2012 Michigan Ice Fest Recap

Jon Jugenheimer leading the Dryer Hose photo Matt Abbotts

The 2012 Michigan Ice Fest is in the books and 337 participants were greeted with extremely mild temperatures and what turned out to be a lean ice year.   Eight different states were represented this year with participants traveling as far as Kentucky and Colorado- coming to Munising to enjoy the camaraderie of Midwest climbers and the chance to climb at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.  The big story this year has been the weather and the randomness of what climbs were formed.  Go figure…..the ultra classic Dairyland was in, but Memorial Falls was not, Sweet Mother Moses was in but Tannery Falls was not.


New this year, the  Fest started with an Introduction to Ice Course, and a Top Rope Anchor Course on Thursday where participants spent the day learning he 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.



We kicked off the festival on Thursday night with  the first ever “Participants Slide Show: Beers with Bill” while enjoying a tasty beverage climbers were treated to a collection of slides submitted by Ice Fest participants and set to music.

Dirk VanKoughnett gettin' after it photo Christopher Lemon


With temps still in the mid 30’s climbers hit the trails in search of ice.  Several groups headed out to Miners Lake Falls, Miners Beach area as well as being dispersed along the lakeshore trail.  The fest also saw an increase in rentals as many took advantage to check out gear and climb in small groups throughout the park.  Two more courses, an Introduction to Ice Course, and a Top Rope Anchor Course 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 Ames Adventure Outdoors, Scarpa and Osprey.  Due to a family illness, Roger Strong was unable to make it to last years Fest, but fortunately for us Gold Sponsor Arc Teryx sent Roger out this year to instruct and present.  Roger thrilled the crowd with slides and video from his days as a crab captain on the first two seasons of the Discovery Channels Deadliest Catch, climbing ice bergs, ice routes in the northwest, and finally an amazing story of a serious ski accident he was involved in last year.


Because of a monster snowstorm in Colorado, perennial Ice Fest athlete Mark Wilford was unable to attend so our second slide show of the evening had to be cancelled.  The rest of the evening you could find people browsing the booths of Bob The Mountaineer and Down Wind Sports looking to score a few deals!


As usual we got the ball rolling early with equipment hand out for Ice Fest Courses.  The 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 Roger Strong, Barry Blanchard, and Vince Anderson.  After getting the courses set and on their way it was time to hook up participants with demo gear.  This year the line to pick up gear was exceptionally long running down stairs and winding through the restaurant.  For the first time in Ice Fest history we were able outfit everyone who showed up to demo gear!  All of our demo sponsors really stepped up this year by sending larger demo kits and it was certainly appreciated!

The Demo area at the Curtains also saw changes this year with a shortage of ice to climb.  Most years we are able to hang ten ropes for participants to climb….this year we squeaked by with five ropes.   Hundreds of climbers were challenged throughout the day with a variety of difficult climbs set up.

After a long day of climbing, everyone converged upon Sydney’s for the Saturday evening social and free beer provided by La Sportiva.  With a standing room only crowd, our first presentation of the evening was from Vince Anderson. In 2005, Vince, along with Steve House pioneered a direct new route on the Rupal Face of 8126-meter (26,660-foot) Nanga Parbat. The 4100-meter (13,500-foot) face had never before been climbed in alpine style and their alpine-style ascent is one the boldest Himalayan ascents to date.  Vince’s humor, delivery, and  passion in telling this remarkable story was inspiring and had the crowd in awe.  A huge thank you goes out to Gold Level sponsor Patagonia for sending Vince to the Fest!

Our final presentation of the night was from Ice Fest favorite Barry Blanchard.  A fantastic story teller, Barry reminisced about past climbing partners, including Kevin Doyle and Guy Lacelle -really hitting home on what makes a special climbing partner/friend.  Many beautiful slides showed classic Canadian Rockies routes that were pioneered by Barry and his friends.  The highlight of the presentation for many was Barry giving the insider details on his work as a climbing adviser and safety rigger on a number of Hollywood films including Cliffhanger, and Vertical Limit!

Sue Nott Scholarship winners Sommer and Izabella!

After the shows we introduced Sommer Edwards and Izabella Tancredi as the 2012 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.  Sommer and Izabella 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.  Way to go girls!

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, BD Stinger Crampons, Sterling and Petzl ropes, Osprey Packs, 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 for providing such killer raffle prizes!


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 31 new members to the American Alpine Club, and the Access Fund  and exposed hundreds of first time climbers to the sport of ice climbing.

The reason our event is so successful is because of the assistance we get 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                         josh_nielsen@patagonia.com      dixiemarree@patagonia.com

Arc Teryx                        jwilmers@msn.com

La Sportiva                    iachey@sportiva.com

Black Diamond              tj.kolanko@bdel.com

Scarpa                               Brian@goaao.com

Petzl                                   brad@pembaserves.com

Osprey                             Brian@goaao.com

Grivel                               PeterM@LIBERTYMOUNTAIN.com


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 2013 January 31st-February 3rd


Gold Level Sponsor Steps Up- Arc’teryx Roger Strong And The M280 Harness

One of our gold level sponsors Arc’teryx is really stepping up to the plate this year by sending one of their team athletes, Roger Strong to instruct and present a slide show Friday night.

Roj’s former career was a captain of a commercial crab fishing vessel in the Bering Sea of Alaska: a job he did for over 20 years (You can see him profiled and posing on the first two seasons of the Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch.)

He’s been climbing for nearly 25 years and feels lucky to have climbed all over the globe, opening new rock, mixed, alpine and big wall routes in Alaska, Canada, Mexico and the U.S.  Roj loves being on anything vertical, steep and long, mixed with horrible weather to keep him feeling like he’s still getting his ass kicked on the boat somewhere. He attributes any success that he’s had in the mountains to his close relationships with his wife, family and friends coupled with the rigors he’s endured on the deck of the crab boat.

Besides Roger, Arc’teryx is also sending some of their popular climbing harnesses to demo so participants will be able to check these out and go “hang” out at the demo.  Arc’teryx designed the M280 Mixed Climbing Harness to give demanding ice and mixed climbers a lightweight, comfortable feel with all the features they need and nothing more. Thanks to revolutionary WST construction, this Arc’teryx harness disperses weight throughout the entire width of the waist belt, so it doesn’t need bulky padding. The M280 Harness includes two gear loops to hold your draws and four ice clipper slots to help carry screws and holster tools. Arc’teryx also used mesh leg loops to decrease bulk even further and shave weight to a mere 9.8oz.

Don’t forget to check out one of these sweet harnesses at some point Ice Fest weekend!

Another bonus is that Down Wind sports will also be stocking an array of Arc’teryx clothing in the store and between slide shows participants will be able to shop for killer deals!

Thanks Arc’teryx for committing to support Mid West ice climbers and sending Roger to this years Michigan Ice Fest!


Roger Strong

The closest approximation to king-crab fishing, Roger Strong says, is single-push alpine climbing.  “Only you can’t take rest days in the Bering Sea,” he says. “You basically get your ass kicked for four months straight.”  Strong is an accomplished all-around climber who is best known as the captain on the first two seasons of the Deadliest Catch on the Discovery channel.  Read the complete Rock and Ice article here!

Roger grew up in Denver, Colorado scrambling up peaks and skiing with his family. After high school, he pursued commercial fishing to allow time to follow his passions in the mountains. As the Captain of a crab-fishing vessel in the Bering Sea, Alaska has allowed him to Rock and Ice climb 6-8 months a year. Roger lives in Seattle, Washington and is one of the leading activists in modern mixed climbing in the Pacific Northwest. His first ascent of Guru, Washington’s first M9, a couple of years ago and most recently, Ghost Dog, that state’s first M11, has inspired new attitudes towards the Northwest’s fickle winter season. Roger has climbed in Spain, Mexico, Canada, Alaska and all over the Western United States and red-pointed the Cineplex test pieces, Rocky Mountain Horror Show (M11+) and Musashi (M12), In Alberta, Canada.

He has established Big Wall test pieces in Yosemite and Washington, and loves being on anything vertical for long periods of time. Along with Rob Owens and Sean Isaac, the support of the Arcteryx Evolution-in-Action Grant and Mugs Stump Award, they established a difficult new route up the North Face of Kichatna Spire, calling it The Voice of Unreason. Roger attributes any success he has in the mountains to the basis he has gained from the rigors of crab fishing and his close relationships with climbing partners, including his wife and many friends. Roger also confides that more important than the difficulties or ratings that attracts his pursuits, is the freedom and experience you have while getting there, believing there is no such thing as failure.

One of the nicest climbers you will ever meet, this won’t be Rogers first rodeo at the Michigan Ice Fest.  He was a featured presenter and instructor at the 2006 fest and we are very fortunate to have him back.   A big thank you goes out to our Gold Level sponsor, Arc Teryx for sending Roger to our event.