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.

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