Saturday, October 10, 2015

Pass Creek Pyramid

Inuksuit at Fox Pass. Stone guardians are usually present in significant passes of the Kigs.  
David Panepinto descending north side of Fox Col with that old ice axe standby, the pointed rock in hand.  This picture shows why the word "col" came to mind; it's just a "colish" kind of pass.
Pk. 2900+, ("Pass Creek Pyramid"), looking west. Mt. Osborn background left. 

         What put the "pass" in Pass Creek? I wanted to know. Passes are not all that plentiful across the Kigs. 
       But when I got to Pass Creek Pass last year, it was blocked by summer slushing cornice danger. So this year, I went back to the pass with David, Leonard, and Lucy. 
       We managed to cross the pass this time, as well as climb a curious obelisk (PK. 2343, "Pass Creek Pyramid") on the other side. We also located the curious stones from the picture (above) that look suspiciously like inuksuit
       Various inferences have led me to believe that our pass is but one of two passes in Pass Creek. For more totally absolutely fascinating inferences regarding the question: "What put the 'pass' in Pass Creek?," as well as as an internet peemark of our climb, read on!
Pass Creek Pyramid expedition, May-June, 2015.  The route up Fox Creek is emerging as a Kigs-Country Runners  testpiece.
"Fox Col" route from the northwest in Pass Creek, looking east to Pk. 3900+. It seems probable that indigenous BITD people knew about this pass as a shortcut from Mary's Igloo to Salmon Lake.
Pass Creek hiking passes from north.  "Fox Col" on the left is maybe Class 3 or 4. Gold Run on the right looked to be Class 2 or 3. Take a left and you reach Salmon Lake, go straight and you reach Grand Central. Snow-machinability?  Couldn't say...  This photo was taken years ago from a wild, exposed shoulder of Pk. 3900+ during a solo attempt in winter.
Pass Creek Kigs from north. (Manzoor Saghaffie)

        No sweeter GLUE broken than the GLUE of SCHOOL. We were free. Big blue buzzing summertime stretched ahead. An occasional nip from the flask took the pain of the load away up Fox Creek. A night and a day of hiking up a snow ravine saw us ensconced at "Fox Col" on the divide between Fox Creek and Pass Creek.
         The same summer cornice as the previous year was in evidence on the north side of the pass, but at least there weren't active calving fractures as there had been the year before. David and I scuttled down snow and scree slope into the Pass Creek Cirque, thus satisfying my "Mandatory North Side Objective" mandate placed on me by this blog, my own blog, as a penal measure. One might want to consider carrying axe and spikes for this route.
Looking west from Fox Pass. This shows why you would not want to choose the wrong pass to the west.
Looking east from Fox Pass. This shows why you would not want to choose the wrong pass to the east. Pk. 3900+, a fine and noble peak, alpha mountain of the eastern Kigs, with a secret identity of being "Tog 7" or just "the Big Tog," also called in other places in Kigsblog by the name "Kayuqtug," rises at center. A great hike or run from the Kougarak Road, Class 2 from this side.

Another look down the north side of Fox Col, David on the descent.

Looking southwest from Pass Creek Pyramid. Osborn at background center. Left of Oz is Pk. 3922, one of the Grand Central peaks.

          What put the "pass" in Pass Creek? An inference could be made that the name comes from the first USGS surveys in the early days of Nome's gold boom era-- say, 1915. Miners and Prospectors were more likely to cough up their user names for Kigs features than the indigenous peoples, who may not have seen fit to pin things with names anyway.
           Initially, I assumed the pass in Pass Creek was the route I was taking up Fox Creek fro the Salmon Lake side. But what if the real "pass" in Pass Creek is the other one that leads south to Gold Run and Grand Central valleys? Judging by the extensive signs of habitation in Grand Central (see Among the Peakbaggers) dating from the first decade of the 1900s, I imagine some number of prospectors traveling from Grand Central on the south to Mary's Igloo on the north. 
            Though I've never traveled between Gold Run and Pass Creek, it looked, well, passable. So, maybe"Gold Run Pass" and not "Fox Col" put the "pass" in Pass Creek. The big blue book at the Kegoayah Kozga Library offers no clues on the origins of Pass Creek, but the mountains offer their own inferences.
Looking west to "Gold Run Pass." This photo was the smoking gun that revealed the possibility of two passes in Pass Creek. Gold Run Creek lies over the ridge to the left of the peak in the center.
Pass Creek Pyramid in June 2014. It hides quite a precipitous (and choss) north face of granitic gneiss.
Gneiss on the Pyramid. By means of a little soloing on the south ridge, I was able to avoid a Non-Technical Climbing Foul.
Summit of Pk. 2900+ (Pass Creek Pyramid). Might not know it to look it, but Lucy and I are paralyzed with vertigo  in this photo. Our heels are poised over an absolutely Batman drop-off over a north face so steep I dare speculate it could be base jumped. Neither did I dare take out the camera. Typical of the Kigs for a summit to have a meadow on the south, and a BRINK to the north.
        Everybody knows that Inuksuit  were used by reindeer herders to corral the reindeer in the high passes. The technique must have been to chase the reindeer up the valley until they balked at the top, spooked by the stone homunculi standing in the pass.
           However, my friend Annie informed me the Inuksuit were tactical as well as territorial markers in a war between the Brevig people to the north and the Qaweraq people to the south, and that the passes through the Kigs were known and sometimes used to advantage. Encounters with Inuksuit are always accompanied by spooky action at a distance, and such things are best not sprayed upon the digital space of the internet.
           The Inuksuit at American Creek and Mosquito Pass are better defined than the stone arrangements we saw at Fox Pass. Leonard and David also examined them, and remained unconvinced. It's only a theory that the stones in the pictures below are genuine inuksuit, yet I am certain enough to declare them so, with registrations on the vibe-o-meter as primary evidence.
Lucy sheltering from the wind inside Inuksut. If you can find the black and white dog in the picture,  you might discern a vague ring of boulders around her. My theory is that this was an older, degraded, or incomplete line of Inuksut, stone people, as are commonly found in Beringia.
Mr. Lastine hanging out in the wind with Inuksut. "Inuq" means person, and "sut" is most likely a prefix meaning, "is like," so an Inuqsuq is "like a person." I'm guessing the Inupiaq guttural consonant /q/ was bastardized to a "k".

1 comment:

  1. Cool trip. Yeah, based on the dog picture, my vote is genuine inuqsut. Took a peek over into Thompson today from the Buffalo side; no ice down there but if you really need a fix, there was a ribbon of ice up high on the peak South of that pass.