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.