Tim Emmett and Klemen Preml have established another unworldly ice climb at Helmcken Falls in British Columbia—an
overhanging, 260-foot WI 12, climbed in a single pitch. And no, that’s not a typo, WI 12. They call their new line Interstellar Spice.
“We got it!” Emmett reported on Facebook. “By far the hardest, longest and coolest single pitch ice climb either of us have done before.”
The 260-foot climb overhangs by around 100 feet, Emmett explains. It starts up Clash of the Titans (WI 10+)—a route Emmett and Preml established
in 2013—and then breaks left through multiple ice roofs, following 28 bolts to the finish, 65 feet below the lip of the cave. The entire route
is climbed on spray ice from the massive waterfall, with the exception of two rock moves.
The route is bolted—since there are no cracks for natural protection and the spray ice is too soft or fragile
to take an ice screw—but “it’s actually pretty scary,” Emmett told Climb.
The whips are huge if you fall near the top since there is so much rope in the system on a climb of this length. Moreover, the cave is adorned with
enough hanging daggers, like white teeth in a gaping black mouth, to make any monster jealous.
“If the rope gets caught around a 30-foot dagger, there’s a good chance it will rip off,” Emmett told Climb. “Having one of these in free-fall
above your head is less than ideal!”
To mitigate the risk, Emmett explains that it’s important to focus on axe placements and to climb with poise, “even when you’ve just climbed a route with
double digit difficulty and you have about 80m of rope hanging from your harness!
“It’s full value.”
In a single pitch, Interstellar Spice covers similar ground as the first four pitches of its neighbor Spray On to the right, a route
put up by Emmett and Will Gadd in 2011.
It took Emmett and Preml three days to find the bolts (with metal detectors), clean the hanging icicles, and place the rest of the bolts for the new line.
With the route prepared, it only took Emmett and Preml a handful of attempts to redpoint.
“[It’s] possibly the ultimate winter climbing experience,” says Emmett.
Their goal for the rest of the short Helmcken ice season—with ice usually lasting from January to February—is to climb from the base of the
falls to the top of the cave in a single pitch. The climb requires a custom-made 200-meter lead rope.