Life’s a Pitch: A New Podcast from Michigan Ice Fest

We’re excited to announce that we’re launching a podcast! We hear a lot of great stories through Ice Fest and wanted a way to share them, and the stoke, year round. From pro athletes to participants, life-long crushers to first timers, Life’s a Pitch will tell the stories of the ice climbing community of Great Lakes and beyond.

Check out this teaser as a preview of what’s to come. Improvisation is a key part of climbing, life, and Ice Fest. Hear what our friends Anna PfaffCarlos Buhler, and Jacob Raab have to say about it.

Right now you can listen on our website or on iTunes. We’re new to the podcasting game so if there is somewhere you listen to podcasts that we’re not on just let us know and we’ll do our best.

So give it a listen, tell us what you think, and then tell a friend to share the stoke. You can expect full length episodes to start rolling out over the summer and into the climbing season.


Information and Tips for the 2018 Michigan Ice Fest

We are STOKED for the 2018 Michigan Ice Fest!  Our goal is to make this as much fun as we can.  On this page you’ll find a ton of information and tips about the event and how to make the most of it.  Please read this information carefully.


Festival Sign In

When you arrive in Munising you will need to sign in at the event.  You can come to our headquarters and our friendly staff will get you all set for the weekend. You will get your official lanyard, which is your ticket into all things Ice Fest, as well as any updates to the schedule and any important information.

Our Headquarters

Our headquarters is located at the Central Community Center inside the old elementary school. This will be the center of the Ice Fest Universe.    You’ll get your demo gear here, meet athletes and reps, shop, and see some of the presentations.  If you attended the event last year you’ll find that we’ve changed things up a bit this year.  We’re entering through a different set of doors and are using more of the classrooms.

You can see a map of the building here.


There is a lot going on during the weekend, both on and off the ice, and you don’t want to miss any of it.  There are schedules in the festival guide and at the headquarters.

The schedule is also available here

Demo Gear

If you paid for the demo you have access to our gear for the weekend.  If you did not pay the demo fee, the gear is not included in the $40 registration fee.  If you need gear and didn’t pay for the demo you can send us an email and we can add it to your registration. The preregistration demo fee is $40 but it will go up to $60 at the door so we’d suggest not waiting util you get to Munising.

Every morning after the classes get gear (See event schedule) we start checking out demo gear for the day.  You’ll go to our demo room where our staff will get you fit with the equipment you need.  The line can get quite long on Saturday and Sunday morning so showing up early and being patient goes a long way. You’ll be required to leave a credit card or drivers license in exchange for the gear.  We have a limited number of helmets and harnesses so if you have your own we encourage you to bring it as we will certainly run out of these.  If you don’t have these two critical pieces of gear, it may be a good idea to purchase one.  They are discounted at our headquarters to make it more affordable.

To speed up the demo process and get you more time on the ice we’ve made a few videos to ensure you get everything set before you head out into the cold. Please watch our videos on how to fit your boots and how to fit your crampons.

All demo gear must be returned by 6PM every evening. No exceptions.

Other Gear to Bring

There are some other basics that we don’t provide that will make your class much more enjoyable.  We recommend bringing:

  • Good Attitude – It goes a long way, in both climbing and life
  • Warm Clothes – Dress in layers and how you would usually dress for all day outside.
  • Extra gloves – Thin gloves to climb in and thicker gloves to not climb in. You can never have enough gloves
  • Snacks and Hot Drinks – Keep your energy up and your belly full
  • Camera – This will be an experience you’ll never forget and you’ll want pictures.
  • Backpack  – It’s always nice to have something to carry your gear
  • Skis or snowshoes are really helpful when accessing backcountry climbs


Don’t worry if you don’t have all the gear you want, or if you fall in love with the gear you demo.  Down Wind Sports will have a store setup at Headquarters where they will have all the gear you need and even more that you want, and best of all, everything will be on sale!


We will have a shuttle that runs continuous loops from the headquarters to Sand Point. This is the best way to get around as there is NO PARKING AT SAND POINT. If you are planning on going somewhere other than Sand Point driving is your best option.

Backcountry shuttles may be available to the Miner’s Castle area. Please inquire at headquarters.

 Where to climb

Ice fest is a busy time at Pictured Rocks.  Really busy. But that doesn’t mean that there is no ice to climb.  The popular and easily accessed climbs see huge crowds,  but climbers are friendly and this is Ice Fest so we get the best people in the world attending, share your ropes, share your climbs, share your festival.  We’re a family, let’s make everyones experience a great one.

If you’re looking for a little more solitude and are willing to work for it, grab an Ice Fest staff member.  We can point you in the direction of climbs that receive only a handful of ascents a year.

If you have any questions please feel free to email or call us.  Your experience is our highest priority.

Half Day Teaser Classes

black-diamond-helmet-bannerAre You…

Interested in trying out ice climbing but not ready to commit to spending a whole day out?

Short on time but still want some instruction?

Trying to shorten the ice climbing learning curve but a full day class won’t fit into your budget?

Did you…

Want to sign up for a full day Intro to Ice class but they are sold out?

Well we’ve got a class for you!

Our half day teaser classes cover the same basic ice climbing skills as our full day Intro to Ice classes so you’ll learn the basics of how to move on ice as well as get in some practice climbing.  We have world class instructors and professional climbers teaching these classes and they take place on the same beautiful climbs.  They just don’t last as long.

Combining one of these shorter classes with the gear demo can create a really fun weekend and get you a lot of ice climbing experience.  You’ll get instruction on how to climb and then be able to take the gear out and climb at our demo wall or on your own.

We still have teaser classes available, as well as lot of other great classes, so if you want to learn from the best climbers in a fun and supportive environment head over to our registration page and sign up today!

Register Hereclimber6-demo_v2

Rab Alpha Direct Jacket Review

screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-11-40-52-amWinters in Upper Michigan are unpredictable. One year, you get so much snow you can’t get out your front door, the next year you can mow your lawn on Christmas. One day you’re climbing ice in a t-shirt and the next you’re shivering on belay wearing every layer you own. The key to comfort in these ever changing conditions is apparel that adapts to the weather and the Alpha Direct Jacket from Rab might be one of the most adaptable pieces I’ve seen.

The Alpha Direct is designed to be a cold weather midlayer or a sort-of-cold weather outer layer, making it a piece you will wear day after day, no matter what the conditions bring. I’ve worn it climbing at 20 degrees and under a shell shoveling snow at -5 degrees.

At the heart of the Alpha Directs adaptability is it’s insulation. The Polartec Alpha is one of the most breathable insulations I’ve tested. This allows the jacket to go from standing to moving without having to shed layers. Warmth is subjective but I found the sweet spot for being active in this jacket to be around 10-20 degrees. At those temps I could comfortably wear it to approach an ice climb, get set up, climb, and belay my partner. No swapping layers. The soft fleece interior is super comfortable. Seriously. It feels great next to the skin making it ideal to wear over a t-shirt. The fleece does grab at other layers, but the thumb holes in the stretch cuffs keeps everything in place.The outer fabric is light and highly water resistant Pertex Microlight. The fabric is durable without being stiff and easily sheds heavy snow and even water dripping off of a wet climb. The insulation and shell materials combine to create a light, compressible and especially versatile jacket.

The Alpha Direct is designed for climbers and has tons of features a climber will appreciate. An under-helmet hood is something that I wish more jackets had. It makes it easy to wear two hoods at the same time. When you don’t don’t want the hood it rolls out of the way and stashes with a velcro tab reducing bulk. The Alpha Direct also features a two way zipper and glove friendly zipper pulls, key features when you’re climbing ice.

jacket_3One of the most important aspects of a jackets function is fit. The Alpha Direct has an “Alpine Fit”, which means it’s cut pretty slim. The fit works to reduce bulk as well as making it warmer, but may leave some wearers who are used to roomier jackets feeling a little claustrophobic. I’m 6’2, 170 pounds and usually wear a medium jacket. I found the medium Alpha Direct to fit pretty snuggly across the chest with good length in the body and sleeves. If you prefer a slightly looser fit you may want consider sizing up.

Being made for climbers doesn’t mean that the Alpha Direct isn’t an every day jacket. It transitions easily from home, to climb, to bar and back again. The technical features are wrapped in a stylish package that I was happy to wear out on the town. One unintended feature of the Pertex Microlight shell fabric is its ability to shed dog hair. As the owner two trail dogs it was a nice surprise to get a black jacket that didn’t look like something PETA would disapprove of.

Whether you’re climbing, skiing or digging out the car after the most recent U.P. blizzard, the Rab Alpha Direct will meet your changing needs, and it will do it with style. If you want to check out this sweet jacket, or any of the other winter apparel from Rab, make sure you stop by Ice Fest Headquarters.


Ice Fest 2016: An International Affair

Well, Ice Fest is just over a week away and we just closed our online registration.  Climbers are coming to Munising from all over the world to enjoy the amazing climbing as well as what is shaping up to be the climbing event of the year!

If you missed the online registration don’t worry, you can still sign up at the door. With all of the great presentations, the premier of the Michigan Ice Film and the evening after parties, this is one not to miss!

Check out the map to see where everyone is coming from!

View Michigan Ice Fest 2016 Participants in a full screen map

#MichiganIceFest2016 Photo Contest

Last year's contest winning photo by Emily LaRouche
Last year’s contest winning photo by Emily LaRouche

Last year we introduced a new contest at Ice Fest.  We’ve been seeing participants post some amazing photos over the years, so we decided to reward your creativity.  We launched our photo contest and couldn’t have been more impressed with the results.  Hundreds of incredible images of people climbing, hiking and partying during Ice Fest weekend. So, how could we not do it again?

So without further hesitation, here are the rules for the #MichiganIceFest2016 Photo Contest!

Here’s how it works:

  1. During the weekend of Ice Fest (February 11th -14th) snap some photos. Photos of climbing, socials, approaches, whatever as long as you feel it represents your Ice Fest experience.
  2. Post your photos to social media (Facebook, Twitter or Instagram) with the hashtag #michiganicefest2016. You can enter as many times as you want. Please make sure your privacy settings allow us to view your photos.  We can’t judge what we can’t see.  Feel free to tag us in the photos as well.
  3. When the event is over, all of the photos tagged with #michiganicefest2016 will be judged by a panel of Ice Fest staff. Photos will be judged based on some seriously strict guidelines like exposure, composition and creativity, and coolness.
  4. The panel’s ten favorite photos will be shared on the Michigan Ice Fest Facebook page and the photo with the most likes at the end of one week will be the winner. You must attend the Ice Fest to be eligible and photos need to be taken during the event.

Pretty easy. It doesn’t cost you a dime and we know you’re posting all of your sweet Ice Fest shots anyway, so you might as well try and win something. The prize will include a registration for the 2017 Michigan Ice Fest and a class of your choice at next year’s event. On top of this already stellar prize, we are throwing in gear and clothing from some of our event sponsors. So when you get to Munising make sure you pull out your phone or camera and take your best shot at winning the Michigan Ice Fest 2016 photo contest!

Special Brews from the Ore Dock Brewing Company

We are really excited!  Ice fest 2016 is shaping up to be our best ever and it’s looking like it’s going to be the climbing event of the year for the midwest.

There’s really nothing we like more after a long day of climbing than to relax with our friends and enjoy a beer. Even better if it’s a good beer, and even better than that if it’s a good local beer!  This year we connected with the Ore Dock Brewing Company from just up the road in Marquette.  They love the U.P. as much as we do and were really excited to get involved with Ice Fest.

We put our thinking (drinking?) caps on and came up with three special, Ice Fest only, beers to give away at our climber’s after parties.  We loved it so much we had some stickers made to celebrate.

Make sure you grab a brew, a sticker, and say hello and thank you to the guys from the Ore Dock!

The Black Diamond Brown Ale
A traditional English-style brown ale where the malt-hop balance tends to be even or on the maltier side. We’ll look for a bit more toastiness and nuttiness to find its way into this beer as an offering during the winter months.
Dairyland Coffee Cream Stout
A coffee stout where we utilized Keweenaw Coffee Works’ Borealis blend. What we’ll end up with however is a ‘coffee cream stout’.
Ode to the Dryer Hose
A barrel aged Belgian-style dark blend. It’s complex, with some subtle oaky tones mixing around the maltiness that finishes with a tart fruitiness. It’s got vintage characteristics written all over it with much to be appreciated.

Check out the Cool new Petzl Connect Adjust

Safety is always our primary concern at Michigan Ice Fest. If you’re safe when you’re climbing you get to go home and climb again tomorrow, and that’s what really matters.

connect3So when we saw the new Connect Adjust from Petzl we were really excited. At it’s simplest, it’s a personal anchor system, but infinite adjustability and simple ease of use make it one of the best we’ve seen.

One end is girth hitched to the harness and locking carabiner is fit through the rope adjuster at the other end. A rubber ring keeps the carabiner from turning in the adjuster and facilitates easy clipping.

The Adjust rope adjuster makes for quick, easy and accurate changes to the anchors length anywhere between 15-95cm (6-37in). The rope is dynamic allowing the Connect Adjust to reduce the shock of a very short fall but it does not have an energy absorber and is not meant to take a fall from above the anchor.

connect1Perfect for both ice and rock climbing, the Connect Adjust from Petzl works great in every situation where a personal anchor is needed.  It adds a bit of ease to your safety routine and helps to get you home at the end of the day so you can get back out tomorrow.  We’ll have the Connect Adjust available during Ice Fest and, to keep your pocket book as safe as your climbing, we’ll have them at 20% off!connect2