Video: Spray Ice Climbing in BC

Will Gadd takes on ice formations that seem “right out of a Dr. Seuss book.”
Staff Writer

Each year, as temperatures drop and terrain freezes, ice climbers head out to discover the new playgrounds Mother Nature has built for them. They scour the best- and lesser-known areas for the most interesting lines and, if they're lucky, they find something really special.  

Flash to Helmcken Falls spray ice cave in British Columbia. Will Gadd, an Arc’teryx athlete and The Active Times contributor, and a few of his fellow climbers traveled here last year to take on what has Gadd called “absolutely the wildest, best, most insane ice climbing area I've ever seen” (no small thing, for someone as experienced as Gadd).

The above film is the record of their adventure and the latest in a four-part video series, This Way, that profiles Arc’teryx athletes.

It’s easy to see why Gadd was so psyched about this cave. The formations are massive, unique and, in the words of Gadd's friend and climbing partner Chris Geisler, “right out of a Dr. Seuss book.” 

When Gadd first saw the area, he said he wasn’t sure if he could climb the structures at all. They weren’t like anything he'd ever seen. The "spray ice" there was formed by a combination of “water droplets condensing onto the frozen walls and… actual spray from the waterfall hitting the walls and freezing there,” Gadd said. The result, he explained, was an ice structure “more like frozen cloud and frozen spray.”

The video (by Alias Cinema) shows the climb to be not only possible, but dreamily picturesque. Gadd climbs both overhanging and near-horizontal sections through icicle fields and other frozen formations. Gadd sums it up best himself in a blog entry from 2011: "Ice climbing is like waves to me, an aesthetic and beautiful experience more than a grade." And the Helmcken Falls ice climbing area may well offer the most aesthetic, beautiful (not to mention Alice-in-Wonderland-trippy) climbing experience anywhere.

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