Michigan Ice Fest 2015 Recap


The 2015 Michigan Ice Fest is in the books and 492 participants ascended on Munising Michigan for what was the largest gathering of ice climbers in the Midwest ever!  Climbers from 13 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!



The festival got underway on Thursday with Introduction to Ice Courses, 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 the Lakeshore Trail and take advantage of the great ice conditions.   Sunny and 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 third annual  “Participants Slide Show: Beers with Bill III”.  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 20 degrees, 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.  Introduction to Ice Courses, a Women’s Into to Ice, a Top Rope Anchor Course as well as a Rigging and Rescue course were filled to capacity and went out for a day of instruction and climbing.




Friday evenings programs started off with a climbing social and free beer sponsored by Salewa.  Exciting news of a new guidebook coming to the Canadian side of Lake Superior and a short slide show on climbs in the Agawa Canyon area started off the evening’s festivities.  The first presenter originally from Marquette, was Ben Erdmann and now a proud climbing bum.  Fresh off the mountains of Patagonia, Ben entertained the crowd with shots of his adventures.  We are so proud of Ben and what he has accomplished in his climbing career!


We are so happy that Title Sponsor La Sportiva sent Will Mayo out for a second straight year to instruct and present.  For the last few years Will has been literally on fire putting up and climbing some of the hardest mixed routes in North America.  Friday evenings presentation was highlighted by Will’s trip to Alaska with Josh Wharton – the two completed a new route on Huntington, Scorched Granite (4,200′, M7 AI6), just two days after leaving home in Colorado!


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, Anna Pfaff, Raphael Slawinski, and Barry Blanchard.  Again this year, our Gold Sponsor Fits Socks hooked up course participants with brand new socks to keep their feet warm during classes!  Thanks Fits for joining us again this year!



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.  Besides our long time sponsors of the demo- Sterling Ropes, Black Diamond, Petzl, Scarpa, Salewa, Asolo, Camp, Cassin, Grivel- Liberty Mountain, Patagonia, Hopp Outdoors, University of Minnesota, and the Ridge Roamers.  Saturday morning saw long lines of participants winding through Sydney’s waiting to score their gear.  It was close but we outfitted nearly 275 participants with the latest ice gear!  We thank everyone for their patience and we are working to secure more demo gear for next years event.


Gold Level sponsors Black Diamond and Patagonia graciously supplied their Stance Belay Parkas to the Michigan Ice Fest participants to keep the participants warm and happy throughout the weekend.


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.  Mild temperatures and a light snowfall greeted 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 Dry Ice Tools.  During the shows we introduced Leigha as the 2015 Sue Nott Scholarship winner.  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. 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.  Leigha was selected from the applications and was 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 Leigha!


With a standing room only crowd, our first presentation of the evening was from Cold Clear Cinema on a new film project called Michigan Ice. Producer Aaron Peterson premiered the trailer and answered questions on the film.  Be sure to make it to the 2016 Michigan Ice Fest as we will have the world premiere of this beautiful film!
Raphael Slawinski followed with a wonderful show highlighting the spectacular climbing in the Canadian Rockies as well as his amazing climb of K6 in Pakastan.  A plethora of amazing ice and mixed routes filled the screen as Raphael described various routes he has established and climbed over the years.   A huge thank you goes out to our Title Sponsor Black Diamond for hooking us up with a class act like Raphael.

Our final presentation of the night was from Ice Fest favorite Barry Blanchard.  One of North America’s top alpinists, Barry read excerpts from his new book The Calling: A Life Rocked by Mountains.  Entertaining, funny, and poetic, Barry never disappoints delivering a great show.  Questions and a book signing followed this amazing show.



As usual the evening concluded with the Michigan Ice Fest raffle where we gave out over $6000.00 of gear and clothing to some very excited climbers.  Soft shells, belay parkas,  Sterling Ropes, Cassin crampons, Mountain Hardwear parkas, Patagonia packs and jackets, GoPro, Petzl Nomics and La Sportiva ice boots were only a few of the items raffled off!



More mild temps greeted our Intro to Ice  and Intro to Leading participants which made for comfortable 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 34 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.

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  Maddog Lynch, Mario Molin, Linda Wappner, Bryan DeAgustine,  Neil Poglese, the Schneiderhan’s, Ian Hahn, Colten Morre, Alec Berghoef


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!

Patagonia                       dixiemarree@patagonia.com   Jimmy.Hopper@patagonia.com

La Sportiva                  erussell@sportiva.com

Black Diamond            Holly.Merriman@bdel.com

Scarpa                                mark@scarpa.com

Petzl                               james@figure8sales.com        codette@petzl.com

Grivel                               peterm@libertymountain.com

Sterling Rope                 marketing@sterlingrope.com

FITS Socks                       help@fitssock.com

Salewa                               info@salewa.us   nrgsales1@gmail.com

Asolo                                 cbf106@asolo-usa.com

Camp USA                      glen@camp-usa.com




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 michiganicefest.com or on our facebook page!



ICE FEST 2016 February 11-14th