Ice climber conquers 450-foot frozen waterfall in BC Interior

Will Gadd climbs rock and ice at Helmcken Falls.  (Jeff Paterson Photography - photo credit)

Will Gadd climbs rock and ice at Helmcken Falls. (Jeff Paterson Photography – photo credit)

Professional athlete Will Gadd celebrates after scaling a waterfall in BC Interior known for its extreme steepness that almost took his life eight years ago.

Over the weekend, Gadd and friends climbed more than 450 feet of Helmcken Falls on the Murtle River in Wells Gray Provincial Park, about 100 miles north of Kamloops.

“It’s a challenging place to climb,” he told guest host Doug Herbert on CBC Daybreak of Kamloops.

Helmcken Falls is Canada’s fourth highest waterfall after Hunlen Falls in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park, and Della Falls in Strathcona Provincial Park, all in BC

CLOCK | Will Gadd conquers Helmcken Falls:

Adventurers from all over the world flock to Wells Gray each year to scale the ice wall of Helmcken Falls.

Gadd was there to film drone footage for an upcoming video project — and for a second chance.

“I’ve had nightmares about it for years”

Gadd, a rock climbing guide from Canmore, Alta., spends more than 200 days a year in the wild and has scaled sheer faces including Niagara Falls, glaciers in Greenland and Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa.

But one of his most extreme adventures happened in 2014 when he scaled Helmcken Falls and nearly died when a carabiner malfunctioned, resulting in him becoming lifelong stuck on a ledge.

“I ended up hanging … 100 feet off the ground,” he said.

Although he eventually completed the rise, the effects of the narrow fall affected him for years.

“I didn’t enjoy that experience — I’ve had nightmares about it for years.”

British professional climber Tim Emmett, who scaled Helmcken Falls three years ago, said that almost the entire slope at Helmcken Falls never completely freezes over and that it is covered with brittle ice caps, making it one of the more difficult places in the world for climbers .

“You can’t just grab them and keep swinging because you’re probably going to tear them up since a lot of them are very thin,” Emmett said in an interview with climbing news site

Will Gadd/Facebook

Will Gadd/Facebook

Gadd says he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following his negative experiences in 2014, but as he tried his hand at Helmcken Falls for the second time over the weekend, he said he tried his best to combat his anxiety and ensure all equipment was working fine.

“Do it in a reasonably safe way and don’t just do it and hope for the best,” he said.

Jeff Paterson Photography

Jeff Paterson Photography

Gadd shared the success on social media and many other climbers praised him for having the courage to take on the challenge.

“You have to listen to your fear and use it instead of letting it rule you.”


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