Saturday, November 9, 2013

Mt. Brynteson Southwest Ridge

     Mt. Brynteson, more hill than mountain, behind the Rock Creek Mine, down the seven-million wilderness-destroying Boondoggle Road, wafting through layers of fog, last Sunday afternoon.  Cool place, maybe, for a hard-up junky searching for an icy crumb.  The real fun not to be had up on the hillside in the couloirs and quartzite ribs, but down below, searching between the mountain and the road, in the mining ruins, for smidges of ice among the folds and tailings that have been worked over for a hundred years of Nome's mining history. 
(above) MineCraft Falls.  A weird scene inside the gold mine, a bubble of reality embedded in deep fog, a pod of hallucination, somewhere east of Glacier Creek Road, west of Nome River.
(above) The mighty Minecraft, perhaps the height of two men.  Nevertheless, in the act of mantling onto ice tool many inches off the deck, that "yur gonna die" feeling, when the whole mass felt as if peeling away from the sheeting right down on top of me, leaving mangled bones sticking out like the kind you see on youtube. DO NOT DAMAGE PROPERTY LAW maintained with no punctures in the rubber, fortunately, thanks to high volume of beautiful ice.

     Southwest aspect of Brynteson steep as a Cairngorm facing into those big sou'westers coming in off the Bering Sea:  plenty good place to hunt for rime or verglas in the late Fall, if one can get up the 7 Million Porkway that late in the season inside one's nice, warm, planet-killing car.  
     Where Lindblom Creek intersects the road, up to the southwest ridge of Brynteson, classic fell walking with hugely-satisfying side-excursions onto crumbling quartzite smegma-piles carpeted with frozen tundra, old rock crampons on and off big clunky expedition boots. Hero poses off old-kind Black Diamond Cobras sunk well and deep in dirt.  Continuous movement in and around gullies, snowfields, and even the occasional actual cliff.

(above) Naively conjecturing quartzite, southwest flanks of Brynteson cliff detail.  Possibly climbable without fear of total squishage, not much more attractive than it appears.

    My first attempt on the hillock of Brynteson with Isis and Jo-Jo, those good dogs, back when they were still alive, with Isis in skijor setup so she wouldn't go chasing the first hoof to come along.  Six miles over crust from the Bypass Road.  Denied the summit by a prodigious herd of Oomingmak (Musk Ox) who would not under any circumstances relinquish the rounded summit so that myself and my dogs might stand upon it for a moment.  Fog and furious wind that day.  Hallucinated voices.
      Several ascents since then, including the one in this post, and this one: Avalanche on Mt. Brynteson.  Fast way to the summit up Lindblom Creek / Southwest Ridge, like last Sunday. Trails everywhere.   
    
(above) Raina, Kristine, and Isis, BITD.  Isis, legendary KigsDog, gone on two separate occasions for four and half days each time in the central Kigluait Mountains during late-summer, necessitating many trips down the Kougarak Road on school nights searching in the willows of the Sinuk until pitch black, Isis skewered on a willow by her dog pack, her intestines slowly eaten out by foxes.  Also, a barfing ride in Paul Mallory's homebuilt Super Cub searching for dog from banked plane.  Dog found both times at the Mile 29 gravel pit, fat and happy, looking quite satisfied with herself.

(above) Trespassing?  Bering Straits Native Corporation?  Don't know...  just oblivious white dude with pocketful of Powerbars not bothering to read regulations, or even history of a place, full of himself and nothing more than movement over tundra, rock, ice and snow.  Also, haunted by memory of a time before the road into the Snake River Valley, no worry of trespassing.  So, now a feeling of privilege rationalized by righteous indignation giving the right to claw and scratch over this piece of land.

   The Brynteson couloirs.  Moments of climbing, the minimum one could ask. Look down beneath triangle of legs, a pair of frontpoints embedded in steep frozen turf, nothing but mist behind.  Whack!  Mantle. Thud!  Scuttle.  In denial of protruding youtube bones suddenly realizing. Effervescence of adrenalin.   Enough to keep the rat alive, barely.  Another crumb of climbing in Beringia.

(above) Lucy in the Fell a Sunday ago.

     Franklin L. Johnson, gold miner, Nome stampeder, native of Vastra Gotaland, late of Wisconsin, hiking out back of Bergstrom's Gulch in the Fall time somewhere in the Nome diggings, 1911.  New creepers on his boots forged in Minnesota.  Forced to sit down to take the creepers on and off, a time-consuming process picking at the leather straps.  
   "Mt. Brynteson, eh?  Well, I knew the man misself, 'n I don' see why they'd name a mountain after 'im."  Old scrap over a boundary, a shot dog, Swede things nobody else understood. "And Lindblom, for all dat!" screamed to the creek below. 
     Idea.  See if the creepers will work on that steep sod there. Whack!  Thud!  "Goldsteigen!"  Just like his one guided climb in the Alps, frozen mud.  Thoughts of the day on the Grossglockner with Fehrmann.  Johnson's oily gloves clapped on knobs of rock, creepers holding well in solid patches of frozen sod.  Patch of sunlight appearing across the watching valley on Twin Mountain.  
     "Damn!"  Busted spike, bent metal.  So much for the new creepers...     
  (above) All the fun hunting for the ice among the folds. View from the pathogenic car, Glacier Creek Road, Sunday, November 3, 2013.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Peak 3650+ and Peak 3320, Eastern Kigluait

          SUMMARY:  a short account, mostly peemark, of two "three-thousanders" in the Eastern Kigs this year:  Peak 3320, a lumpen mass of quartzite located at the easternmost corner of the gigantic frown shaped by the entire Kigluaik Range as a whole—  so call the peak "Iqiq," meaning "Corner of the Mouth"— done earlier this year during Iditarod week 2013.  Then, two weekends ago this Fall, Peak 3650+ in the same general area, the high point of an interesting series of ridges above Big Creek Creek forming the northern rim of Crater Creek—  call it "Aqalgiqpaq Peak" (Big Grouse) as the high point lies between these two drainages (and because I hold to a curious little rule that names should be inupiaq in Qaweraq country)
(because inupiaq is the language the land speaks)
(these are just my own personal little pet names, but I think each one fits the character of the eponymous mountain).
            Mere peak baggery reported here, only a trifle of "fell walking," definitely not the North Face of North Twin .  I am becometh a peak bagger, a hobbyist, a silly birdwatcher.  FYI, both peaks make great day hikes from the Kougarak Road.  There is a niggly little rule of Kig that says you have to keep going until you've reached the very most apical point of a mountain, whether it be a fine tor or a bump on the ridge, so be sure to keep going until you are the highest thing around.
(above) Looking west from summit of Pk. 3650+.  Crater Creek runs southwest toward Mt. Osborn on horizon   The best rock route in the Kigs is visible on the Third Tog  near the cener of the photo.  Kayuqtuq, or Peak 3850+, otherwise known as Tog 7, looms just to the left of Osborn.  I once had a theory that Kayuqtuq was the second highest peak in the Kigs, but this myth was debunked.  In this picture, you can barely make out the tip of Peak 3922, a Grand Central hill, poking out over the top of Kayuqtuq.   Kayuqtuq has been down-sized accordingly, though the contour lines be vague.
(above)  Peemark map of peaks in the Eastern Kigluaiks. All the places I have lightly scented with my spray, in order to make a small statement to gratify my ego.

(above) Peak 3320 ("Iqiq," "Corner of the mouth"), left peaklet in the back, taken from Peak 3650+,  looking east toward the Bendeleebens.  Peak 3320 is the easternmost three-thousander of the range.  During Iditarod, of course, it was swathed in hard-shell marshmallow sauce, but I carried no camera that day, so this Fall picture several months later will have to suffice.  This pictured is showing a big chunk of quartzite, (according to the Amato/Miller Geological Map.)

      PEAK 3320 ("Iqiq"):   The WEIGHT!  Felt it immediately upon arrival at Earp's cabin at Salmon Lake.  The WEIGHT is different than the GLUE.  Whereas the GLUE is a steady pull back towards town, the WEIGHT is a kind of dread bearing down on the shoulders— dread over being alone in the naked north in Winter on a single snow-machine, out where the population is zero for many square miles in all directions.    
      The whooping and barking of the Iditarod over the tiny radio at Earp's cabin only accentuated the WEIGHT.  Deep silence drilled into my sub-awareness.  My "technical chicken out of Iditarod 2013" occurred right then and there in the no-heat cabin.  Disguising cowardice and lack of will as something approaching good, common sense, I decided I'd better not attempt anything too ambitious that trip. 
       After a late start the next morning,  fired up Super Smooth Andy G. and motored north up the road up to where it turns on the corner on the easternmost Kigs.  Scanning the hillside constantly for a way up that wouldn't result in Super Smooth! wrapped to the axles in willows.  Finally breached the horizontal willow band at full throttle up Homestake Creek, and proceeded up the slopes of Peak 3320 as high as the .570 Bearcat dared without tipping. 
       Donned crampons right at the machine, and began slog.  Fine day, not too alaapa.  First the snow was soft, then it was tundra, then it was hard.  As you could see from the picture above, nothing was too very steep.  The Bendeleeben Range hung on the horizon sixty miles to the north, calling to me across the deep waters like a frozen, blue Bali Ha'i.  I was hoping for a jagged summit tor encased in ice;  alas the summit was rounded. However, the ubiquitous north-side drop-off was in evidence.  Almost surely this mountain had been climbed before;  the scent of geologist was all over the rocks.  
       Admired view a long time, flat-footed it down the mountain.  Orange and yellow light played out over the deep blue bowl of the Imruk Basin.  When I reached Andy G., he started and we followed our own tracks back down to the road, back to Earp's cabin at Salmon Lake for another cold and lonely night listening to the Iditarod on the radio, and another day of climbing tomorrow.
(above) Peak 2600+, the sweet little peak visited the second day of my Iditarod. This picture is taken looking south from Grand Central;  I hiked up it from the other side.  The other side abuts Fox Creek and makes a nice shortish hike from Salmon Lake.  No crampons necessary.  This was one of several "climbs" that got me in trouble in KigsCourt:  because I didn't use my Iditarod vacation to climb something more challenging, the Judge says I was establishing a pattern of "Technical Chicken-Outs" and threatened to revoke my climbing license.
     
(above)  Big Creek Bluffs, with the limestone/marble/deathchoss band transversing the hillside.  A decent workout can be had bouldering along the bottom of this band, marveling at the varying metamorphic geology as you traverse along.  A paucity of anchors, a shortage of vertical, and an overabundance of deathchoss make top-roping here a dubious proposition.
(above) Earp top-roping the deathchoss at Big Creek.

      PEAK 3650+ ("Aqalgiqpaq"):  No WEIGHT!  No GLUE!  Arrived at Salmon Lake late Saturday night, with the stars and aurora reflecting on the dark water.  Any high expectations I might have had for myself had already been beaten down by a summer of Lethian forgetfulness and demotivation.  Calm, peace, resignation, the susuration of Cranes.  Got up early Sunday morning and motored down to Grouse Creek, not far north of the Crater Creek bridge.  Lucy bounded out of truck bed, and up we went.      
      Now, Peak 3650+ is a peak I had attempted multiple times before.  There was the ominous incident one late Fall near the "Lactation Boulder" (an awesome erratic of quartzite lying on the tundra folds between Grouse Creek and Crater Creek) when we got separated after having a picnic right next to the front porch of an aklaq lair, probably one in which the aklaq was inside sleeping!  There were several defeats by big powerful NAPS that swept out of nowhere and overtook my mind in the hot Fall sunshine.  More than once, maybe,  got lost in FOG.
       But there were only green lights this time, and crimson hillsides with fruit abounding.  Lucy and I scampered up thousands of feet of Class I and II talus slopes anchored in place by tundra patches, until we leveled out on the mystical and convoluted ridgetops above Big Creek, where we lay in the sun for huge swaths of time scoping through cupped hands out west across the ENTIRE range, from the Singtuq at the western end, to this peak at the eastern end where we perched.
       Prototypical summit of the Kigs, pathetically rounded on its southeast flank, frighteningly vertiginous on its northeast, with the prettiest little rail of rock running along the topmost ridge, about as high as a picket fence, so that the hiker hikes along the ridge neatly and anti-septically separated from the dangers of the abyss, yet dares out of boredom to make little dare-devil climbing moves on top of the rail, thus getting small, occasional whiffs of exposure to stay awake.  This summit, too, must have been visited before, though I wonder if others have been as meticulous in tracking down the true high point of the massif, vis-a-vis the Kigluaik "apical point" law, as I was required to be.  Going by human inner-ear transit, which can be pretty darn accurate, I determined the high point was an unsurveyed mound of quartzite halfway between Point 3325 and Point 3509.  This peak enjoys a certain prominence, which might account for the surplus of triangulation points on the old USGS topos, but a prominence which is only evident as you stand on the mountain itself;  the thing comes off as a heap of ridges when viewed from afar.          
(above)  "Grouse Creek Pass," a low divide between Grouse Creek and Crater Creek, not far from the Kougarak Road.  This may be the best way to access upper Crater Creek.  This picture is looking west from Grouse Creek.  The background peak notched in the pass is  Peak 3300+, a peak I call "Warren Peak," hiked up several springs ago in deep fog via the low-angle left skyline.
          If MENTAL PROCESS pervades matter and energy for all regions of space/time, then mountains also are pervaded by MENTAL PROCESS.  Mountains think.  The reason this seems preposterous, is that mountains, being made of relatively stable abiotic minerals, (at least, you hope they're stable!)  are not particularly entropic.  Mental process only manifests at detectable levels where a certain level of entropy is present, such as a neural network with nerve impulses whizzing down nerve pathways, or a planet with all kinds of things going on inside its atmosphere.  So MENTAL PROCESS is a zero-intensity wave that passes right through the mountain without making much difference.
        What I mean by "mountains think" is that the potential for MENTAL PROCESS exists at any spatial point within the mountain, except that, let's face it, there's not much probability it will manifest anywhere in the dead zone of stone.  But perhaps there is an "as yet unexplained" phenomenon that generates MIND within the stone due to the mountain being a component of a larger entity, the Earth, which can be said to be thinking, especially if it's busy little consumer-resource systems are included.  I know, I just know, these mountains have some type of awareness, it's just different than animal awareness, so we can't access it.  And because it is a weak force as it manifests within the systems, it resists empirical proof and eludes scientific observation. You will think I am out there talking to myself...

(above) Video of Lucy sending Copper Creek Falls, 2 Saturdays ago.  Class 4/5.
(above)  Lucy peacocking on top of the Anvil at Anvil Mountain on a Fall weeknight.  The Anvil is not to be underestimated as a rock climb, though many a kid has soloed it.  A case could be made for the Anvil being fifth class by any route.  So when I climbed to the top and called Lucy,  I figured I was only tormenting her, a primate mocking a quadraped.  I was surprised to find the quadraped soon standing next to me on the summit, but I was dismayed too, for it meant I would have to carry her somehow while I soloed down.  But no, she down-climbed just fine. She found a little dog ramp of her own.

(above) Hold your life out at arm's length, beauty suspended in clear drop of time.  Kristine, Raina, and Lucy, picking September blueberries above Copper Creek.  And there's the peak Lucy and I were blessed to climb the following day, "Aqalgiqpq," hanging on the horizon left of Salmon Lake.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Peak 3147 Expedition On Trial


 (above)   The smoking gun. The date is April 6, 2013, 21 Saturdays Ago.  The photo clearly shows Max, Riley, Kevin, ad Nate hanging out and enjoying themselves in a sheltered spot under Mt.Osborn.  Allapa admits to taking the picture.  Nate and Allapa had already stated their  day's objective to be a climb of a technical nature further down the Grand Central Valley.  So why aren't they getting after it? 

  What follows is an analyis of a case that was rendered in Kigs-Court 20 Saturdays Ago in March of 2013, Kigsblog vs. Nate and Ian, in response to a claimed "Technical Chicken Out"on the North Face of Crater Lake Mountain by said defendants.  Because of the long stretch of Post Traumatic Fog Disorder brought on by seriously horrendous incidents since that time, Kigsblog has not been able to report on this monumental ruling until now.  The influence of the case upon the subsequent GNAR in the Sluicebox Couloir makes this analysis all the more ironic. 
        The purpose of filing suit against myself back in the Spring was to jack my climbing frame of mind into an "Alaska Range state of awareness" in preparation for summer climbs on McKinley and Deborah.  Even a cursory reading of Kigsblog through the last several years will reveal the extent to which my mental preparedness for the Alaska Range had deteriorated.  The complacency evidenced by one lame post after another documenting a moment's clinging to a lump of frozen tundra close to Nome, the endless references to the dreaded GLUE of TOWN (a relentless inertial force composed not only of comfort, lack of motivation, and disorganization, but all the good things of life in town as well, the world of family and community and fun), as well as the atrophy of climbing skills due to forever approaching climbs rather than climbing them—  all these tendencies had to be cut away with the machete.  So my intention was to use the authority of the blogosphere to call bullshit on myself with a trial.
        Here then, is an account of the events leading to the trial, and a partial transcript outlining key precedents.  I thought for a while afterwards the ruling had done its job and motivated Allapa to achieve a higher level of alpine climbing, but as so often happens, the legislation held unforeseen consequences, including horrendous ENMANGLEMENT of beloved partners, and excessive COMA-HAGGERY for the entire tribe.



(above)  Looking northwest up Grand Central Valley.  Nate and I were appointed to climb a new line on Pk. 3147, on the 45° gneiss-ribbed face that defines the right side of the peak.  But we started having, to invoke Buchanan, "entirely too much fun" with Max, Riley, and Kevin, our Sno-Go-ciates.  So Nate and I ended up NOT CLIMBING.  Failure?  Success?  It was up to KigsCourt to decide.  

       It was the first Saturday in April.  Nate had hooked up with three other clubbers riding on two machines and it felt great to be clutching it up with Max's boarding crew on a Saturday in Spring.  No one in the party had ever visited the hidden Northeast Cirque of Osborn, and I was intent on checking the ice conditions there in the Sluicebox for the upcoming epic with Andy, so I showed everybody the secret keyhole in the moraines which leads to a long, recently-ablated gully curving around the mountain to the Grand Central Glacier, if it indeed qualifies as a glacier.  Storms swirl out of here on sunny days, the marble walls rime up like Ben Nevis, perpetual shadow hangs over the wall.  On the day we visited, the Cirque was strangely foggy, like a gauze, warm and still.  We might have stayed there for a ski, but everybody felt the underlying menace of the place, so we left.
(left) Stiff winds blowing in the main Grand Central  Valley as we made our egress. The Northeast Cirque, behind us around the corner where we hung out for a time was quiet.  This was completely the reverse of normal.      

    Can a decision to hang out and have fun with friends justify a no-shame bail?  That is the question at stake here.  Nate and I sprayed forth about how we would do a mixed climb on Crater Lake Peak in Grand Central, and made great show of packing our bags with the latest fads in ironmongery and cordage, then instead of climbing, hung out all day with the totally cool people we were snow-machining with, pictured above on the Grand Central Glacier, and had a lot of fun in the warm foggy paradise of snow, and made new friends.  Is this a justified bail, or should the label of "poser" be imprinted on my brand for too many repetitions of this spray and bail pattern.  Kigsblog vs. Nate and Ian was supposed to be the landmark case that settled the question once and for all.


Adjutant:  We are gathered here on Monday to review the weekend of climbing, as per standard procedure;  according to the measure of climbing, have we been true to the spirit of climbing, which is to:  1. do rad stuff 2. Worship the Earth  3. Achieve a homeostatic Ego/Id balance.
   
Judge:  As regarding the climb of last weekend, April the sixth, your attempt on the northeast face of Peak Thirty-One, Forty-Seven, how do you plead?"

Allapa:  I would like to plead a Technical Chicken Out, your Honor.

Judge:  As opposed to a mere Chicken Out, you mean.

Allapa:  Yes, your honor.

Judge:  (chuckles)  I see...

D.A.:  Your Honor, I object.  There is no such code for a Technical Chicken Out.

Judge:  Sustained.  Mr. Allapa, I hate to quote Yoda in KigsCourt, but 'Do, or do not, there is no try.'  You follow my meaning?

Allapa:  Yes, your Honor, it's just that the B.B.Y.E.S. (acronym for 'Bail Before You Even Start') was forced upon us by the circumstances that day.

Judge:  The circumstance of being with friends?  Or the circumstance of being too late to get up the route before nightfall?
  
Allapa:  Both.  Uh, don't those two follow consequentially upon each other?

Judge:   Adjutant, please read us the Kigsblogic definition of a TECHNICAL CHICKEN-OUT.

Adjutant:  A Technical Chicken Out is a decision to retreat made for valid reasons, but where the objective could have been reached with a greater level of commitment.

Judge:  As you know, Mr. Allapa, in a court of law, any bail, big or small, justified or not, constitutes a Chicken Out.  The T.C.O. clause was merely an appendum designed to mitigate the deleterious effects of excessive SELF-NEGATION after backing off an otherwise aesthetic boulder problem due to the key holds being loose rat traps.

Allapa:  Your Honor, that is exactly what I am seeking for myself.  Relief from self-negation.

D.A.:   May I remind you of the Qaaqtut matter in 2006?  Kigsblog vs. Allapa?  When he backed off a big vicious 5.6!  Rather an attractive bouldering line, as I recall.  Need I remind your Honor of the ruling in that case:  too many bails in a row may result forfeiture of climber status.

Allapa:  But the exact number of Bails was never stipulated!

Judge:  Overruled.  Allapa is correct, and out of order.

D.A.:  He can't even remember the last time he didn't bail!

Judge:  Order!  Now,  look, when you backed off the boulder problem—  uh, what was it called again?

Allapa:  Qaaqtuq.  It means, "It bursts off."

Judge:  Kack Took, right.  When you backed off Kack Took, there was no question it was fully justified.  You were going to get squished, your body mashed into the multi-ton flake of rock like the heel of God stepping in fresh turd, your friends writing enconiums on various internet sites, your beautiful boulder problem lying on top of you.  This, however, is a different situation.  A pattern is developing in which you are justifying your own lack of climber will-power with these silly rationalizations.
(above)  Another view of Pk. 3147.  I took a picture of this beautiful peak and just had to SLAP a vulgar red line of ascent upon its flanks.  The line shows approximately where Laurent Dick, Kevin Bop and I did a semi-technical face route in 2005.  This whole cursed trial comes from Nate and me making a simple decision not to climb this face again.

Allapa:  Your Honor, on behalf of myself and Nate, we invoke the NO SKETCH PARTNER LAW to justify our bail, thereby postponing forfeiture of our climbing license for said period of time required to fulfill promise of total mental commitment on the Sluicebox Couloir in weeks to come.

Judge:  Adjutant, please read the Kigsblogical definition for the "No Sketch Partner Law."

Adjutant:  The NO SKETCH PARTNER LAW states that the scope of your climbing ambitions must conform to the mean climbing ambitions of the group you are with.

Allapa:  I would like to take this chance to point out that this is a LAW.  Thou shalt not be an asshole is how one would say it in the mountains.

Judge:  Order!  Are there any further questions for the defendant?

D.A.:  Yes, your Honor.  (turns to Allapa)  Please tell the court once again your reasons for the Bail Before You Started on Peak Thirty-One Forty-Seven on April 6, 2013.

Allapa:  As I stated previously, I didn't want to sketch on the nice people we were with.  I mean, it was no big deal at the time, we got a late start, we decided not to climb, we hung out and did this sort of snow-boarding water-skiing thing on the Kougarak Road.  So what, right?


D.A.:  So what, yes, unless you care about the status of your climbing license...  This bail on Peak Thirty-One Forty-Seven fits into a long-term pattern of bailing:  GLUE of TOWN leads to NO SKETCH PARTNER leads to NOT CLIMBING.  It's all very fine and beautiful, but the natural consequence according to Kigslaw should be forfeiture of climbing license.

 Allapa:  Objection, your Honor. This consequence is not written into the stipulation, nor is the precise amount of bails specified.

Judge:  Sustained.



 (left)  Allapa detained at the start of a skiing trip by the GLUE of TOWN.  The GLUE is an elemental force that sucks like a rip-tide at the ankles of the climber as he or she is trying to gain escape velocity from the place in which they have been situated.  Little, last-minute tasks are a common constituent of the GLUE.  Like a cartoon character who has stepped in glue, the attachments of town form elastic tendrils attached to the climber's feet which retract the climber's forward mountain,, causing the climber to come springing back into town after only a few miles, usually to retrieve the crampons he or she forgot, or to log out their computers.

Adjutant:  In the matter of KigsCourt vs. Nate and Ian, the bail from Peak Thirty-One Forty-Seven on April 6, the honorable judge will now decide.

Judge:  Mr. Allapa, let me ask you a question.

Allapa:  Yes, your Honor.

Judge:  Did you have fun?

Allapa:  Fun?

Judge:  It's a simple question.  Did you have fun?

Allapa:  Yes.  Yes, we did have fun, your Honor, me, Nate, and the other clubbers,  a whole lot of fun.  Mountains floated in three-dimensional white ether, and I was so grateful to be out there NOT ALONE, not alone in that unsettling, lonesome, Kigsian way when the GLUE of TOWN pushes on your heart like G-Forces swirling towards a drain, makes you miss all your friends and hold your entire life out at arm's length so that you feel

Judge: Yes, uh, so noted, had a bit of coffee, did we?  Yes.  Clerk, let it be noted that Mr. McRae had fun in the mountains on the day of his bail from Peak Thirty-One, Forty-Seven.

Now, Mr. McRae, you have overlooked the obvious.  The ALEX LOWE CLAUSE forces me to throw out this whole case.  Adjutant, please read the Alex Lowe Clause for the court.

Adjutant:  The best climber is the one having the most fun.

Judge:  Since you had fun, you are the best climber in the world, even though you did no climbing whatsoever.  No self-negation is merited, no revocation of climbing license warranted, and your bail is nullified.  Any coding would be irrelevant to your future climbing.  Case dismissed!

audience: (murmuring)

Judge:  Order!  Order in KigsCourt! One more thing!

Mr. Allapa, I would be remiss in not pointing out your obvious legal escape from sanctions via the Alex Lowe Clause.  But I would also be remiss in not dispensing you a piece of stern advice.  

After thirty years of alpinism, you know the score well enough by now:  if the climb is worth it, you spend the chips.  If you decide to spend the chips, you don't waste them on doubt, hesitation, and self-questioning.  Don't waste your chips on a load of drivel like this kigsblog post.  Simply climb.  Or do not climb.  Classifying your bails on a hierarchy is a giant ladder of shit.  You have some grave meditation to do, young man!  Empty your mind.  Focus on the mountain.  And organize your junk in town.  Now, I recommend you go home and read Extreme Alpinism and The Rock Warrior Way.  

(left)  Andy Sterns last week dry-tooling in eighty-degree temperatures on the artificial wall at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.  FAQ:  "How's Andy?"  A:  "Check him out!"    

     The judge was actually waving his prodigious index finger at me as he spoke.  Make no mistake, I was greatly chastised.  I left the court room with my tail between my legs.  I vowed right then and there I would pack my sack for the Sluicebox, and if the time came I would send with no hesitation, no attachments.
       And that is essentially what happened.  During weeks to come, Andy and I talked on the phone twice daily, him in Fairbanks, me in Nome, and it was all business and obssession with the weather.  When things did finally line up, and we found ourselves starting up the route on Friday, April 19, green lights stretched ahead.  There was no thought of a bail, no hesitation.   Thoughts of the controversy surrounding the long pattern of Technical Chicken-Outs was far from my mind.  If the judge was wagging his finer, I wasn't thinking about it.
          The Sluicebox was only supposed to be a training climb for my return to the greater ranges.  I was getting back that "Alaska Range feeling."  You know, the one where the mountain is rumbling, and avalanching, and shooting stones, and giving out suddenly beneath your feet, and you're coming out of denial about the danger fast, and you know it will lead to great wisdom later on, but for now you're scared to ever-loving death.
         "You have to sort of write yourself off before one of these jobs," said Doug Scott.  Well, thanks in part to the trial of Peak 3147,  I had actually been able to achieve that sort of focus and detachment.  I was able to return to the glorious stupidity of youth and go for it.  But to what end?  My partner is MANGLED and I'm back where I started, taking forever to get on rappel because I don't in my heart believe the anchors will hold, turning back on a trip after a day because I can't handle the solitude, spending weeks embedded in the GLUE of TOWN with all its charms, and staring upward as if hunted from above.  Nothing to do, but start climbing again from scratch.  Let's hope there's not another trial.

(above) Sluicebox couloir.  X marks where the rogue rock hit.  • marks rappel points.   One interesting thing this summer was Andy and I got to hang out and compare memory traces on the Accident in the Sluicebox.  Still only meta-data is available to us, but my theory of a single rock coming from above that augured in to the 45° snow right next to Andy's stance, followed by an avalanche several seconds later, was corroborated by him.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Petit Tig

(above) Petit Tig (Pt. 3000+) would be the leftmost peak in the picture.  Then, East Tig, Grand Tig, West Tig, and the Fab Four Tors..  

         THE GLUE OF TOWN seemed fraught with potential complications, but thanks to Nate's machete, escape velocity was seamlessly achieved.  Soon, Nate, Lucy the dog, and I, were piling out of the truck at the good old gravel pit at Mile 29 Kougarak Road, ready for the long slog into Tigaraha in nice hot weather to grab the plumb, six pitch dihedral on the sunny south face of the Grand Tig.
(above) Tigaraha is maybe/probably/sort of located at the "3" on the map, though not labeled so on USGS.  The blue approach is better for an ascent of Tigaraha, but slightly longer;  Nate and I in 2013 employed the red approach, hoping to cross over the divide between Sinuk and Windy at a fourth/fifth class pass just to the south of the East Tig tower—  Thwarted! we were, by lingering summer icefields on the north side of the pass.

          A tight schedule it was, with Nate having to board a Soyuz capsule within 48 hours, so that the pyscho-gravitational influence of the GLUE OF TOWN never entirely abated throughout the trip.  Nevertheless, it was fine to be in the Kigs in the summer with the creeks a-gurgling, and the Plovers a-ploving, with ropes in the sack, and Nate fresh from a season of Leaning Tower and Prow aid solos in the Valley.  
      But, as we slog-o-matically slogged up the upper Sinuk (oh holy Ganges of the Kigluaik), I looked over at Nate, and got this horror-flick image of mangled body, crushed by random Volkswagon of choss, with me the frightened partner-child once again pressing the G-Spot Device that never quite reaches climax.  I had sworn off partners, but here I was in the hanging fields of deathly choss once again, with partner...

      (left) Mylon on the Erratic, 2004.

          Erratic Camp at  Sinuk headwaters is a place where nature has dripped green tundra-whiz over piles of morainal boulders to create a babbling garden of mini-waterfalls and rock-rimmed sleeping pads.  Nate and I settled in for the night, bodies pounded from the unacceptable slog-ratios of the day, minds lulled by the mountain music of water and midnight-sun birds all around.  In the morning, we shouldered torture-loads of climbing gear and began scrambling up thousands of feet of steep ledges above camp to the west.
 
(above) East TigPass.  Allapa descends in a westward direction from a point at roping up place for East Arete of East Tig, traversing over towards the shadowed dihedral in the background which was Nate's and my original target.  This is a photo by Mikey Lean in 2002. In the conditions pictured here, the East TigPass is easy Class 3 or 4 over to the Grand Tig, but six Saturdays ago, Nate and I were repulsed! by lingering summer icefields which hogged the picture.  Getting to the climb would have necessitated swinging across a choss-loaded WI1 gully on rappel with a hyperactive Border Collie in my sack, then traversing ice slopes with Nate in sneakers, and chopping steps with our carpentry hammers.
 
(above) Lucy under Singatook.

              It was Tuesday, June 18:  record temperatures that day all over the state. We sat on the crest, our objective slipping away, utterly stupified in the heat.   Finally, bobble-headed, we got up and headed back down the way we came.  The outline of things had grown blurry.  It was too hot for speech.
         We came to a wall that seemed to promise a pitch of climbing.  I tried to lead, but almost instantly got that "Kigs feeling":  the very rock itself is about to exfoliate, no amount of pro is going to save you from cratering or ralstoning, so I rationalized, Nate must be in terrific shape after Yosemite, let's see him try.
          Nate started to lead, but instantly got that Kigs feeling himself:  what had looked like 5.6 from below was indeed 5.6, but the rock so poor that once upon it, your mind notches the difficulty up to 5.9X!   He eventually threaded his way around some patches of solid rock to belay at the base of the summit boulder.  The top of the wall, formed a mighty chariot thrusting out over a 400 foot abyss to the north;  the very tip-top summit block forms a little toilet seat, with the crack cantilevered over tummy-tingling space.  I vaguely remember soloing this airy pinnacle on a bygone hot summer's day, but since I cannot remember the details, the FAULTY MEMORY CLAUSE dictates that Nate and I made the true and established first ascent on June 19, 2013, or at least a second or third first ascent, or at the very least, first concrete ascent that mind can remember.
(above) le Tig petit.  400 ft.  A few moves of fourth/fifth class are required to surmount the apical pinnacle on the back side.  The fourth class hike up the left skyline is highly recommended for those hikers who like to combine bouldering and scrambling in wild high country— and the rock is not that bad.

(above) The amazing Andy Sterns climbing hard at SRC last week. 

Heard you were dead
This is all a dream
Woke up this morning
Rock above, rock above!

Tried to take it all back
All the things we said
But rock was all around
Look out below, look out below!

The people in the village
The darkness lowering down
I'm gonna stay right here
All the night, all the night.

Boatman gonna be here soon
Dripping honey from a syringe spoon
Take us away from the stone and ice
Cause Lord I am so cold, I am so cold...

And when they load me in that chariot
When they fly me over the peaks
I'll say hello to the mountain morning
And know that I'll return, that I'll return.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Post Traumatic Fog Syndrome


7SA

Accident in the Sluicebox
Sluicebox Aftermath
News Miner Tim Mowry article about Sluicebox.
Alaska Dispatch Craig Medred article about Andy.
Interesting audio interview about Mt. Osborn rescue at oddballpilot.com

(below) Aidan's killer photo of Oz's marble Northeast Face from his cool website oddballpilot.com



       Long time not posting. Stalked by the fog, which generates its own forgetfulness. Been drinking great draughts of the River Lethe from an an old carcinogenic water bottle, freshly busted-out to cope with Post-Traumatic Fog Syndrome, a type of semi-comatose state of awareness that I caught sympathetically from Andy many weeks ago, which has persisted in its development for me personally, though Andy himself moved out of the lethargy-inducing FOG weeks ago.  Now, school is over, summer is here, the big blue sky stretches overhead—
      But no, wait... white vapor floats everywhere.  Smoke rises from the muddy impact craters, giant millipedes of fog worm butt their freezing heads through the blow-holes of the Seward Peninsula, horizon is lost in RT instability.  Condition:  Fog Head.  Reality partially obscured behind a white veil.  Download from short-term into long-term memory deliberately disabled, the mind hiding from truths and mysteries it is not yet willing to comprehend.  Fog in the morning, fog in the afternoon, blowing over from the worthless choss of Cimmeria, the lines between things blurred, details forgotten, fog in, fog out, sunshine.  What you're looking at, you don't see.  Perhaps memory had to be obliterated.
      Even on the sunny days that came in the nick of time to prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder in June, a type of inertial fog hung over the clear skies like a sheen of goo, transfixing my motivation.  The lifetime that lies between thought and expression lay smeared evenly with a shimmering, transparent sheen of glue, the kind that won't let go once you touch it, but just extends outward with your fingertip into an ever-thinning, elongated string that cannot be broken.  It was the very GLUE OF TOWN itself.

(above)  Upper Buffalo Creek, May 11, 2013, 4 Saturdays ago.

    For brief moments, the fog pulls back, I dwell in blue holes of clarity.  One such moment happened for a day in early May, on a trip up Buffalo Creek with ski companions Tyler, Keith, and Jeff.  It is difficult to blog about it now, thick shards of mist keep veiling the screen, I'm not sure of dates or time—  the fog is composed of procrastination, denial, lethargy, sybaritic decomposition syndrome, and writers block--
     
(left)  Fogheads on the Kougarak Road, May 11, 2013

        The ski started in Lethian mist at 800 ft. above Norton Sound level, at around Mile 30.5  Kougarak Road.  The Deep Creek Canyon approach is definitely the choice for the good ski runs on False Tigaraha. Start at approximately Mile 30.5 on the Kougarak in the region of Nugget Pass.  Head west up Deep Creek Canyon, which soon makes an elbow to the North.  Leave Deep Creek and continue due west over a short pass to upper Buffalo Creek.  Head north up Buffalo for "Sister Turner"and other good runs, or, like Tyler and Keith did, climb up the ridge from the col between Buffalo and Thompson Creek  (impassable to Grand Central due to sheer cliffs of gneiss on the north side of the col) heading south towards Pk. 3080, and find that one, singular spot where a good skier can breach the Thompson Creek Headwall from above, and get some black diamond shreddy-shred turns down into the Thompson Creek basin. Tyler and Keith then simply skinned back up the "Headwall" to rejoin Jeff and me rolling somersaults on the good snow slopes at the head Buffalo Creek.

(left) Silly map of our ski trip on May 11:  The yellow shows the approach, the red shows how to drop into Thompson Creek, and the blue shows my mini-epic on the southeast ridge of Pt. 3207 where I was rescued from an ice climb that, once again, Tyler was skiing down.  "Tigaraha Mountain" is what I call "False Tigaraha";  the high point of the ridge is Pt. 3207 at the top of the blue line.

      As we stopped on a sweet-smelling tundra island perched above the spring snows, FOG encased us in a resin of demotivation.  We spoke to the fog in exasperated voices as if it were member of the group slowing us down due to minor equipment problems. There was talk of, "Is it even worth it in the fog, maybe we should just go back to Tyler's truck and drink those home-brews?"  However, the four seasoned mountaineers knew that clarity must lie somewhere higher, whether it be fifty feet more altitude or five hundred, we could hear the plane traffic over the Kigs, meaning it was blue above.

(above) FOG, responding to changes in my own personal electromagnetic energy field that surrounds my physical tissues.  Research has shown that fog movement is susceptible to the influence of human brain activity and shamanic manipulation.  If you are a telekinesis NOOB, fog would be a good medium to start with.  I well remember this odd bank of fog pictured above pursuing me southwards through the Windy Creek / Mosquito Pass corridor in summer of 2004. The FOG creates a not unpleasant sensation in the mind, but years may pass inside it for the unwary Rip-Van-Winkle mountaineer. 

     We descended to the floor of Buffalo Creek, and began reascending to the north, towards the col.  Sure enough, all of a sudden, like an epiphany, Dionysus lifted her veil, and POP!, we were out of the fog.  Just mantled right on up to the roof in hot May sunshine.  Logic restored itself to cobwebby brain lobes, the way was clear, the little matter with the Sluicebox was resolved. It was like that scene in Operation Annihalate when the Denevan flies straight into the sun, crying "I'm free!..."
(above) Mr. Collins, Mr. Conger, and Tyler Rhodes at the Col between Buffalo Creek and Thompson Creek, May 11, 2013.  Not a go on the north side.  



 (above) Tyler and Mr. Conger ascending the ridge to the right (east) from the Col toward Pk. 3080.  The drop into Thompson Creek is around the corner in the picture, which the three of us pioneered last Spring of 2012.     

(above)  Pt. 3207, False Tigaraha.  My first summer in Nome, had a terrifying grovel up the left side of the summit block, finger-hoedadding over the bap-bap-bap slabs.  Mt. Osborne (4714) is in background of the phot:  thevoie normal, the Southeast Ridge, is the curving sun/shadow line down into Grand Central.

        Decided to climb up to Pt. 3207 from the Col.  Felt like a pro confidently kick-stepping, balanced over my boots, no crampons, scrambling straight upwards where Tyler had to zig-zag on skins. But like a NOOB, I had climbed into a trap.  When I got to the top, (no soloing the highest pinnacle this time,)  Tyler inquired, in a rather droll voice:  "You want one of the tools I have in my pack?"
       "Oh no, I don't think that will be necessary," I replied.
       Hot sun sinking low, the clarity was fading.  Started down. Within ten feet started sliding out of control.  "Bourrit!"  Like the cat in the tree, I had climbed up something that I could not easily climb down.  The kind of snow you just don't want to plunge steps.
       "Uh, Tyler, about that tool!"
       I was forced to face inwards as I descended.  You know the game, where you spend hours trying to see the way ahead through that narrow wedge of dangling junkshow between your legs.  I made everybody wait down below while I kickstepped back down Pt. 3207 in my cantilevered telly boots.  What a relief it was to reach the blue square signs and clap on the old Soul Powders to ski the rest of the way down.  
(above) Tyler Rhodes powering up Pt. 3207 from the Col.  I have to say, this guy seems to be a mutant, along the lines of an Alex Honnold, or Walter Bonatti, made of different stuff than the rest of us.  One of the great ski heroes of the Kigs. 

         We returned into the FOG, the car, the delusions, the full folly of the whole sad human race. I wasted many weeks lost in stasis.  A friend, Vaughn, did everything he could to rescue me before going on to climb the Cassin Ridge.  Weeks passed in haze of forgetfulness, quaffing ever larger draughts of Lethe, far from the mountains, pouring rain onto beautiful sunny days.  Nate, too, fresh from aid solos in the Valley, would sweep in on a plane and help me back into the Kigs, but I shuffled, and dithered, and we only climbed small puddles in the hot sunshine.
       This post began in FOG but must end in sunshine many weeks later.  Thank you to Raina, who almost singlehandedly beamed away the FOG. We're sitting in California now, lolling in abject heat.  Next up is the return to Fairbanks, the summering grounds.  The fog is at bay.  Must keep it that way.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Aftermath of the Sluicebox

(above) Tyler Rhodes, northeast cirque of Oz behind him in shadow, Saturday, May 4, 2013, 3SA.

     CHICKEN SOUP saturated Andy's brain.  A complication from surgery following a compound fracture of both tib-fibs on both legs, the SOUP leaked out of the long bones into his circulatory system, and the fat cells worked their way up into his brain where they globbed up something awful, impeding all functions but the autonomic.  Now, Andy lay PROPPED up in the ICU at Alaska Regional Hospital in Anchorage, staring vacantly like Paul Pritchard in the The Totem Pole.  A group of "coma-hags" gathered around the bedside, including Andy's beatific mom and dad up from the states, Saint Ned, mushers, climbers, and the stricken Sir Apple.
            It had been a week since the Accident in the Sluicebox.   The idea was to awaken Andy with the proper stimulation, but so far nothing had worked.  People crackled Mojo Bar wrappers in his ears, a sound which Ned aptly described as "the soundtrack to trips with Andy," a sound which in times of exhaustion in the mountains had even begun to annoy me, but which now I longed to hear again.  We waved strong coffee under his nose.  Someone placed a rope in Andy's hand which his friends tugged on forlornly.  Jewish jokes were read.  We told blatant lies, hoping the outrage would shock Andy out of his coma.  Finally, Sir Apple grabbed the rope, and took the lead, and did what no one else had thus far had the chutzpah to do, but maybe were thinking about:   he leapt up on the hospital bed, like the troll that he is, and began to pull on Andy's short hairs...  twisting, twisting, until the corners of Andy's lips pulled back in a frightening grimace.  
          But it was only a pain reflex... Nothing.  We slumped back into the corners of the ICU room as the extremely nice nurses at Alaska Regional entered the room for the umpteenth time that day...
(left)  Allapa gives the What-4? in front of the Sluicebox on the return trip.  We logged a fine run for a blue-square skier like me on the blue-square slope behind.

        Upon my return to Sitnasuaq following the trip to Andy, a week of self-imposed gloom-and-doom followed.  I hid alone in my house for two weeks while my family dwelled far away in the Magic Kingdom.  Everyone assured me that Andy is a mature and seasoned alpinist with his own personal Jones for the Kigs, that he knew exactly what he was doing when he undertook the Sluicebox, that we made decisions based on calculated risks such as the kind that all alpinists have to make sooner or later, and that therefore the sense of guilt and responsibility that had propelled me like an infinite battery during the hours of the rescue, and of which eternal residues will always remain in my memory--  just what the hell drew Andy and me to be in that marble dungeon in the first place?--  was invalid.  But I could take no satisfaction from it, and we were all worried to death about Andy.
       Lovers and friends oozed out of the woodwork, all on a pilgrimmage for Andy.  People strange-attracted that hadn't seen each other in years, mushers from Andy's Iditarod years, mysterious women, Alaska's climbing legends, trail-runners, wilderness skiers, pipeline-walkers, a nurse on duty in Andy's unit that had been crushed years ago by a falling Grade IV ice climb, multiple visitors from Fairbanks.  Vast linkages of email strings connected everyone exchanging information and vital signs, plus many people Andy'd never known yet caught up in few degrees of separation.  I never realized the magnitude of the Andy attractor until now.  I never realized how little I knew about him, one of those unsung-hero types out there just doing it, despite all the strings of GLUE all over everything.  Godamned rock.
(above) Big marble tower on North Ridge of Osborn.  Tyler traversed this way, but there was no way to get around this tower.  Remote Northwest Ridge Osborn in background, Pk. 3900 on right.  I have officially lost interest in Kigluaik marble.

      Inside the tubules of his brain, Andy's leukocytes whittled at the CHICKEN SOUP.  I pictured them like little Pac-men gobbling up bone-marrow fat cells, scraping it off the capillary walls.  But so slowly!   As the days of Spring went by, and the snows of May descended upon Alaska, Andy lay in the hospital in Anchorage, his myriad friends and admirers checking in on him.  The doctors had said that if Andy only made steady progress (as the Pac-Men gobbled the SOUP), Andy would have a positive prognosis.   And steady progress is what he showed.  At some point, the coma-hags reached a consensus that there was no more coma, though emergence is more a cusp than any kind of fine line, which proved a paradox for the betting pool of the black-minded, dirtbag climbers.  Andy was back!     
             Fresh Spring powder blanketed the Kigs.  Super Smooth Andy G the .570 Bearcat was parked at the end of the road at the big wide area around Mile 28, waiting for action.  Kristine and Raina were due to return on the jet from the Magic Kingdom.  It was time to come out of hiding, stop moping around, and rescind my resignation from the mountains.  It was time to go skiing in the Kigs with Tyler.
(above)  Sluicebox Couloir on Northeast Face of Mt. Osborn (Pk. 4714), May 4, 2013.  Skinning up the hill for some telly-skiing, I turned and saw this view;  instantly I stopped, and for many minutes leaning on my ski poles became engrossed in a visualization of the epic with Andy two weeks before.  I realized that the big red X I put on the previous blogpost to show the site of the accident had been placed too high.  Does this look more like it, Andy?  This image also shows the anchor points for the four horrendo rappels we made, with Andy scootching and sliding down steep snow in great pain.

      "I'm skinning up the drag marks!" commented Tyler as we zig-zagged up the slopes below the big marble face of Osborn.  We did indeed find a sizable pile of gear at the top of the hill, at the base of the wall, at the lefthand base of the Sluicebox snow fan, right where the angle had finally leveled off and we abandoned the ropes and commenced true dragging.   Tyler probably noticed me cowering like a scared child, I couldn't wait to get out of there, out from under that permanent shadow and back into the sunshine, that big ugly wall of marble was going to shoot a projectile at me any moment,  I couldn't conduct a proper search, there's probably gear up there still.   It was kind of Tyler to put up so patiently with my bumbling.




(above)  East facing slopes of the North Ridge of Oz:  Tyler skied another badass line at the center of the photo;  I side-slipped and skied the firm snow from a saddle at the extreme right of photo.  Notice hideous marble tower on North Ridge.

       Absorbed in meditation on the Sluicebox from up on the sunny slopes pictured above, I realized all I knew about the accident two weeks before was a theory, pieced together from clues:  the two-hundred pound rock lying directly on top of the rope above highly compacted snow;  the feeling of the rock (the "Dementor") passing close by my position at the base of the 4th pitch, followed by the avalanche a predictable number of seconds later;  the incoherent bights of slack stacked between Andy on me on the running belay, an unfortunate consequence of simul-climbing on easy alpine ground;  Andy theorizing in between gasps of pain during our night of bodily PROPPING in the tent that he had not felt pain in his legs until he hit the bottom of the rope, and that he had never actually seen the rock come down;  plus, was the rope clipped into the Arrow or not when I downclimbed to Andy, and was it the Arrow at all?    
         But my mind was unreliable.  Things I had pounded out as sure truth in the blogpost immediately following the incident were, I saw now, not how it must have been.  The waters of Lethe wash over my position constantly like Zodiac Falls stalking climbers on the third pitch. The Pac-Men need to gobble the remainder of the SOUP from Andy's faculties so he can help me piece together the mystery so's I can escape from this OCD paradox continuum of the Sluicebox.
(above) View from North Ridge Oz looking east over Grand Central, Saturday, May 4, 2013.

    It did not help my already pitiful skiing that I had two right skis and only three edges between them.  Tyler, on the other hand, set off horizontally to the south on the ridge, seeking to drop into one of the steep chutes that I personally would have viewed as an ice climb.  We might have wanted the snow a little softer.  I threw sickening, wobbling turns down the fall line, bringing the skis desperately around to a horrible, chattering, side-slipping position.  Down came Tyler out of the icy afternoon shadows carving the beautiful mountainside with a few mighty sinusoidals.  The GLUE OF TOWN exerted its gravitational influence even at that distance and began to easily suck us back into town.  We mounted our HOGS and flew out of there, back to the trucks,  back down the highway to the fleshpots of Nome. 

(left)  Ian and Andy in the wet, Tog 3, Crater Creek, 2011.

      As of this writing, Andy is recovering as fast as Lieutenant Uhura does after the Communication Officer's mind is "wiped" clean by Nomad, aka Tonru.  Andy's motha has been stalwart.  The CHICKEN SOUP continues to resolve in the tangled wiring of Andy's brain via the blessed leukocytes.  The SPINNING BEACH BALL OF DEATH that is becometh the cursor of his mind is starting to flicker off, indicating systems are being restored to functionality.  The whole living blob of cooperating protoplasmic systems that constitutes Andy Sterns is back to being merely a man in painful rehab from two busted legs.  
        So so looking forward to meeting up with you again;  I'm still like we were in the tent, not yet fully believing we're out, out of a strange eddy in the sea of consciousness where the sound of voices are heard on the other side of temporal walls, the dopamine has gone completely out of the basal ganglia, time only comes in a series of flashes from a door opening and closing, the pain in the leg is like a fire burning away in the cabin through the night, the ineluctable modality of the audible minus the sequencing is all I can remember, it's all perfectly casual, in the place beyond fear.