Village Talk

The Hardest Ice Climb in the United States is in Vail

Featuring ice, rock and overhangs, this East Vail testpiece attracts the best in the world.

By Devon O'Neil February 1, 2016 Published in the Midwinter/Spring 2016 issue of Vail-Beaver Creek Magazine

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Image: Zach Mahone

In early January of 2016,  Angelika Rainer, a 29-year-old Italian ice climber and three-time world champion, completed an East Vail mixed route (a climb involving both rock and ice) called the Mustang that made her just the third woman in the world to have conquered the über-difficult rating of M14.

Colorado climber Will Mayo made the first ascent of the Mustang—which is located in East Vail’s famous Amphitheater crag and travels just behind the signature ice drip known as the Fang—on Valentine’s Day 2014. The ascent combines a section of The Seventh Tentacle, a route legendary alpinist Jeff Lowe free-climbed in 1994, with a dangling, 20-meter traverse across a horizontal roof of rock before continuing vertically. Afterward, Mayo told Climbing magazine: “This is definitely the hardest sport mixed route in the United States. Nothing else even comes close.”

Rainer sent the route on the fourth day of her second trip to Vail (her first was in 2015). “I came back because I really wanted to try some of the hard routes in the Amphitheater,” she says. “This was a huge project for me this year.” Nine days after taming the Mustang (only her boyfriend was present to film the feat), Rainer placed second at the prestigious Ouray Ice Festival, which she won in 2015, then flew home to Europe to defend her overall World Cup title. 

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