Ice climber conquers frozen, 141-metre-tall waterfall in B.C. Interior

Will Gadd is pictured climbing rock and ice at Helmcken Falls. (Jeff Paterson Photography - image credit)
Will Gadd is pictured climbing rock and ice at Helmcken Falls. (Jeff Paterson Photography - image credit)

Professional athlete Will Gadd is celebrating after climbing a waterfall in the B.C. Interior, known for its extreme steepness, that almost took his life eight years ago.

Over the weekend, Gadd and his friends climbed more than 140 metres of the Helmcken Falls, located on the Murtle River in Wells Gray Provincial Park, about 160 kilometres north of Kamloops.

"It's a challenging place to climb," he told guest host Doug Herbert on CBC's Daybreak Kamloops.

Helmcken Falls is Canada's fourth highest waterfall after Hunlen Falls in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park and Della Falls in Strathcona Provincial Park, all in B.C.

WATCH | Will Gadd conquers Helmcken Falls:

Adventurers from around the world flock to Wells Gray every year to climb the wall of ice at Helmcken Falls.

Gadd was there to film drone footage for an upcoming video project — and for a second chance.

'I had nightmares about it for years'

Gadd, a rock climbing guide based in Canmore, Alta., spends more than 200 days a year in the wilderness and has overcome steep slopes including the Niagara Falls, glaciers in Greenland, and Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro.

But one of his most extreme adventures came in 2014 when he was ascending Helmcken Falls and nearly died, due to a malfunctioning carabiner that resulted in him hanging onto a ledge for his life.

"I wound up hanging ... 100 metres above the ground," he said.

Though he eventually completed the climb, the impact of the close call affected him for years.

"I didn't enjoy that experience — I had nightmares about it for years."

British professional climber Tim Emmett, who summitted Helmcken Falls three years ago, said almost the entire slope on Helmcken Falls never fully freezes, and that it's covered with brittle ice sticks, making it one of the more difficult spots in the world for climbers to attempt.

"You can't just grab them and swing on, because you'll probably rip them since a lot of them are very thin," Emmett said in an interview with climbing news site

Will Gadd/Facebook
Will Gadd/Facebook

Gadd says he suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after his negative experience in 2014, but when he attempted the Helmcken Falls for the second time over the weekend, he said he tried his best to tackle his fear and ensure all the equipment worked fine.

"Do it in a reasonably safe manner and not just go at it and hope for the best," he said.

Jeff Paterson Photography
Jeff Paterson Photography

Gadd posted about the success on social media, and many fellow climbers praised him for the courage to take on the challenge.

"You gotta listen to your fear and use it, rather than let it own you."