Climbing Wildcat Canyon

Above Wildcat Canyon

Each winter, the waterfalls in Starved Rock State Park freeze, creating beautiful ice formations that are fantastic to view, and when conditions are right, a lot of fun to climb. One of the most popular waterfall to climb is found in Wildcat Canyon. The 80 foot waterfall is a challenge many ice climbers can't resist.

Planning the Climb

This year, there were two frozen waterfalls in Wildcat Canyon, but the second looks a bit fragile, and probably was not strong enough to safely climb.

The waterfalls attract visitors all season, and the visitors are treated to an additional spectacle of people attempting to climb the slippery ice formations. Certainly not for the casual climber, ice climbing must be done using crampons, and ice tools similar to the ice ax used in mountaineering, but specialized for climbing. The difficulty of the vertical climb is increased by the cold air, the cold surface, and the constant running water around the ice. Keeping your arms over your head for long periods of time keeps the blood flow to them lower than normal, and this makes the hands colder and colder the longer you climb.

Resting Between Climbs

That said, ice climbing is certainly an appealing sport for those who crave adventure. The short ice climbing season in Illinois doesn't allow for much practice or time on the ice, but it does keep the passion alive and flowing all year long in anticipation of the next hard freeze.

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