Interest flows with ice climbing at Wells Gray Park waterfalls

Climbing the ice spray cave behind Helmcken Falls has generated reactions in two people with different perspectives: Wells Gray area supervisor Mike Rowden and mountain guide Ross Cloutier

Climbing the ice spray cave behind Helmcken Falls by Canmore resident Will Gadd and others has resulted in a great deal of interest on the Internet and a two-page photo spread in Sports Illustrated magazine.

It has also generated reactions in two people with different perspectives on the question.

Wells Gray area supervisor Mike Rowden might not be too happy the ice climbing behind Helmcken Falls but it doesn’t appear he’s going to do anything about it.

 “The thing is, if they get into trouble, it’s the RCMP and the local search and rescue group who will put themselves at risk to do a rescue or a recovery,” Rowden said. 

“Every few years we get these extreme sports types doing things in the park, whether kayaking, skiing, rock climbing, ice climbing or whatever. There’s not much we can do to control them, unless it’s a commercial venture or they’re leaving things behind like pins or pitons.”

Ross Cloutier, a mountain guide who formerly lived in Clearwater and who now teaches in the adventure guide program at Thompson Rivers University, has a somewhat different perspective.

“I have been watching Will’s efforts with great interest because, while very familiar with the features, it was just beyond us technically and no one really was thinking this stuff was possible when I was in Clearwater,” said Cloutier.

Cloutier was one of the ice-climbing pioneers in the North Thompson, climbing the ice cone at Spahats Falls in 1985. A longtime member of what is now Wells Gray Search and Rescue, his mountaineering exploits included being climbing leader of the 1991 Canadian attempt on Mount Everest. 

“Having flown a lot over the park in winter, I know there are definitely some waterfall gems to climb in some of the remoter areas of the ‘waterfall park,’” he said. “They would definitely be more straightforward than what Will is climbing behind Helmcken.”