From the honeymoon capital to a daredevil’s resort, Niagara Falls has seen dozens of brave ones attempt to conquer a world wide natural wonder. From going over the falls in only a barrel and a cat in the early 1900s to walking the line in 2011 with tightrope walker, Nik Wallenda, Niagara Falls has now added another daring act to its list… ice climbing the great and powerful Falls in the midst of Winter.
A small team of climbers, photographer, videographer and safety responders nestled themselves on land at the base of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls on the New York State side of the border. Two Canadian climbers, Will Gadd, 47, and Sarah Hueniken, 34, became the first adventurers ever to complete this 156 meter ( 508 ft) up ice creations to the top of Niagara Falls.
With temperatures facing -10 Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit) the duo bunkered up and faced the bone-chilling temperatures as they prepared to climb the most powerful waterfall in the world. A waterfall we like to call home and a natural wonder that allows us to operate our catamarans (in the Spring, Summer and Fall months of course) so our guests can see first hand what the power is truly like from below. The climb, sponsored by Red Bull which was intended on being kept secret didn’t last long as onlookers to the Falls noticed the activity occurring before their eyes. With the power of social media the story of the amazing climb made world news. The exhilarating climb that took a few hours to compete led by Will said, “The power of the falls is staggering,” after reaching the top. “It vibrates your intestines and makes you feel very, very small. I’ve never experienced anything like it.” As Canada’s only boat tour operator to the Falls we can relate as our guests often let us know that the power is beyond words when we bring them 80 feet close to the thunderous wonder.
Many have asked, ‘was Niagara Falls frozen when the climb occurred?’ In 2014, the Winter vortex that blew over Buffalo, New York and the Niagara Region was claimed to have entirely froze the Falls, however this is not true. As for the Falls during the climb they were most certainly not frozen as the mist, icicles and ice chunks became issues at time for the climbers. Ice caves acted as protected caves for climbers to avoid massive ice pieces from falling and destroying the climb. People who travel to Niagara Falls whether in the Spring, Summer, Fall or in this case Winter, always fall I love with beauty, the magic and awe that it offers. The power is really something spectacular to see, hear and if you are that close, even taste it. As for Sarah she was always fascinated with the Falls as she said, ‘As a kid, I always felt drawn to the edge of the falls,” said Hueniken, who grew up near the falls, after the climb. “I think it’s human nature to be curious about gravity and to wonder what it would feel like to go over. “It’s a weird thing, but anyone who has been to the falls knows the feeling,” she said. “This place has a kind of power over people.”
When visitors come to Niagara Falls Canada and experience the Falls and witness the 264,000 square miles of water that plunges over the rocks they will be in awe. When visitors travel their way down to the lower end of the river they will find some of the world’s largest rapids and whirlpool in Queenston, Ontario. The Niagara rapid rate is at level 5 rapids, just one away from being the most dangerous and deadly rapids across North America. As for Will Gladd, he was a bit reluctant to climb the Falls at first as he knew they were graded a level 6 (the second highest rating for ice climbing). Will who is National Geographic’s Adventurer of the Year has been pushing the boundaries at multiple extreme sports for three decades. Will’s adventure won found him at the XGames with three gold medals in the ice climbing games, won the Canadian National Sport Climbing championship 4 times, won the U.S. Canadian paragliding nationals, holds the world’s distance record for paragliding, flew a paramotor across the United States and kayaked dozens of rivers across North America. Gadd also has written a how-to book on ice climbing.
Watch the famous Red Bull Ice Climb up Niagara Falls.
Learn more about National Geographic’s Adventure of the Year, Will Gadd and Sarah Hueniken’s ice climb.