New Epic Lines on Cannon
Among the ancient Greek legends, it is impossible to separate the tales of Icarus, Daedalus, and the Minotaur. The same is true of their namesakes on Cannon. The legacy of these bold lines on Cannon and those who put them up is far greater than the sum of its parts. Each line tells a compelling story of its own, but the web these stories weave propels them from mere tales to legends.
In 1974, Rick Wilcox and John Bouchard pioneered a bold new line on Cannon. Dubbed “Icarus,” after the legendary son of the Greek craftsman Daedalus, the two of whom having fashioned their own wings of feathers and wax to escape imprisonment by King Minos of Crete, the line was the first new route on Cannon to be put up in winter. Just as Icarus and Daedalus saw unbridled freedom in the skies above their cell in Crete, Bouchard and Wilcox saw possibility in the unclimbed slabs and corners of Cannon’s upper reaches.
“Icarus” was a fitting name for Bouchard and Wilcox’s new line: not only did the line rise into uncharted territory, it also saw an epic fall. Whereas Icarus flew too close to the sun, thereby melting this homemade wings and falling to his death, Bouchard’s fall was arrested by Wilcox’s belay, but not before Bouchard broke his ankle. Fitting of the New England hardman ethos, however, Bouchard and Wilcox pushed their line to the top and self-rescued – a precedent of daring, skill, and resourcefulness we all can take something away from.
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The Minotaur – NEI 4+ M6+
Matt McCormick & Bayard Russell
February 1, 2012
The Minotaur was part man and part bull. Locked in the Labyrinth of Crete, the Minotaur fed upon the human sacrifices of Athenian children every ninth year as part of the Athenians’ quest to end the plagues that afflicted their city. At the time of the third sacrifice, Theseus, son of the Athenian King, entered the Labyrinth and slayed the Minotaur.
Although the Minotaur of Cannon did not have quite the fearsome reputation as that which Theseus slayed, Matt and Bayard nonetheless had to rely on similar traits: prowess, strength, and cunning. Below are some of their thoughts on the climb, but we’ll leave it to them to spin the tale of slaying the Minotaur:
“This year, just back from a week steeped in Scotish mixed climbing, I was super keen, and a day guiding the Black Dike gave me a glimpse of the great conditions that had settled in while I was away. One smear of thin ice particularly caught my attention.” - Bayard
“The forecast called for heavy rain throughout the day and temperatures nearing the the low 40′s. Bayard Russell and I made plans to meet at 7:30 in the Cannon Cliff parking lot, reasoning that the temps would stay at least near freezing. As I woke up early and drove to toward Cannon the temperature was around 35F and it slowly began to rain the close I got to Franconia Notch. I have to admit I was NOT optimistic!” - Matt
Looking down on the 2nd pitch of " The Minotaur"
“Topping out the middle of Cannon in winter is not something you get to do very often. The setting is amazing with all the scrub pines and granite blocks covered in hoar frost. Bayard nailed the descent and we were back at the car by 7:30pm. We called our new variation The Minotaur NEI 4+ M6+.” – Matt
Daedalus – M7+
Bayard Russell & Elliot Gaddy
February 7, 2012
When King Minos of Crete needed to cage the Minotaur, it was Daedalus he turned to; in fact, it was Daedalus who revealed the Labyrinth’s secrets to Theseus so he could slay the Minotaur. In response to this treachery, King Minos imprisoned Daedalus and his son, Icarus, within the Labyrinth itself. Their only escape – upward, towards the heavens.
With this chronology in mind, perhaps it is fitting that Cannon’s Daedalus rose after the Minotaur was slayed. Bayard Russell returned to Cannon not even a week after climbing the The Minotaur and pushed Daedalus to the top. He thought he had just re-climbed Icarus, but looking at Wilcox’s and Bouchard’s photos, came t realize it was actually a different line. Regardless, the ambiguity of these lines and their history adds to the mystery and overall mythical nature of them as the line between fact and legend becomes blurred.
Great Protection on Daedalus. NOT!
Email from Bayard:
Both really good routes, but I’ve been wanting to send the second pitch of Icarus for quite some time, really psyched to have done it! Just kept saying to Elliot, “this is the best pitch I’ve done all season!” Iced up cracks pretty much were the defining feature of both routes, with the obvious exception of Minotaur’s 2nd pitch. Two totally different days; for the Minotaur we casually strolled up to the cliff at about 10:30, not having any plan until that gorgeous smear came into view. For Daedalus, I was on a mission knowing what good shape the cliff was in; all the right facing corners were just plastered in ice, pretty much a mixed climbers dream. Over the weekend one of my buddies had to tell me to shut-up ’cause i just kept rambling on about how good the conditions were.. see, there I go again.
When I first tried the 2nd pitch of Icarus a few years ago I thought it was M8, this time around I’m not so sure. All that ice made the cracks pretty secure, but the gear was a little tricky. I’m figuring M7+?, who knows. It was a blast!
Read the whole story on Bayards web site www.whitemountainrockandice.com
Ultimately, these new routes on Cannon are only the tip of the iceberg. Last winter, Kevin Mahoney and Elliot Gaddy climbed the Ghost and repeated (or perhaps created a new variation to) Icarus. This winter, Matt McCormick and Freddie Wilkinson completed the winter girdle traverse of Cannon. With ever-changing conditions, Cannon has countless lines still to be explored, and Bayard, Matt, Kevin, Elliot, and Freddie represent only a small handful of the climbers up to the task of adding to Cannon’s mythology.
Sources: Bayard Russell, Matt McCormick, Wikipedia, whitemountainrockandice.com, mattmccormickclimbing.blogspot.com, Ice Climbers Guide to Northern New England by Lewis & Wilcox