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Huge Canadian Waterfall Attracts Strong Climbers in Winter

Ines Papert and Sarah Hueniken are currently working on a steep route at Helmcken Falls, hoping for cooler weather

Climbers have returned this winter to establish more new climbs at the amazing Helmcken Falls, B.C. Ines Papert and Sarah Hueniken are currently projecting an overhanging route.

They are two of the world’s most experienced ice and mixed climbers. Papert just shared this on Instagram: “It’s far from ideal at Helmcken Falls right now, since temperatures were rising quite a bit. Nevertheless we won’t give up, just that some patience is required until colder conditions appear. I knew that Sarah is one of the very few women, that I want to go trough real adventures like this. Her motivation and skills in this kind of terrain is exceptional and sharing this means a lot to me.”

Helmcken Falls is the fourth-highest waterfall in Canada. Behind the falls is an upside-down amphitheatre of overhanging rock, which poses several challenges for climbers. Spray from the waterfall hits the wall, covering it in a layer of ice during winter. Gord McArthur and Jeff Mercier are rumoured to be heading there soon, and there may be other climbers currently there or on their way.

Over the past 15 years, climbers from around the world have been establishing difficult routes up the steep rock. The routes are protected with bolts, but are often climbed purely on spray ice. To find the bolts each winter, climbers bring metal detectors.

Tim Emmett and Klemen Premrl have established two routes: Mission to Mars in 2020 and Interstellar Spice WI12 in 2016. In 2018, Dani Arnold freed a new hard line called Power Shrimp, which you can see in a film below. In 2014, Will Gadd, Sarah Hueniken, John Freeman and Katie Bono established Overhead Hazard M11, and later in the year, Gadd, Emmett and Premrl climbed Clash of Titans. Back in 2010, Gadd and Emmett established Spray On at WI10, putting the area on the map.

The hardest climb to date is Mission to Mars, a 40-metre WI13 that overhangs more than 30 metres.

Power Shrimp

Gadd at Helmcken