Will Gadd may be the world's strongest ice climber. Consider: Gadd's latest project, a radically overhanging route in British Columbia's Wells Gray Provincial Park dubbed Spray On which he and partner Tim Emmett sent in 2010, came in at a rating of WI10—three grades harder than the world's previous hardest ice climb. If you're not convinced, he's also won three X Games gold medals and the ice climbing World Cup, climbed 25,000 vertical feet in 24 hours at last year's Ouray Ice Festival, and made the first one-day ascent of the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies, solo.
Earlier this year, Gadd returned to Wells Gray with filmmakers Josh and Brett Lowell of Big UP to put up a five-pitch extension to Spray On and film a segment for the 2011 Reel Rock Film Tour. He spoke to us from his home in Alberta to tell us more about his new project and what global warming means for the future of ice.
You've probably climbed more kinds of ice than anyone on earth. You've done waterfalls, alpine, mines, spray ice, ice competitions, icebergs. Where do you think the future of ice climbing is?
Like any sport, there'll always be the really ragged edge. With surfing, you've got tow-in, but most people are going to keep going out to their local break. Ice climbing's the same way: most people are going to keep climbing really nice frozen waterfalls.
But the 'frozen edge' of ice climbing, I think, is spray ice. There's nothing else out there that's half as interesting to me right now. I've found another half-dozen great locations all over the world. People just haven't been looking at it as a climbing environment.