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MT Willard; little big Mountain.

Three days on Mt. Willard in March reminded me why it is one of the best little mountains around. Mt Willard is only 2865 feet tall, which is even small by New England standards, and the southeast face is only 800 feet if you include every slabby inch of it. Most of the routes are alpine-ish and the rock quality is horrible. So why do I love going up there and consider it one of my favorite places to guide? I love it because it is a mini version of all the great climbs around the world. Cinema gulley is a shrunken version North Face of the Triangle du Tacul on Mt Blanc, Great Madness WI5 is a pint size version of Curtain Call WI6 in the Canadian Rockies and Upper Hitchcock is, well, a mini Pinnacle Gully on Mt. Washington. A few weeks ago I spent three days during one week on Willard and was rewarded with two first ascents and a first ascent of an iced up mixed route.

Day 1: I was climbing with Jeff Hatch on a cold windy day on March 15th we motored up cinema gully and topped out on the upper east slabs. The day was still young so we rapped down Hitchcock and headed out the tracks to a trickle of ice we noticed on the way in. Early that day we saw fresh moose tracks and Jeff commented that he had never seen a moose. Well he would not be disappointed. Before we arrived at our objective Jeff pointed out what looked like a very large dog sleeping on the tracks. Large indeed. It was his first moose sighting. It is always fun to see a moose and watch the gangly creature make its way through the snow with grace. Once the moose stubbornly moved on we stacked our rope for the climb. The route was a 20 meter mixed line at the start of the road cut along the tracks. We believe it to be a F.A. however you never know around here. After I was done with the lead Jeff was lowering me off when the moose returned. Not intimidated by Jeff’s shouts it quickly approached. Jeff dropped me to the ground, safety in numbers we thought. As soon as I touched down the moose charged reared up and then bolted down the tracks. Fortunately it was merely trying to send a message not hurt us. We heard him loud and clear and named our new line The Moose WI4 M4.

Day 2: two days later I was back with Michael Nurok and we did the same link up of Cinema gully and upper east slabs but this time we had spied an intriguing pillar to the right of lower Hitchcock. We did the rappel and traversed over. Thinking it was an unclimbed line we were slightly disappointed to find out it was merely Peace of Mind M5 a route I established several years earlier with Ben Gilmore. When it was first done it was simply a curtain spilling over a rock roof and required thirty feet of dry tooling to reach the ice. Now it was a pillar touched down. It is rare to get a first ascent but even more rare to get the first ascent of a mixed route and the first ascent of the same route but as an ice route. We completed the route and found it more pumpy then we expected. The ice version we called Peace of Ice WI5.

Day 3:another few days passed and I returned with Ben Gilmore on a stormy day for a half-day of climbing. We decided to charge up lower Hitchcock to Peace of Ice and head over to the buttress beyond Thinking of Janet. This buttress on the extreme right side of the upper wall has lots of potential with few established lines, mostly done by Doug Madera. We found a series of yellow drips spilling down the cliff for 30 meters. I lead up and marveled at the quality, we called it Spring Fever WI5 M5. If any of these lines were a full pitch or better yet multi-pitch endeavors they would be world-class routes instead it is just another fun pitch to sneak in on during a day at Mt Willard.

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