2018 Recap- Hey That Was Fun- Let’s Do This Every Weekend!


The 2018 Michigan Ice Fest is in the books and 991 participants ascended on Munising, Michigan for what was undoubtedly the largest gathering of ice climbers in the Midwest ever! Climbers from at least 30 different states and 7 different countries were represented this year, as participants traveled from far and wide to enjoy the camaraderie of Midwest climbers and the chance to climb the fat ice formations at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

For a second year in a row we set up an exhibitor display and opened registration on Tuesday at our new headquarters, The Munising Community Center. Based on feedback from last years event, we expanded our demo room and classroom sizes giving participants and volunteers a bit more elbow room. Climbers had the opportunity to shop products, interact with athletes, and talk shop with sales reps from some of the leading manufacturers in the outdoor industry. Registration was set up and again this year, our Sock Sponsor Fits Socks hooked up our early online registrants with brand new socks to keep their feet warm. Thanks Fits for joining us again this year!

Photo by @wilkinsonvisual - www.wilkinsonvisual.com
Photo by @wilkinsonvisual – www.wilkinsonvisual.com

The festival was officially underway on Wednesday as several full courses headed out with our professional athletes.  Our popular Backcountry Adventure Class offered participants an opportunity to head out onto the lakeshore to climb above the open water of Lake Superior.  This year we also upgraded our backcountry shuttles with the help of Zambon’s of Marquette and Westwood High School who did an amazing job constructing a people mover! By adding these upgrades we were able to move classes and participants into the back country efficiently with little or no waiting times.



With near perfect conditions Grand Island was available and climbers reported some of the fattest ice in years.  Besides Grand Island, climbers ventured out along the lakeshore tagging ultra classics, HMR, Dairyland, Twin Towers and a few FA as well! After a fine day of climbing, we were treated to a presentation from Karn Kowshik, a visiting ice climber from India. One of the few ice climbers in his country, Karn shared his passion for finding new waterfall ice routes and the challenges of becoming an ice climber in India.

Photo by @wilkinsonvisual - www.wilkinsonvisual.com
Photo by @wilkinsonvisual – www.wilkinsonvisual.com



Great stories kept coming in all day of climbers hitting the ice in what some would call the best conditions in years!  Grand Island saw groups on the West Shore, Trout Bay and at the East Channel.  Climbers were spread throughout the park picking off the plumb lines and even with the increase in participants, the areas did not seem to be over run.  We were barely 48 hours into Ice Fest and the stoke was already high!

That evening traveling climber Jacob Raab entertained us with his presentation “Improvisation” and had one of the most memorable entrances ever!


Kendra Stritch, hot off the World Cup competition in South Korea,  presented to a packed house on the USAIC.  The USAIC is a non profit organization that supports competitive ice climbing, mixed climbing and dry tooling.

Thursday also was our first evening program in the beautiful Mather Auditorium.  This evening we screened the first Midwest showing of Dirtbag; The Legend of Fred Beckey. This groundbreaking life story of this rebel athlete, who inspired generations with his monumental first ascents, eloquent books and the lifestyle he fearlessly pioneered, was shown for the  first time in this exclusive documentary film, to a sold out audience!


Waking up early Friday morning climbers hit the trails in search of ice. Several groups headed out the Lakeshore Trail, while others walked, skied or snowmobiled out to the backcountry climbs. New this year, we also offered many free classes from Climbers Yoga to Lakeshore Safety, all of which were filled with participants eager to learn new skills.

Most clinics were filled to capacity including our newest offerings.  We were fortunate to secure 17 professional athletes, almost triple the amount of previous years, to instruct our clinics and offer some amazing learning opportunities for our participants, all of which wouldn’t have been possible without our sponsors. With fantastic ice, and even some sunshine, it seemed like everyone who came through the doors of the Community Center on Friday night were all smiles and full of energy!

Photo by @wilkinsonvisual - www.wilkinsonvisual.com
Photo by @wilkinsonvisual – www.wilkinsonvisual.com

The Friday evening programs at Mather started off with one of the most memorable presentations in recent history.  Arc Terx athlete Jesse Huey had a planking contest (in your underwear) during the show with the winner scoring a pair of Cassin Ice Axes!

Photo by @wilkinsonvisual - www.wilkinsonvisual.com
Photo by @wilkinsonvisual – www.wilkinsonvisual.com

Our final show of the evening was brought to us by our Gold Level Sponsor Mountain Hardwear.  Over the years we have tried to get East Coast fixture Freddie Wilkinson to our event and we were so happy the folks at Mountain Hardwear made that happen!

Photo by @wilkinsonvisual - www.wilkinsonvisual.com
Photo by @wilkinsonvisual – www.wilkinsonvisual.com

The rest of the evening back at headquarters, you could find people browsing the booths of Mountaineer Bob, American Alpine Club, socializing with other climbers from around the country, and then heading on over to our after party where there was sampling Ice Fest brews from the Ore Dock, introducing themselves to the athletes and reps that were scattered around the room or, of course, talking about the crazy amount of ice and plans to go to Grand Island that soon became the common denominator of all Ice Fest 2018 stories.


Photo by @wilkinsonvisual - www.wilkinsonvisual.com
Photo by @wilkinsonvisual – www.wilkinsonvisual.com

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 to take a course, whether entry-level or advanced, from one the most accomplished climbers in the country. Sent to the festival from our sponsors, these athletes work with our participants to give them the tools to be successful. Talented, patient, funny and some of the nicest people in the industry, these climbers are what make Michigan Ice Fest so darn fun (and welcoming!)



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 high winds greeted the participants but most climbers were able to top out on their first climbs. Hundreds of people were challenged throughout the day with a variety of climbs set up. Morning excitement gave way to an afternoon exhaustion that can only come from climbing hard in cold temps and Lake Superior gusts. Not all was cold though, being Valentines weekend there was some love in the air as two participants, John and Stacey who met at last years ice fest, ascended side by side routes and ended up getting engaged at the top out!  Congrats to them and way to go pulling that proposal off!


Saturdays presentation schedule started off at the Falling Rock Cafe for a late afternoon talk and book signing from Dave Pagel. Dave has been a fixture of the Midwestern climbing scene ever since he wrote his first article for Climbing magazine (the much-anthologized “Mind Games”) in 1984. In the years since, Dave has published story after story recounting his self-effacing everyman adventures on classic climbs ranging from rock solid El Cap to Utah’s crumbling Titan, from his humble home cliffs on Minnesota’s North Shore to the Eiger’s legendary North Face. In 2015, his collection of published writings, Cold Feet, Stories of a Middling Climber, was shortlisted for the prestigious Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature.


Photo by @wilkinsonvisual - www.wilkinsonvisual.com
Photo by @wilkinsonvisual – www.wilkinsonvisual.com

With a long day of climbing, for some, their third or fourth in a row, everyone converged upon Mather Auditorium for the highly anticipated Saturday night presentation by Angela Vanwiemeersch & Sasha Diguilian and the premier of the Red Bull Video shot at Pictured Rocks. With a packed auditorium of 800 plus  people the ladies kicked off the evening with an entertaining presentation of their pursuit of first ascents in the area.

Photo by @wilkinsonvisual - www.wilkinsonvisual.com
Photo by @wilkinsonvisual – www.wilkinsonvisual.com

Finally, the evenings feature presentation was from Cody ice pioneer Aaron Mulkey. Few are as dedicated to ice climbing exploration as Aaron, who has spent the last decade systematically scouring the canyons of northern Wyoming for undiscovered ice lines. Seeking untouched frozen treasures deep within Wyoming’s toughest mountain terrain, he often trudges for days in his boots, testing his own limits, and the patience of his climbing partners. The show, set to a crowd pleasing 80’s sound track, ripped through amazing first ascents that Aaron has put up over the years

The evening concluded with the now famous Michigan Ice Fest raffle where we gave out over $10,000.00 of gear and clothing to some very excited climbers. Soft shells, belay parkas, ropes, crampons, packs, tools, screws, and ice boots were only a few of the items raffled off to the biggest Saturday night crowd we’ve ever had!

After the show the excited crowd gathered on the city shuttles and headed over to the Community Center for poster signings, or off to the blow out after party at 387 with a live music from Trailer Hitch.


With all the changes we’ve seen this year, and with 991 registrants, 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 160 new members to the American Alpine Club, and exposed hundreds of first-time climbers to the sport of ice climbing, not to mention all the professional athletes who were able to experience the cold and masochistic world of Midwest ice climbing for the first time.

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 on 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. Feeling some retrospective 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.

Photo by @wilkinsonvisual - www.wilkinsonvisual.com
Photo by @wilkinsonvisual – www.wilkinsonvisual.com

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 and their support for the Michigan Ice Fest!

Our Title Sponsor Black Diamond


La Sportiva




Sterling Rope

FITS Socks



The North Face

Arc Teryx

Mountain Hardwear


Deuter / Big Agnus



Photo by @wilkinsonvisual - www.wilkinsonvisual.com
Photo by @wilkinsonvisual – www.wilkinsonvisual.com

And finally we can’t thank our athletes enough.  Over the years they have shared their expertise and knowledge to hundreds of Michigan Ice Fest participants giving them a solid foundation to help them to enjoy the sport we love and to help keep them safe while out climbing.  The 2018 lineup was as strong as it has ever been- to the following we are forever in debt. Many of these athletes are guides and would love to see Michigan Ice Fest participants in the future.  Want another adventure?  Be sure to click on their links to see where they might be able to take you!

Carlos Buhler

Anne Gilbert Chase

Karsten Delap

Anna Pfaff

Angela VanWiemeersch

Mark Wilford

Aaron Mulkey

Ari Novak

John Walsh

Jesse Huey

Freddie Wilkinson

Sam Magro

Ben Erdmann

Raphael Slawinski


Thank you so much for being part of the Michigan Ice Fest this year! The festival is a gathering of our tribe and we are so thankful that climbers from all over the Midwest continue to come up and celebrate everything that is Michigan Ice. We hope you had an enjoyable experience and you can be sure that we are already working on bringing you the best Ice Fest in 2019! Be sure to keep up with what is happening with the Michigan Ice Fest through our blog at michiganicefest.com, instagram, youtube, or on our facebook page!


ICE FEST February 13-17th 2019