White Mountains climbing guide Bayard Russell has snagged the first ascent of a stunning mixed route that has seen numerous attempts over the past few years.ThePainted Wall Icicle (M9 NEI 5+) is a two-pitch line north of the Kancamagus Highway, not far from the classic Way in the Wilderness (NEI 5). A steeply overhanging bolted rock pitch climbs about 90 feet to a ledge, followed by a dead-vertical pillar.
The route is “not cutting-edge grade-wise, but classic,” Russell said. “The icicle has been sitting there in plain view every year for a really long time, and everyone who climbs around here knows about it.”
The first effort was by climbers Dave Moore and Jay Sterner, who aided and bolted up the first 50 feet of the route, leaving an unfinished line called Borrowed Time.
During the 2006–’07 season, Doug Madara, Peter Doucette, Kevin Mahoney, and Russell returned to the climb, and Russell eventually aided and bolted the remaining steep rock to a ledge below the ice. “A slew of people tried this first pitch as a mixed climb that season, but tricky sequences, small footholds, hidden holds, and a deep pump kept us all from climbing the pitch with no falls,” Russell wrote at his Cathedral Style blog, where he tells the full history of the climb.
The following year, the ice only came in briefly. Last season, Russell and Josh Hurst revisited the route and Russell sent the first pitch on this third try. However, the second-pitch ice was creaking, and the two bailed before it collapsed. They returned a couple of days later, but the ice was even worse, and Russell retreated after the ice on the first-pitch belay ledge collapsed as he tried to climb onto it.
This year, the ice came in thick again, and Russell soon managed to redpoint the full climb. “I’d just been on it a few more times than anyone, and had the beta sussed,” he said. “It was just a matter of when it came in enough to sack up and lead the pillar. It was really, really fun to climb.”
Date of Ascent: January 5, 2010
Sources: Russell Bayard, CathedralStyle.blogspot.com, Kevin Mahoney