Monday, February 15, 2010

Michigan Ice

Earlier this month I flew to Michigan for the weekend to attend the Munising Ice Fest. Michigan? Ice climbing? They seem to go together about as well as Alberta and bouldering. But even though the Midwest is not the Rockies (I have been told I have a knack for stating the obvious), there is some excellent ice to be had. The best of it is across the great water, on the north shore of Lake Superior in Ontario. Indeed, the ice and mixed climbing around the various Bays (Thunder, Orient, Kama...) is as good as anything in Colorado or New England. A bold statement perhaps, but just check out the north shore sometime. The south shore is poorer in steep ice, but there are a few gems there as well.

On Sunday afternoon Jon Jugenheimer, Matt Stellner and I skipped the busy scene at the Curtains, an accessible teaching area, and went for a hike along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. When the lake is not frozen, most of the climbs along the shoreline can only be accessed from the top, making them tricky to find as well as somewhat committing. Once you pull the ropes, it is either climb out or swim out. Our objective was Dairyland, an Upper Peninsula classic of wind-sculpted, sediment-stained ice. There is something quite unique in climbing a steep pillar with waves gently lapping at its base and the sun setting over a watery horizon. As my friend James Loveridge says, it is like sea cliff ice climbing. It is sea cliff ice climbing, except the water is not salty. "The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down/ Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee..."

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