Watch Will Gadd Dangle From a 330-ft. Chalk Cliff

Can you break a piece of chalk in your hand? We thought so. So why would you want to climb on it?
Climber Will Gad competing during Red Bull White Cliffs climbing competition on the cliffs of the Isle of Wight, UK
Will Gadd reaches up high and pulls © Jonathon Griffith
By Josh Sampiero

What do you get when you take ice climbers off frozen waterfalls and let them dangle over the sea? The unique Red Bull White Cliffs, one of the most challenging contests in climbing. The "dry-tooling" competition means the world's best mixed-route climbers take their ice axes and ice climbing boots to rock — well, chalk in this case. Which is sort like rock. But more crumbly. So how do they do it? Let world-renowned ice climber Will Gadd show you how.

Red Bull White Cliffs is 300 feet of climbing, and that's a long time to be hanging off of a wall. It's all about getting your feet under you to propel you up, and spending less time hanging from your tools.

“Overhangs are the speed bumps of climbing”

"Overhangs are the speed bumps of the climbing world," says Gadd. "I'm trying to find the hold over the lip with my ice tool, and then pull up without falling off."

"Sometimes it's easier to drop your feet to get them into a new position than it is to keep them on the wall," says Gadd. "Hanging by one arm is a normal climbing move at a high level. I train for it."

"In the soft chalk the holes fill back up with dust and junk, so sometimes you've got to clean them out, or pound your way through the debris in there."

Of course, tackling the White Cliffs isn't as simple as climbing a ladder. Sometimes you've got to do a little research ...

“Mark the chalk to find the hold ...”

"I'm marking the soft chalk so when I'm racing on the route I'll be able to find the hold," says Gadd. "The marks all disappear in days or the whole cliff falls off, so I'm not hurting anything."

“Swinging into the chalk is like ice climbing”

"At the top the holds are all falling apart, so it's more secure to build your own. I climb a lot of ice, and swinging into the chalk is a lot like ice climbing. Solid!"

However, solid wasn't how Will felt every step of the way.

“I’m about to vomit in this picture”

"Racing up 300 feet of overhanging chalk above the ocean was definitely a new experience. I'm about to vomit in this picture — crazy anaerobic death sprint."

And whether you vomit or not, you've got to finish. After his test run of around 35 minutes, Gadd's competition line came in at 17m 27s. And did it hurt? See below and you tell us.

“I’m safe ... I’m safe.”

Once he recovered from his "anaerobic death sprint," Gadd was pretty stoked on the line. "That's about as much fun as you can have with ice tools," he says.

Related
Will Gadd
read more about
Next Story