Will Mayo Puts Up M14 at Vail


Will Mayo beginning the 30-meter roof traverse of the Mustang (M14-). The route passes behind the classic Fang ice pillar. Photo by Sarah Strattan.

2/18/14 - Will Mayo has redpointed what may be the hardest sport mixed route in the United States: The Mustang (M14-) in East Vail, Colorado. The route links existing routes and some new ground for an extraordinary 60-meter pitch, including a 30-meter horizontal roof traverse.

The new route is the culmination of a huge effort this season in the Rigid Designator–Fang amphitheater in Vail, during which Mayo established three other M13/13+ routes: Superfortress, Stratofortress, and The Lightning. All told, Mayo has spent about 20 days working on the routes this winter, starting in early November.

The Mustang starts on the Seventh Tentacle mixed route, behind the Fang, and then moves rightward across the big roof on the old Will Gadd testpiece Reptile. It continues on Mayo's new route Stratofortress (M13+). "The climbing through this section is gymnastic, covering 15 meters with merely eight moves," Mayo said. "There are two moves which are especially large, the most tenuous of which requires a seven-foot deadpoint swing from a figure-four to a single-tooth hook."

After this stretch, assuming the Fang ice has formed, it's possible to get a rest by stemming out to the ice. "I believe that without this ice, early in the season, The Mustang will be M14 solid," Mayo said.

The new link-up continues across King Cobra and Red Bull and Vodka to reach "technical and redpoint crux of the route: an extremely powerful, seven-foot deadpoint move from a figure-nine," Mayo said. "I had to develop a much higher degree of power endurance to be able to pull this move off after more than 20 meters of horizontal roof, even after copping a rest on the Fang."

Mayo in Vail

Mayo on his older route Flying Fortress (M13), which the new route crosses. Photo by Caroline Treadway.

After continuing across the roof to Amphibian, Mayo found the sting in the tail. "The dearth of ice on the top of Amphibian this year required one last big move, a figure-four or a big windmill to a good hook in a horizontal at the base of the ice. Here one is able to gather the composure to pull onto the thin, unprotected ice smears and traverse back left to the anchor atop the Flying Fortress."

"This is definitely the hardest sport mixed climb in the United States," Mayo said. "Nothing else even comes close."

Mayo was one of only three men to finish the competition route at the Ouray Ice Festival in January, and ended up in third place on time. The winner of that event, Frenchman Jeff Mercier, went to Vail afterward and flashed Superfortress (M13), briefly tried The Lightning, and tried Stratofortress three times. Mercier suggested both Stratofortress and The Lightning were M13+, and The Mustang links the meat of both of these routes.

All Mayo's new routes, including Flying Fortress (M13), which Mayo climbed two years ago, are named after World War II planes. "The Flying Fortress was a tribute to my deceased great Uncle Tom, who was a co-pilot of a B17 Flying Fortress and was shot down in occupied France in World War II and survived," he said. "Also, the widely spaced bolts provided plenty of opportunity for flying-like falls in the fortress-like amphitheater.


Three of Mayo's new routes in East Vail: Stratofortress (red); The Lightning (blue); Superfortress (yellow). The Mustang links Stratofortress and the Lightning.

Mayo, 41, moved to Colorado from Vermont in 2009. In October 2013, he and Ben Collett did the first ascent of one of Colorado's hardest alpine mixed routes, Silhouette (WI6+ R M9) on the Black Wall, near Mt. Evans. Asked why he has been able to do so many hard new routes this year, Mayo said, "I finally started sport climbing and training hard in a rock gym, rather than training year-round with my ice tools on plastic, and traditional rock climbing, as I had done for more than a decade. Power endurance is the name of the sport mixed game, for sure."

Date of ascent (The Mustang): February 14, 2014