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.