Wicked Wanda. 130M, WI 5 to WI Silly | Will Gadd

Words by Will Gadd. Photos by Angela Percival.

Wind and falling water mix in odd ways. Ice pterodactyls and wind-blown caves, wings and daggers, the weirdest ice always forms in the wind, and the Ghost River ice climbing area is always windy.

I have climbed Wicked Wanda when it was a romp, and retreated off it, unable to find a way to fight through the icy guardians on top. It’s awesome.

I must be getting older, these crampons are hard to get on! I’ve worn the Gamma AR pants a thousand days in the mountains, just great gear. The gloves are protos of what became the became the Alpha FLs. I have a lot of days on these…

Uncoiling ropes at the base of a route always gets me stoked. Amazingly, the upper half of this climb is as long as the lower, but it looks like about 10M.

Winter in the Rockies is a black and white world, especially in the Ghost. All the other animals lock down for the dark months, but winter is our summer, and I love that.

Guess that mobility training is working! Check out where the rope is running—it comes out of that cave in the ice! You actually go caving on this route to get up it. Cool.

I’ve been literally blown off my feet after pulling over the lip of this climb, and had to ice climb horizontally to get to a belay anchor. Guess that explains the wild ice!

I’ve been doing this for 35 years, and yet every season I’m still amazed that ice climbing works. So unlikely, wild, and downright engaging. I hope I get another 20+ years of swinging tools!

An essential part of every ice climber’s bag is a huge jacket to keep you smiling. I love my Ceres, it’s like a sleeping bag on a cold night, mmmm….. And I got to climb more this day!

My bud EJ Plimley and I have been climbing, drinking, riding and wrestling with life together for 20 years. Climbing is great, but it’s the people you share it with that really give it the context and joy that burns memories into our brains. Here’s to some more EJ!

Another thing I love about climbing is that the heroes are out there too. This is Mr. Barry Blanchard, who I’ve know since I was a lippy 12-year old kid. He’s done more new routes in the Canadian Rockies and around the globe than anyone I know, as well as writing a best-selling biography and mentoring generations of guides. Getting to work with Barry on a classy route like Wicked Wanda is like getting to play basketball with Michael Jordan.


Check out the video of Will climbing Wicked Wanda in Canmore, Alberta: