Gadd and Emmett Suggest WI10

Posted on: February 1, 2010

Aiding up the wildly steep ice of Spray On (WI10), a new benchmark in the world of ice climbing. Will Gadd and Tim Emmett bolted and climbed the route last week behind Helmcken Falls, in Wells Gray Provincial Park, British Columbia. [Photo] Gadd/Emmett collection

Years ago, Will Gadd saw a photo and heard a rumor online about the potential for a futuristic ice route on an incredibly steep wall behind Helmcken Falls, in Wells Gray Provincial Park, British Columbia. Though the idea intrigued Gadd, he didn't believe the cave would be so tall—460 feet. Nor did he think that a line of pure ice could form on such a steep wall—overhanging 45 degrees.

But last week Gadd, along with partner Tim Emmett, found the impossible to be true. After rappelling into the amphitheater behind Helmcken Falls, they discovered the very back of the cave, the bottom fifth or so, was coated in strange globules of frozen spray. On his blog, Gadd said they were "the most insane ice formations I've ever seen."


However, huge, fragile ice daggers guarded access to the lower wall. To clear the hazards, Gadd and Emmett tossed balls of ice at the multi-ton chandeliers, sending them crashing to the ground. When they reached the back of the cave, they discovered unusual, unstable ice. Not only would the steep hoarfrost not take ice screws, but to climb it would require impeccable tool placement and careful weighting.

Unprotectable otherwise, Gadd decided to bolt the line. That first day he installed four bolts, aiding off his tools. The next day he and Emmett returned and put in another eight bolts up to an alcove that marked the end of the spray ice. The result was a route 90 feet long with anchors only 40 feet off the ground. Now equipped, Gadd led what he called "the coolest ice I've ever seen or climbed, anywhere in the world."

But also some of the most tenuous. "Just mental," Gadd said of the route. "You had to be really careful to swing accurately in the blobs of ice, and test the placement each time. This is incredibly strenuous when hanging locked-off on a 45-degree wall. Poor placements would rip, which was funny if you were belaying but not so funny on the lead."

Spray On climbs the 40 vertical feet of icy globules visible at the bottom-left of this photograph. It is likely the most overhanging pure ice route ever established. [Photo] Gadd/Emmett collection

Gadd most recently made headlines last month when he climbed about 25,000 vertical feet in 24 hours at the Ouray Ice Festival (read the January 13, 2010 Feature). Though very fit in terms of endurance, Gadd said that his power was nearly not enough.

"I got so damn pumped my forearms are still hurting," he wrote, "but a combination of desperate tricks (hooking an elbow on my ice tools) and a really wild stemming rest at the mid-point got me to the anchor, and then Tim had a nice battle but pulled it off."

Though Gadd and Emmett had difficulty grading the unconventional route, they have suggested the almost unimaginable grade of WI10. They named it Spray On.

Less than a month ago, two Austrians climbed Centercourt (read the January 22, 2010 NewsWire), a 300-meter route given the world's hardest water-ice grade at the time: WI7+. Only a couple other routes have been labeled WI7+, including Gadd's own Second Choice in Norway. But Spray On's three-grade jump to WI10 suggests that the short, bolt-protected ice climb is in a new category of its own.

"It is a whole hell of a lot harder than anything I've ever climbed on ice," Gadd said. "The only thing I could compare it to is M10 or harder drytooling, but you have to swing for placements instead of just hook. WI10 is the lowest grade I can give it with a straight face; many people who can drytool M10 will find the ice climbing a lot harder I think, it's real, honest, cuts-on-your face ice climbing."

Sources: Will Gadd,,

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Congrats guys! That is ridiculous! Great picture! I'm going to use this as my Facebook Profile picture so everyone will think i'm cool!

2010-02-07 05:07:45

JW, i really dont think you need to worry too much about people repeating the route. anyone who actually gets on it will have made peace with the hardware police already.

2010-02-06 12:23:51

We should decrease our impact on the rock by modifying our ice tools to include tiny parachutes made of Kevlar...or maybe small rockets which could be used to both save the lives of the climber whilst also warming the spray ice to -1 C so that it won't be as likely to fracture. There is always the suspensor harness as worn by the Baron Harkonnen that seems to have been overlooked in the current R + D process by all major climbing companies. If a giant fat baron can have one, why not me?

2010-02-04 06:53:47


You know, I have a incredibly strong desire to rant and rave on this post but I have no time now. I just want to add that Mr. Joseph W is most likely an American and has now risen Will Gadd to TSA Terror Alert Level 10, Fushia. But, I have a hard time believing that Will is a terrrrrorist and having once lived and climbed in Canada and now an ex-pat myself, I gotta say, "Lighten Up, Joe! It is only climbing, eh. Go out and have fun with your friends and climb something." Ha det bra Will and Tim! Dere har gjort en kjempe fint rute. Vi ses i Norge.

2010-02-04 02:54:09
Will Gadd

Hi JosephW, are you a Canadian climber? You can email me directly for information about how climbing works in Canada, I'd be happy to fill you in. But to answer your questions easily, no, no one, no, and no. I think if you understood the size of Helmcken or a little about Canadian climbing you might relax. If you're a climber from elsewhere come on over, the climbing is incredible in Wells Gray Provincial Park, lots of cool possibilities for both new spray ice routes and also traditional stuff!



2010-02-03 03:35:03

Have the bolts been removed and the site restored? If not, who will be responsible for ensuring the integrity of the bolts over time as others emulate this ice climb? Are the bolts likely to be used for summer rock climbing?

2010-02-03 01:05:57

Did BC Parks appprove the bolting of this world-famous waterfall?

2010-02-03 00:23:23


2010-02-02 06:11:04
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