Major New Route at Willoughby in Vermont

Ian Austin starts the steep ice on the third pitch of Luna Kahuna. Photo by Josh Hurst.

Josh Hurst on the “5.11” second pitch of Luna Kahuna. Photo by Ian Austin / Courtesy of Josh Hurst.

Ian Austin and Josh Hurst have completed Luna Kahuna (180m, M8 5.11 NEI5+), a five-pitch mixed route above Lake Willoughby in Vermont. Hurst called this the “first multi-pitch bolted route” in New England, with 24 protection bolts in its five pitches. 

“I called it a bolted route and not a sport route because the bolts are where you need them and not where you don't,” Hurst said. “You are 15 feet out at times on M4/M5. For New England, with its archaic view of mixed climbing, Luna Kahuna will be viewed as a clip-up.” 

The climb begins with a 55-meter M6+ pitch with five bolts. The bolted second pitch, which ascends an 85-degree wall, was given 5.11. Hurst explained, “I had no idea of how to grade it in the M-scale. For the crux you’re on pure rock with crampons, switching between hands on slopers and tools on micro edges for balance. In theory the pitch should be M7, but it had me red-lined the way I used to feel on 5.11 or 5.12 slab, where if your hips and balance were not just right you were off.”

After a steep NEI5+ pitch of water ice, the second mixed crux offered a distinct contrast from the Pitch 2 slab. The bolted M8 pitch overhangs the belay by about 12 feet. Above this, a long pitch of NEI5+ ice that had previously been climbed gains the trees at the top.

The line of Luna Kahuna (180m, M8 5.11 NEI5+) above Lake Willoughby, Vermont. Astro Turf (Hurst-McCormick, 2006) climbs the steep rock and discontinuous ice just to the right, starting on the first two pitches of the older route Aurora. Photo courtesy of Ian Austin and Josh Hurst.

Hurst on the overhanging “wave” of Luna Kahuna’s M8 fourth pitch. Photo by Ian Austin / Courtesy of Josh Hurst.

Hurst spent four days in 2007 cleaning and bolting the line. He and Austin, both from Maine, attempted the route earlier this February, but discovered that a block that created a crucial gear placement had disappeared on the fourth pitch. Returning the next day on rappel, they bolted past the missing block. Four days later, they redpointed the full line. 

Hurst and Austin have established several extremely run-out winter routes in New England, including Fluffy (NEI6 R/X) and Foxhole Prayer (NEI6 R M7) in northern New Hampshire. In early 2006, Hurst and Matt McCormick put up Astro Turf (M9 WI5R), right of Luna Kahuna, using five protection bolts. 

“Times have changed, and in order for our sport to evolve in New England and catch up with the West, Europe, and the Canadian Rockies, this is the next step,” Hurst said of his new route’s more extensive bolting. “My goal is not to have more bolted routes but rather to inspire others to look outside the box as to what's climbable as a mixed route.”   

Date of Ascent: February 20, 2009 

Source: Josh Hurst

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