It's On! Desperate Early-Season Mixed Route in Colorado

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Will Mayo at the top of the crux section of Shooting Star (M9 WI7), a new route on Colorado's Black Wall. Photo by Ben Collett.

Will Mayo at the top of the crux section of Shooting Star (M9 WI7), a new route on Colorado's Black Wall. Photo by Ben Collett.

10/3/14 - Taking advantage of an early-season snowstorm and freezing temps, Will Mayo and Ben Collett bagged the first ascent of a desperate traditional mixed route on the Black Wall, near Mt. Evans, Colorado. Shooting Star (2 pitches, M9 WI7) tackles a huge roof to the left of the 2013 Collett-Mayo route Silhouette (M9 WI6+).

After a three-hour approach to the Black Wall, which tops out at about 13,000 feet at the head of the Chicago Creek drainage, Mayo and Collett rappelled to the base of a prominent chimney system on the face left of the main Black Wall. Above was a huge roof festooned with icicles and verglas. The roof "involves strenuous dry tooling on good hooks in cracks and blocks, with excellent gear on hand-sized Camalots," Mayo said. "The crux is rounding the roof and delicately powering up on lock-offs in one- to two-inch thick verglas. This section was very similar with the crux on the Vail sport mixed climb The Flying Fortress [M13]. It is remarkably difficult and exciting to literally suspend oneself from a lock-off in verglas and get the following placement."

Shooting Start takes the chimney line in the center. Silhouette (Collett-Mayo, 2013) climbs the forming ice to the right. Photo courtesy of Will Mayo.

Shooting Start takes the chimney line in the center. Silhouette (Collett-Mayo, 2013) climbs the forming ice to the right. Photo courtesy of Will Mayo.

Above the crux roof, the pro got much worse. "In about 20 meters there were two places for protection," Mayo said. "One consisted of two angle pitons in a verglas-coated flake; the second was two stubby screws in partially frozen moss. There would be better protection if the entire pitch weren’t coated in verglas. It was some of the most challenging thin-ice climbing I have ever done. Literally, it was vertical with overhanging steps of verglas."

The 30-meter second pitch began with "a weird and difficult series of chimney moves," followed by easier climbing to the top.

The Black Wall has seen a surge in ice- and mixed-climbing activity in recent years, spurred in part by the discovery of a relatively easier approach to the remote wall from Guanella Pass, after the toll road to the summit of Mt. Evans has closed for the season. See more about the recent climbs here.

Date of ascent: October 2, 2014

Will Mayo (left) and Ben Collett on top. Photo courtesy of Will Mayo.

Will Mayo (left) and Ben Collett on top. Photo courtesy of Will Mayo.

Sources: Will Mayo, American Alpine Journal