Scarpa North America Blog

Send it: Will Gadd on Helmcken Falls Ice Climbing

Mar. 8th 2011

Perennial ice climbing junkie and SCARPA athlete Will Gadd is a busy man. This winter he spent weeks with partner Tim Emmett exploring his dream cave, Helmcken Falls, a unique cavernous, ice covered playground.

Spray On is his current project, and the name fits. Drawing from the moisture from the nearby falls, the feature looks like it’s been sprayed onto the wall; long, innumerable icicle teeth hang from the towering abyss offering limitless possibilities to Will, though hardly conceivable from any other perspective. He also had a baby last week, another full time job. Nonetheless, he had a few moments to share his ever-growing enthusiasm for Helmcken Falls.

Q – How did you first come to find Helmcken Falls? Can you describe the area and why it holds such an attraction for you?

WG – I saw a picture on the Internet, and read that it was 450 feet high. The caption of the photo said something like, “An idiot could climb the spray ice on the back wall maybe?” I was immediately interested, but it was hard to find anyone who wanted to go climbing there. Too far, too weird, the excuses were legion.

Q – “Spray On” seems an appropriate name, what are the inherent dangers for such an objective?

WG – Just getting into the cave requires traversing a huge spray ice feature with crevasses; it’s like going mountaineering more than cragging. Then once you’re in there the ceiling is covered with icicles of course, which can break. You really need to be heads up!

Q – What does this say about the progression of ice climbing?

WG – There’s room for hundreds of routes in that cave, at all levels of difficulty. I expect Helmcken Falls and a couple of other spray ice caves I know of to be the future of technical ice climbing. It’s just too much fun for it not to be.

Q – Using a metal detector to find bolts from a previous season seems like an exercise in frustration. Can we assume the rewards are THAT good? Will this be a seasonal chore?

WG – It is a chore, but it’s kinda fun, too, like hunting for buried treasure. And yes, the rewards are fully that good. It’s the best climbing ever in my opinion.

Q – Any other nonconventional gear for this?

WG – Snow pickets can be useful if you have to fix ropes across the crevasses, depends on the year really…

Q – Do you find the process as rewarding as the completion of such a project? Is it ever really completed?

WG – Never. The potential in there is limitless, but now it’s like surfing. The break will always be there, but the ice will come and go depending on the year, the temperatures and how climbers see it. It’s just awesome!

Thanks, Will. Good luck with the new baby.

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