The recent ascent of Niagara Falls continued the media frenzy started by the Dawn Wall climb in January.
Will Gadd’s climb of Niagara Falls had bigger impacts than anyone could have imagined. Despite some other high profile climbers complaining the ascent is bringing the wrong type of media attention to climbing, all of the responses have been supportive.
Gripped’s editor Brandon Pullan spoke on the phone with Gadd, who was in a New York taxi. To Gadd’s surprise, the taxi driver asked him if he heard the news about Niagara Falls being climbed. The big news had made it to the streets of New York.
Gadd told Pullan the climb was meant to be on the down low. Red Bull had not promoted the event in any way. After local media showed up, everyone went along with it. The climbing team met with local authorities the week before the ascent. The police conduct rescues in the area and Gadd was happy to show them how things worked on his end. The cops were stoked about the climb and Gadd’s team outfitted the rescuers with new lightweight boots for future missions.
Gadd was given permission to bolt the wall, but after Black Diamond created new spray-ice spectres, he said there was no point. The best piece of protection was a slung piece of rebar fixed behind the spray ice. Gadd told Pullan that, “It’s a very industrial area.”
After the climb, the ascent went viral. Media from around the world covered the story, more than the Dawn Wall. The Youtube video has nearly one-million views.
Niagara Falls is less than a pitch. It’s part of the Niagara Escarpment that stretches through most of Southern Ontario. The climb is graded WI6 spray-ice, which is hard climbing.
Gadd said in the past, climbers had top-roped different sections falls. The first top-rope ascent was around 30 years ago. People have been ice climbing in the near-by Adirondacks for decades, so he wouldn’t be surprised if there were a number of ascents. Ice climbing in New York State Parks is illegal without a permit. Gadd’s was the first permitted ascent of Niagara Falls.
After the climb went viral, some climbers posted photos of unnamed ice climbers on Niagara Falls from previous years. Why that’s a problem is because after Gadd’s climb, the park authorities who control access to the area agreed to talk about potentially opening the Niagara Gorge to ice climbers.
This is a huge deal. There are dozens of quality mixed and ice routes in the area, which are currently off limits. The actual falls never freeze, but the icy rock has lots of potential.
Gadd flew back to New York after the climb to help move the conversation along. With any luck, ice climbers will one day be able to legally climb the unique ice in the Niagara Gorge and other New York State Parks.