Reclaiming Niagara Falls

Red Bull recently released an extended video edit of Will Gadd‘s climb up the spray-ice of Niagara Falls earlier this winter. The media has understandably celebrated this first ascent but I take away something else.

Gadd and his partner on the ascent, Sarah Hueniken, have reclaimed the world’s most famous waterfall for self-propelled adventure.

 

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Gadd’s accomplishment does not mean Niagara Falls will become an ice-climbing destination. Gadd spent many months securing permits from Parks Canada and NYS Parks (his route straddled the international border). Yet by bringing international attention to this winter spectacle, Gadd and Hueniken have shifted the focus. They have offered another way to look at a wonder we thought we knew so well.

Perhaps the star is not just Gadd but the ice itself: it transforms the Falls into something other than an overfamiliar tourist destination. The ice ‘re-wilds’ the Falls.

 

From the Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic photographs of the falls, circa 1870s.
From the Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic photographs of the Falls, US side, circa 1870s. From the New York Public Library’s Digital Library, via Wikimedia Commons.

“All the power and force of the world’s largest waterfall ripping by your shoulder…it’s beautiful, magical, and intense,” Gadd told Global News. And that sums it all up.

 

 

 

“Hear that? Yep, Niagara Falls is definitely still flowing. In recorded history Niagara Falls has only stopped flowing ONCE, in 1848.” — @NiagaraParks, February 21, 2015

 

 

The Falls, Canadian side, 1984. Photo by Siegfried Wessler, via Wikimedia Commons.
The Falls, Canadian side, 1984. Photo by Siegfried Wessler, via Wikimedia Commons.

Will Gadd is the keynote speaker at this year’s MULTIPLICITY.

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