The American Northeast has been experiencing an unusually harsh and snowy winter, as thick blankets of snow cover cities like Boston and New York. You will find most residents inside, huddling and complaining about the arctic chill, but not everyone is protesting. Adventurer, Will Gadd, is bravely facing the polar-like conditions, and recently completed an intense ascent up the 180 foot ice cliffs that flank the world famous Niagara Falls. He was shortly followed by his partner, Sarah Hueniken.
The daring climbers worked with the New York State Parks Department and the local police to create a plan that would not only keep the climbers safe, but also preserve the delicate environment surrounding Niagara Falls. During his ascent, for example, Gadd made sure to refrain from using bolts or other materials that would be left in the icy cliff.
As preparation for this specific climb, he also had to remove car sized portions of hanging ice – as the ice face’s proximity to the falls creates a unique set of challenges for climbers. During warmer months, it is insurmountable because a climber can easily be swept away by the torrential downpour. Winter months, unfortunately, are still extremely treacherous. “The ice is formed in layers,” Gadd states. “That means there’s a layer of ice, then snow (with a lot of air), then another layer of ice. It’s unstable, for sure.”
In addition to the instability of the ice, the thundering falls make the earth shake, making it all the more difficult to hold onto the ice face. Even the start of the climb is uninviting, beginning with an area Gadd has labeled “the cauldron of doom,” where a waterfall crashes down through a hole in the ice. A fall in that area would result in one of three devastating outcomes: drowning, falling onto the rocks, or freezing to death in the icy water.
Yet, despite these circumstances, Gadd and Hueniken persevered, and continued for 45 more minutes over the lip of the ice face after emerging from the cauldron.
The ascent, however, was anything, but easy. Of the experience, Gadd states, “I may have reached the top, but Niagara won the war. At the end of the day I was hypothermic. That waterfall did a lot more damage to me than I did to it!”
To watch Gadd’s amazing climb click here.