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Mayo Adds Another Hard Mixed Line to CO Black Wall

Black Wall, Mt. Evans, Colorado, showing The Ghost (WI6 M10, 50m) routeline marked with Ps for “piton.” The corner to the right is Shooting Star (WI7 M9). The line of icicles and curtains is Silhouette (WI6+R M9, 110m), which has no fixed gear or anchors. [Photo] Will Mayo

Will Mayo has put up another testpiece in a string of difficult mixed lines he’s established on Mt. Evans’ Black Wall in Colorado over the past year. He and Ben Collett authored Silhouette (WI6+R M9, 120m), a sequence of stacked icicles that was the hardest route yet climbed in the area at the time of the ascent in October 2013. Just a week ago, Mayo shifted one crack system to the left to climb a steep, dry corner and squeeze through a chimney to reach thicker ice. He graded Shooting Star WI7 M9. Over the weekend, he returned with Collett to fire The Ghost, a short but difficult line Mayo protected with gear and four pitons he placed on rappel.

Mayo described the route in an email to Alpinist:

[The Ghost] involves negotiating a short vertical step of ice, surmounting an overhang comprised of hollow, but secure blocks to reach an arcing thin crack requiring lateral pick torques and a long reach to a hook in a hollow but secure flake to swing around the belly of an overhanging bulge to attain the side of a large hanging icicle. Chimney moves between ice and rock up the left side of the dagger [bring the climber] below the ceiling from which the icicle hangs. Good rock gear is available, but then one must round the top of the icicle and reach out right to the base of an off-finger crack. A couple of good hooks were found in constrictions at the lower reaches of the crack just above the lip. A powerful sequence of one-arm lock-offs led to a series of single-tooth hooks on small edges with tenuous crampon rakes on the course granite above the lip of the ceiling. The remainder of the slightly overhanging two- to three-inch crack demanded technical torquing with the head of the axe in the crack and continuous lateral body pressure–if a foot skated, a fall was guaranteed. The pitch is broken at mid-height by a ledge. From there, the angle eased a bit and the way to the top was made up by tapping up sublimated smears of ice and scraping around to find thin insecure hooks in quartz-ridden horizontal cracks.

Kelli Rayburn at The Ghost belay. Mayo writes, “When The Ghost was re-climbed for photos three days after the first ascent, a slender icicle had formed in the off-finger crack at the crux making the sequence less technically difficult but more dangerous as the fixed angle piton at the lip of the ceiling was buried inside the ice, so the moves surmounting the ceiling were not protected.” [Photo] Will Mayo

Mayo wrote an article in the upcoming Alpinist 48 about climbing on the Black Wall while struggling to understand the dilemmas of the modern climbing world and the darkness in his imagination. He calls upon nineteenth-century Danish existentialist Soren Kierkegaard as his guide. Pick up a copy of the magazine when it hits your local gear shop on October 21, or SUBSCRIBE HERE.

Sources: Will Mayo,,