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Late-Season Mixed Climb Snagged on Cathedral Ledge

Kevin Mahoney leading Pitch 3 on the first winter-conditions ascent of Diedre Direct (WI5 M7+), Cathedral Ledge, New Hampshire. He and Freddie Wilkinson completed the route on March 28. In summer, Pitch 3 climbs through 5.10 and 5.11 terrain; Mahoney’s acrobatic, pillar-shattering lead marked the first time the pitch had been climbed with tools. [Photo] Freddie Wilkinson

On March 28, Kevin Mahoney and Freddie Wilkinson completed the first winter-conditions ascent of Diedre Direct (WI5 M7+) at Cathedral Ledge in New Hampshire. According to Wilkinson they “probably should have gone sport climbing” due to the pleasant, sunny weather. Nevertheless, they checked out the classic three-pitch rock route that had never seen a complete mixed ascent.

Wilkinson easily led the first two pitches, an ice pillar up to a precarious traverse protected by an old rusty ring pin, followed by a 5.8 dihedral hand crack. Mahoney took the third pitch, previously unclimbed in winter, which began on Budapest, a 5.11d rock route, and traversed several feet to follow Diedre’s 5.10a offwidth.

“The ice was definitely past its prime on all the pitches,” Wilkinson said, but the final crux pitch was the sketchiest, as the sun was out in full force. Mahoney worked up the offwidth to a freestanding pillar of ice. Wedged between the pillar and the rock, he swung his tool furiously trying to get a solid hold around the front of the formation. The dripping pillar was too weak to stand up to the force of his swings; it broke off, leaving Mahoney hanging by one tool, clinging inside the offwidth.

“Kevin was left hanging by one tool in a position that doesn’t happen often in climbing,” Wilkinson said. “It was a total Rambo move with Rocky music playing the background.” Mahoney recovered then picked his way up the final 50 feet of melting ice to the trees above.

Neither of the New Englanders thought the climb was particularly buzz worthy, but it made for a fun last day of the ice season. “Kevin is hard to say no to,” Wilkinson said, “The way he [climbs mixed terrain] I fully believe he came out of the womb with a pair of ice tools in his hands.”

Sources: Freddie Wilkinson,