Ice challenge: Raising money for Ridgway foundation motivation for ice climber’s 24-hour grind

Will Gadd was surrounded by photographers and cameras as the countdown began.

All Gadd did was take a deep breath and smile as he began rappelling to the bottom of Box Canon in Ouray State Park.

His unheard of adventure began at noon Saturday — and it continues to noon today.

Gadd, who resides in a small town 64 miles west of Calgary, Alberta, is attempting to climb 11,429 feet of ice within 24 hours during the Ouray Ice Festival.

“It’s going to be hard,” he said minutes before he started. “It’s going to be climbing 150 feet of ice in 15 minutes, then rappelling back to the bottom. I’ve done a lot of crazy things, but this one wins.”

The four-time Canadian National Sport-Climbing champion and Ice Climbing World Champion has climbed icebergs, paraglided and flew over the Grand Canyon, but this is something completely different.

Gadd, whose aunt resides in Grand Junction, will make 80 trips up and down the 150-foot section of the ice by the time he’s done. It will take three to four trips an hour.

“This is taking a whole new level of organization,” said the 42-year-old Gadd. “I think it’s going to involve a new place of suffering. I’ve done the climbing competition and it’s a lot of fun, but it’s done in 20 minutes.”

Gadd figures he’ll burn around 12,000 calories in the 24-hour period and has prepared. He has four cases of Red Bull energy drink and plenty of snacks at the top of the canyon wall.

Gadd’s historic climb started out as a rhetorical question over a few beers with some friends.

“Some friends and I were talking about ice climbing,” he said. “I did some big days, two or three thousand feet of ice. We started talking about how many feet of ice a person can climb in 24 hours. There might have been some beer involved. It took off from there.

“I guess it is a good idea to watch me suffer. I got stuck in and we’re off to the races.”

Gadd has climbed as much as six to seven thousand feet of ice climbing in eight to nine hours since that discussion.

“I was whooped,” he said. “I think I can do it. I expect it to be the most painful and memorable thing I’ve ever done.

“I was treating it casually until some friends of mine that run the dZi Foundation got involved. Now, it’s more serious. I can’t quit now, but it’s been great for my motivation.

The work they do in the Himalays is amazing.”

Gadd is climbing not only to accomplish something no one has ever done, he’s doing it to raise money for the dZi Foundation, based out of Ridgway.

“He came to me about it,” dzi Foundation Executive Director Jim Nowak said. “He said, ‘I love what you do and trust you.’ “

An anonymous donor has promised to match up to $15,000, but Nowak hopes they can raise $20,000 to build a new school for 300 children in Nepal.

In the past two years, the dZi Foundation has funded 11 schools and dozens of water projects.

With temperatures expecting to dip down to the teens, raising money for children in third-world countries will serve as motivation.

“I can give back and make the world a better place for some people,” he said. “Around hour 12 or 16, it will be pretty important. It is motivation to keep climbing. It’s a positive pressure and motivation for sure.”

He has a different belayer each hour for the 24 hours with his wife, former world ice climbing champion Kim Csizmazia, there for the last hour.

“I’ll be ready for the hot tub,” Gadd said.

With a free ticket to the Ouray Hot Springs Pool, that’s his plan.


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