By Meredith Lyons
Ice climbing may sound like something you need to embark on an arctic exhibition to experience, however Chicago has its own similarities to the arctic, at least temperature-wise, and it offers some places nearby to practice your ice climbing as well.
Starved Rock State Park
Route 178 and Route 71
Utica, IL 61373
Only an hour drive from Chicago, Starved Rock is known for its beautiful waterfalls in the spring months. In fact, Starved Rock boasts waterfalls in 14 of its 18 canyons. Ice-climbing enthusiasts are often lucky enough to see some of the waterfalls freeze and transform into ice walls. Ice climbers are required to register at the park office and should be aware that climbing is allowed only in the French, Wildcat, LaSalle and Tonty canyons. Also, there is no equipment rental available at the park and climbing will be permitted at the park’s discretion pending adequate ice to permit safe climbing.
Lone Rock, WI
On Highway 130 S.
Lone Rock, WI 53566
About a 3.5-hour drive up 1-90, you will come to one of the better ice-climbing locations in the area at Lone Rock in Richland County, WI. The climbing spot can be seen from the bridge over the Wisconsin River. Drive through the town of Lone Rock and the spot will be on the far side of town. Generally, two ice columns form on the northwest bank from the top of the cliff. These climbs are suited for experienced climbers only.
Governor Dodge State Park
4175 Highway 23 N.
Dodgeville, WI 53533
Another park about 3.5 hours north of Chicago is Governor Dodge State Park. The climbing walls are not exceptionally tall, between 40 and 50 feet, but there are two climbing areas in the park, Stephens Falls and Cox Hollow Lake. Stephens Falls is the most clearly marked. Maps are available at the park’s visitor center which indicate Stephens Falls on the road to Twin Valley Lake, and there is even a small parking lot approximately a mile past the ranger station. Cox Hollow Lake is reachable by heading from the ranger station towards Cox Hollow Lake via the parking lot on the west side. The climbing area is near the wooden bridge, which once crossed, climbers should walk west along the stream until they reach the falls. There is no official trail, however if climbers have come before, a path may be worn.
The Ice Pit
361 Orlando Drive
De Pere, WI 54115
About a three-hour drive from Chicago near Green Bay is a members-only ice-climbing area called The Ice Pit and it is considered one of the best places to climb in the Midwest. The Ice Pit does charge membership fees of $200 annually for individuals to cover the costs of creating and maintaining the ice flows in the quarry that they use, however there is a drop-in rate of $30 to go as a guest and meet other climbers. One can come to The Ice Pit as a guest two times in a climbing season. The Ice Pit tries to generate a feeling of safety and community among its climbers and therefore all new members must be recommended by an existing member.
Chicago Rock and Ice Guides
To get the latest information about various places in the Midwest to climb, check out Chicago Rock and Ice Guides. This website is devoted to informing area climbers about different places near Chicago to hone their ice-climbing skills. Chicago Rock and Ice Guides hosts guided climbs in areas near Chicago and provides equipment. In addition, camping is available near most of its climbing sites if you decide to make your climb a complete outdoor adventure. Chicago Rock and Ice Guides will mail a registration packet to clients once they have selected a program and confirmed the dates that they will be climbing.
Meredith Lyons is an actor, competitive fighter and fitness instructor in Chicago who also owns an amazing cat named Jake. Meredith has been writing on Examiner as the Chicago Martial Arts Examiner since 2008. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.