Call us masochistic oddballs, but we know how to have fun!
Years ago Homer Glen resident, Dave Everson, read an article in an adventure magazine that described ice climbing as a masochistic pastime for oddballs. He knew right then that this was something he wanted to try. From Dave’s childhood, he seemed to be wired to climb. Like any normal kid, it started with trees. But when Dave hit his teens, he could be found climbing on houses or buildings, jamming his fingertips between bricks or on window ledges to get a perch and keep moving up. He seemed to love a vertical world.
It wasn’t until his adult life that Dave met someone at his wife’s Christmas party, who talked about climbing. Dave and his new climbing partner to be, Keith, within a couple of days went off rappelling at Governor Dodge State Park in Wisconsin. In time, that experience lead to rock climbing at Devil’s Lake. Soon after, Dave’s older brother, Mark Everson, had a bad accident in Alaska. Alone, with nobody knowing he went on a hike on a glacier, Mark fell into a crevasse breaking ribs, ringers, twisting an ankle and knocking himself unconscious. Upon waking up about an hour later, he realized he had to get himself out, which he did. Then proceeded to drag his injured body to a nearby road and wait for someone to drive past and see the body. Soon enough he was picked up, escorted to the Anchorage hospital and treated for frostbite, hypothermia and broken bones. But there was one symptom they could not treat. Mark had completely lost all memory from hitting his head on the ice, so off a Seattle specialist he went. That was tough news in the Everson family. “Mark won’t even know who we are.” A frightening thought.
The good news is that a couple of weeks later Mark snapped back to normal and all the memory came back. After that episode, Mark and Dave signed up for mountaineering classes with the American Alpine Institute. That was followed by the two brothers, and various other climbing partners, climbing on the west coast for the next 15 years, climbing all of the major volcanoes and some classic peaks in the North Cascades.
Back in Illinois, Dave heard about ice climbing lessons taking place at Starved Rock State Park. He immediately fell in love with this addition to his climbing skill set. Soon enough Dave was climbing around the Midwest, including the annual Michigan Ice Climbing Festival held in Munising Michigan. Over the years, the ice climbing ability became a great advantage in the mountains, especially on routes that required mixed climbing, a combination of rock and ice.
The issue Midwest ice climbers have most years, like this winter, is a lack of our highly desired Polar Vortex. Yes, climbers are a bunch of oddballs, praying for cold when most people want a warmer snow less winter. A few years back, Dave was desperate to climb when Mother Nature did not provide. Searching online, Dave came across Nice Ice Ice Climbing tower, a Facebook group that built their own ice climbing wall. It started on a silo and currently operates on a portable climbing wall, but frozen over. Joel Taylor, one of Dave’s climbing partners, and owner of Vertical Adventure Guides, owns the wall and has it set up in his backyard in Monee, IL. Both Dave and Joel teach beginner ice climbing classes on the ice tower, about 25 ft tall. And it doubles as a great place for them to train, doing lap after lap to prepare for taller climbs elsewhere.
As for a masochistic pastime for oddballs, sure climbers are different. While anyone with a good fitness foundation can learn to climb ice, most experienced ice climbers are fitness freaks, training like mad people in order to climb as efficient as possible. While there are dangers, and ice breaks off, sometimes leaving a gash in your face, most climbers are extremely safe. They’re not a group with a death wish, but rather some incredibly passionate and extreme athletes that love the outdoors, love winter and see places where great walls of ice form that most people will never see. You might even say, ice climbers have an addiction to climbing.
To learn more visit the Nice Ice Ice Climbing page on Facebook or visit www.playwildil.com to check out adventures around Illinois and Wisconsin, from rock and ice climbing to caving and kayaking.
By: D. Everson