With the lack of mountains or even rock in many areas of the country, people need to get creative in order to climb. Indoor climbing gyms are an obvious answer, but what if you want to climb outside, not to mention ice climb during the winter? Enter the new trend of grain silo climbing, creating outdoor climbing walls on vertical towers that have outlived their original purpose.
The American landscape is littered with abandoned grain silos, where animal operations have been shut down or grain is now stored in low to the ground corrugated metal bins. Technically, these silos have become useless but many people are looking for creative ways to bring them back to life.
Similar to what Rocktown Climbing Gym did with a set of repurposed grain silos in Oklahoma City, Silo City Rocks is a new company planning to convert the 100 year-old grain silos sitting empty on the Buffalo River into a world class climbing facility. The dream is to build multiple outdoor and indoor climbing routes, bouldering caves, rappelling platforms, and sport-routes, as well as a family and community room, education lounge, and yoga studio.
This grain silo development is anchored around creating public access to outdoor recreational opportunities at the site and along the river. Silo City Rocks has partnered with BFLO Harbor Kayak, which will provide kayak and stand-up paddle board rentals on site, as well as a local bike shop planning to offer urban exploration history tours. The company exceeded their project funding goal on their Indiegogo campaign, so are ready to put their plans into action.
Then there are the infamous ice climbing silos located in rural Cedar Falls, Iowa. Started by climber and UNI professor Don Briggs over ten years ago with a little advice from his friends in Ouray, CO, the silos now see up to 50-60 climbers a weekend and are even part of Briggs' course offering. For $25 (rental equipment included), you can climb all day at the public silos over on Rusty Leymaster's farm between mid-December and February, weather permitting.
I would love to see more grain silo conversions in the future, especially for ice climbing, as what better way to make use of an abandoned building in a way that helps people achieve something outdoors that was not before possible.