Chris Pelczarski

Chris Pelczarski of Rapid City climbs Bridal Veil Falls in Spearfish Canyon last winter. Pelczarski received a verbal warning Monday from National Forest Service staffers after climbing the frozen waterfall naked. (Courtesy photo)

An ice climber said Wednesday that he hoped the absurdity of scaling a frozen waterfall in nothing but his boots would brighten a few people's days. 

Exposing himself to the elements definitely surprised one National Forest Service employee. On Monday afternoon, Chris Zoller was driving through Spearfish Canyon when a naked man climbing up Bridal Veil Falls interrupted his view along the scenic byway. A second man, fully clothed, was on the ground photographing the escapade.

"As soon I came around the corner, I kind of realized there was something funny going on there," said Zoller, an assistant fire management officer. "I was pretty flabbergasted, to say the least."

Zoller kept driving but reported the sighting to Bonnie Jones, a forest protection officer. She arrived just as the au naturel climber, back on the ground, was stepping into his clothes.

"He told me it wasn't as cold as you think it might be," Jones said.

The two Black Hills area men told Jones they wanted to make free-soloing -- or climbing without a rope -- a bit more liberating.

"They wanted to have a freeing experience. They thought it might be humorous," Jones said. "They were just goofing off, basically."

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Chris Pelczarski, an avid ice and rock climber from Rapid City, said he certainly did not mean any harm by his spontaneous decision to break out his birthday suit.

"I was just sort of in the moment; it seemed like something fun to do," Pelczarski said of his first nude climb. At the very least, he wanted a few people to drive by and get a few laughs out of the sight.

"The act of something ridiculous is inspiring -- something so far out of the norm that it's just great," Pelczarski said. "Many people will see that, and it will change their day. They could have been having a terrible day. They could have seen a naked guy on a frozen waterfall, and it changes your entire day."

Jones gave the two men verbal warnings. Pelczarski did not realize his act could have violated state law. Climbing in the buff may be covered under the state public indecency law, which says someone has to be annoyed, offended or alarmed by the public display.

"We would prefer that people don't climb naked," Jones said. "It could be distracting if you're driving. If you see a naked guy climbing, you might drive off the road."

Naked or not, the forest service discourages people from climbing Bridal Veil Falls because inexperienced climbers are frequently rescued by the fire department after getting stuck at the top, Jones said.

Contact Holly Meyer at 394-8421 or holly.meyer@rapidcityjournal.com.

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