Climb every mountain,
Search high and low,
Follow every byway,
Every path you know
–The nice old nun in The Sound of Music
I suspect most Shop.Dine.Live. readers are just like me: devilishly good-looking, smart as the blazes, humble beyond compare, and about as coordinated as a kitten after going through the spin cycle in a washing machine. People like us typically look on in awe as people like Jason Cook and Maggie Tu shoot up vertical surfaces like some sort of arachnid-themed superheroes. They are the owners of Twin Cities Rock and Ice, and they want to help us climb rocks and ice.
“I don’t think my story is a whole lot different from most other climbers’,” said Jason. “It usually starts with a love of the outdoors. Once you really get into hiking and camping, you start wanting to scale higher and higher peaks.
“The Great Recession treated me to some time to reconsider whether I really wanted to continue on as a structural engineer. I spent it roaming around – climbing mountains in Montana, Colorado, Canada, throughout the Midwest, and even Peru. I shared my passion with a lot of new people during my travels, and by the time I was ready to settle down again I knew I wanted that to stay a part of my life.
“I founded Chicago Rock and Ice Guide in 2011. It was a small operation, mostly funded by my unemployment savings. On that shoestring budget my acquisition of gear was really slow, but any money I made went right back into my business. Over time I collected the crampons, harnesses, belay devices, helmets, ice tools (what you would call ice axes) and other gear people need to go rock or ice climbing. I guided for anyone who wanted to get out there and start conquering cliffs.
“Rock and ice climbing have become far more popular in the past decade. Back in the ’70s climbers were known as vagabonds living out of their vans, and their equipment wasn’t very reliable. (The amount of drinking and drugs climbers were notorious for doing didn’t help much.) But the climbing community is much more clean-cut these days, with high-tech spring-loaded camming devices and synthetic fiber ropes that prevent whiplash. Now the most dangerous part of a climbing expedition is the drive out there!
“My old guide service more or less went into hiatus once I moved to Wisconsin. But one day I lent some of my gear to Maggie, who told me that I should start renting it out. I looked into it, and it turned out sporting goods retailers in our area offer a really limited selection of climbing gear. With Maggie’s help I fired up Twin Cities Rock and Ice, an equipment rental that doubles as a guide service.
“You truly need a guide’s help when you’re first getting into ice climbing. I’ll help you learn the proper technique you need to keep progressing in skill, so you can move from smaller ice flows all the way up to the tallest mountains. But even if you only want to try ice climbing once, you probably don’t need too much convincing to let an expert show you the ropes, so to speak!
“Many people are surprised by just how much great, accessible ice climbing the Twin Cities area has to offer. We have the Franklin Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis, Homer’s Odyssey in St. Paul, and the Sandstone Ice Park just 90 minutes north of here. Any of these places give you the chance to experience what real ice climbing is all about – forgetting all your worries as you focus on a single, challenging goal with everything you have.”
Jason is right. You’d have to be a special kind of bonkers not to entrust your inaugural ice climb to an expert. And even if you’re a seasoned rock-jock, you can still benefit from Twin Cities Rock and Ice’s vast collection of climbing paraphernalia. The next time you want to tell gravity to go suck a lemon, simply aim your internet browser at tcrockandice.com.
By David Scheller