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Call of the Wild

By Mark L. Moran © 1996

Mark would be interested to hear your opinion about the story. Please email him directly.

I had a great experience on Sunday and thought my community of partners and friends would enjoy hearing a bit about the route. I think it is a new grade for New England. I have called around the area (Randy Ractcliff, Jim Shimberger and Rick Wilcox) and have confirmed that this is a new route. Jim and Randy will climb Call of the Wild on Wed to confirm the grade. Which I believe is solid Grade 6. Based on my discription Randy thought that it might possibly be Grade 7. I don't think so though. Anyway I hope folks are interested. I hope this does not comes across arrogantly.

After climbing Promenade and Last Gentleman on Saturday. Dan Lee and I needs an easy day. So on Sunday he and I were going to do Mind Bender (at Lake Willoughby) and call it quits. BUT, upon walking into view of the routes I saw the most amazing piece of ice to the left of Mind Bender. A DEAD Vertical pillar went 80' straight up followed by another 20' of 88 degree hollow ice to a point where it connected to Mind Bender forming a belay ledge. But Above that was that was where the fun started. 40' of pencil pillar with HUGE Canadian style mushrooms capped by a Massive roof. Above the first roof was another 45' of 95++ degree "pillar" (?) - I shit you not 95% DEGREE!!! - that arched up into a HUGE 5' roof. This second roof had two 40' detached fangs dipping out of it.

I saw the route and started hooting and hollering. Dan thought I was insane and told me he didn't think it was a "very realistic proposition" but said he was willing to belay.... Dan did the 1st pitch and then traversed over to Mind Bender to set up a belay WAY away form potential ice fall. I felt totally jazzed. Dan's lead is by far the longest stretch of vertical ice in New England. It was breath taking and for the first time this year my forearms pumped to the point of me having to rest them by letting one arm hang down to my side. I would say that it was definitely as technical and physically as hard as "Oh Le Tabenac" (in Alberta). Just a wee bit shorter though. P1 was by far the hardest 5+ pitch in New England. Period. But the upper section was simply mind blowing. The first roof/mushroom complex was delicate and exhausting. I had to clear a hell of a lot of ice to get gear - which I managed to do quite well. I protected the roof with a bomber screw Then pulled over by doing a massive heel-toe lock off in a thin tentacle which I had purposely avoided destroying for just that purpose. Once over the roof I took a solid 45 mins to recover before doing the last 45'. I placed a screw at the base of the overhung pillar then went 35' on crystal clear bubble free ice. I am strong this year, but I had to hit that ice 3-4 times as hard as I possibly could for each tool plant to make my picks penetrate deeply enough to do the lock offs I needed to do to make upward progress. It was like climbing a huge Rumney roof!!! at 35' my forearms were flaming out. I had placed no gear since leaving the base of pillar I took my gloves off to hold my ax shafts bare handed while I placed a screw. I managed to get a solid screw in before totally flaming out. I had to rest so I clipped the screw and shook out. If I had had my wits about me I would have seen the stem behind me (on one of the detached fangs) and would not have needed to hang at all. But what the hell I wanted to stay alive.... After I saw the stem I got off the screw and stood to recover for 30 mins or so. Then took off for what looked like the worst part. The roof was massive. I climbed another 8' of overhanging ice at 100 degrees until my head ran into the roof. I cleared small icicles off, planted my right hand tool in the right detached fang then swung free into space onto the simply vertical fang. I was instantly rewarded with a "comfortable stance" and the most horrendous exposure I have ever felt on ice. I swear I felt like I was 20' out over our packs at the base. I watched ice fall from my crampon points that did not touch anything until it bounced on the ground out beyond the packs.... From there the exit bulged was a breeze. What a rush. I felt like it was Solid 6.

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