Iowa's Main Source for Ice Climbing action.

Please, note that this site is no longer maintained and is outdated.The majority of Iowa ice climbing is located in the North East corner of the state. It centers around Pike's Peak State Park, and it forms when ground water hits a layer of shale. This shale channels the water towards cliffs where the water exits and runs down the exposed limestone. In winter these seeps turn to giant pillars of ice - perfect for climbing.

Often by Christmas, top quality ice will have formed somewhere, and if you find this Iowa ice, it will consistently be of the quality called plastic - a slightly wet blue and soft ice that is very easy to climb. Iowa ice often maintains this plastic feel except in the coldest parts of January when the cold of the dead of winter turns it brittle and forces good technique to avoid plates of ice breaking off the climbs when brutal force is used to plant axes and crampons. But with a so-called "Indian Summer," January still usually has, at least, a week of good blue plastic ice. Even with the brittle ice of January, Iowa will still often have good plastic ice for three months, and it isn't unknown to squeeze an April climb in or to climb as early as the middle of December.

A secondary source of significant Iowa ice climbing is located on private property. Make sure you gain permission before stepping one foot onto these grounds. Ground water following the water table finds its way out as it falls over the exposed limestone walls on these private grounds. These leaks when combined with the natural seepage from the water table form, arguably, some of the best places in Iowa to climb ice.

Unfortunately, most of the ice in Iowa is privately owned, and all but the enlightened few forbid ice climbing, so access is iffy at best. Always ask permission before attempting to climb ice in privately owned ice falls, and make sure you check in with the Park Ranger before climbing in Iowa's parks and public areas. You may be able to address some of the justified concerns landowners and public officials have by agreeing to sign a wavier of liability and explaining actually how safe ice climbing is.

There are several ice climbing parks and great locations in North America, most notably Colorado's Ouray and Ontario's Thunder Bay, that have addressed liability concerns and are now making good tourism dollars from ice climbers during the off season. Many private Iowa silos are being turned into ice structures in the winter, and, at least, one college, UNI, offers ice climbing classes on these silos. During the 2003-2004 season, silos hosted the first Iowa ice climbing competition that I'm aware. If Iowa's parks and privately owned ice falls take note of the good quality ice, the money making potential, and the limited winter recreational opportunities for Iowans, then they could turn Iowa into a midwestern paradise for ice climbers.

This site, updated for the 2004 - 2005 season, continues to provide a place to view Iowa climbs, and ice falls. I am now including a list of Latitude and Longitude coordinates of some of the climbs that I have done, so you can enter them into your GPS units. Email me to find out how you can submit photos and climb locations. I am only accepting submission for public grounds at this time. I personally don't have the time to verify what permissions were given to which climbers, so if your climb is on private property and you want to post it, you need to have the land owner contact me, and I need a signed property release. Please, understand that all content on this site,, is editorial, which is exempted from having to provide a property release, but it seems anyone will threaten you with a lawsuit these days, and I'm just protecting my butt.

Remember get permission and have a great time!

Bryan Hansel

Click here for the GPS list and maps.

[Pike's Peak] [Marquette] [Clayton] [Maquoketa] [CR Quarries] [IC Quarry] [Moscow Quarry]

This site never has nor ever will be a substitute for proper instruction. This site is not a how-to guide on climbing, nor does it teach climbing. It simply shows locations. The publisher takes no responsibility for any death or injuries that occur because of this online guide.

All images and text on this site are Copyright © Bryan Hansel. Permission is required for use. Contact me.

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Boat Building

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Arctic Inuit inspired artwork: