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More Committment at Willoughby

Greg Benner seconding Pitch 2 of Lake Effect (M7+ WI6, 120m), which he established with Kevin Mahoney on February 17, 2008. Mahoney said this pitch is the best mixed lead he had ever done, and half the time his tools were clipped to his harness while he hand jammed or liebacked flakes. [Photo] Kevin Mahoney

On February 17, 2008, Kevin Mahoney and Greg Benner made the first ascent of Lake Effect (M7+ WI6, 120m), Mahoney’s second first ascent in the Lake Willoughby area over the past month. (see the February 13, 2008, NewsWire for his ascent of Kryosonics). Mahoney spotted the line while guiding in early February and monitored its activity until he got the chance to make the first ascent. Mahoney said the sustained line was formed by snowmelt that created “blotchy ice linked by cracks and flakes.” The pair lucked out that the morning of the 17 was a cloudy and below 0 degrees, allowing them to climb the patchy ice in a traditional, no bolts, ground up ascent.

Lake Effect (M7+ WI6, 120m), Lake Willoughby, Vermont. Mahoney and Benner thought the second pitch of the route was the best mixed pitch they had ever climbed. [Photo] Kevin Mahoney

The first pitch was vertical to slightly overhanging and consisted of thin ice that led to a triangular roof 30 meters up. Mahoney led the second pitch and said that it was the best mixed pitch he had ever climbed.

“From the first moves off the belay the climbing was brilliant,” Mahoney wrote in his blog. “The exposure felt more than 30m but it added to the experience. I unloaded my double set of cams while I hand jammed, fist jammed, lay backed, hooked, torqued and tapped into one-inch ice…Greg soon joined me at the belay equally as smitten with the pitch.”

Pitch 3 became sketchy and committing when Mahoney tapped the ice with his tool, releasing an eight-foot chunk, leaving only a six-inch block of ice by their knees and eight feet of blank, vertical rock above that. This left no gear placements, so Mahoney had to trust the remaining delaminated ice and continue climbing.

“While hanging on with maybe a total of less than an inch of ice under my picks and crampons holding me I decided that if the sheet cut loose I would have to push off so that I would launch past the belay ledge and take a big air fall rather than a short ledge fall. Once I settled that in my head I kept climbing until at twenty feet out I found a C3 placement in a shallow crack,” Mahoney wrote.

This piece of gear gave him the confidence to trust his tools in the poor ice and finish leading the pitch. Benner led the last pitch, which Mahoney said was “cruiser WI4 to the trees.” The pair finished just as freezing rain started to come down.

Despite the commitment required, Mahoney called it the “best mixed climb I have done in recent memory.”

Sources: Kevin Mahoney,