Bill vs. Wild: Extreme Ice Climbing
"Nightline" anchor reaches new heights with expert ice climber Will Gadd.
April 6, 2011— -- Helpful hint: when wearing razor sharp crampons strapped to your boots, try not to kick yourself in the calf. And if you do while literally hanging out with the world's best ice climbers, try to pass off the pain as a minor cramp while hiding the fresh hole in your borrowed snow pants.
I learned this while clinging to a frozen waterfall known as the Weeping Wall in the Canadian Rockies, shooting a "Nightline" piece on expert ice climber Will Gadd.
This friendly Canuck is to frozen water what Laird Hamilton or Kelly Slater are to the moving salty variety. Gadd travels the globe to find new and impossible ice formations to scamper up with the speed and joy of an 8-year-old on monkey bars.
Since his paycheck depends on his sponsors' logos appearing in impossibly rugged settings, he needs photographic proof of each adventure. That is where shooter-and-unsung-hero Christian Pondella comes in.
Much the way Ginger Rogers had to dance as well as Fred Astaire, only backwards in heels, Pondella has to mimic many of Gadd's most daring climbs while holding a camera and changing lenses.
The duo didn't hesitate when we loaded them with even more video cameras to capture ice nooks where eagles -- and reporters -- fear to tread. This is just the latest reminder of how tiny, broadcast-quality cameras like our GoPro "Hero Cam" has expanded our storytelling in ways that were unthinkable a decade ago.
With five cameras rolling, we were able to capture Gadd and Pondella's joy and camaraderie along with some of the pure nuance of their probably insane calling: how softer ice is better -- but only to a point. How a "dinner plate" crashing from above can be more deadly than a fall. How tendons you never knew you had burn and scream in protest as you kick another toe hold and swing another ice tool.
But while we got a taste under perfect bluebird skies, Gadd and Pondella do these impressive climbs in howling winds and pitch darkness, very much aware of how many of their friends and competitors have been killed by ice, gravity and ambition.
But when you see some of the images captured with those five cameras -- views that so few will ever enjoy -- the whole thing makes a lot more sense.