MOTLEY, Minn. (AP) -- Bob Wangerin couldn't have answered his ringing cellular phone on a recent weeknight if he had to.
He was 40 feet in the air, holding bright yellow ice axes in each hand. If he could have answered, he could have told the caller he had just reached the summit of the only ice climbing tower in the Midwest for the fourth time.
Wangerin, a Pillager resident, was climbing the 43-foot Ice Osceles Pinnacle ice tower at Camp Shamineau. He was among four students enrolled in Brainerd Community Education's two-session Intro to Ice Climbing class.
''It was something interesting I thought I'd try,'' said Wangerin, who climbed the summit of the Grand Tetons last summer. ''I was getting tired toward the end, but I made it.''
For two students and friends for the last 20 years -- Michelle Holden, of Backus, and Jeanette Wolmutt, of Brainerd -- the class was something they had talked about for the last year.
''This is cool having (the tower) here this close,'' Wolmutt said.
Another student, Barry Frieler, of Lake Shore, liked the class so well he said he was ready to spend $1,000 on climbing equipment.
Bart Broderson, director of Shamineau Adventures, said his staff kept making the tower better and better.
''Now it's pretty exciting,'' he said. In fact, Broderson said he has toured similar towers in Europe and that this tower is still one of the better ones.
This is the first winter the Brainerd Community Education class was offered at the tower. The camp has had similar towers for the last five years. For the last three years the towers have been open to the public.
In 1998, Crow Wing Power donated the three 50-foot power poles for the tower. The tower was made even more stable when galvanized angle iron was bolted to the poles every four feet.
This year's tower only took one week to form. Water dripped from the top for 24 hours a day. The tower was formed by running a water hose up the corner of the tower. Several ''Y'' connectors with their own pressure switches were then screwed into the end of the hose.
Smaller hoses with very fine tips, which farmers use to spray pesticides, were put on each side of the connectors' ends. Two hoses sprayed mist from each side of the tower and two hoses sprayed the inside of the tower. The mist dripped into baling twine that spanned the length of the tower and crisscrossed near the bottom of the tower.
Broderson said the mist also formed long, thin icicles on the angle iron. He said these type of tips helped in forming the ice because they produced a mist that froze more quickly.
Ice towers like this are graded. This tower is rated as a Waterfall Ice five. The highest rating in this class is Waterfall Ice eight.
''We can't make (a tower) any easier,'' said Broderson, who has been climbing for seven years. ''(The tower) is more difficult than it appears.''
But with Broderson and his staff members' training, the class' students should have been well prepared. On the first night, the students learned the basics of climbing for the first hour. That included learning how to use an ice ax, how to use 12-point crampons, a metal device with 12 metal spikes around it that is added to a climber's shoes or boots, and how to use belay equipment.
In belaying, the rope tied to the climber goes up and over a pulley at the top of the tower and then down to the belayer, a person on the ground. As the climber goes up, the belayer is responsible for taking up slack and catching the climber if he falls.
Broderson said his staff make the belaying safer by anchoring the rope to a tree. He said the pulley at the top of the tower is a static pulley and doesn't move. It creates friction over the top of the wheel and cuts a person's weight in half.
Climbers learn how to use the ice ax to hook the tower. They stack the axes on top of each other and use both hands to pull their bodies up, Broderson said.
The next hour the students implemented this knowledge as they attempted to climb the wall.
In the final session, Broderson's partner, Scott Osterhus, taught students more techniques and tips on how to become better climbers.
Osterhus and Broderson team up to teach a rock climbing class from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays at the camp. Holden said the class was a challenge, but something that was achievable. -
(Distributed by The Associated Press)
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