This past weekend about 1000 climbers, outdoor enthusiasts, photographers, novices, and volunteers were summoned by the boundless blue ice of the great lake, Mother Superior. Venturing from across the globe seeking the thrills of Michigan Ice Fest, a crowd came to the Upper Peninsula. Here’s why you should too!

Photo by Julia Meyer

Down Wind Sports and title sponsor Black Diamond created Michigan Ice Fest out of shear passion for this unique sport and to share this unmatchable terrain and ice with you!

Michigan Ice Fest wants you and the sponsors make it possible!

Black Diamond, Cassin Camp, Deuter, Grivel, Lowa, Mountain Hardwear, The North Face, Arcteryx, Boreal, La Sportiva, Patagonia, Petzl, Rab, Red Bull, Scarpa, Trango, Sterling Rope, Fits, Ore Dock Brewing Company

1. Location

Munising, Michigan a small town on the south shore of Lake Superior and home to the famous Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Grand Island. Here lies a limitless ice climbing mecca that possesses everything from novice to extreme terrain along 40 miles of Superior lakeshore.

Adventures on Grand Island

This icy playground is unique with vertical ice that forms off the cliffs of Lake Superior. There is something truly electrifying about climbing over crashing waves, shore ice, and the open waters of the largest fresh water lake in North America.

Ari Novak, a passionate professional climber explains, “Despite climbing in known ice climbing hot spots, my favorite place to climb ice is Michigan”.

2. Welcomes ALL LEVELS

So far, this might seem a bit intimidating… but don’t turn back too quickly! Although you can push the limits of ice climbing here, you can also put on a harness and grab an ice axe for the first time and ascent all sizes of ice falls.

This is the best place to try ice climbing for the first time or build confidence in the climbing skills you already have. (See #5 for more about that!)

3. Demo Gear

Don’t have the gear? Down Wind Sports has your back! Every year loads of the best climbing gear from a wide range of companies is available for demo throughout the weekend. This is a great way to try the sport and test out different gear for the best climbing. Oh yeah, and its only $40 to demo top of the line gear for the whole weekend!

Photo by Michigan Ice Fest

On Saturday and Sunday the demo wall is open for all participants! This is a section of ice curtains set up with top ropes and belayers for participants to demo gear and climb in a safe environment.

Arni Ronis part owner of Down Wind Sports giving rides on the demo wall

Don’t forget to thank your belayers for the ride!

4. Expo

Down Wind Sports sets up an incredible expo every year, bringing in vendors from all over the outdoor and climbing industries to nerd out with you about the newest gear.

Not only is everything in the expo discounted, there are also gear repairs, screaming deals, and endless equipment knowledge.

Photo by Bert Hopp

5. Classes

There is a method to this madness, believe it or not. Courses are provided all weekend to help you build confidence, learn the techniques of ice climbing, and the safety required.

Photo by Michigan Ice Fest

Whether you are a novice to the sport or leading multiple pitch climbs, there is a course to advance your skills. Professional instructors and athletes from around the world lead classes from intro to ice to full day backcountry excursions.

Courses fill up fast!

6. Safety

Ice climbing can be very intimidating but here at Michigan Ice Fest, safety is the primary concern. With more and more people coming into the backcountry we must assess and prepare for the risks. Here you can learn everything from knot tying, setting up anchors, lake shore safety, and rescue protocol.

For beginners, the venue is ideal with top ropes and belayers available so novice climbers can focus on learning to ascend and leave the safety up to the professionals.

Photo by @shannonlaura

7. Professional Athletes

Every year a number of the world’s extraordinary climbing athletes attend Michigan Ice Fest. Legends such as Conrad Anker, Will Gadd, Sasha Digiulian, Angela Vanwiemeersch, and many more have attended in the past. This is a great opportunity to meet and socialize with the biggest names in the industry.

Photo by Wilkinson Visual curtesy of Michigan Ice Fest

Each evening these athletes give heart wrenching, thrilling presentations that display their unfathomable adventures, everlasting passion, and will to push this sport.

8. Beer

Come for the climbing and stay for the beer! Free beerĀ is provided by Marquette’s famous Ore Dock Brewing Company so everyone can enjoy some of the U.P.’s finest beverages!

This event thrives on socializing, creating relationships, and networking to continue building this rad outdoor community. Every night there is an after party at a different local venue to spread the love and include the whole town in the festivities. The very special and rare thing about this festival is that everything in Munising is walking distance. You can walk to every event, presentation, expo, bar, and after party.

9. Raffle

There is always a chance to win new gear at Michigan Ice Fest. With the best sponsors from the industry you don’t want to miss this! About $10,000 of the prime climbing gear is given away every year, along with prizes for every person who signs up for the American Alpine Club.

There are other ways to win free gear…you’ll have to come and experience all the wacky and weird “unofficial” competitions!

What would you do for a pair of Cassin Ice Tools?

10. Rad Friends

With a thousand like minded people in one small town, there is no way you will leave without making new friends. Learning and building confidence with others in a sport creates a rare bond. Michigan Ice Fest will leave you with cheeks sore from laughing, hearts full with friendships, bellies full of beer, and day dreams of Mother Superior’s blue ice.

Photo by Wilkinson Visual curtesy of Michigan Ice Fest

So there you have it! Put this on your adventure list for February 13 – 17, 2019 and register at Michigan Ice Fest as soon as it opens, the first 100 registrants get a free pair of Fits Socks! Follow Michigan Ice Fest on Facebook and Instagram here!!


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