The swinging of tools and the kicking of crampons have a unique satisfaction that has to be experienced in order to be realized. With the proliferation of climbers who have been hooked by ice climbing has come the evolution of regional ice climbing festivals. Or, is it the other way around? Either way, ice festivals have gotten a foothold on aspiring winter enthusiasts, alluring people to embrace the frozen landscapes in the wilds near their home.
Ice climbing isn’t limited to the big mountains of the Rockies, but to anywhere water chases gravity down steep hills and cliffs. The numbers of ice climbers are growing, and they are creating their own communities over the course of winter. SCARPA is pleased to help sponsor three festivals that foster these communities, and grow a camaraderie and love of all things icy.
The International Mountain Climbing School is holding its annual Mount Washington Valley Ice Fest this coming Feb 3-5 in North Conway, New Hampshire. Started 18 years ago by local iceman Rick Wilcox, aspiring climbers, veterans and guides alike make their way to the Northeast’s icy bastion to learn, teach, and share stories about climbing ice, traveling over glaciers, moving over mixed terrain, and celebrating travel through the earth’s frozen playgrounds. The “Ice Fest” includes three days of clinics, including a multi-media event on Friday with SCARPA athlete Will Gadd.
About 1000 miles to the West in Munising, Michigan, the Midwesterners are having their own ice fest the same weekend (Feb. 2-5). Over the course of four days of clinics and events, participants at the Michigan Ice Fest can learn the basics of climbing, improve their skills, learn to lead climb, and trade tech tips, as well as check out the latest gear, including SCARPA’s newest winter climbing boots, like the Jorasses Pro and Mt. Blanc.
Lastly, the Lee Vining Ice Festival gets underway Feb. 17-20. The four-day fest takes place in one of Yvon Chouinard’s original winter testing grounds, Lee Vining Canyon, where he first started turning his ice climbing ideas into reality by testing and creating his seminal climbing products.
Ice climbing is complicated. It’s simultaneously fun and scary, cold and sweaty, wet and yet satisfying. But that’s what makes ice climbing unique. And interesting. What makes it real is the community with which to share those experiences. All three fests are as much a celebration of the growing ice climbing camaraderie as they are about learning technique, skills, and an appreciation for playing in winter’s schoolyards.