Nat Geo Adventurer of the Year Will Gadd marked a moment in history by becoming the first person to climb and reach atop the Niagara Falls. The most famous waterfall in the entire world with a height of about 167 feet, the Niagara falls lie on the border of Ontario in Canada and New York, the USA and attract about 20 million visitors each year. While many have made the climb down the falls, Will Gadd, one of the best ice climbers in the world right now, is the first man to have made the journey in reverse.
To clear out some doubts as to how he did it, The Niagara Falls were frozen. The cold winter this year ensured a slow water flow, making it possible to make the climb. With aid from NYS Parks Department and NYS Parks Police, Gadd and team formulated their plan prioritising on ethics and safety to ensure a safe climb as well as the protection of the environment. The line – which is close to Terrapin Point – extends 147 feet in height. The environment may appear pristine. However, with 150,000 tons of water flowing down every minute at about 62 mph, it is highly brash. The ice in no way helps. It is formed in different layers with air in between making it unstable to a great extent. The grade was estimated at WI6+, the hardest for a climb of this routine.
Gadd cleared off the route by dropping in from above the day before the climb and removing dangerous pieces of ice which he says were as big as small cars. After a long day at work, the wall was ready for climbing. His tool set consisted of ice axes, crampons, and a unique prototype ice hook. Gadd mentions of the climb that the flow of the water continuously shakes the floor making everything around you unsteady and unpredictable. It is a huge task staying attached to the wall, let alone climbing it.
An intense path marks the commencement of the route over the “cauldron of doom,” where the waterfall slams into a hole in the ice. As Gadd puts it, if you go in the ‘cauldron of doom,’ you’re done. You could hit rocks, drown, or even freeze to death. Above the cauldron, along with his partner Sarah, he positioned a belay station in a phone booth sized ice cave. Professionally making his way up the route, he stopped periodically to add protection by way of ice screws and climbing quickdraws. Also, he mentions that being so close to the falls the water is a big challenge.
Ascending the route thrice, Gadd took nearly an hour for each of them. The climb marked an extraordinary end to an equally extraordinary year for Gadd that witnessed him set a new route on Helmcken Falls, ascend the ice in Kilimanjaro, and saw him victorious at the Ouray Ice Festival. Despite achieving such honours all within the year, the mark of humility was clearer than crystalline ice.
— Red Bull Oklahoma (@RedBullOKLA) January 29, 2015