Ice climbers scale one of Yukon's most spectacular waterfalls

A group of ice climbers has done what few, if any, have done before — scaled the scenic Million Dollar Falls in Yukon.

'Relatively terrifying' at times, but also beautiful, says climber David Turcotte

'The ice was beautiful. It was a great time. We all had a lot of fun,' said David Turcotte, who, along with some friends, climbed the ice at Yukon's 60-metre-high Million Dollar Falls last weekend. (Submitted by David Turcotte)

Yukon's scenic Million Dollar Falls are a big draw for sightseers, but this season they've drawn another crowd — ice-climbers.

David Turcotte of B.C. figures he's among the first — if not the first — to scale the frozen cataract. He did it last weekend along with some friends.

The chilling feat came about by "accident," he said. A couple of weeks ago the group was planning a ski trip in the nearby Haines Pass, but heavy snowfall in the area made it impossible. 

"So we decided that we would do a bit of a recon mission and go check out the waterfall and see if it was any good of a condition to climb," he said.

There's a seasonal campground at the falls and a boardwalk leading to a viewpoint. The falls itself is a 60-metre drop of the Takhanne River.

Turcotte said he's talked to local climbers who told him the falls typically don't freeze. But this year, he said, heavy summer rains meant more water pouring over the falls, and a sort of overflow area adjacent to the main channel became a wall of ice.

"So that's the piece of ice that we managed to climb," he said.

'Rappelling down to essentially a non-existent platform of just basically ice-cold, frigid water was relatively terrifying,' Turcotte said. (Andrew Serack)

A few weeks ago, they did a sort of test-run by anchoring themselves at the top, rappelling down a ways, and checking out the ice. 

"If it wasn't safe enough, then we at least had the ability to rescue ourselves without having to worry, because we had ourselves anchored at the top," Turcotte said.

"The ice was beautiful. It was a great time. We all had a lot of fun," he said.

Video made by Turcotte's friend Andrew Serack:

They returned last weekend to do the whole climb. All went well.

"Nobody fell," Turcotte said.

"Rappelling down to essentially a non-existent platform of just basically ice-cold, frigid water was relatively terrifying. But the actual climbing itself was lovely. It really was." 

Turcotte said ice-climbing, to him, is like a form of counselling.

"You're speaking to yourself, you're wondering, why do we do these types of sports? And at the same time, when you get to the top, it's this moment of accomplishment that most people don't get to enjoy," he said.

"That in itself is just magic."

Written by Paul Tukker with files from Elyn Jones


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