It was a case of third time lucky – in February 2018, the Mammut Pro Team athlete Dani Arnold opened a new ice-climbing route in the world-famous Helmcken Falls in British Columbia, Canada.
Text: Dani Arnold
We did it! At last! We drilled and climbed a new route at the Helmcken Falls. Ever since I first saw a photo of this place, my goal was to achieve something really great here. For an ice-climber it’s a kind of wonderland or magical place. Millions of different icicles hang into this hole in the walls with a huge waterfall right in the middle.
"Ever since I first saw a photo of this place, my goal was to achieve something really great here."
It was in fact our third trip to the Helmcken Falls. The first time, the conditions were so poor that we couldn't attempt a climb. Then last year, the conditions were pretty good. But the dangers of the Helmcken Falls were quickly demonstrated to us.
At the time, I had planned to repeat a route. We spent three days trying to find the first meters. We even bought a metal detector to help us locate the bolts, but didn't find a single one! This could only mean that the bolts had broken away together with the rock. This naturally made us more cautious and reflective. After another piece of ice fell on my forearm, I decided it was time to call off the attempt.
However, this time luck was completely on my side and the experiences from the previous years helped me to prepare very thoroughly for the trip. Even on the first day, I could see that there was generally less ice. And this time, rather than wasting time searching for bolts, I wanted to drill my own route. Setting it up was very hard work and took two days. I had to chip through the ice, somehow create temporary protection, pull up the drill, drill the hole and hammer the bolt in.
"The icicles in this grotto have unusual formations. They are distorted, spiky and as curved as a shrimp."
The next challenge was to climb the route without falling, a task that I had imagined as being far easier. I had to spend a whole day working out how I could climb the route. I also felt that my strength wasn’t inexhaustible. I came to the crux of the first pitch right at the end, after around 40 meters. It was an almost horizontal roof!
But on the second day, I managed it. I climbed the “Power Shrimps” route without falling. The icicles in this grotto have unusual formations. They are distorted, spiky and as curved as a banana or even a shrimp. Our line took us right through this area of icicles, hence the name.
We had to battle against many setbacks and painful experiences at the Helmcken Falls. However, this place held such a fascination for us that we kept coming back. Sometimes persistence pays off.
During his ascent, Dani wore the new Nordwand Pro HS Suit from our Eiger Extreme collection. He comments: “Every climber knows that if your clothes feel too tight, or something or other doesn’t feel quite right, climbing becomes extremely arduous. With the new collection, I can practically move freely.” Check out the new collection here.