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R-Rated Mixed Testpiece Climbed at Willoughby

Kevin Mahoney explores the rock- and ice-filled cracks on the first pitch of Kryosonics (M7+ R NEI5 R, 145m), which he established with Ben Gilmore on January 24, 2008. The thin, technical slab pitch featured horrible footholds and a 40-foot fall potential at the crux moves. Last Gentleman (WI5) is the ice route to the right, and Who’s Who in Outer Space (WI5) is on the left. [Photo] Ben Gilmore

With Ben Gilmore on January 24, 2008, Kevin Mahoney made the first ascent of Kryosonics (M7+ R NEI5 R, 145m), a mixed line he had been eyeing for eight years at Lake Willoughby, Vermont. Until recently Mahoney had refrained from attempting the line, which looked too committing, thin and difficult to protect. Conditions no better than usual on the 24th, he and Gilmore talked themselves into going for a traditional, no-bolts, ground-up ascent.

Kryosonics (M7+ R NEI 5 R, 145m), Lake Willoughby, Vermont. Mahoney and Gilmore climbed the new route in less-than-ideal conditions. [Photo] Kevin Mahoney

Mahoney led the first two pitches while it snowed; the resulting wet conditions made reading the rock and placing appropriate gear far more time consuming. The first pitch was runout, and Mahoney had to do some creative and committing moves to advance and find placements. “I pulled off the low percentage move and I knew I would not do it again,” he wrote in his blog. “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.”

Thinking the first pitch would be the crux, he found the second pitch also heady, relentless. Mahoney had to trust ten questionable placements leading up to a roof with a crack before reaching ice at the top of Pitch 2, where the difficulties eased. “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,” he wrote. Those first two pitches took Mahoney about five hours to lead; they continued despite the late hour and a lack of headlamps, which were at the climb’s base. Luckily for Mahoney and Gilmore, two friends had come to check on their progress, and Mahoney said he bribed them with a twelve-pack of PBR to traverse in from a side route with their headlamps.

After their headlamps were delivered, Gilmore led the third pitch, which Mahoney had done in 2007 with Josh Hurst as a new finishing variation to The Last Gentleman they called The Family Man (M7 NEI5+). However, the line that Gilmore took was completely different than The Family Man, as conditions were much worse this year: “The ice was steep and junk and every stick echoed the gut retching sounds of hollow cold brittle ice,” Mahoney wrote. “[Gilmore] 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.”

Mahoney passed Gilmore at the third belay to finish the last 20 meters of their new route, finding consistently good placements for the first time that day.

Lake Willoughby, one of the great ice gems of the Northeast, has been frequented by climbers for the past thirty years. In the past three, the area’s development has turned mostly to mixed routes such as Kryosonics, predominately rock lines that lead to ice curtains or daggers.

Sources: Kevin Mahoney,,

Mahoney goes for it on Pitch 2 of Kryosonics after pulling the pumpy roof crux above a nest of body-weight gear. It took the pair about five hours to ascend the first two pitches. [Photo] Ben Gilmore