Ice Climbing in Iowa

Ice Climb 3Iowa is a state known for mass corn out­put, good edu­ca­tion­al sys­tems, and world class ice climb­ing. Well, known for the first two at least. But nes­tled amongst the agri­cul­ture, just out­side of the Uni­ver­si­ty of North­ern Iowa’s cam­pus in Cedar Falls lies a sur­pris­ing­ly pre­mier ice climb­ing des­ti­na­tion that is, get this, frozen onto the side of a corn silo.

In 2001, Don Brig­gs, pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­si­ty of North­ern Iowa and avid rock climber was ful­fill­ing an Iowa stereo­type by help­ing a friend till his farm. As he worked the fields, he couldn’t help but notice the tall corn silos tow­er­ing over the flat Iowa land­scape. Most Iowa farm­ers asso­ciate these silos with next year’s crops. Don on the oth­er hand, want­ed to climb them.

Brig­gs had orig­i­nal­ly con­sid­ered climb­ing the agri­cul­tur­al spires with tra­di­tion­al bolts and anchors but with a lit­tle more research, real­ized these per­fect­ly ver­ti­cal land­marks could be best climbed while cov­ered in ice; thus giv­ing birth to a new method of an already estab­lished sport.

Ice Climb 2

Since 2001, Don Brig­gs has per­fect­ed his sys­tem. He wrote the book on silo ice climb­ing (lit­er­al­ly, his pub­li­ca­tion “Silo Ice Climb­ing” can be pur­chased on site). Also since 2007, in com­bi­na­tion with his own skills and the skills of his pro­fes­sion­al­ly trained staff, this Cedar Falls attrac­tion has brought hun­dreds of oth­er­wise lim­it­ed Iowa ice climbers out to the corn­fields, and up a gigan­tic 90 degree ice water­fall that dom­i­nates the side of this sud­den­ly famous corn silo.

This Mid­west climb­ing mec­ca stays open as long as temps are below 26 degrees, which for an Iowa win­ter could be any­where from one to four months of steep ver­ti­cal climb. And with a ded­i­cat­ed staff to encour­age, advise, and belay; all skill lev­els are wel­come. There’s even a warm­ing hut that’s open on site, ded­i­cat­ed to thaw­ing extrem­i­ties and rent­ing gear.

Ice Climb 1

Iowa’s ice silo should be on any explorer’s “hid­den gems” map, and it stands as a cre­ative tes­ta­ment to always being able to have an adven­ture, even in the most geo­graph­i­cal­ly chal­lenged loca­tions. For more infor­ma­tion on rates, direc­tions, and fur­ther inquiries, check out their web­site: Silo Ice Climb­ing.