Spray On: 250 Feet of Overhanging Ice

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This year, Spray On had more ice, and Tim Emmett and Will Gadd added four short pitches across the roof. Photo by Christian Pondella

This year, Spray On had more ice, and Tim Emmett and Will Gadd added four short pitches across the roof. Photo by Christian Pondella

1/27/11- Tim Emmett and Will Gadd have added four short pitches to the wild overhanging ice cave behind Helmcken Falls in British Columbia, creating a 250-foot line to the lip of the cave. Using a metal detector—maybe the first time ever this gear has been on a rack!—the two men first uncovered the bolts they’d placed last January on Spray On, a 90-foot, 45-degree-overhang. Spray On was given the unprecedented and controversial grade of WI10, and the ascent just received Climbing’s Golden Piton Award for ice climbing for 2010.

After reclimbing the first pitch, the two men pre-protected and free-climbed the even steeper ground above. Gadd has declined to grade the extension, but the photos, video (the climb is likely to be featured during next year’s Reel Rock film tour), and the details of the route speak for themselves. After the first pitch, the next 150 feet of climbing are nearly horizontal, weaving past house-sized chandeliers of ice daggers.

Gadd (left) and Emmett below Spray On. Photo by Christian Pondella

Gadd (left) and Emmett below Spray On. Photo by Christian Pondella

And though the terrain appears “mixed,” the climbers did only two dry-tool moves on rock—the vast majority of the climbing required “normal” ice moves, swinging and hooking on fragile ice sprayed against the wall from the enormous waterfall at the mouth of the cave. The duo team-freed the pitches, with each freeing pitches one and two, Emmett leading three, and Gadd finishing off four and five.

Extremely difficult climbing and falling ice missiles weren’t the only challenges—Gadd and Emmett had to rope up to safely cross deep crevasses in the frozen floor of the cave. The first pitch was 30 feet shorter than last year because of so much ice build-up.

Warmer weather sent the pair packing before they could complete the full line up the headwall of the cave. At his blog, Gadd wrote, “Tim and I made it out of the cave and onto the much easier headwall, and to the top of the best-looking ice. If it gets cold again and the ice reforms, we're going back next week to push on with our route, but it's also fine as it is, and ends at a logical place.”

Read more about the climb and see Christian Pondella’s astonishing photos at Gadd’s blog.

Date of Ascent: January 2011

Sources: gravsports.blogspot.com, Will Gadd, Tim Emmett Adventures (Facebook)