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Will Gadd’s Favorite Ice Festivals: Modern Day Tribal Celebrations

Feb. 21st 2013

I’ve been going to ice climbing festivals for going on 20 years, and I’ve started to notice some themes at these tribal celebrations. Each one is a gathering of the climbing community; I romanticize these gatherings as the modern-day equivalent of the great tribal Pow Wows of centuries past, where the First Nations elders would tell stories, the youngsters would show off their physical prowess through games of skill, and the guy who sold the beer would do very, very well. Today’s festival communal bonfire is the slide show, and the games of skill are represented in the competitions, formal and informal, that always take place. Small sub-groups split off into bars, romances are kindled and broken, children conceived and plans made for hunting the mythical big ice climbs lurking over the horizon like the bison of old. Like I said, it’s a romantic comparison, but I believe in the idea of climbing tribes that are normally spread thin, gathering in celebration of a common idea: climbing icicles.

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