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Category Archives: Ice Climbing

One of the things on my bucket list has been to attend the Michigan Ice Fest. It has always been a problem because it was on the same weekend as the Hudson Hot Air Affair and the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race. This year the all took place on separate weekends so my wife and I decided to headed over to Munising for the Ice Fest. It had been a cold two weeks prior to the start of the Ice Fest but wouldn’t you know that on the first day of the Fest it was 40+ degrees. Still climbing conditions were good. We stopped at Fest headquarters at caught a shuttle out to the climbing areas. Although we are frequent visitors to Munising in the Spring and Fall we had never visited in the winter so we didn’t know what to expect. We had hopped that it would be possible to get to some of the spectacular climbing areas along the shoreline or at Grand Island but that wasn’t possible so we were confined to the climbing areas along Sand Point Road. The shuttle dropped us off at the Curtains where some climbing classes were being held.

More photos from the Michigan Ice Fest can be found on my website.

At Opening Curtain we watched for quite a while. Looked like the climbers were having fun. It reminded me of my climbing days but that was 50 years ago. I might have caught the bug again and since they hold classes at the Sandstone Ice Festival and I may give it a try again.

We walked down to the Curtains and watched a different climbing class work on the ice walls.

Our final stop of the day was Dryer Hose. Dryer Hose was open climbing so climbers who were a little more experienced were climbing here. We watched a couple of climbers go up the wall. The last one was carrying ropes and webbing. Apparently there was a climber rigging at the top of the climb and he had forgotten some gear he need so another climber was bringing up what he needed.

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Gooseberry Falls State Park is a popular place for ice climbing but this is the first time I had seen any climbers. It looked to be an instructional session. This was taking place at the lower falls. The lower falls splits and this section was an ice wall and the other section was a waterfalls. More photos from Gooseberry Falls can be found on my website.

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The Sandstone Ice Festival is this weekend. It will be cold but it’s been colder and I’m sure they are happy to have the cold weather so they can make some great ice. Typically it is held in December but warm weather as made it difficult to make ice. This year they shouldn’t have a problem. If you have some time it is well worth taking in. Here are a few images from previous years. More images can be found on my website.

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An article on Ice Climbing on the Wisconsin Trails website features and interview with Jason Cook, owner of Chicago Rock & Ice Guides. Jason is using one of my photos from the Sandstone Ice Climbing Festival on his website.Ice-Climbing-Sandstone-Ice-Festival-12-12-_1129

 

I first became of the Sandstone Ice Festival several years ago when an Adventure Club at the local University had it on their schedule of events. I looked it up and decided it would be worth a trip over to see what was going on. I had been heavily involved in snow and ice climbing in a previous life and wanted to see how much things had changed.

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As it turned out the weekend of the Festival was a major storm and we were snowed in for several days. I put it on the schedule for the next year but as it turned out the weather was really warm and I figured they wouldn’t have much ice for climbing since most of the ice around here had melted.

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This year was to be my third attempt. The weather was warm but I noticed on their website that they were using man made ice so it was more likely they would have ice. The Festival is held in Robinson Park along the Kettle River and next to Banning State Park.

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I’m not sure why but we seem to have problems finding our way around in Sandstone. After driving through town and not seeing any signs to Riverside Park or the Ice Festival we stopped and asked a few people, all locals. None of them knew about the Ice Festival. We resumed our search and I finally recognized a landmark from a previous visit and headed off to the park.

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We visited on the first day of the Festival figuring it would be less crowed and would give us a chance to look around. On this particular day they were conducting beginning ice climbing lessons on the beginners wall. We watched them for a while and then found out that more climbing was taking place further into the park along the walls formed by the old Banning Sandstone Quarry.

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We watched for a couple of hours as the climbers made their way up the various ice walls. A couple of things that stuck me were the number of women that were climbing. Of course the equipment has changed a lot. The crampons and ice axes had all changed. The harnesses are now all webbing. In my day we made our harnesses out of rope.

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Since the Festival is held in the Ice Park that is used throughout the ice climbing season we plan on stopping if we are in the area on a weekend because there will likely be someone climbing.

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More photos from the Sandstone Ice Festival can be found on my website.