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Canadians Climb Big Ice in Eastern China

Canadians Will Gadd and Sarah Hueniken just spent time climbing big ice in eastern China with photographer John Price.

Their man goal was to climb the famous Christmas Tree route, a massive WI6 route that was established last year by Liu Yang and Chaun. The climb is captured in this film.

As we await the list of routes the ace team of Gadd and Hueniken climbed, we can enjoy some of their social media posts from their trip. Full report in our spring issue of Gripped magazine.

Last pic of the “Christmas Tree”… We- or maybe I, ran away again yesterday… With hopes of getting more photos on the route, we hiked back in two more times. I honestly had nightmares each night, wondering what makes this ice stay standing? When and how and at what temps does gravity win? Perhaps we were extremely fortunate to run in there and climb it after 40 hours of travel. Perhaps it will stay standing for another month and if it were somewhere else, would see multiple more ascents. I’ll never know. Yesterday, at the first belay, water was running in a lot of places. As an ice climber, water running on rock, behind ice is never something you want to see especially on steep features. I was scared. I was also very frustrated by my fears and how much they took over. @realwillgadd was a champion partner in all ways. Despite wanting to share the second pitch photos that @johnpricephotography could have taken on a rope up there to the world, he listened to my anxiety and we went down. His tenacity got us up the tree the first day and I’ll be forever grateful for that… but even more so for being a partner that I can trust and rely on when the unknowns become dragons that I can’t slay… @outdoorresearch

A post shared by Sarah Hueniken (@huens) on

The first in a storm of wild shots from the recent China mission from @johnpricephotography, just starting to share some of the shots from the last two weeks @huens and I spent chasing wild ice in China! Climbers describe ice formed in complicated combinations of spray, air and water as “cauliflower ice," but on this climb the ice vegetables were as big as school busses! The tops made belay ledges, but the bottom of each petal made a fragile and steep ice overhang. I’ve never climbed anything this steep on a pure waterfall ice climb before, just wild! The best place for screws was at the bottom of each petal, with the screw placed up at about a 30 degree angle. The ice at the bottom of these monsters is the most solid, and attached to the vertical rock. The soft petals themselves generally won’t hold a screw, and even if they did the massive petals still break sometimes so placing gear into the free-leaning (not exactly hanging? What do you even call that?) portion would be a bad idea. @huens looks nervous because she was; the first pitch was detached from the wall despite being vertical, and it was either go down or come up with the plan B shown here, which meant climbing the overhanging petals. Sometimes you’ve got to take the harder line to be safer… Without mixed climbing fitness this sort of climbing just wouldn’t happen, locking off and swinging on overhanging ice is strenuous, and requires careful planning so the falling pieces don’t take your head off. One dented my new Vapour helmet, made me glad my tools were solid. The truth is that the ice climbing in China pushed @huens and me as hard as we could handle. Some days we bit into the insanity and danced with it, but on others we ran away… The relatively warm and seemingly relatively constant temperatures allowed some really wild-ass ice to grow in formations I’ve never seen anywhere “normal,” more like Helmcken or Niagara. Mind and body blown. This climb is Fairy Falls, just outside Beijing. Access is a little complicated, a huge thanks to @riverhechuan and Han Han for showing us around. We wouldn’t have found much without them, nor had half as much fun, Xie Xie!

A post shared by Will Gadd (@realwillgadd) on

@realwillgadd taking me to more scary places…😣 @outdoorresearch

A post shared by Sarah Hueniken (@huens) on