Column: Someone who likes his winters cold

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Jeff Budlong, Sports Editor

There are many people who love it when the mercury is on the rise during this time of the year, but that sight is almost enough to make Don Briggs sick to his stomach.

Briggs, an outdoor pursuits instructor at the University of Northern Iowa, was preparing for the annual ice climbing competition a few weeks ago when the sun started to melt away the hours of work that he and a small army of climbing lovers had put in as preparation for the event.

Instead of strapping on their crampons and grabbing their ice axes they were forced to sit back and watch the ice slowly melt away and finally fall off completely leaving just mammoth ice chunks flooding the ground below.

With thousands of gallons of water needed to turn old silos into an ice climbing paradise the task of cleanup was no small feat.

&8220;Watching the ice come down made me sick because I knew all the work that a lot of people put into it,&8221; said Briggs.

&8220;Last year, we lost ice on one silo so that was easier than redoing all four.&8221;

However, as the temperature started to fall Briggs’ spirits began to rise.

After spending hundreds of hours preparing ice the first time, the cleanup process began Super Bowl weekend getting all of the fallen ice out of the way by late Sunday.

Next, the water hoses were lifted to the top of the silos and water was sprayed down them night and day.

Briggs likes to say it takes two things to make good ice &045; water and cold &045; and he now had both in abundance.

With the ice nearly replaced on all four silos the fourth installment of &8220;Silo Summit&8221; is set to take place this weekend.

It gives many rock climbers their first taste of ice climbing without having to travel to Colorado to do it.

Nearly 40 competitors will take part in the night competition that will be divided into two categories: novice and advanced.

Climbers, who are divided into groups of four, will come from the University of Minnesota, Ohio State, Western Kentucky and the hometown Panthers.

The advanced climbers will make two runs up the tallest silo &045; reaching nearly 70 feet into the sky &045; with the best two combined times winning the event.

For the less experienced climbers it will be two trips up the smaller silos to determine a winner.

One trip up a silo can take as little as a couple of minutes or it can be a 45-minute battle with fatigue and frozen hands.

All the work that goes into getting the ice up to competition level &045; the Silo Summit has been called some of the best ice ever climbed by climbers who have tested their skills at Mount

Everest &045; is only part of why Briggs and others get involved in this event.

&8220;It gives you something that you just don’t normally see in sports,&8221; said Briggs who wrestled at Iowa before ascending to the head coaching job at UNI for 15 years.

&8220;When one climber gets done with his run he goes up to the next guy and tries to help him out.

It is competitive but everyone wants to see everyone else do well.

It is really nothing but a positive thing.&8221;

While many of us dread the thought of another cold snap dragging temperatures down, Briggs and a large group of ice climbers know that is when the action can finally start to heat up.