Ice Conditions Report 3-20-23

Happy Spring Everyone!

One of the unique characteristics of ice climbing at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is that may of the climbs are not exposed to the sun making them safe to climb well into spring! Longer days, warmer temperatures and of course, hero ice make March and April our favorite times to climb ice! Sand Point Road is one area where the sun never really hits the ice making for climbable ice well into spring.

The back country of PRNL is another story. Out along the Lakeshore Trail many climbs ARE EXPOSED TO THE SUN, which forces climbers to make the decision whether it is say to climb a climb or not. What makes this so difficult, is that there’s no clear-cut guidelines telling you when you can and cannot go ice climbing. To make a decision, you need to make a call based on your experience and intuition. So what makes a pillar safe to climb?

Obviously the thicker the ice is the more solid it will be. We always look at the cone of a pillar and if it is wide at the base it usually is very supportive of the weight above it. The thinner an ice column is, the higher the chance that it’s going to break when you swing an axe into it or kick into it.

Do your best to judge the thickness of the ice but also inspect the top of the climb where it is attached to the rock. If the climb is exposed to the rock it will tend to melt out there first as the rock heats up.

Reading ice is always an imperfect science. Be sure to listen when you’re swinging and kicking as the ice can tell you a lot about its stability. The sound that is created by swinging your tool will these tell you a lot about how well the ice is bonded to the wall behind it. For climbs exposed to the sun along the Lakeshore Trail, , this is VERY important. If a pillar is vibrating or making hollow sounds, this is a cause for concern and maybe a sign to bail.

If you have doubts, don’t climb it. The consequences are high and the reward is rarely worth it. There’s lots of ice still available.

This last weeks storm and the weekends cold temps have conditions prime right now. Lots of great climbing to be done, just be aware that this time of year conditions change rapidly.


Climbs are in and looking good. The amphitheater should be approached with caution. There’s a big fracture at the bottom and it has many daggers.


The recent storm and cold weather have the backcountry looking good and conditions should hold throughout the week with cloudy days and low overnight temps. The weekend will bring some warmth and sunshine which make for great spring climbing.

Our guides have been out all week and report lots of great climbing. Dairyland, Rappin’ Ice, Sweet Mother Moses, Miners & Bridalveil Falls, Midnight Rambler, and HMR are all in good shape.

Weather and ice conditions can change hourly and what may appear to be “good conditions” to one climber may not be so to another. Please remember that just because a conditions report says that a particular climb is “in”, each individual is ultimately responsible for making his/her own climbing decisions.

At Michigan Ice we take pride in being your go to site for current ice climbing conditions for Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore as well as climbs throughout the Upper Peninsula. Planning a trip to Pictured Rocks? We have you covered for all the latest snow and ice conditions on all of your favorite climbs. We also offer a full guide service and are currently booking guided ice climbing trips for the 22/23 season! Check back often for updates, pictures, and trip reports!