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Two Days on Cannon

The Ghost, on Cannon Cliff is named for the white brush stroke on the big wall section of the cliff.  The Ghost IV 5.7 A3 is a summer aid line often linked with the Ghost Roof IV 5.9 A4.  Once linked up they make a grade V aid climb that is great training for big adventures else where.

The Ghost/Ghost Roof link up has never had a free ascent, summer or winter.  The blank granite up the Ghost has kept it an aid line in the summer.  The route has seen winter ascents as an aid line with the top out on ice.  The prospect of it being done as an ice line has been considered since the early days of winter climbing on Cannon in the early 70′s.

The vision of a nine hundred foot ice route spilling straight down the big wall section of Cannon has been talked about on many early morning drives over the Kanc’.  Often as you drive north on I93 from Lincoln the first view of the cliff will reveal a hint of ice on the center Cannon but it has always been a tease of snow, enticing but not climbable.  I have personally gone to the base of The Ghost twice and roped up once with no luck.

This time was just like all the others.  The weather was crap!  Rain in early March is never desired but if it must pour from the skies then it is best followed with single digit temps.   Here are the ingredients for the best climbing on Cannon cliff! This is no secret .  The secret is to be there when it happens.

After guiding for two weeks straight I actually had the day off in sync with the perfect storm.  So did Elliot Gaddy.

We met in the parking lot on 3/8/11 at 6:30am and knew we had to try it.  From the word go we had our work cut out for us.  Of course we didn’t bring snowshoes.  Well once on the trail we found a thigh deep breakable crust!  Both of being experienced alpine climbers and parents we did the logical thing.  We crawled to the base!

Once at the base it was worth it.  The ice actually went top to bottom.

We started up and everything went smooth for the first two pitches.  Then the sun came out.  After crawling to the base and climbing 110 meters of brilliant ice that I had never seen before we were not going to be turning around.  Our decision was simple; if we were going to climb it we needed to finish it fast.  Forty-five minutes later we were on top after a quick pitch through the Ghost Roof and a simul-climbing pitch to the top.  We topped out at 12 noon after climbing four pitches.   We completed the Winter Ghost NEI6-.

The conditions were so good they had to be taken advantage of.  Elliot was off to spend a day with his daughter and I had a family day planned.  On 3/10 Elliot and I were back in the parking lot at 6am.  This time we were gunning for Icarus(Rodan) 11b. Icarus IV 5.8 A4 was the first route to have its first ascent in the winter.  January of 1974 found Rick Wilcox and John Bouchard with help from Jeff Pheasant climbing snowy rock and iced up cracks complete the route over two days with Bouchard breaking his ankle near the top, and still topping out.

Summer climbing proved to make the route easier as it was freed in 1989 and renamed Rodan 5.11b. To climb Icarus free in winter was becoming a project for a few locals including myself.  On a previous attempt Bayard Russell and I had climb three pitches up a slightly different line but ran away do to the sun.

Now I was back with Elliot and conditions were holding.  The weather was brutal.  Mild temps but the 30-50 mph winds turned a few parties around in the parking lot.  We knew this was our chance so strapped on snowshoes (yes old dogs learn tricks) and strolled to the base and racked up in the buffeting winds.  The route simple happened.  Each pitch was exciting but reasonable.  Five pitches after leaving our packs we were  on top of Free Icarus NEI 5 M7-.

Over two days on Cannon and Elliot and I put to rest two unlikely projects The Winter Ghost NEI 6- and Free Icarus NEI5 M7-. The luck of the Irish came a week early!

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