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Tim Emmett during the first ascent of the mixed ice fall Spray On... Top! (230m, W10, M9+) at the Helmcken Falls, Canada.
Photo by Wiktor Skupinski
Tim Emmett and Klemen Premrl during the first ascent of the mixed ice fall Spray On... Top! (230m, W10, M9+) at the Helmcken Falls, Canada.
Photo by Wiktor Skupinski

Spray On... Top!, Emmett and Premrl complete first ascent of Helmcken Falls testpiece


Tim Emmett and Klemen Premrl have carried out the first ascent of the superb mixed ice climb Spray On... Top! (230m, W10, M9+) at the Helmcken Falls, Canada, the route Emmett had started with Will Gadd. Tim Emmett shares the details.

"For me climbing to the top of Helmcken Falls is like a right of passage, an answer to why I started climbing in the first place. It's off the scale! It encompasses so many factors, all at once. It's a real adventure - exciting, dangerous, exposed, brilliant, varied, difficult and in my opinion one of the most amazing natural creations on Earth. And it's alive, always moving, always changing!"

This is what British climber Tim Emmett had to say about Spray On, his latest, revolutionary creation which is highly likely to be the steepest ice climb in the world. Emmett first started route three seasons ago after Canadian Will Gadd had located the fall via the internet, and prior to their visit pratically no climber had ever heard of Helmcken Falls and its huge potential. The two defined the particular ice in the back of the cave as "spray ice", i.e. ice which forms from the spray of the waterfall.

During the initial 2009 season Gadd and Emmett forged the first 30m, 45° overhanging pitch and tentatively gave it a mighty W10 grade. They returned the next season, armed with a metal detector to discover the bolts, then continued to add some further pitches ground-up style to reach the lip of the overhang before being thwarted by rising temperatures! In our interview after this effort, Will Gadd shared his vision as to the importance of the line they were creating.

As we reported this season, the cave was bustling with activity and new lines were added to the sides. Gadd and Emmett were joined in completing their king line by Chris Geisler, Will Mayo and Slovenian Klemen Preml and the final two pitches were added from abseil. Then, on 6 February, Emmett and Premrl climbed the 8-pitch line in a single, full-day push: Emmett led the first three pitches, Premrl the next four before Emmett led the final pitch at nightfall. For the record, they skipped the original, first pitch, but not out of laziness but simply because it was underground given the massive amount of snow and ice which had accumulated this season!

Describing the line as "the most outrageous climb of my life, for sure!" Emmett explained to planetmountain: "In a similar way as big-wave surfing legend Laird Hamilton towed in to a big wave with straps on his surfboard for the first time, I feel like this is opening up a whole new chapter in the world of ice climbing. It's just the beginning ! Our route is pretty hard and its the easiest line up the cave. There is immense potential for harder more direct lines. It's the future, for those that want to adventure into it :-)"

Spray On... Top!
200m - 230m. The first pitch may be underground, this depends on the prevailing snow and ice conditions
(WI10), WI10, WI9, M6+, M8, M7, M9+, M6, M6





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