Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /nfs/c06/h04/mnt/86521/domains/blog.mahoneyalpineadventures.com/html/wp-content/themes/crisp/functions/admin-hooks.php on line 160

The Sounds of Freezing

I have looked up at the line for eight years now. It had always seemed out of reach and too committing. What changed?
Last year Josh Hurst and I put up a variation finish to The Last Gentleman at Lake Willoughby. We called the pitch the Family Man M7 NEI5+. It was a stellar line and deserved to be completed as an independent route. The first two pitches looked hard and difficult to protect and that had always kept the perennial excuse handy “it’s out of condition” which in literal translations means the individual saying I am “out of condition”. This year everything seemed the same, too little ice on the second pitch and the third pitch was thinner than the previous year.
Eager for a big challenge that the ice on Mt Pisgah can offer Ben Gilmore and I headed up there a few weeks ago with the intention of linking as many routes as possible. Bullwinkle and Reign of Terror went down first and were quite fun. As we started up the Promenade the sun came out and within a half an hour we were rapping from the first pitch while a full air strike was going on.
The day was early and we were driving back to Madison. The thing I have learned from many days at the Lake is that you have to strike while the iron is hot. You don’t get second chances often for the objective you want when you feel the energy to go for it.
The morning of January 24th was 9 degrees F when we left the car and it was snowing. Not ideal to attempt unknown mixed terrain, but we had the day off and we were there. We racked up to sounds of ice augers drilling ice-fishing holes on the lake below. I started up the first pitch confident but intimidated and soon enough my confidence was weaning.
Show-stoppers lurk around every corner when you try something with traditional gear and ground up, however that is part of the fun. The start offered quality torqueing and some hooking then a transfer to an iced up crack to the right. Then the crack pinched off to nothing. This was the first of many jumping off points. I left the security of what I could see. A big lock off to a blind hook, very hard to reverse, I was committed. That’s what it takes, commitment. I tied off a shrub and go for a one-tooth torque layback with my feet plastered to nubbins high up. I pulled off the low percentage move and I knew I would not do it again. The effort was rewarded with a good cam the first one for twenty feet. I knew we were going to finish this climb once I pulled off that move.
The rest of the first pitch went smoothly but still challenging. The second pitch didn’t let up. Somewhere in my head where fantasy lives I had been thinking the first pitch would be the crux. I wasn’t wrong but I wasn’t right. The second pitch delivered the same intensity and commitment. Twenty feet off the belay was a roof with a crack through it. I figured slot the crack and you are home free. The trouble was getting to it and trusting that the ten pieces of crappy gear constituted something good enough to catch me if I blew it.I am not strong and I am not particularly gifted but I am stubborn and that proved to be the answer.
A lot of people will ask “who lead the crux pitch?” it’s a legitimate question if you want gear beta. Crux pitches are rarely successful because of the person on the sharp end they are always successful because of the person belaying them. Ben tolerated and encouraged me through the first two leads, which took no less then 2½ hours each to lead. Heady climbs require total trust in yourself and that comes from total trust in your partner and the energy that they feed you through the rope.
I was finally to ice and despite the fact that it was heavily sublimated and hanging an inch from any contact from the rock it was ice. I took off. Ice is always easy when you have been on sketchy mixed terrain. At this point it was late and we had foolishly left our headlamps in our packs. Fortunately two friends came to check on our progress after their day was done over on Called on Account of Rains. I bribed Elliot and Dan with a twelve pack of PBR if they would climb up the first pitch of The Last Gentleman and traverse to Ben before he left the belay. Ah! Beer is the universal motivator.
Ben led the third pitch, which I had been on the previous year, however the line was entirely different. The ice was steep and junk and every stick echoed the gut retching sounds of hollow cold brittle ice. He stealthily maneuvered around the fragile sheets that would not hold body weight and arrived at the exit roof at dark with too much rope drag to continue. When I arrived I kept climbing to the trees to finish up. The exit is good climbing with good gear, finally a reward for our effort.
Setting up the rappels we enjoyed the unique sounds of expansion cracks booming on the lake below. The air temp was 0 degrees F. We were done. Kryosonics was ours to enjoy. (Posted Jan 31, 05:45 by Kevin Mahoney)

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply