Ice Conditions 4-13 Not Too Bad!

April 13th, 2014 No comments


After finding disappointing conditions last Thursday along the Lakeshore Trail, I was pleasantly surprised today to find the Sand Point climbs in excellent condition!  Lots of quality ice at the Curtains, and the good news……it looks like it might be around for awhile!


Prelude Curtain and Opening Curtain are as large as I have ever seen them.  We also discovered some short fun climbs that have formed this year climbers right of Prelude Curtain.





It looks like the key to finding climbable climbs is to scout around and find areas that have relatively low snow cover above them.  Everything we found today was snow free and are not getting eaten out from the water above.  With cold temperatures coming back to the area this week it looks like our climbing season will be extended!


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Ice Conditions Report 4-10

April 11th, 2014 No comments


Headed to Munising today under blue bird skies and warm temperatures.  Headed down the Lakeshore trail and soon discovered that with the amount of snow that is still on the ground and our warm temperatures snowshoes are a must!  We also discovered that our beloved ice is deteriorating at a much faster pace then normal. It seems that the heavy snow pack is melting putting much more water into the ground than normal which in turn is eating the ice formations from the inside out.  After scouting for a bit we finally found some small seeps to play on.








With the East Channel climbs falling with a thunderous boom all afternoon, we did not see anyone venturing out towards the island.  Judging by the  ice fishermen just off shore of Sand Point, it looks like the Grand Island season is over.  If you are jonesing for some ice there still is some small seeps available to climb but they don’t seem like they will be around too much longer.  We’ll try again Sunday and let everyone know how they are holding up.


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Ice Conditions 3-16-14

March 17th, 2014 No comments


With winter temperatures not loosening their grip on the Upper Peninsula (minus 10 this morning) conditions are still excellent!  The lake ice is still skiable all the way around Grand Island and along the mainland fro Sand Point to the Chapel area climbs as well.




The lake ice was incredibly skier friendly as there is just enough snow to give you grip and glide and very few pressure ridges to deal with.  Miners Beach has incredible ice bouldering opportunities as the lake ice is piled up forming a mile of bouldering. Under blue bird skies, we skied out to Bridal Veil Falls which we found in amazing shape!






Looks like winter temps are going to hold again this week so make some plans for next weekend and come on up and get some!

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Patagonia Ascensionist Pack

March 4th, 2014 No comments


With our store beginning to transition into spring inventory, it is always nice to see new products flowing on to the sales floor that we really don’t have to wait for nice warm weather to use.  Fresh out of the box we just unpacked the Patagonia Ascensionist Pack that would make the perfect light weight ice climbing or fast packing pack.  Weighing in at a scant 1.4 lbs this ultra light pack is sure to make the spring skiing out to Grand Island more enjoyable!


Patagonia Ascensionist Pack

Designed for one-to-two day speedball ascents in places like Chamonix and Patagonia, this streamlined, yet highly versatile climbing backpack has everything you need, but absolutely nothing more. It features an integrated, asymmetrical spindrift collar that opens wide and closes in a single motion for fast packing. A secondary collar protects your gear from ugly weather, allows serious overstuffing and holds gear securely when the pack is hanging at belays. The removable frame sheet, made from a lightweight aluminum rod and covered with mesh, provides support for weighted loads and moves with you as you bend and flex. Ergonomic shoulder straps (with load lifters) match your torso’s contours for 24-hour comfort, and the hip belt has removable pads for simplicity. Four rows of exterior daisy chains provide lashing options for a rope, helmet and pad; ice tools attach via an integrated buckle and tool pocket. Other details include compression straps to carry skis and cinch down loads, an asymmetric profile for elbow clearance and a zippered pocket on the lid for quick access to small essentials. Made from lightweight yet durable 6.25-oz 210-denier nylon double-ripstop and 6.05-oz 400-denier nylon ripstop, with a 1.8-oz 40-denier nylon double-ripstop lining. All fabrics have a polyurethane coating.

See what Michigan Ice Fest friend Steve House has to say about this pack.


Ice Conditions 3-2-14

March 2nd, 2014 No comments

12891836594_dfebc4471e_zWell the photo says it all….-28 degrees this morning almost had me heading back to Marquette and a warm bed!  Fortunately the plan was to ski to Trout Bay on Grand Island which was almost guaranteed to keep us warm!  With the morning sun cresting over the ridge we made good time skiing from the Grand Island Public Launch to the West Shore of Trout Bay in 1.5 hours.


The lake ice is super solid and it looks like all climbs are still accessible from the lake ice via skis or snowmobile.  As you can imagine, there is more ice formations on both the east side and on the west side this year due to our amazing cold temperatures.




Based on what we saw today, it looks like March will be the perfect time to come up and climb Grand Island in warmer temperatures-its got to be coming soon right? Keep checking back as we will have weekly updates on how long of a season we will have this year!


Ice Conditions Report 2-23-14

February 24th, 2014 No comments


Another great weekend for climbing ice in the Upper Peninsula!  Not to sound like a broken record but conditions are amazing right now and will be for the foreseeable future.  Why?  Well check out the forecast below to see that our temps are holding steady for the remainder of the month.  Could we possible break our record this year and be climbing the second week of May?




Scott Thomas, Michael Donhost, Jack DeAugustine, and Bryan DeAugustine sent in these photos of their outting Saturday. They had sunny skies and fat ice.  It was a beautiful day to be climbing for sure!


Planning on coming up this next weekend?  Pack yer long undies as we are still full on winter!  The lake ice to Grand Island is still solid as is the shore ice along the Lakeshore Trail.

Ice Conditions Report 2-16-14 Michigan Ice Fest Staff Goes Climbing!

February 17th, 2014 No comments


For all of our Michigan Ice Fest fans cold temperatures have not released their grip on the Upper Peninsula (thankfully) and our ice conditions are excellent!  Several of the Michigan Ice Fest staff gathered Sunday to travel out to Grand Island for a wee bit of climbing along the West Shore.  Right now conditions are EPIC with big fat beautiful blue ice and it really looks like long term forecast show the ice is not going to go anywhere anytime soon.  If you haven’t been to Grand Island be sure to get up here in the next month or so as you will be treated to long routes, perfect ice and NO CROWDS!



The West Shore of Grand Island has more routes concentrated together than any other climbing location in the Upper Peninsula!  Only a ten minute snowmobile ride from the Grand Island public access, the West Shore is the closest major ice formation to the mainland.  Unlike the major climbs at Pictured Rock National Lakeshore, many of the West Shore climbs are less than vertical, offering moderate leads well above the waters of Lake Superior.




Death and/or old age is coming…..we must live sweet.
The time is now. Why ration passion?
Dream big…..and climb those dreams.
After all, it is not only life, but the quality of this life.

Mike Libecki

As our good friend Mike says- The time is now!  Don’t wait….start planning your trip up and get after the amazing ice that Grand Island has to offer.  If you have any logistical questions about the island or the climbs don’t hesitate to drop us a line.


Ice Conditions Report 2-9-14 A Small Rant From Bill

February 9th, 2014 1 comment


I really don’t like to rain on anyone’s parade but my newsfeed has been filled lately with notices and photos of the Apostle Islands Ice Caves.  Seems the lakeshore ice in Bayfield Wisconsin has not formed in 5 years shutting people out from exploring the caves.  I keep looking for something that might be climbable but honestly there doesn’t seem too be much ice at all.  What really sent me over the edge was that 8500 people showed up yesterday to explore “the ice caves”.

Ice Caves of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Andrew Burr photo

Ice Caves of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Andrew Burr photo


In my humble opinion the ice cave formations at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore are far “superior” and you don’t have to wait for the lakeshore ice to form to explore them.  On second thought, with 8500 visitors in one day maybe everyone SHOULD go the Apostles to check out the ice!

With an early am start and -6 degree temperatures as you can imagine the ice is still in excellent condition.  The lakeshore trail is firmly packed to every climb (thanks Ice Fest participants!) all the way to Dairyland.


The shore ice is still in and climbs are accessible along the lakeshore as well as Grand Island.  Even with the negative temperatures, surprisingly climbs varied today from bullet proof hard to totally soaked.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly




Giddy Up

Giddy Up



All in all a good day today with a report of great ice conditions, safe travel still available along the lakeshore ice and out to Grand Island, and most importantly only two ice climbers in the park today!

Michigan Ice Fest Recap 2014

February 5th, 2014 1 comment


The 2014 Michigan Ice Fest is in the books and 411 participants ascended on Munising Michigan for what has been the best ice conditions we have seen in decades!  Climbers from ten different states, and two different countries were represented this year with participants coming to enjoy the camaraderie of Midwest climbers and the chance to climb the beautiful ice formations at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Grand Island!


For the second year, the festival got underway on Thursday with an Introduction to Ice Course, and a Top Rope Anchor Course where participants spent the day learning the tricks of the trade out at The Curtains. Many folks new to the Fest were excited to get out on the ice and a chance to climb the vertical pillars that are so common in the park.  Other early arrivers jumped at the chance to get out on Grand Island and take advantage of the lake ice that was formed enabling access to some seldom climbed formations.  An all day snow and somewhat mild temperatures made for an enjoyable day of cragging!


Thursday night with a cold brew in hand, climbers were treated to a collection of slides submitted by Ice Fest participants and set to music, during the second annual  “Participants Slide Show: Beers with Bill II”.  After the show many hung around Sydney’s hatching plans for an early morning departure and dreams of climbing the big routes along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.



Waking up early Friday morning with temps hovering around 11 degrees and a stiff wind blowing snow across Lake Superior, climbers hit the trails in search of ice.  Several groups headed out the Lakeshore Trail, and others walking, skiing or snowmobiling out to Grand Island  The fest also saw an increase in demos as many took advantage to check out gear and climb in small groups throughout the park.  Three more courses, an Introduction to Ice Course, a Top Rope Anchor Course as well as a Rigging and Rescue course taught by Ben Erdmann were filled and went out for a day of instruction and climbing.




Friday evenings festivities started off with a climbing social and free beer sponsored by the American Alpine Club, La Sportiva and Montane.  The first presenter was Ben Erdmann originally from Marquette, and now a proud climbing bum.  When not working on the pipelines,  he is putting up new routes  in the mountains of Alaska, running up big walls in Yosemite, and pioneering first ascents in Patagoina. We are so proud of Ben and what he has accomplished in his climbing career!


We are so glad that Gold Sponsor Black Diamond sent Sam Elias out this year to instruct and present.  This is Sam’s second appearance to the festival and rounded out a night of “Michiganders” as Sam originally hails from the Detroit area.  Sam thrilled the crowd with shots and video from his amazing expedition climbing Mount Everest!


The rest of the evening you could find people browsing the booths of  Mountaineer Bob, The Access Fund /American Alpine Club, socializing with other climbers from around the country, introducing themselves to the athletes and reps,  and heading over to the Down Wind Sports booth looking to score a few deals!



As usual we got the ball rolling early with equipment hand out for Ice Fest Courses.  One of the unique aspects of the Ice Fest is the opportunity of taking a course from one the  most accomplished climbers in the country.  Sent to the festival from one of our Gold Level sponsors, these athletes work with our participants to give them the tools to be successful.  Talented, patient, funny and some of the nicest guys in the industry- these climbers are what make Michigan Ice Fest so darn fun!  Two Intro to Ice, Lead climbing, Women’s Intro to Ice and the Kids courses all filled up fast and participants were treated to instruction provided by Will Mayo, Mark Wilford, Ben Erdmann, Kelly Cordes, and Sam Elias.









Year after year the leading manufactures of ice climbing gear and clothing step up to the plate and send loads of demo gear to our festival for participants to “try before buying”.  We really appreciate the effort and the amount of gear these companies send to help ensure that the demo is a success and that we are able to outfit many first time climbers. Again this year, our Gold Sponsor Fits Socks hooked up demo participants with brand new socks to keep their feet warm at the demo!  Thanks Fits for joining us this year!  Besides our long time sponsors of the demo- Sterling Ropes, Black Diamond, Petzl, Scarpa, Salewa, Grivel Liberty Mountain, Patagonia, Mountain Hardwear, Hopp Outdoors, and the Ridge Roamers, this year we saw new sponsors Asolo, Trango and Camp USA joining us!







After getting the courses set and on their way it was time to hook up demo participants with demo gear.  This year the line to pick up gear was shorter then usual and everyone was able to get outfitted and  get out on the ice!



Gold Level sponsor Black Diamond graciously supplied their Stance Belay Parkas to the Michigan Ice Fest staff to keep the belayers warm and happy during the hundreds of belays throughout the weekend.   The Stance is filled with two independent layers of lightweight, highly compressible PrimaLoft insulation that provide sleeping-bag level warmth, even when wet. The two-way center front zip lets you wear the jacket over your harness while belaying, (check out Matt belaying above) and oversized hand, chest and internal drop pockets accommodate gloves,  and other essentials like snicker bars!


The Demo area at The Curtains saw lots of first time ice climbers learning the basics on some of the many routes that were set up.  Cold temperatures and added a bit of a challenge for the participants but determination and grit got most climbers to top out on their first climbs.  Hundreds of climbers were challenged throughout the day with a variety of difficult climbs set up, and excitement filled the air as climbers celebrated their success.



After a long day of climbing, everyone converged upon Sydney’s for the Saturday evening social and free beer provided by La Sportiva and Montane and the American Alpine Club.  Before the shows we introduced Olivia and Ava as the 2014 Sue Nott Scholarship winners.  Down Wind Sports has created the Sue Nott Scholarship with the purpose to promote, inspire, and introduce young females to the sport of ice climbing. The girls had to submit a letter of why they wanted to participate, a letter of recommendation from someone other then their parents, and their report card.  Ava and Olivia were selected from the largest group of girls ever to submit applications and were provided with free entry into the fest and the Women’s Intro To Ice Course.   It is always one of our favorite parts of the whole weekend- way to go girls!


With a standing room only crowd, our first presentation of the evening was from Will Mayo.  A huge thank you goes out to our Title Sponsor La Sportiva for hooking us up with a class act like Will.  A plethora of amazing ice and mixed routes filled the screen as Will described various routes he has established and climbed over the years.

Our final presentation of the night was from Ice Fest favorite Kelly Cordes.  With his third time returning to the fest, Kelly is a  fantastic story teller, keeping the crowd entertained with his exploites, adventures, and accidents over the years.   An amazing show, if you ever get a chance to see a Kelly Cordes presentation- don’t miss it!


As usual the evening concluded with the Michigan Ice Fest raffle where we gave out over $4000.00 of gear and clothing to some very excited climbers.  Soft shells, belay parkas,  Petzl ropes, Cassin crampons Mountain Hardwear Packs, Patagonia Footwear and fleece, Salewa shoes and La Sportiva Nepal Evo ice boots were only a few of the items raffled off!  A big shout out to Patagonia, La Sportiva, Mountain Hardwear, Sterling, Black Diamond, Petzl and Osprey, Montane, Dry Ice Tools, Prana, Osprey, Marmot, MSR, Outdoor Research, Skhoop, Cassin, Julbo, Sherpa, Alpinist, Red Bull, Black Rocks Brewery, ThermaCell,  Fits Socks for providing such killer raffle prizes!



More cold temps greeted our Intro to Ice  and Intro to Leading participants which made for challenging classes all day long.  The effects of climbing hard all day Saturday and a late night of socializing must have took it toll on climbers as the demo area was a very laid back all day Sunday allowing climbers their choice of routes for most of the day.


All in all it was another great Michigan Ice Festival and we appreciate all of the patronage we get from Midwest climbers.  We are proud to say that over the weekend we were able to sign up 42 new members to the American Alpine Club, and the Access Fund  and exposed hundreds of first time climbers to the sport of ice climbing.

As you look back on your Ice Fest experience we ask you to think about the companies and organizations that you saw this weekend- and if you liked what you saw or tried during the weekend we encourage you to buy local.  Buying local in the Midwest supports the Reps that came, and in turn helps to keep the Michigan Ice Fest alive and healthy.  Having remorse for not buying those mountain boots?  Down Wind Sports is still offering the Ice Fest discount for the next week.  Give them a call at 906-226-7112 or use promo code icefest at their online shop.

We also want to thank all those who volunteered their time, energy, and hard work throughout the weekend.  Without these folks Ice Fest would simply not happen.  A big shout out to Edith Nelson, Maddog Lynch, Mario Molin, Linda Wappner, Bryan DeAgustine, Rob Harwood, Neil Poglese, the Schneiderhan’s and Megan Ostrowski.


The reason our event is so successful is because of the assistance behind the scene from all of our sponsors.  If you were at the event and had fun, enjoyed the presenters, or loved the killer raffle prizes please drop the following sponsors a note to tell them that you appreciate them supporting the Michigan Ice Fest!


La Sportiva          

Black Diamond  




Sterling Rope       

FITS Socks             

Mountain Hardwear




Camp USA            




Thank you so much for being part of the Michigan Ice Fest this year!  Be sure to keep up with what is happening with the Michigan Ice Fest through our blog at or on our facebook page!



ICE FEST 2015  February 5-8th


Ice Conditions Report 1-27-14

January 27th, 2014 No comments


If you have signed up for the Michigan Ice Fest- Congratulations, you will experience the best ice conditions in decades!  Matt from the Michigan Ice Fest staff, bucked up and packed in the approach to HMR and found stellar conditions with loads of shelf ice.  Bitter cold temps this week will ensure  the ice is going nowhere anytime soon.  Lake ice over to Grand Island is in and all climbs are climbable.  We will have announcements at the fest about any snowmobile shuttles.  See you all very soon!


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