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1/30/15 – On January 27, Will Gadd and Sarah Hueniken climbed a 147-foot ice route just to the left of the iconic Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls, right up the border of the United States and Canada. The team climbed the route three times, each time spending about an hour on the ice with Gadd leading and Hueniken cleaning. Gadd estimates the difficulty at a steep WI6+. Much of the challenge came from the routes objective hazards. On warmer years it doesn’t form at all. This year was cold enough, but Gadd said it wasn’t so much ice, as layers of ice, snow, and air. Not ideal. And then, of course, there are the falls. At times he was close enough to dip his tools in the flow.
“The massive water flow constantly shakes the ground and makes the ice shelves and walls around you unsteady and unpredictable. It’s a harsh environment and an intense challenge to stay attached to the wall let alone climb it,” said Gadd.
Gadd put in no bolts. He used only screws for protection. He cleaned the line the day before, knocking off pieces the size of small cars. But the biggest challenge was water. Gadd reports getting “really, really wet.” At one point water poured down the back of his neck, and he ended the day victorious, but hypothermic.
The climb was coordinated with the Niagara Falls State Park, who saw it as an opportunity to promote the falls. Gadd also worked with the Niagara Falls State Park Police, who used it to further develop their knowledge of ice climbing preparation, safety, and rescue.
And here’s a fun local news account of the climb.