Monday, November 26, 2012

Ayasayuk, Fifth Iteration

(above) Raina on pointy summit of 4-story Pea Gravel mound, Ayasayuk, November 3, 2012.  

(above) Same spot 4 days later.  The ice grew surprisingly while I was in Fairbanks for those four days to say goodbye to a friend and mentor.  Though I climbed the ice visible in the picture to a discerning eye, a complete ascent of the entire cliff would require two more trips. On the sunny, gorgeous day I finished the climb, my cameral malfunctioned, so these rather gray images are from earlier trips.  The ice has continued to grow, and by Thanksgiving was blue and bulging. 

      I've down-graded the fall situation from "mangled for six to nine months" to "only minor enmanglement, maybe just a deep bruise," should I lose my purchase on this steeply canted mass of huge boulders frozen in place by semi-vertical frozen dirt.  This down-grade makes me feel better and able to enjoy the spectacular situation:  the slushy, still blue ocean stretching over the curve, and the dull yellow of the frozen dirt cliff against the sky.
        I am leaving the low-angle water ice and kicking a tentative foot into the upper dirt pitches for the first time.  Last week the dirt did not feel good, but the dirt feels good today, not the usual sensation of a cohesive mass ready to solifluct at the slightest weight.  It's Thanksgiving day.  Five above, no wind-- the Norton Sound is congealing with the first skins of sea ice.
     Now, up on the cliff, barely a centimeter of dirt glued onto a solid granite slab. Swings produce sparks.  But the steepness is not sufficient to create real tension;  magically, front points glue onto blops of dirt, good sticks are everywhere in pillows of dirt, the dirt will not landslide today.  Curved plane of blue ocean drops away as rapid progress is made scuttling through surreal steep slabs of falling sand, saturated and sculpted to the perfect consistency for dry tool climbing.
      The rim.  Four hundred feet above the silenced breakers. Chips have been spent in karmic lotteries in order to complete the ascent of this shattered facade, all for nothing:  this wall will never last.  This itereation, too, will be dynamited into the same type of dust which made the frozen climbing of it possible today.
    (above) Upper pitch of ice, Fifth Iteration, Ayasayuk 2012.

  The aquifer is not dead after all.  The seep will have its way. It twists and turns as they blow it this and  that.  Each iteration sees its own seep, but never in the same way twice, so dry in previous years I had the temerity to think it over and done. But pieces of earlier iterations reappear, toes of buttresses remembered from years back, ramps with a particular ice flow, certain distinctive cracks in the granite, all of it overladen with this gooey frozen mashed-potatoes dirt that just makes it the most fun continuous simulated alpine climbing on this fine Thanksgiving morning, until I am going mad trying to piece the whole puzzle together of how this cliff has progressed through such accelerated geological cycles, where it ends and begins. 
    Is there anyone else out there who has followed these iterations?  A foreman, an operator, perhaps? Is there a mastermind behind this cliff, a Daedulus of these iterations?  If so, allapa must not come forward, for he is surely trespassing, but let him salute you, he is one of your biggest fans, besides the same three ravens that always occupy the choice eyries, year after year.  These iterations I have shored against my ruins...
 (above) Lower drip, Fifth Iteration. 

       Clem was gone.  That is how this year's iteration started. 

Take a look at poor Peter
He's lying in pain
Now let's all go 
Run and see
Run and see
Run and see

    So I got off the plane in Nome at mid-day, all death-mongered out on the passing of Clem in Fairbanks, on the subject of which there can in truth be no words to sufficiently convey.  He was Kristine's father, and Raina's grandfather, and my father in law, and a father figure to many, and kigsblog has not the parameters to express the respect I feel.  So when I got back home I headed down the coast posing as a surfer thinking it was good to be alive.  
     Very surprised to find drips of live blue ice that had grown nicely since Raina and I had visited the spot a week previous.  Like a starving mouse seizing crumbs, I was soon soloing.  To be climbing water ice so close to a road:  it was as if the Seward Highway had come to the Seward Peninsula!  A pitch of WI1 was followed by a steepening dirt apron:  I wanted to boulder out onto the steeper dirt for kicks, but my mind saw dump-truck-sized loads of sand and gravel and boulders oozing out under my knees if I stepped up on the steep.  
    So I settled on path of least resistance, and soon gained a full-on road that transects the upper face.  This led to an enormous wall of dirt (sand and gravel would be a more apt term) with one, distinct dribble of water ice coming down.  This I soloed, but the pitch ended abruptly in a ridiculous dirt wall where the spring bubbles out of the face, ridiculous because who would ever want to climb such a slag heap?  With the orange in the West fading fast, I retreated.
(above) View from cliff.  
 Back in town, back stuck in the gluey GLUE CENTRAL of Nome, it nagged me that I had not rimmed out on my initial attempt at this year's Sixth Iteration of Ayasayuk.  I have a little Kigs-rule that states that the yearly ascent of the Ayasayuk quarry face must go from bottom to top with a maximum of vertical, and climb over whatever mediums may present themselves for that given year:  ice, mud, rock, or lameness. 
   I went back with Nate days later, but our workaday, late-afternoon formula for TOWN GLUE ESCAPAGE did not permit an ascent of the entire face;  once again, I had only time for the ice.  The dirt headwall to the rim remained unclimbed. 
    It nagged at me still.  Kigsblog lay constipated until a complete ascent could be made on the all-time Thanksgiving Day.  A person can write, and say they had an epiphany, and were laid bare upon the Earth, and were humbled by the great maker, and were weeping with thankfulness at the beauty and intensity of it all, but that wouldn't be anything at all the same as the actual moment it all happened.  Humility is to be found in the boulder-slathered fields of the quarry because it's all going to come down on you and crush you and bury you and be taken away in huge trucks and be forgotten.


(above) Chart from a previous post.  Simply add another slice to the bluff for the latest iteration.  As has been necessarily pointed out in earlier installations, the ordinal numbering of these Iterations is only relative from the author's point of view in space and time;  an older-timer than allapa might employ a different numbering system for the face of this ever-changing cliff. And I am glad to report the "friendly ice-making aquifer" is not dead after all.

Links to earlier posts:  Ayasayuk Iterations,   WI 3 or 4 pillar of Second Iteration,
Ayasuk 2010