. cliffs, though the choss factor lies over the threshold for any kind of safe climbing, these cliffs ooze instability like a victim of Seasonal Affective Disorder. The blue line marks an intermittent 4-wheel trail that leads from the MagicBus at Mile 29 Teller Road all the way in to Glacial Lake. (The pink line shows where Andy and I joined the trail after hiking around Glacial Lake;  I wouldn't advise that.) The Supertramp Buttresses lie three or four miles down the trail.  More recommendable is the schistizoid bouldering pile that lies just to the west.
(above) The 60 ft. friction slab, the only redeeming feature at these structures that I call, for some reason, "buttresses.  Maybe the way they are built into the bluff like a sod house and seem to buttress up the hillside;  also the reason why setting up a top-rope anchor at the top of these cliffs would require a network of rebar anchors sledged into the hillside, a technique I've not yet tried.  This is the most crumbly hideous marble you ever saw in your life.  However, the particular patch of slab shown in the photo above provides a touch of decent rock, with bail-out ledges onto merciful tundra at all times.


      For pure southside Kigswater, there is no drainage like the Sinuk.  Is the Sinuk not the holy Ganges of Qaweraq?  Huge rivulets of power course down this central hallway from Tigaraha to the sea.  
       Of course, the mystical Two-Six was strange-attracted to the micro-region shortly after his arrival on the Peninsula, so I found myself hiking in to the bus with him one early Summer day, with huge patches of snow aiding our progress along the top of the Sinuk bluff.  Tricorder readings showed no paranormal activity around the bus, so we continued north down the bluff for several miles to the rocks, where Two-Six had hesitantly agreed to belay me on marble top-ropes, my third attempt to do so at this location. 
          But first, some warming-up on the schistozoid Tertiary meta-sedimentary.
(above) Schist outcrops by the side of trail. You branch off to the right (northeast) from here and contour around the hillside to get to the absolutely-worthless Alexander Supertramp buttresses.
(above and below) Srik-SrikAn odd sort of flake-pulling Gaston was required to pull the lip.  These pictures are from a Fall of 2009 bouldering trip in the Supertramp schist gardens. 
(above and below)  Collins controlling the swing on Srik-Srik.  We carried climbing shoes that day, but never put them on.
(above) Iglaaq (Stranger), 21SA.  The Aaron Ralston potential is high right there.
(above) Collins on Kiiraq (Corrugated), 2009.

        The Supertramp schist is passably fine, the stuff of which dreamlike, wandering boulder sessions are made.  The marble, on the other hand, is so bad that I could not devise a safe-enough belaying scenario to which Two-Six could be fairly subjected.  This stone radiates paranoia;  fractured, multi-ton columns sit poised on ledges, balanced on skinny pedestals.  Patches of Grapefruit-quality limestone intrude, but at the Supertramp Buttresses these quality patches don't seem to link up in meaningful ways.  Anchors were virtually non-existent at the top of the cliff;  not even a bolt would do, being as the rock is only layers of flakes, like stacked shingles.   Only a hardened, helmeted choss-junky should be allowed to belay under a pile of anaq this bad.  Two-Six did not fit the bill;  he is too valuable a personnel to be so wantonly crushed.  He dozed in the sun while I climbed around, jeopardizing my life as hard as I dared on the friable rock.
(above) Aquila chrysaetos canadensis, August 2009.

       I came out here to the Sinuk bluffs once, alone. I was trapped on the cliffs by a Grizzly herd, my shotgun far away. Trying not to freak, I was scrambling breathlessly like Ralph at the end of Lord of the Flies, when, BANG!  I turned a corner and ran smack into a family of Golden Eagles.  I thought they were turkeys at first hopping around on the tundra.  

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

PeeMark: "Penny Crags" (Pk. 1460)

(below) Kakkiviaq (Groove Under Nose), Penny Crags, Pk. 1460, June 2011.

"Pee Mark:"  

1.  Spraying;  deposition of urine used by animals to identify territory. 

2.  A post which serves no other useful purpose than to identify that I have climbed at a certain location.

(below)  Penny Crags from below, February, 2010.  
     Every single square meter of this hillside has been scratched and pawed thousands of times over, in countless trips, in all kinds of weather, both pick and sticky rubber, roped and soloing, the obvious lines led.  Every move on this cliff is part of some larger link-up that has already been done.  In this picture alone, thousands of routes are visible, each one with a name, rating, color, and category, including Quaqtuq (Splits Loose), Qupiruk (Cracking), and Ulburuq (Topples Over).  Everything has been done here already.  I hereby cybernetically declare this cliff to be saturated in urine...MARK!

     ....Unless, of course, the route is harder than 5.10c or M6, in which case, I was probably totally unable to get up it.
(above) Pk. 1460 with rainbow, September, 2010. The location of this PEEMARK is those little bumps near the end of the rainbow.

     The act of naming poses the usual paradox...  Some term for the choss pile was needed.  I call the crags "Crags" because they perch at the top of a prominent, steep ridge, transcending the category of mere boulders;  to a boulderer perching on folds of schist, thirty-five feet of exposure feels like more as the hillside drops to the Penny River.  A crumble of stones that would constitute a forgotten scruff pile anywhere else, here on the Teller Road merits an appellation befitting nobler geology.  If truth, the Crags are craggier than anything in fair Scotland;  you really wouldn't want to wander off in the wrong direction from the Crags in a whiteout, something which is easy to do.  You'd never make it back to Nome in time for the fleshpots.    
(above) Kakkiavaq, June 2011.  Photography by Two-Six.

       21 SA—  June, 2011.  Vitamin D is shining.  Two-Six has offered his skills for a photo-shoot.  A breeze blows the bugs away.  A fine day for hiking and bouldering.
      I am not aware of who is the steward of the hill as we begin hiking.  The rocks are hidden from the spot where you begin the hike at Cabin Rock.  I often call them the "Cabin Rock Crags."  In the parking lot (I don't know who is the steward of the parking lot) I hand my average camera over to Two-Six and instruct him, that when the time for climbing comes, he is to tilt the camera and crop out the ground in order to make the climbing look more real than it really is.  Let this hereby stand also as a scent mark for Two-Six:  MARK!

(above) Kivluktuq (Cuts Across)

(below) Topping out.
     The nice thing about the Crags is you can get a little of the sacred eXposure.  In places, solid holds off the ship's deck, a little of the dancing that refreshes, wisdom coursing like epinephrine.  I remember lead climbing at least two of the main aretes, painstaking affairs, solid pitons nevertheless threatening to blow apart the whole crag with each blow of the hammer, sickness at any rating, 5.6.  I remember dry-tooling with Andy and on-sighting an overhang on top-rope that must have been M-7.  From my hospital bed in October (for a hospital bed is where I am writing NOW— this is the PRESENT TENSE of this PEEMARK narrative: laid low on Halloween '11 by inguinal hernia, writing from a horizontal position, recovering from surgery, floating on Percocet)  I think of a recommendable off-width boulder problem located at the bottom of a prominent turf gully, (a gully that forms a great thirty feet of Class 4 alpine turf climbing in Winter conditions):  I remember the best way to perform the offwidth move is an actual bit of Levitation-- looking at an Aaron Ralston of your entire leg-- or, if it's winter and you're on the ice tools, mantling onto the top of your tool which spans the crack nicely with a porch-swing pick/adze jam.   

I hereby lift my leg on these digital representations of my memories...MARK!

(above) 1.  Cabin Rock pass area, Mile 14(?) Teller Road

1.  "Cabin Rock," or "House Rock."  "Chalet Rock," maybe, with cantilevered-bays and a big wooden porch for apres-ski.  A good simulacrum of a house and a well-known landmark, but not much use as a bouldering rock. 
 2.  "Penny Boulders."  A fun clump of marble, a quarter mile from the Teller Road, a sacred little place.  Improbable but solid jugs on meta-sedimentary marble that took years for EOD to defuse, with a few classic highballs.  My favorite bouldering area of all.  I do not know the steward of this land.  Driving east on the Teller Road, you come to the Pennies on the right a mile or two before the road starts climbing toward Cabin Rock pass. 
 3.  The Crags.  A thousand foot hike up the hill above Cabin Rock.  Art is required in plotting the correct trajectory across the contours of the hillside.  Easy to get lost in low-visibility.  
p  A great place to stash the car abomination.  Turn left (south) at Cabin Rock pass on obvious gravel road that leads a short distance out of sight to gravel pit.  The long ridge to the south is littered with marble outcrops fun to wander.  Mark the time and date on your computer: I would like here and now to formally announce the deposition of urine upon legions of crags in this area that only half exist in my dreams... MARK!

(above) Cabin Rock itself in verglas, with Arctic Cat Bearcat and Wild Things Alpinista.  Arctic Cat and Wild Things should both hereby pee upon this rock... MARK!   I would recommend the Bearcat to anybody who's primarily interested in protecting their body against punishing rides, and the Alpinista to anyone wishing to protect their body against punishing loads, which I most certainly must do from now on.  As previosuly noted, Cabin Rock as a bouldering destination is a bit disappointing.

(above) Looking southeast from Pk. 1460.  Nome is partially visible through the saddle in the ridge, looking like a piece of snow lying on the ridge.

An interesting fact about Pk. 1460:  it is visible from many parts of Nome.  The angular ridge appears to poke up ominously behind the foreground hills.  It is sometimes mistaken for Osborn, monarch of the Kigs, to the north.  It is often mistaken for a mountain, instead of a hill, which is what it really is. 
(above) Kakkiviaq. "The other way!  Tilt it the other way, Two-Six!"

Here is some geology spray on the Penny Crags (as near as I can figure) from Bundtzen and others (1994): 

CALCAREOUS METATURBIDITE SCHIST (light green to brownish weathered, usually banded, calcareous, micaceous, feldspathic schist typically containing calcite (15%) white mica (8%) chlorite(10%) inclusion charged feldspar (10%) QUARTZ (40%) and opaque minerals (27%)... thought to be gravitational with overlying (adjacent) unit and formed in same turbidite environment prior to regional metamorphism.  Generally resistant and forms blocky outcrops at ridgecrests and in stream cuts.

Bundtzen and others pee on this rock as well...  MARK!