Annual ice climbing fest set in Munising

MARQUETTE – Hundreds of ice climbing enthusiasts are expected to flock to Munising this week for an event that holds the distinction of being the oldest ice climbing festival in the country: The Michigan Ice Fest.

While there are about a dozen ice climbing events across the country, Bill Thompson, co-owner of Downwind Sports in Marquette, said Munising’s festival is distinct with 200-foot sandstone cliffs that rise out of Lake Superior.

“It’s an ice climbers paradise,” Thompson said.

He added that while many other climbing events cater to those with a high degree of experience, the Michigan Ice Fest is an opportunity for people who have no experience to try a new sport. A $70 fee covers gear and clothing.

In addition, classes and workshops will be offered beginning Thursday morning and running through Sunday, including some that will be instructed by world renown climbers such as Will Gadd and Zoe Hart.

Gadd has won major titles, including the World Cup and the Winter X Games. Hart is the fourth American woman to receive the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations status, which is the highest level credential available to professional mountain guides.

Gadd and Hart will ice climb, lead workshops and be guest speakers.

Weekend temperatures are expected to hover around 10 degrees, which Thompson said is reasonable weather for this sort of event. Shuttle buses will be offered at Sydney’s in Munising, which serves as headquarters for the event, to take participants to the climbing locations.

At about 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, a slideshow presentation of professional ice climbers will be shown. Admission for the show is $15 per person.

Those who want to participate in the workshops or classes are required to register, as space is limited. To register, call Downwind Sports at 226-7112. For a full list of scheduled events, visit

Abbey Hauswirth can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 240.