If you want to practice your ice climbing skills, strap on your crampons and head to Iowa. Although Iowa does boast Hawkeye Point — towering over the rest of the State at a mighty 1670 feet — the farming state is relatively flat. So what are people climbing? The only tall, vertical faces in Cedar Falls: grain silos.
Each winter a local man, Don Briggs — a physical education instructor at the University of Northern Iowa and an accomplished climber himself — hoists hundreds of feet of garden hose to the top of four empty grain bins, turns on the spigots, and lets the water cascade down, forming 70-foot-tall ice climbing walls, Iowa-style. According to Briggs, the ice is up to four feet thick, and it constantly changes shape as it melts and refreezes.
To satisfy the needs of the hundreds of climbers Briggs’ silos see, he converted one of the farm’s outbuildings into an equipment shed, and a cattle barn became the climbers’ lounge.
The silos, when covered with ice, are amazing and gorgeous. To see a few stunning shots of the climbing walls, check out Iowa Farmer Today or the LA Times, two papers which have probably never before been mentioned together.