Ice Climbing in Canada With Adventurer Will Gadd

By: Amy Watkins

July 7, 2014

Canadian adventurer Will Gadd has a busy year ahead – from ice climbing in Canada and Africa to trips to Greenland and an attempt to set the foot-launched world distance record for paragliding.

Ice Climbing in Canada | Will Gadd at Helmeckn Falls Feb 2014

Spot the ice climber: Will Gadd is dwarfed by Helmeckn Falls in BC © Red Bull Media House

Will developed a taste for the outdoors at a young age when his dad strapped him into some crampons and took him to climb a classic Canadian Rockies peak at the age of eight. Will went on to explore caves, traverse ice fields and start kayaking, all before he’d even left school.

Ice Climbing in Canada | Eidfjord in Norway

Eidfjord in Norway features world-class ice climbing sites © Red Bull Media House

Thirty years later, he still enjoys the thrill of extreme sports and has turned his passion into his career, winning numerous national and international sport climbing competitions along the way. Will has won three gold medals at the X Games for ice climbing, he took home the world cup for ice climbing and came second at the 2013 North American Championships. Will also found time to become the only person to twice set the world paragliding distance record (more than 423k) and win the US and Canadian Paragliding Nationals.

Ice Climbing in Canada | Will Gadd and Andreas Spak in Eidfjord in Norway

Andreas Spak and Will Gadd assess an ice climb in Eidfjord, Norway © Red Bull Media House

Competition is where the posing ends and things get real,” says Will. ” I love competing and have done so in a lot of sports ranging from basketball to running and climbing; so it was natural that when ice climbing comps appeared I did them.

Ice Climbing in Canada | Aweberg

Will Gadd climbing icebergs off the coast of Labrador, Canada with Ben Firth © Red Bull Media House

Will is now based in Canmore in Alberta, Canada – a place he chose for the adventure sports lifestyle. “Canmore is the North American Chamonix, minus the cable cars and crowds,” says Will. “There’s great paragliding, rock climbing, ice climbing, skiing, mountain biking and hiking: really any outdoor activity you can think of. I love it here; I can live anywhere in the world but this is home.”

Ice Climbing in Canada | Helmeckn Falls, BC

Strong ropes and nerves of steel serve Will Gadd well at Helmeckn Falls, BC © Red Bull Media House

For Will it’s the improbable nature of ice climbing that makes it such a fun sport. “If you think about climbing ice, it’s really ridiculous that it works at all,” he says. “But it does – and that’s amazing to me every time I go out. Often an ice climb is the only way through an otherwise impassable rock wall; a thin strip of blue ice leaping into the sky is beautiful – a frozen waterfall – and to be able to climb that is one of the best things I know in life.

Ice Climbing in Canada | Will Gadd

Will Gadd hangs tough in Helmeckn Falls, BC © Red Bull Media House

Will’s favourite places to ice climb can be found in his native Canada – especially the Weeping Wall in the Rockies, a shield of south-facing ice that is often bathed in sunshine. “When it’s minus 30 you can climb there in just a light jacket, at least until the sun goes away,” says Will.

Ice Climbing in Canada | Helmeckn Falls

Will Gadd shows his team the ropes during an ice climb at Helmeckn Falls in BC © Red Bull Media House

He thinks that Helmcken Falls in British Columbia is home to the most amazing ice climbing in Canada, and the world, despite having a near-death experience there: “During my last trip to Helmcken Falls I nearly died when a piece of technical gear malfunctioned, it was minus 30 with spraying water and the climbing was absolutely at the limit,” Will says. “To find a high-performance state in that environment was incredibly challenging but my team made it happen. All my adventures are done with a team of people and I’m lucky to have a really strong team that I trust. We bring the best out in each other.”

Ice Climbing in Canada | Helmeckn Falls

Jagged shards of ice hang precariously as Will Gadd climbs Helmeckn Falls in BC © Red Bull Media House

Will is also the holder of a world record for long distance paragliding and has wanted to fly since he was a young child. “When I was a kid riding on jets I’d look at the window and wonder what it would be like to hang off the wing, or soar through the clouds above the landscape,” says Will. “I took up hang gliding but that felt too restrictive so I got into paragliding. We are incredibly lucky humans to be alive today; there has never been more opportunity to do more in more amazing ways. We can fly, truly fly, and that’s a first for humans.”

Ice Climbing in Canada | Helmeckn Falls, camping 2014

Will Gadd sets up camp during an ice climb at Helmeckn Falls, BC © Red Bull Media House

To train for the world record, Will spent months in southwest Texas – the brutal heat meant that many days he failed early and ended up with heat exhaustion. “It feels magnificent to put all that work, time, suffering and energy into a goal and then realize it’s beautiful: a celebration of creativity, flying and life.”

Ice Climbing in Canada | Aweberg

Will Gadd scales an iceberg in Labrador, Canada during a shoot for his film entitled Aweberg © Red Bull Media House

Will enjoys sharing his love of ice climbing and has plenty of tips for anyone who wants to get into the sport. “Go with a good guide or class the first time. Bring lots of light warm gloves, a big down jacket, a sense of fun and adventure and never be afraid to swing or kick harder,” says Will. “Ice climbing always feels slightly medieval; you’re dressed in a suit of cold-weather armour, swinging these battle axes into crystal structures. It’s awesome fun!”

Ice Climbing in Canada | Will Gadd

Canada is home to some of the world’s most exciting ice climbing sites © Red Bull Media House

Will sees ice climbing as an accessible sport that everyone can enjoy. “You don’t have to be an uber-athlete to enjoy it; it’s a bit like skiing – you can get the gist of it on terrain suitable for a novice or take it as far you want onto really steep terrain,” says Will.  “And women are great at it – some of the best ice climbers in the world are women.”

Ice Climbing in Canada | Helmeckn climb

Will Gadd hangs out at Helmeckn Falls, BC © Red Bull Media House

Header Image: A cool way to see the world – Will Gadd tackles an ice climb in Eidfjord, Norway © Red Bull Media House

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Have you been ice climbing in Canada? Would you consider trying the sport for the first time? Let us know in the comments section below.

Written by Amy Watkins


Amy Watkins

Amy Watkins ( is an award-winning British travel journalist who has lived in Vancouver since May 2012. Whilst on assignment for UK newspapers and magazines she has eaten thousand-year-old eggs in Hong Kong, swam with crocodiles in Australia and braved a week in the Caribbean with a celebrity chef.

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