Last weekend, the idea was to create a sort of Slovenian turf climbing wall in the Snake River valley upriver from Nome, but as so often happens when a trip to Twin Mountain is planned in January, we got hypothermied out. The previous time we tried a trip to Twin Mountain in January three years ago, my friend, Chris, the dentist, froze his fingers and branded his belly with the metal of his belay plate. "I can't feel my fingers," he said the next day. "I don't think it's a good thing when a dentist can't feel his fingers."
(above) Nate treading lightly in front of 100 ft. quartzite/choss south face of North Twin, Snake River Valley, Saturday, January 2016, 2013.
Technical Chicken-Out: a decision to retreat made for valid reasons, but where the objective could have been reached with a higher level of commitment.
For example, my day at Twin Mountain with Nate Skains possessed all the hallmarks of a Technical Chicken-Out. Stepping off my machine on the Snake River, I broke through the ice and soaked my right foot— the magnitude of the electromagnetic EXCUSE ATTRACTOR surged upwards. Remembering the avalanche-laden, frost-nipping debacle with Miller, Graham, Joni, and Jeff three years earlier, the magnitude of the EXCUSE ATTRACTOR surged higher again. When we finally got to the crag (after a heroic snow-machining effort on Nate's part crossing the Snake River on a secret trail known to him from his Fall moose meanderings) many, many valid reasons existed for us NOT TO ROPE UP for the pitch for which we had snow-machined sixteen miles north of town.
(left) Slovenian turf pitch. Keeps getting away, as if the cold conspires to protect it.
Roping-up would entail hideous minutes of foodling with tiny things beyond the horizon of our big-bellied puffy coats. Eskimo dancing at the belay. Burning of chrome moly on bare fingertips. Already, the volume of water pooled in my right Scarpa Invierno was permanently frozen into over the bunched-up folds of my father-in-law's venerated wool socks. In my mind I saw the snow-machine ride home, stopping Nate to ask if I could stick my foot on his belly inside his parka. Our decision was made: forego the complications of the rope and solo around on moderate ground...
Bouldering happened. Rad climbing was achieved. But the whole escapade constitutes a Technical Chicken-Out because we could have tried to climb the Slovenian Dirt Pitch, but didn't.
When we got home after a long cold ride, dear Clem's sock would not come out of my right boot-- frozen in. I wrestled my foot out of the sock and plopped the foot up on the kitchen table in the good light for the moment of truth: no frostbite! Sometimes frostbite creeps up on you. Any later home, though, and them capillaries in my thrice-damaged toes woulda started a-shunting away again.
(right) Nate starting up Graham's Gulley, low-angle but loaded with snow that had been saturated with rain and then freeze-dried over weeks past.
Technical Chicken-Outs do not necessarily bring shame. T.C.O.'s have kept me alive, I am convinced. Yet, if I look at the nodal points of the classically-shaped EXCUSE ATTRACTOR surrounding our Saturday Twin Mountain outing, I see the usual culprits: the late start; organizational chaos; my teaching job that kicks my ever-loving ass all week and leaves me drained as a battery, the warning light on Ultra-Man's chest that is beeping.
(left) North Twin and Nate. We felt compelled to visit both twin summits, making for a nice FELL WALK and solo session.
The Slovenian Hardman Icon in my mind squints at me in the glare. He doesn't understand why I am not up on the pitch. He is indifferent to the cold that is shunting the blood away from our capillaries. Having boots encased in ice is just another day. There is amusement at the corners of his smile, with a trace of derision, for the pampered American in which he is embedded, and therefore has no right to judge. Instead of following through on the pitch, I went home to the fleshpots of Nome, like Silvo Karo deciding to go for coffee.
(above) Engstrom's Mountain, 3 Saturdays ago. This was the only picture I got, camera bum in the cold. We top-roped the Orange Wall, 5.10b in summer, M5 or 6 on dry tool, with excellent keyhole limestone pockets for the picks, a dry tool testpiece I've only managed once in good style on top-rope.
Proof of climbing, which is what this blog is, layers of a tree, each new weekend adventure a ring of spray... Nate has passed all the litmus tests. He came to Nome and went climbing and wielded ice tools and rode snow-machine and haunted the gym and quoted Royal Robbins and escaped the GLUE OF TOWN and bouldered and "broke the heart of kith and kin, and roamed the world at will." But like all true climbers who land in Nome, he is soon getting on that plane again and returning to the greater ranges. But tomorrow, perhaps, the Kigs may permit yet one more penetration so we can drive the fuzzy cathedrals before Nate flies....