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.

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