Ice climbing

2016 Ice Fest Tour

I just ended my ice fest tour for the year. I was able to attend and teach clinics at the Ouray Ice Festival, Mount Washington Valley Ice Festival, and the Michigan Ice Festival. All have there unique qualities and different styles, vibes, and even the ice feels different in all three areas. Here are some of the cool parts of each and recommendations for those thinking of going.

Photo credit: Jeff Rueppel

Photo credit: Jeff Rueppel

Ouray Ice Fest was held January 14th – 17th and most activities take place within walking distance of the center of Ouray. This fest hosts many clinics, gear demos, and slide shows from some of the top alpinists and ice climbers in the world. With Ouray’s mild temperatures (15-35°F) clinics are warm, ice is soft and the days events are all outside. Most of the clinics are held in the Ouray Ice Park which offers some of the best ice in the country due to the ice farmers spraying it every night. Some clinics are held in the “back-country” which is mostly done on Camp Bird Mine Rd, only a few minutes drive. The fest has events every night ranging from slideshows to dance parties and many groups opt to head to the hot springs for dip in the natural pools. The mixed climbing and speed competitions, where you can see the worlds top climbers pushing their limits, is also not to be missed. With the event being in such a small town a car is not really needed and parking is at a minimum so many choose to carpool and then be on foot for the weekend. If you are into back country skiing there is great tours available right outside of town on Red Mountain Pass.

The Mount Washington Valley Ice fest was held Feb 5th-7th this year. While this fest is smaller than the other two I attended it provides some of the best natural ice climbing venues in the U.S.

Photo Credit: Evan Kay

Hosted by IMCS and IME in North Conway, NH; many vendors show up with tons of gear to demo, while local guides and athletes take participants out on the varied ice around the valley to explore and climb. Just as the weather on Mount Washington is varied this fest can have temperature ranges from 0-45°F. This year proved to be on the warmer side, still with plenty of options for ice climbing. This is a fest to have a vehicle as the ice is more spread out and the nightly events happen at the Theater in the Woods, a few miles from the mornings activities. With the rich climbing history of New England this is an event not to miss.


karsten climbing ice

Photo Credit: Jeff Witt

The final ice fest I attended was the Michigan Ice Fest on the 10th-14th of February. Yes, you read that right, Michigan.michigan ice climbing dryer hose The Midwest has a hidden gem here that over 700 folks drive from hours away to participate in the festivities and of course climb some ice. The entire town of Munising comes together to help put this (the oldest ice fest) on. The event is mostly held at the American Legion with free shuttles to the slide shows at the elementary school as well taking you back to the local hotels. The clinics are mostly held right off Sandpoint road with options to do back country clinics with fairly long approaches. The ice is not all that tall but does pack a punch as it is mostly pillars falling over the sandstone cliffs over looking Lake Superior. This region is some of the coldest temps I have ever climbed in so definitely bring your puffy and an extra set of long underwear. Many companies show up to demo gear and Bill from Downwind Sports has many great deals for purchasing new. When you are there be sure to try the local cuisine and grab a pastie at the American Legion.

Hope to see you all at one of these fantastic venues next year!

I would like to thank all my sponsors for supporting me in getting to these events. Without them it wouldn’t be possible.


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