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Will Gadd Tests New-Age Ice Gear at Helmcken Falls

Will Gadd has been putting Black Diamond gear to the test for over 20 years.

He was an early proponent of our revolutionary carbon fiber ice tools—now known as the Cobra—and has been questing to the top of ice formations around the world with prototype ice gear ever since.

From climbing Niagara Falls with prototype ice pitons, to going big in Greenland with extra-long special-made ice screws, Gadd is always willing to put it all on the line for the sake of adventure and invaluable feedback to the designers and engineers.

For me, really good climbing is often about answering the question, “What if?” Fun new video from @blackdiamond, link in profile! When @timemmett and I discovered ice climbing at Helmcken Falls it was because we asked, “What if?” From the article in link, “Three years ago, I climbed Niagara Falls with Sarah Hueniken, and BD made us some wild “soft ice” pro, Spectres with a small shovel blade welded onto the back. These were made off-hours by the BD design team—a bunch of stoked climbers who loved the idea of making wild new gear. I used the new Spectres in the very soft spray ice to safely climb Niagara, but always wondered, “What else could I do with these?” The answer came to me when looking at the wild spray ice of Helmcken: Climb it with the Niagara spectres, the new Ultralight Ice Screws, and whatever else I could come up with! I just needed someone crazy enough to believe in the idea. Sarah Hueniken and I climb together a lot in addition to guiding and living together. When I proposed the idea of climbing at Helmcken on natural gear she invoked the Voice of Reason, which basically says don’t be an idiot. I hear this voice from her a lot, and it’s both annoyed me and saved my life. But eventually we agreed to go to Helmcken and try; when you’re really going for it you don’t just want a belayer, you want a partner, an equal. The difference is that a partner can see the big picture and tell you about it whether you want to hear it or not. I was worried about flying Spectres taking out an eyeball or worse as they zinged down the rope at me if I fell, so I got fully Canadian and bought a used CCM hockey helmet to shield my face. I like the Vapor helmet a lot, but BD doesn’t make a hockey face shield for it … yet. That market may be limited. Anyhow, I took a bunch of long falls backed up by the odd bolt at Helmcken, and the Spectres kept ripping, with painful results… rest of story in link! @christianpondella photo, yeah!

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Recently, his latest hare-brained idea involved multiple innovations—as well as his own Canadian ingenuity—and was captured in this film.

Check out Gadd’s latest gear testing exploits as he takes the formidable spray ice of Helmcken Falls with natural gear.

Helmcken Whippers