Over the last 5 years participation at the ice fest, and climbing around the central Upper Peninsula, has grown a ton. That growth has brought a lot of good things to the area but has also brought an increased risk of accidents. More climbers has meant an increased revenue at Ice Fest and we are committed to using that money in a way that benefits climbers. In the past we’ve launched scholarship for young female and local climbers. Now we’re improving the safety for everyone who comes to the area to climb.
We put together a team of local climbers and Ice Fest guides and outfitted them with equipment to help local agencies in case an accident happens. We’re calling the team Superior High Angle Rescue Professionals, or S.H.A.R.P. Technical rope rescue is a highly sophisticated and documented skill set that requires extensive training, practice and skills maintenance and we were very fortunate to team up with Sam Magro and Joe Wagner of Montana Alpine Guides to provide initial training for the 10 participants.
The nature of climbing along PRNL poses significant challenges if a climber is injured or unable to ascend the climb. The park service and coast guard are very skilled at rescues but given our unique terrain there are certain instances that call for technical rope rescues. Ice climbing and backcountry travel activities have inherent risks and sometimes accidents happen and when they do, the members of Superior High Angle Rescue Professionals will be able to respond.
The intense, 40-hour training course focused on knots; anchors; rope rescue systems, high angle rescue techniques, mechanical advantage systems; belay techniques, twin tensioned belays, lowering systems; rope ascension, raising and lowering systems, system safety factors; and litter rigging and tending.
With the blessing of the Park Service, the group consisting of local climbers, many who are Michigan Ice Fest Guides, headed into the backcountry for practical training. Scenarios were set up and systems were practiced, critiqued, debriefed and repeated.
With the skills and knowledge acquired in the course the team will continue to practice on a monthly basis and develop a working relationship with local agencies to provide high angle rescue services for the local community.
A huge thank you goes out to Michigan Ice Fest participants who have supported the Ice Fest over the years making programs like this possible. We hope to never utilize the team, but if there is a call and need for a high angle rescue we are confident that with the skills acquired that we can be of use to the Park service and local agencies of the Upper Peninsula.