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Iowa ice climbing: Grain silos are coated in ice to make winter playground for climbers

March 9 2007 at 4:10 AM
Ken Akerman  (Login KenAkerman)

Response to Minnesota ice climbing


CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — Mountain climbers who live amid the prairies and farm fields have found a way to practice despite the lack of rocky peaks: Scaling grain silos that have been coated in ice.

Don Briggs sprays the silos with water during the winter, turning them into glistening towers of ice that draw hundreds of climbers from across the Midwest, as well as China, Canada and Alaska.

"When we first started doing this, everyone in the county thought I was crazy," said Briggs, a physical education teacher at the University of Northern Iowa, who came up with the idea after noticing that silos are the tallest structures to be found across much of Iowa's agricultural landscape.

Briggs, 57, began the project several years ago on a farm owned by a friend. Each winter, he hoists hundreds of feet of garden hose to the top of four empty grain bins, supplying water that cascades down the silos.

It eventually freezes into a craggy sheet resembling a 70-foot frozen waterfall. The ice is up to four feet thick and constantly changes shape as it melts and refreezes. Briggs can also replenish the ice by pouring another layer of water over the silo on a cold night.

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