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BD Athlete Will Gadd Climbs Niagara Falls

Wednesday, September 7, 2016
In a headline-grabbing first, Will Gadd and Sarah Hueniken made the first ascent of the most iconic waterfall in North America.

From the overhanging spray ice of Helmcken Falls to underground cave ice in Sweden, Will Gadd has made a climbing career of ascending remote lines that exist at the margins of the imagination. But when a deep cold-snap turned the spray-whipped edges of Niagara's Horseshoe Falls into a curtain of chandeliered spray ice, Gadd teamed up with Sarah Hueniken to make a first ascent on a world stage.

Niagara Falls presents a number of unique challenges, foremost among them working out the permissions to make a climb. But once the paperwork was sorted, conditions became the prime concern. Combining water-ice, snow, slush and spray ice, even when in condition the route calls for unique forms of protection in addition to standard ice screws. For extra purchase in iffy ice, Gadd carried modified Spectre Ice Pitons, custom-made for the route. (Check out the @blackdiamond Instagram feed for an image).

Just the setting itself was a challenge. Climbing immediately beside Horseshoe Falls’ 600,000 gallons per second of water made communication difficult, but perhaps more alarming was the physical vibration it caused. “The power of the falls is staggering,” Gadd told National Geographic in an interview from the top. “It vibrates your intestines and makes you feel very, very small. I’ve never experienced anything like it.”

Check out the video above, courtesy of Red Bull.


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