|Raina McRae photo|
(above) Windmill Boulders on a numbing October day in 2012.
Bouldering constitutes the matrix in which Kigs climbs are embedded. A "real" climb gets a post if it protrudes in any way from the ordinary substance of everyday bouldering. Packed tightly in between goal-oriented trips to the mountains lies any number of forgotten trips to local boulders, crags, scrags, scarps, frozen slag heaps, gravel mounds, pressure ridges, quarries, seawalls, rooves, dredges, tailings piles, all the trash in between, which, if the imagination is vivid enough, provide more than a bare minimum of vertical terrain upon which to execute continuous kundalini-producing climbing moves.
(above) Nate and Raina on the Class 3 approach to Sunset Rocks, Norton Sound to the south, November 2012.
More than any Alaskan town I can think of, Nome has bouldering close to town. Within the radius of a casual trip from home, one finds the innocuous, but satisfying and unpatrolled klettergartens of Anvil Mountain, King Mountain, Banner Ridge (Windmills), Sunset Rocks, Penny Boulders, Penny Crags, Engstrom's Mountain, (Sitnasuak, Bering Straits, BLM, and I don't know what else lands!!) endless little lumps, mudcliffs, junkpiles, decaying cliffs composed of all three geologic categories of ROCK and all possible combinations in between (with perhaps too heavy a proliferation of "metamorphic"). Pick a dark smudge on the tundra from the road, and chances are it's the tip of an iceberg; hike over to it and the ground drops away revealing grottoes, hollows, overhangs... gradual testing reveals the problems to be solid enough to support bodyweight (at some humidities, laugh out loud) lifetimes of climbing, if the imagination is vivid enough.
|Phil Westcott photo.|
Many climbers step off the plane. But how many climbers that stay in town stay climbers? Hunting draws off many. Skiing has sucked off more than a few. Dog teams keep able partners glued to their compounds. Lack of alpine skills hinders some. The sheer burden and misery of truly getting out in the Kigluait— you know, the valid argument that the spanking you get isn't really worth the climbing you get— kills off most. Unless the climber steps off the plane equipped with a distracted, ADHD-mind that can wander the steppes aimlessly happily swarming over any lump of vertical ground like an ant crawling over a lump of sugar, enjoying the moves, the sheer joy of moving over stone, close to town, in pointless pursuit of imaginary problems far away from the high Kigluaiks where it really counts, he or she will not remain active as a climber, for it is the BOULDERING that gets one through on a weekly basis in Nome.
Estimated percent days on which an outdoor wilderness bouldering event or climbing event occurred in 2012, for me personally: 48%. Not bad for a post-hernia year. Endless rock-shoe trips to the Sunsets and Pennies, one awesome day combination dry tool / rock shoeing up the entirety of Engstrom's Mountain in clear autumn breeze, plenty of King Mountain both with ropes and without, a week or two of clandestine mud-mounding in the tailings piles, and numerous trips to the Windmill Boulders chinked in between the other days. "Been getting out in the country?" Well, no, been bearhugging the tarry timbers of this old mining truss, been violently blowing out Cobra hooks off rounded schist with my ass already touching the ground, been playing with little sticks of carbon fiber looking for all the world like a two-year old, been taking naps inside the grassy chimneys, but no, haven't really escaped the event horizon of THE GLUE OF TOWN for weeks.
Brain function necessary for kinaesthetic repetition of specific climbing moves generates electromagnetic energy body patterns which are particularly conducive to promoting the perceptual functions of intuition and other transpersonal intelligences. Bouldering, through repetition of climbing moves, generates its corresponding electromagnetic energy body, hence a degree of psycho-spiritual interface, which in turn profoundly alters the chemistry and culture of the cells that constitute the climbers organism (cheap adrenalin rushes being one of the more concrete examples of this alteration ), the effects of which linger well after the climbing has ceased, due to the magnetization of the causation vectors within the GLUE OF TOWN having been permanently altered by the climbing that took place in the past proximity of the time/space continuum.
(above) Sunset Rocks, "Beginners Wall," M3, Fall 2010.
The contrast between the banal details of one's life, and the quick and sudden reality of a sketch highball 15 ft. off the deck out in the middle of nowhere, with femur-crunching flakes aimed at your own legs your only hold. Drove out from town looking for a workout, and now you're sketched out 15 ft. up on soggy, saturated schist flakes feeling like Largo in The Only Blasphemy, but all too soon you're walking back through your own front door into artificial light, and your life-partner is saying something but you can't yet make out what she is saying...
|Raina McRae photo|
(above) The Windmills have cracks! Left Ski Track, a schist jam that goes on for many ones of feet.
Johnson never let on to the other miners when he left the camps to go "Perry-Smithing," what he called his secret climbing trips to the low rocks that abounded in the hills around the Nome diggings. It was just too peculiar an activity: jamming your body parts into unstable rock and heaving yourself around like a ballet gymnast. They might think it too, uh, well, feminine somehow, though they'd all seen him do it more than once when a good stack presented itself.
One fine, Fall evening, Johnson was drinking deep with the boys up on Anvil Crick, and he staggered out of the canvas tent to confront the deep velvet of a summer night, with everything gone purpley, and the air cooled down making the bugs drop, and Johnson headed on up Anvil Mountain under the midnight sun, with the Anvil itself at the top of the mountain square in his sights.
When he got up to the Anvil thirty minutes later, Johnson threw himself at the outcrop for all he was worth. He flew as if up a ladder up the big holds of the south face, used a hand crack to downclimb the north side, and then forced himself to hand jam up the "hanging over" crack on the western, horn side of the Anvil, because Oliver would have made him do so if he were there. For a moment, looking down with only jagged rocks for a landing, Johnson felt his stomach about to involuntarily relieve itself of his dinner, but again he thought of Perry Smith: "Nur ein vier!" he would have scoffed. Johnson made the last move and again stood on the summit, admiring the view of the Sawtooths to the north. He descended, and spent the next hour clinging to various facets and fissures of the rock.
Someday in the future, Johnson mused to himself, some joe will repeat my "executions" on these rocks tonight, and wonder if they have ever been climbed before...
(above) Windmill Boulders on Banner Ridge looking south, Nome in the distance, Kigsblog photography staff in foreground, October 2012.
"All zis hiking is great, but ven vill ve get to ze real climbing? " John Salathe
The great of danger of bouldering is softness in the head. When I get back on a top rope or rappel, I am seized with abject fear— fear of gear! Every trauma, mishap, or near miss I have incurred in years of climbing rises before my eyes. Again, I have to go through the process of rationalizing away the adrenalarms flashing in the fear circuitry, Amygdala!, Amygdala!, the gear cannot be trusted! Takes me two or three days of honest roped climbing to work through the fear, every time. Only then do I realize the extent to which Bouldering has caused parts my climbing brain to atrophy.
(left) "Mud mounding" on frozen tailings. Saturated by fall rains, they freeze to the consistency of ice. A brutish form of surrogate ice climbing is created, probably toxic as well, but often stimulating.
On wilderness bouldering...
Kigsblog is hereby pronounced guilty of Kigsmongering, and of exerting upon the Earth's remaining wilderness index a negative influence by publishing pictures and information which illuminate these areas of the map hitherto dark. There is really no excuse for such blatant narcissism. Soon the BLM lands of the Kigs will be overrun with swarming hordes of bright-jacketed hippies on self-directed quests to find themselves and altered states of reality. In my defense, I can only offer the lame explanation that writing about the Kigs is a lot of fun.
(left) Windmills, the Courtyard, unfinished problem. Haven't heaved the old sack up that last move yet.
(above) Sunset Boulders, "Panfaruq," M5.
Thanks to Bering Straits, Sitnasak, B.L.M, and Ken who lives at Mile 14.... I don't how it works, but it seems a modern-day miracle that one should go unnoticed (thereby being allowed by proxy) to gambol across one of the last pristine ecosystems left in the country, climbing peaks up and down for nothing, with no great hassle of permits nor proliferation of brown signs with white painted letters pointing the way. No great squawking of land-ownership pundits is heard; no agency ever quite gets it together to tame these rolling tundra cragbarrens, and the land goes on basically just sitting there unaware of humans most of the time, which is how it should be, in this hippy's irrelevant opinion.
When the hordes of super climbers come invading Nome from the east and from across the Bering Straits, the fate of turf-bouldering in the urban areas of the Seward Peninsula will be thrown into jeopardy. The Windmills, for instance, have excellent turf traverses early in the season before they are buried by the snow, if you are willing to slide your lower legs down under the bottom overhangs between the rock and ground, which doesn't risk death-by-crushing quite as much once the temperatures are cold and the rock is frozen to a safe level of cohesiveness; you're pretty much having to yard across on arms swinging tricky, precise swings while locked off. However, I have noticed that even one dry-tooling trip across the west Borehole Traverse denudes the key moss clouds on this rock to a significant extent— I can only imagine that legions of silly-mixed boulderers would remove every last vestige of turf, rendering the tools truly dry for decades to come.
How absurdly lucky the boulderers that came before and the ones here now... before we have to try and control it all, tie her with fences, drag her down...
(left) Oro Grande, July 2012. There are climbs, and there is all the climbing in between. Bouldering is the matrix, the source code of the climbing that occurs on the heights.