Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pk. 3653, "Little Singatook"

Grand Singatook (Pk. 3870) on the left, Little Singatook (Pk. 3653) on right. The Little Singatook is WEST of the big one.

      Fog was draining the snowy Kigluaik Range like mucus subsiding through sinus passages out towards the sea.  In the bright breathing sunshine left in the fog's wake,  Lucy and I were heading west on the Teller Road bound for the Grand Singtook, Peak 3870, the Mt. Washington of the Seward Peninsula, where hopefully a basting of ice garnished its walls and buttresses.  Time was crystallized that day, Sunday, 1 Saturday Ago,  there was only NOW, beauty wallowed in fields of itself, a total chi-fest echoed down the hallways of eleven-dimensional time/space.

(above) Northwest aspect of Grand Singatook (Pk. 3870) taken from "Singtairuq" (Pk. 3653), Saturday, October 27, 2012.   In June of 2004, Nils Hahn and I climbed this side of 3870 by traversing down on to the face from a point halfway up the lefthand skyline (after drunken June bivouac on eastern slopes);  we finished in one of the Scottish gullies leading through the steep cliff band there at the top for three pitches. 

      The "Singtook" stands at the western bulwark of the Kigluaik Mountains;  it is the cleaver that cleaves the big weather systems flowing in off the Pacific.  Known to locals as "Thirty-Eight Seventy," it rates only a lump in comparison to Chugach or Alaska Range peaks, but nevertheless is a peak invested with psychic energy. 
      Imagine a family back in the day piled high into an Umiaq making what must have been a very worrying crossing from King Island to the mainland:  
          "Daddy— when is it ever going to end?"  
         "Just concentrate on the Singtook, my son, and reel that mountain in."
        Someone from King Island told me they looked for the outline of not one but two Singtook, a Big Singatook and a Small Singatook, which may explain why 3870 appears as Grand Singatook on the map, semantically implying there are other, lesser Singtut in its vicinity—  not to mention the -k ending on "Singatook," possibly indicating the amazing, inupiaq, "duple" plural ending.    
          The Singtook has a little "mini-me" of a mountain standing at its side, Peak 3653, the "Little Singtook" I once heard it called.  Having ascended the Big Singtook various times by various routes with various people in various years (tallying less than 50 percent success rate on this notorious wearer of storm hats), a climb of the Little Singtook—   Pk. 3653 on the map, the Singtairuq—  was now in order.  So that's where Lucy and I were heading in the vaporous heaven of sunshine last Saturday morning.

(above) Teller Road, dissipating fog.

(above) Lucy, 3870.

       Lucy bounded from the truck. Away we went up the gleaming southern slopes of 3870.   The big blue globe of Woolly Lagoon dropped steadily away as Lucy and I made good time over hard frozen snow.  Soon found me donning my creepers to join Lucy's claws, but then taking them off again when granite rock fields intervened, then putting them on once more for good as we sloped onto the icy, frozen upper mountain, where a summit wind sprang up to greet us.
 (above) Pk. 3653 from the plateau lying between it and 3870.

    Singtook rose up now on the right as we crossed a plateau.  The recipe of sunshine, mountains, and wilderness had once again conspired to shift the nodal point of my seven chakraed energy body to a slightly different point;  what I experienced in my mind while one-step-at-a-timing it up the mountain was akin to an altered state.  The effect was in the temporal interface:  each moment passed as if through a telescoping lens capable of zooming out to my entire life, and back to the mountain again. 

(above) Summit tors of Pk. 3653.  The tor in the lower picture was judged the higher spire.  Both were ascended by path-of-least-resistance methods with Class 4/5 moves over rimed or snow-covered granite.

(above) Lucy perched on Class 4 summit of Pk. 3653.  SiNtuq in background.  This was actually a rather narrow and exposed summit, for one brief shining moment of real climbing in a life of constant slogging.

     A gift at the summit:  the high point appeared to be at the top of some small tors, meaning the climb might yet transcend the category of mere slog.  Indeed, massive chunks of de-rimed snow were thumping down on top of us, giving the locality a rather Alaska Range feel.  Since the snow bedecking the granite was de-riming, it wasn't much good for pulling on with picks, so I was forced to weave creatively around the tors on ledges, ramps, and blocks, in good Norman Clyde style, in order to access the tippy, tippy tops of both the highest tors.  
       Lucy began to whine and fret, questioning the utility of lingering in such a silly, lifeless place, with the late-October sun sinking fast behind King Island into the molten, burbling sea.
     But once again, human eyes had detected what the dog's keen sense did not—  the gibbous Moon, way over on the opposite end of the Range, already risen over Mt. Osborn.  There would be light aplenty.  Abandon this sense of haste and hurry, though night be falling soon.

(above) Looking east from Pk. 3653 down the spine of the Kigluaiks Range, gibbous moon to the left of Mt. Osborn.

         On the descent, I saw something I will not soon forget. Lucy and I were stumbling along in the gloaming, waiting for the Moon to pop up at our backs so we could see again.  The Moon was taking its time working its way over the horizon of the Singtook.  Meanwhile, the Singtook itself had put on THE MONSTER—  the localized, massive, lenticular cloud which often hangs stuck on the upper half of the mountain or curvi-formed in the air just above.  All mountains have lenticulars, but the Singtook runs a doozy;  it is no place to be.  Many is the expedition that has battled its way up through reasonable winds to the 2500 ft. level on the Singtook, only to encounter there a living, moaning, hurricane-force WIND CLOUD which completely precludes a summit attempt.  
        The Singtook was wearing its cloud, and the Moon rose directly behind it.   White light flared off the mountain, resembling aurora more than smoke.  Beams as bright as a spotlight, then with a sheet thrown over it, then bright again, blackened in the denser patches with sunspots, spasms of light streaming, flashing out, hallucinating.  The Singtook steamed in the night, it was a giant mound of dry ice in a black light Halloween display.  An equal display still smoldered in the west, oranges and reds melting down over Russia. 
       Such beauty gets into you, stays with you for a long time.  I still can't believe what a gorgeous day last Saturday was.  It makes me sad, life can be that beautiful, even for a day.  I must endeavor to serve others well, in exchange for having been given this unbelievable gift.  And thanks to the mountain for offering itself. 

(above) Map of climbing routes around Pk. 3870, Teller Road.
A. Pk. 3653, "Singtairuq"
B. Pk. 3870, Grand Singatook
C. "Eldorado Creek Buttress"

     The red line indicates my route up Pk. 3653 last Saturday.  Along the way you pass near a bluff, "Eldorado Creek Buttress," which sometimes sports a two or three pitch ice climb.  I stumbled upon this bluff lost in a whiteout one time;  since visited with a number of partners over the years, finding a paltry variety of ice conditions. It ain't Valdez— but it does provide relatively quick access from the road to a north-facing cirque in the Kigs near the 2000 ft. level, where ice can sometimes be found during Fall time of year.
      The yellow line indicates the "Solar Sidewalk," the regular route up 3870, which passes by a high lake for swimming in the summer, and which makes a CLASSIC car-to-summit-and-back ski in the late Spring.
      The green line shows approximately where Nils and I climbed the North Face of the Singtook (III, WI2) in June, 2004.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Return to the Thompson Creek Headwall

(above) Schistocity, Tumit Creek, October 2012.  A major new route extending upward for ones of tens of feet. Climbing practice on such a staircase of teetering turds is analagous to the hydro-fracking of the climbing world, dredging up routes from fractured shales that had always been overlooked because far far better climbing lay somewhere else on crags more steep and sound, and then injecting the route with the fracking fluid of imagination to render the climbing a viable practice

   Bivvied Salmon Lake late Fall three Saturdays ago in vaporous moonlight, peace at last, the GLUE of TOWN defeated again, breeze through space emptying the mind between the ears.     
   Rose early Sunday morning, mostly cloudy, the points of the Kigs embedded in 3000 ft. ceiling.  Drove (dog lashed to bed of truck) back towards town a bit past Grand Central bridge up the hill to good old Nugget Pass, parked car.  Started uphill west hiking in plastic boots on twenty centimeters of firm snow up a ridge paralleling Grand Central towards a little summit, Pt. 2339, that sits on the rim of steep, north-facing slopes at the head of Thompson Creek.

(above) Undisclosed location showing sacred Amato/Miller et al Geologic Map, a virtual treasure scroll leading to littered troves of worthless choss scattered like hardened dung.  The pink patches of "orthogneiss" provide the choicest choss.   Notice the resemblance of the Kigluaik Range to the giant amoeba in "The Immunity Syndrome." (below)

   Fog and wind inside head same as fog and wind outside head.  
(above) Looking north from Pt. 2470, Tumit Creek.  Osborn dominates this frame but has been erased by the fogginess of memory.

   The idea was to hike to a point above this purported "Headwall," drop a couple hundred feet down its north face, and then have fun climbing back up on the very same gneiss which serves on the sacred Amato/Miller map as a geological indicator for all the gneiss in the Kigluaik Range:  the pre-Cambrian Thompson Creek OrthoGneiss.
     Halfway through the hike, the weather began closing down.  Time for the old solo mountaineer to wait it out in the lee of a crag and lose all sense of time and space in swirling white-out.  
         But what is this, emerging through mist?  Holy schist!  It's the crags of Tumit Creek  (which drains off north into Grand Central, intersecting the old Grey Goose Pipeline on the way down, source of that fine California redwood that makes such a fine, hot fire on a cold Autumn night).  
    Tools came out of pack and were soon scraping hideously at loose choss frozen into place already by September frosts occuring at the 2,000 ft. level.  Hooks thunked neatly into frozen mud; front points balanced on sills.  Dendritic snowflakes blew like microscopic tumbleweeds across the holds.  The schist was not that bad.
(above)Thompson Creek Headwall last April.  (mr.congerphoto) The grandiosity of the name belies the relative paltriness of this turdcake.

      How much time went by bouldering in fog?  Then, an indeterminate brightening in the mist above gave the godlike illusion of fortune changing.  Lucy the little mountain dog and I packed up again, de-cramponed,  and continued on up the hill, somewhat hang-dog in posture due to Seasonal Affective Disorder having already set in with this season of dying light, but psyched to have licked up any slight crumble of climbing like we had Tumit Creek.
(above) Rimestone, Pt. 2339

     But when we arrived on top, the weather began to blow like holy hell.  Here was the 3000 ft. ceiling.  At the same moment, the ground suddenly dropped away.  Here was the north-facing cirque of Thompson Creek sloping massively down, looking like real mountains as promised.  On went crampons. Started down slope with a casual, facing-out kind of attitude, soon squelched by an Eiger-like feeling developing around me as I slowly progressed lower.
    Was surprised to see a yellow warning light showing on the dash board of the Mind;  in the summer this slope would be a Class 3 treadmill of unsavory, but basically casual, scree escalators.  However, here in October, with only 20 centimeters of snow to glue things down, the fact was inescapable that the slightest mistake would initiate a high-speed, skidding, rock-studded glissade of potentially bone-splintering proportions.  

(above) Looking east. Squalls play follow the leader up the valley.  Start to climb, starts to rime, turn around, sun shines down.

 Technical Chicken Out:  you could have kept climbing, but prudence paid the better part of valor, and you decide to fold your hand. 
    Sapped of strength by the battery cables that had attached my brain to the brains of others in the preceding weeks, and with the sharp snow-flakes slicing my corneas like knives, there was nothing black and white,no green lights, only gray, inside and out. 

(above)  Cliffs at the head of Thompson Creek.  TylerRhodesPhoto from last May, 2012.  The high point where the sun is shining is actually Pk. 3207, mismarked on the map as Tigaraha.

    "Get down therefore," spake Menlove Edwards.  Or, in this case, "Get back up therefore," up to the rim, where Lucy peered out over the edge. Instantly, the inexorable force which is named the GLUE of TOWN clicked on: the dog and I were propelled rapidly down the slope, towards the car, emails, phones, mood swings, elections, back to the madness of the whole human race.

(above) The hike to Pt. 2993, top of Thompson Creek (Class II). Perhaps the most direct access to the pre-Cambrian Thompson Creek Orthogneiss.