Due to some unforeseen circumstances Kyle Dempster and Doug Robinson will not be able to attend the 2015 Michigan Ice Fest.  While we are disappointed that the guys won’t be able to make it this year we will most certainly see them in Michigan next year!  Thanks to some scrambling and hard work by Jon Jugenheimer of Black Diamond, and Brett Merlin of CAMP USA, we are very excited to announce that Raphael Slawinski  and Anna Pfaff will be joining us as instructors/presentors!



Raphael Slawinski

I got into climbing late, in my mid-twenties. And maybe it was for the best, as I’m still excited about it more than twenty years later. It was moving away from the Canadian Rockies to the flatlands of Chicago, where I went to grad school, which got me into climbing. There were no mountains to scramble, so I started rock and ice climbing on small Midwestern cliffs. These days I’m comfortably settled back in Calgary, on the doorstep of the Rockies. Fortunately my job as a physics professor leaves me lots (but never enough!) time to play in my favorite mountain range.

Picture1It’s a good thing I like winter, because it’s really, really long here. There’s so much you can do: ice, mixed, ski … and sometimes, when the motivation’s high and avy hazard low, even winter alpine. Don’t get me wrong though, I love our summers too. High in the shadows of a big limestone north face, looking down on sunlit glaciers and forests far below, is one of the best places I can imagine being.

Ten years ago I discovered the great peaks of the Pakistani Karakoram. There’s something among those giant pyramids of granite and ice, rising above arid, brown valleys, that I haven’t found anywhere else. Whatever it is, it’s drawn me back time and again.

You can check out all things Raphael at his blog by clicking here!


Raphael is being sent to Michigan Ice by our Gold Sponsor Black Diamond!








Anna Pfaff

Anna grew up in Ohio and started climbing when she moved out west in hery early twenties.  Some of her earliest memories of climbing include routes like the Emmons – Winthrop on Mount Rainier, Washington, the Salathe on El Capitan, Yosemite with Jean Readle, the Beckey-Chouinard in The Bugaboos, Canada. She has also climbed and ice-climbed in some of the most spectacular locations on earth. From Patagonia, Kyrgyzstan, Tibet, Pakistan, the Himalaya’s.  More info on Anna to come but in the meantime check out her blog here!

Anna is being sent to Michigan Ice by our Gold Sponsor CAMP USA!







Ben Erdmann

Raphael Slawinski



Will Mayo

Barry Blanchard

Gold Level Sponsor Black Diamond To Send Kyle Dempster!


For years Gold Level Sponsor Black Diamond  has sent amazing athletes to our event  ensuring that we get the highest quality instructors, and are entertained in the evening with inspiring stories of climbing around the world.   This year BD  has graciously agreed to send Kyle Dempster!

Kyle Dempster who hails from the climbing mecca of Salt Lake City, owns a coffee shop, Higher Ground, and wins golden ice axes (known as the Piolet d’Or) for his ascents around the world, and to top it off, is a Black Diamond sponsored athlete.  Kyle, excited to be at this year’s Ice Fest, eat a pasty for possibly his first time in his life, and experience the Big Lake in winter.  Kyle began climbing with his cousin, Drew in 1994 at the age of 12 and partook on his first international expedition to Canada’s Baffin Island in 2005 at the age of 21 again with Drew. This trip, a turning point in his life in which he nearly gave up climbing, with Drew’s passing brought Kyle back to Baffin Island again to make peace with his memory.  Since then, he has been traveling the world from Pakistan to China climbing high altitude walls with many ascents around home in the Western US climbing ice and rock.


One of Kyle’s latest trips was a bike tour across Kyrgyzstan, inspired by his father who is a long time cyclist from Salt lake City.  He spent two months solo biking across the country, climbing many peaks along the way.  He learned a lot about the bike, himself and how much food he could carry at once with the goal of biking into a mountain range, climbing a peak and having a large enough food reserve for bad weather and biking back out to resupply.  It was a grand adventure and his hope is that the trip can be inspirational to other climbers seeking alternative modes of climbing transportation.


 So stoked to have Kyle joining the ranks of athletes who have presented/instructed at the Michigan Ice Fest!  Thanks again to our Gold Sponsor Black Diamond for making it possible for Kyle to be at this years Michigan Ice Fest!


Patagonia Sends Barry Blanchard To Michigan Ice!


Michigan Ice Fest is proud to announce that our good friend Barry Blanchard will be joining us again (use Canadian accent when saying “again”) instructing our courses and headlining the Saturday evening presentations.  We are so fortunate to have our Gold Sponsor Patagonia for sending Barry to the event!

Barry Blanchard is known world wide as the modern father of Canadian alpine mountaineering and hard ice climbs.  Often described as the “Bonatti of the Rockies,” and Canada’s greatest alpinist, the Canmore-based writer and photographer spends his time romping around the globe in search of adventure on high alpine faces.  Barry is an internationally certified UIAGM guide and frequently works as a safety coordinator for Hollywood. He has been featured ice climbing in the IMAX Extreme film and Vertical Limit. His exploits include the first ascent of the epic North Pillar of North Twin, first ascents in winter on the north faces of Les Droites and two successful expeditions to Mt. Everest. In 2002 he opened a new route on the Emperor Face of Mt. Robson. It was Barry’s seventh start over many years, and partners Eric Dumerac and Philippe Pellet insisted on the name Infinite Patience (VI, WI5, M5, 5.9). In addition to recent routes on the southwest face of East Kahiltna Peak, the southeast ridge of Mt. Asperity and the north face of Bravo Peak.


As if it is not enough just to have Barry at our event- this year will be a bonus as Barry’s new book, The Calling A Life Rocked by Mountains will be available!

With heart-pounding descriptions of avalanches and treacherous ascents, Barry Blanchard chronicles his transformation from a poor Native American/white kid from the wrong side of the tracks to one of the most respected alpinists in the world. At thirteen, he learned to rappel when he joined the 1292 Lord Strathcone’s Horse Army Cadets. Soon kicked out for insubordination, he was already hooked on climbing and saw alpinism as a way to make his single mother proud and end his family’s cycle of poverty. He describes early climbs attempted with nothing to guide him but written trail descriptions and the cajones of youth. He slowly acquires the skills, equipment and partners necessary to tackle more and more difficult climbs, farther and farther afield: throughout the Canadian Rockies, into Alaska and the French Alps and on to Everest, Peru, and the challenging mountains in Pakistan. From each he learns lessons that only nature and extreme endeavor can teach.

Gripped Magazine called his memoir, The Calling: A Life Rocked by Mountains (Patagonia, October 2014), “the most anticipated book of 2014.”  The Calling is the story of the culture of climbing in the days of punk rock, spurred on by the rhythm of adrenaline and the arrogance of youth. It is also a portrait of the power of the mountains to lift us – physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually – and the depths of relationships based on total trust in the person at the other end of a rope.

The book includes climbs with top climbers such as Kevin Doyle, Mark Twight, David Cheesmond and Ward Robinson, with killer photos and even Barry’s song playlist! Thanks again to our Gold Sponsor Patagonia for making it possible for Barry to be at this years Michigan Ice Fest!




Patagonia Ascensionist Pack


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.


Michigan Ice Fest Recap 2014


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


Title Sponsor La Sportiva To Send Will Mayo!

For years La Sportiva has been very generous by sending huge amounts of demo boots so that participants can test out the latest and greatest ice climbing gear.
La Sportiva,  our Title Sponsor, has also sent amazing athletes to our event  ensuring that we get the highest quality instructors, and are entertained in the evening with inspiring stories of climbing around the world.   This year they are  graciously sending Will Mayo.
“The most captivating aspect of climbing is the manner in which it demands complete focus on the present. In climbing, during a crux section, it’s only right now; it sounds banal, but it actually seems like a rare and precious thing in our day-to-day lives. Everything else just falls away from one’s mind and one is completely engaged in the moment. Climbing allows for a healthy reset of the mind which allows for clarity upon return to our daily grinds. Besides, it’s just plain fun!”


Will has been very busy over the years ticking off notable ascents including:
Le Mulot (WI 6+) and Speedy Gonzales (WI 6+) in Sept-Iles, QC
Three ascents of La Pomme d’Or (WI 6) in La Malbaie, QC
Eight ascents of Omega (WI 5+) on Cannon Cliff, NH
Personal record of 1 hour 27 minutes car to car solo at night of The Black Dike (WI 5), Cannon Cliff, NH
Solo ascent of French Reality (WI 6+, 5.8), Stanley Headway, BC
Solo ascent of Polar Circus w/Pencil (WI 6), Icefields Parkway, AB
Second ascent of The Fecalator, the hardest traditional mixed climb in North America (M10)
First ascents of Superfortress (M13), The Flying Fortress (M13) and Red Beard (M12), Vail, CO
First ascent of the five pitch sport mixed route Nophobia (M11), Waiparous, AB
Onsight first ascent of traditional mixed climb Silhouette (M9, WI 6+), Mt. Evans, CO





Will is an insurance agency owner, father of two teenage girls and is sponsored by La Sportiva and Petzl.  We look forward to having Will join us for the 2014 Michigan Ice Fest and thank everyone at La Sportiva for all of their support over the years!