We were stunned to see "Ghost" hanging, a consolidated icicle, just as we had seen the year before...
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Why did you choose the name Ghost?
Ben and I named the route The Ghost (M10 trad, WI6) because the icicle appears like an apparition hanging from a ceiling in the center of the Silhouette Buttress of the Black Wall on Mt. Evans. We had seen the icicle last year when we made the first ascent of Silhouette (M9, WI6+), and the line had haunted me for the past year. In early October, when we made the first ascent of Shooting Star (M9, WI7), we had hoped to find the icicle etched in our memories to be in shape, but we arrived to find the entire lip of the roof laced with a broad chaotic chandelier of thin, unclimbable icicles. We satisfied ourselves with the first ascent of the instant classic Shooting Star, the chimney system in the center of the buttress, which had been dry last year, and the memory of the phantom icicle faded. Yet, when we returned to re-climb Shooting Star five days later for photos, we were stunned as we peered over the lip of the Black Wall to see The Ghost hanging, a consolidated icicle, just as we had seen it the year before.
What inspired you to keep coming back to the Black Wall this year?
The Silhouette Buttress of the Black Wall is one of the finest hard alpine traditional mixed climbing crags in the world. Discovering these routes was like hitting the jackpot, rare and precious good fortune. It would be inconceivable for us not to return until we had climbed them all. To us, these are the routes of a lifetime.
Describe the climbing. What was harder, the ice or the mixed? How was the gear? Scary or well protected?
The initial mixed section of The Ghost is committing. The protection is sparse and the climbing demands technical pick torquing precise crampon rakes to reach the icicle. The crux section follows, which we climbed in two different conditions, depending on whether there is a single icicle hanging from the ceiling, or a second icicle which pours from the off-finger crack above the roof. If the crack is dry, the protection is better, but the climbing is more tenuous, requiring tenuous axe-head torquing in the crack, single-tooth hooking on flakes, lock-offs and crampon rakes. If the crack above the ceiling spawns a second icicle, the climbing is more straightforward, up tiers of free-hanging icicles, but the protection is much worse, essentially, the last protection is rock gear in the corner before swinging onto the first large icicle, making a fall from above potentially dangerous. Above the crux, the climbing remains engaging and serious, as one taps up vertical verglas interspersed with quartz-ridden horizontal cracks, to the top of the wall, in a single, full rope-length.
Did it take multiple trips in before the conditions were right for you to climb the route, or has it been in for a while?
I climbed The Ghost three times, and saw the line five times, over the course of a month this fall. Each time the wraith assumed a different character. The Ghost embodies one of the most enchanting aspects of the sport to me: the impermanence, the changeability; a traditional mixed line is never the same climb twice. Traditional mixed climbs like The Ghost are always an adventure, bound with excitement and uncertainty.
Why did you choose the La Sportiva Nepal Cube GTX for this route? What did you think about the weight verses performance, especially compared to the older La Sportiva Nepal EVO GTX?
The well-roundedness of the Nepal Cube GTX is unbelievable, until you wear it. I have always considered the Nepal EVO GTX to be the best waterfall ice climbing boot, but have preferred the La Sportiva Trango S EVO GTX for more technical traditional mixed climbing. Astonishingly, the Nepal Cube GTX performs as well as the Trango S EVO GTX, virtually like a competition boot, yet has all of the warmth and protection of a double boot. The Nepal Cube GTX is the boot that does everything well, compromising nothing. It feels weightless on lock-offs, precise on rakes, steel-toed front-pointing up fat columns, and toasty at long alpine belays. These boots are phenomenal!
Photos: © Fredrik Marmsater