Adventure Flashback: Relive Will Gadd’s Historic 2015 Frozen Niagara Falls Climb

Will Gadd ice climbs the first ascent of Niagara Falls in Niagara Falls, NY, USA on 27 January, 2015.
Christian Pondella/Red Bull Content Pool

Pro ice climber Will Gadd has made some incredible ascents over the years. From exploring the Colorado Rockies, the glaciers of Greenland, and the mountains of Kilimanjaro, Gadd has climbed frozen terrains all around the world. But one of his most memorable climbs wasn’t in a remote area—it was at one of the most recognizable natural sights in the world: Niagara Falls.

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Back in 2015, Gadd made the first-ever ice climb up Niagara Falls. Working alongside the New York State Parks Department, Gadd was able to get the first-ever permit for ice-climbing at the site, where he planned to climb it naturally, meaning no bolts on the ice while he climbed. Gadd set up his line on the American side of the falls on Terrapin Point, which rises up around 150 feet from bottom-to-top.

Gadd, a Red Bull athlete and an accomplished paraglider, collaborated with Red Bull Media House, which produced the documentary Frozen Falls that followed his trek up the falls. (You can watch the documentary here.)

“It’s one of the most visited places in North America. We have to treat it as a jewel, or it won’t work,” Gadd said to Red Bull while planning the climb. “The massive water flow constantly shakes the ground, and makes the ice shelves and walls around you unsteady and unpredictable. It’s a harsh environment and an intense challenge to stay attached to the wall, let alone climb it.”

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In January 2020, Gadd is celebrating the fifth anniversary of his ascent, which is why we wanted to spotlight the accomplishment.

Here’s a look at Gadd making the climb:

Gadd, who is celebrating the fifth anniversary of his ascent in 2020, previously spoke with Men’s Journal about how he prepares and trains climbs like this one, revealing some of his favorite workouts, essential gear he takes along the way, as well as advice for fellow climbers.

“For climbing, it’s about developing your shoulders and applying strength so you can climb better,” Gadd said. “There are a solid four or five exercises I do regularly that are critical for being functional. My main exercises are some kind of squat or squat variation, pullups are big for climbing and they help a lot, and also some version of a push movement, whether that’s pushups or doing the bench press. Deadlifts are also very important. Those basic moves are critical for me. You can do them almost anywhere.”

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Gadd also left readers with a key piece of advice: “Travel with hot sauce,” Gadd said. “Most food can be boring [tasting] when you’re out on these remote trips and having some Louisiana-style hot sauce is a life saver. Nothing fancy, but it gives you that extra flavor when you’re having so much camp food, like your third plate of canned peas or canned food. Hot sauce is critical.”

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Here are a few more incredible photos of Gadd making the climb:

Will Gadd ice climbs the first ascent of Niagara Falls in Niagara Falls, NY, USA on 27 January, 2015.
Will Gadd ice climbs the first ascent of Niagara Falls in Niagara Falls, NY, USA on 27 January, 2015. Christian Pondella/Red Bull Content Pool
Will Gadd ice climbs the first ascent of Niagara Falls in Niagara Falls, NY, USA on 27 January, 2015.
Will Gadd ice climbs the first ascent of Niagara Falls in Niagara Falls, NY, USA on 27 January, 2015. Christian Pondella/Red Bull Content Pool
Will Gadd ice climbs the first ascent of Niagara Falls in Niagara Falls, NY, USA on 27 January, 2015.
Will Gadd ice climbs the first ascent of Niagara Falls in Niagara Falls, NY, USA on 27 January, 2015. Christian Pondella/Red Bull Content Pool
Will Gadd and Sarah Hueniken hugs each other folllowing their first ascents, during Red Bull Frozen Falls at Niagara Falls, NY, USA on 27 January, 2015.
Will Gadd and Sarah Hueniken hugs each other following their first ascents, during Red Bull Frozen Falls at Niagara Falls, NY, USA on 27 January, 2015. Keith Ladzinski / Red Bull Content Pool

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