Saturday, August 18, 2012

Oro Grande Tors

(above) Peemarking system for Oro Grande peaks.  We climbed at Tors 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 12. Following is a recap of one of my most successful rockclimbing trips ever to the Kigluaiks, with Andy Sterns from Fairbanks, July 7—15, 2012.  Russell Rowe flew us in with Bering Air in one of their beautiful red Robinson helicopters—  my praise for this classy local outfit is so boundless, it will require its own post. We hiked out over Mosquito Pass in 2 1/2 days. 
Tor 1:  Pk. 3595, (high point of ridge) climbed on day 1, Mathes Crest (III, 5.9)
Tor 2:  "West Scruffy Tor," East Arete (II, 5.4), climbed on day 5
Tor 3:  "East Scruffy Tor," West Arete (II, 5.7), climbed on day 5
Tor 4:  Stanage Tor Area,  Stanage (II, 5.7) and Eddie Munster Tor (I, 5.7), climbed on day 4
Tor 5:  Pk. 3350+, the "NaulogTor," Caballo Blanco (II, 5.9)***, climbed on day 2
Tor 12:  Pk. 3275(?), West Arete, (II, 5.2), climbed on day 6  
DISCLAIMER for map and images:  These maps suck. The whole thing is silly, a Narcissus Loop against a pool of mountains.  This data is the result of errors and disorientation. Andy and I made up almost all the names of peaks and tors for our own convenience during the trip, and I have kept to those blurts for this article. The pictures were taken with paper cameras.  They are offered here only for the sake of PEE-MARKING.  For Kigsgeeks only.

     Awash in joy, but we didn't know it at the time.  Huge drafts of EARTH ENERGY rose from the Imruk Basin and broke like a wave-cloud over the nearest ridge to the south, which happened to be the sawtoothed ridge upon which Andy Sterns and I were topping out out on the highest tooth, marked as Pk. 3595 on the map, on the first day of a weeklong trip to the Oro Grande drainage, Saturday, July 7, 4SA.  We did not detect this ENERGY with our senses;  we were not aware of the ENERGY at the time.  Any analysis of this ENERGY would necessarily require more time, effort, and intelligence than we had then— or now, for that matter.   The only fact I have relating to this EARTH ENERGY is that Andy and I did indeed extract several lifetimes of  joy from our climbing trip to the Oro Grande in July, 5SA, leading me to believe that the mental and physical health benefits we enjoyed for weeks after the trip must have been due, in part, to the increased doses of EARTH ENERGY we received each day we made the brutal 3000 ft. approach up to the ridgecrest to bag another tor.
(above) NauloqTor, Caballo Blanco, pitch 3.  Tor 5, day 2.  The Nauloq, named for the presumptuous way this white shaft of granite thrusts above brown gneiss buttresses, was the nicest specimen captured in our bag of tors.  The third pitch provided an honest-to-god Yosemite 5.9 pitch (as opposed to the usual Kigs 5.9 rating which is really only 5.7 bumped up for choss factor), complete with some nice offwidth at the top. (below)

NauloqTor (Pk. 3350+).  Caballo Blanco follows a crack system towards the righthand edge for two pitches.

(below) A view of the quality first pitch of Caballo Blanco.

  What, exactly, is EARTH ENERGY, one asks, eyes rolling...  But there is a rule that Kigsblog must stick to the climbing.  I had advertised the Oro Grande trip to Andy, who would be required to pay the hefty air miles to get to Nome from Fairbanks, as "a ridge studded with one-pitch tors," but the pleasantly-surprising reality turned out to be that the Oro Grande tors are more like "two to five-pitch" tors, on some very nice pre-Cambrian Orthogneiss that, I am told by expert Geospewers from UAF, might just as well be referred to as "granite".  From the north, this ridge really puts the sawtooths in "Sawtooths";  the Oro Grande tors bear an uncanny resemblance to the tooth pattern on a conventional bowsaw.  While it might seem silly to go to such great lengths of trouble--  planes, helicopters, huge approaches, mounds of gear, over-application of bug dope to skin, all the things required for Kigsaneering-- to climb a few individual teeth barely rising up from a bow-saw, it is also true that each tor presented its own unique climbing challenge, and each tor felt plenty committing as we perched and waggled from tenuous eyries, high above the Seward Peninsula, with the spooky Imruk breathing into our souls like a sleeping dragon.

(left) Andy commencing the "High Exposure" traverse on pitch 3 of Stanage Tor, an inspired 5.6 lead that spiraled around the exposed summit of the tower over rounded, hideo-chossic holds.

(below) Stanage Tor, pitch 1.  

(above) Stanage from west.  There's a fantastic-looking pitch of steep, thin crack around the corner on the south face.  We doubted our ability to free-climb it in acceptable style, and so walked around the corner to climb three fine, shortish pitches on the 200 ft. turd pictured above.  
(above) Stanage from east.  Stanage is the dark pillar lowest in line, so nicknamed because its brown gneiss reminded us of its eponymous sandstone crag in Britain (a place neither Andy or I have ever climbed.)

   The organizing force of NONENTROPIC MENTAL PROCESS was busily at work permeating the very molecules of the mafic minerals on which we climbed.  The land was thinking, and our neuro and physio networks were engaged in a dialogue with the thinking patterns of the land itself.   Living material is far more liable to difference (change) than non-living material; nevertheless, non-living material such as  the cliffs of Pk. 3595 Tor is still subject to NONENTROPIC MENTAL PROCESS, however slightly from our frame of temporal reference, and our neural networks, (speaking for Andy I'm sure!) transformed by the shamanic practice of rigorous climbing in a wilderness setting, were vibrating in resonance with the electromagnetic backdrop of the solid matter in the our localized space/time region. 
(left) Ian enjoying the fundalicius 5.7 pitch 2 of "Mathes Crest" (III, 5.9) on "3595 Tor," the highest elevation on the Oro Grande ridge, and our first day's objective.  We managed to get a satisfying 6-pitch climb out of a series of continuous buttresses, essentially the south face and east arete of Pk. 3595.

(above) First two pitches of "Mathes Crest" climb chewed-up books towards  right.

(above) Manky 5.9 overhang on first pitch of "Mathes Crest."  On our first day of climbing I wanted to impress Andy, who had been commendably assuming the lead all through the allapa, freezing-ass days of Winter when the medium was ice and dry tools;  now that we were back on Californian terrain,  pure joy freed me from the chains of doubt and I mantled  onto a dessicated chickenhead.

(below) Looking down on the rest of pitch 1 at Andy following.

(above) Ian topping out on east summit tor of Pk. 3595, pitch 3.  What followed was a pitch of easy, fun, hand traversing and horizontal arete hiking that in our wildest dreams reminded us of the Mathes Crest at Tuolumne.

(above)  Author leading pitch 5.  We were rewarded with this bonus 5.8 wall of stellar overhangs rising out of grassy ledges that led to the true summit of Pk. 3595.  At the high point we found an Army Corps of Engineers "VABM" marker embedded in the summit rock, plus an ancient sledge hammer;  turns out there was a sneaky Class 3 / 4 scrambling route up the north side of the tor!
(right) Pk. 3595 is the peak on the left as viewed from the west on an attempt in April, 2011;  I retreated due to a purple leg, Yukon Jack, and the No Sketch Partner Law.  Not all of these sawtooths are very toothy on their northern sides:  this is a complete reversal of the normal Kigluaik configuration where the north side is the cliffy side and the south side the gentle slope.  Up until the moment Andy and I mantled onto the summit, I was unsure if we had chosen the same peak as the one in this picture.

   It was pooling out in the Imruk Basin, slowly pooling... Thought is influenced by gravitation (postholing in the spring crust has proved) and the consciousness patterns came sinking gradually sinking down like electromagnetic sediment into the vast bowl of brackish  water... Now it was billowing back upwards in great auroral blooms, the breeze freshened over the spires...  and NOW the impulse wave came washing over the tiny figures lashed to the prow of the summit rocks.  One of the figures is dangling, trying to retract a pair of cams;  the other is sitting befuddled with a rope locked tight in his hand, hopelessly trying to figure out the mystery of double-rope technique.  Nothing special appears to be happening.  The weather shines hot and sunny.  Alles ist im Ordnung. The tiny climbers go about their business.
      But this moment is a very pivot of their lives in time/space...  in that moment, lives are exchanged, some die, others pop in...  the contour lines of the climbers' personal power, the fabric of their ongoing creation, suddenly bunch upwards in the shape of a mountain to accommodate the immensity of this moment distorting the causal fabric of their lives, as they stem painfully inside corners between the Volkswagon glue-ins, rolling dice with the people they've left behind.
(left) Andy on summit slab pitch of East ScruffTor, an immaculate 5.2 pitch— for one moment, as golden and casual as Lembert Dome.

(right) Andy crunching symbiote on our second climb of the fourth day, the "East ScruffyTor" via its "West Arete" (two pitches, a bit of 5.7).  Visible in the background is the sunlit base of our first route of the day, the "West ScruffyTor," via its "East Arete" (two pitches, 5.4).  Both of the twin Scruffies were treated as hobnail boot, summit baggy, Sierra Club-style climbs, and offered occasional spasms of good climbing in between inclined fields of vegetated choss, with beauty off the scale.

       Mornings come stiff as a board, then more flexible with breakfast.  By the time we reach the nude sunbathing slabs at the highest water-bottle fill, we can already see just across the way to the mini-Emporer Face of Mt. Osborne, sedimentary King of the Kigs, Pk. 4704.  Maybe it is one of the days we had gear stashed at the top, or maybe we are toting the rack, rope and water all the way up.  The only thing that gets me up that immense approach each day is ONE-FOOT-IN-FRONT-OF-THE-OTHER TECHNIQUE—  the simple technique of just not looking any further ahead than the next step.  Like Dave Johnston wrote of Foraker's Sultana Ridge, "I'm just a slope jumar."
    The reward was always worth it, a nice little tower or two of granite sporting some real Grade A pitches on stone so fine in most places you could sell pieces of it as healing trinkets on Telegraph.  Cams snapped neatly into cracks so falsely-secure you only had to back up and equalize once.  On top of tiny pinnacles we found only the puzzle of the descent, often something we didn't think about until too late, then the strangely macabre game of building the most cheapskate anchor possible.  Stagger back into camp 17 hours later, hallucinating, repeat cycle, awash in joy, bathing in CHI.

(above)  The pitch that got away.  Rain was coming soon and we knew we should stop and climb this nice section of rock in the picture for the fun of it, but we opted instead for summit glory, and scrambled further upwards for the impending West Arete of Pk. 3275, which we figured from the look of the thing from our camp to the south was a committing arcing, 3-pitch knifedge up a Roman helmet of granite.  The reality was another Sierra Club R.C.S. outing, a ridge with a pretty mellow north side, a long line of ladies holding up their dresses.  I could smell previous ascents of this rather prominent summit;  there looked to be nice hiking terrain leading up to the peak from Windy Cove down on the busy marketplace of the Imruk Basin.  A fine outing, but we shoulda climbed this picture. 

(above) An enjoyable section of climbing on the West Arete of Pk. 3275 (II, 5.2).  I must admit to virtually making up this peak elevation due to inadequate map skills;  I think everybody does this in the Kigs, there's a kind of poetry to the two-digit numbers.  Thirty-two, Seventy-five.  Thirty-three, Sixty-seven.  Thirty-eight, seventy.  Two-Six, Two-Six...   

(above) Transitioning to the green, West Arete of Pk. 3275.  This is called a Monty Python shot:  Andy appears to be simulating  climbing on flat ground.  You get this problem a lot in the Kigs with climbing shots taken from the belay.  In fact, Andy's feet are still perched at the top of a steep slab and the grass is slick with rain.  Andy is happy for the rope at that position, though we are just about to shed the rope for a dash to the top before the deluge.

    The pluton at the heart of the Kigs, the swelling gneiss dome itself, the 35 mile slab of meta-igneous rock the gold miners simply called bedrock— insect climbers scuttle on the protruding bone ends sticking from the tops of the 3,000 ft. ridges.
    The minerals that compose this pluton, the molecules in the minerals, the constituents of the nuclei in the molecules, quarks, leptons, tie the missing pieces together with string dimensions inaccessible to the human brain alone, throw in nonentropic, periodic patterns of organization within this quantum soup... 
      You get the whole blob of the Kigs acting like a huge magnet, a lodestone slightly distorting the electromagnetic backdrop of this region of time / space / matter, displacing the normal even flow of time/space ever so slightly.  The mountain interfacing with the quantum foam....
      The electromagnetic energy bodies extending from the creepy-crawly insect climbers (auras) flutter momentarily like haloes in faerie wind.  Andy is saying something but his words are lost on the echoing walls.  My hands are too painful and scabbed to notice the acquisition of CHI in the synaptic spaces where my being interfaces with the quantum foam, my brain is too dulled with fatigue to notice the revitalization of my life force.  Left my Klif bar at the bottom.

(above and right) Scenes from day 4 on Eddie Munster Tor.

     My neuro-transmitters had been mangled that morning slogging up the talus with a pack.  After fifteen hours on the go, both Andy and I had gone past that familiar point where extraneous speech is avoided, we went about our business in a dull, dehydrated stupor.  Some weird exchange had taken place down in my nervous tissue colonies, where the cells brush past each other in the hallways exchanging silent information like Deadheads crammed into a show restlessly circulating: no Seretonin to be had was the word on the street, so those crazy little guys were dredging it up anyway from the endorphins instead, and the result was a completely altered state in which I could seemingly view streams of code flashing by in the Matrix of the nature surrounding us, except that it wasn't digital, it was absolutely analogic, parallel streams of electromagnetic information waving around like strata would do in a million-year time-lapse.  The land enjoyed us as we surfed its wavecrests.  Andy and I were just too tired at the time to care about any of this....

(above) The 3000 ft. approach, West Face of Osborne visible in background.

(below) Some of the best July foot-skiing ever!
(above) Kigluaik Mountains Organism anatomical chart showing helicopter landing zone / basecamp and the hiking route over Mosquito Pass in red, and the Kougarak Road in yellow.  
(above) Looking south up the Mosquito Pass corridor from the Cobblestone River.  "He is deep in d' plak-tow..." as they say on Planet Vulcan.  Bugs, packs, sore muscles, long way to go, absurd beauty levels, all the traditional accompaniments of Alaskan summertime suffering.  

           Copernicus, sun.  Columbus, spherical Earth.  Einstein, space-time.  (Buddha, transcendence, Jesus, love).  

        What's the next epiphany?  It will be simple, graspable by scientist and layman alike.  We will utter, "Why didn't we see it until now?"  It will only be proven with big math, but the principle proportion (think E=mc^2) will seem obvious, as in, we're looking at it right now in the pixels of the Matrix.

    If everything is thinking, then the mountains are thinking.  Syncronicities and intuition is proof.  Coincidences are nodal points where mental process is evidenced by collateral streams of causation producing difference on multi-layered levels of similar organization.  And who knows intuition like those who have grappled with teetering mountains?

      What is Mind?

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