On a recent UP scouting trip Trevor Meers, Midwest Living’s executive editor, tests his stamina while ice climbing and marvels at Lake Superior while snowshoeing.
It’s exhilarating and very demanding of the upper body, legs and circulatory system (your fingers feel frostbit after the exertion of a climb). A climb of less than 20 feet left me gassed, but ready for another attempt after about a 15-minute break. The good news for those who want to try is that there’s a ton of good spots for it around this area, and you can do it cheaply. Down Wind Sports in Marquette offers all-day climbing seminars on falls at Munising for $25.
Climbing requires you to strap crampons onto your feet (spikes that let your boots grip the ice), tie into a climbing harness (so a buddy keeps you from cracking your melon on the rocks below when you fall from the ice face), wear a helmet and wield a couple of ice axes you’ll use to pull yourself up the ice.
We climbed on a rock face that ices up from seeping water at the base of Hogback Mountain. The hike in alone was worth the trip, passing through deep snow in silent woods, except for the calling of crows. Deer paths crossed everywhere. The climb sits between the rock face and a small stream. They call it “The Grotto.” Outstanding to just hang out and watch (if you can take the cold).
The annual ice climbing festival in Munising is February 5–7, 2010.
In the world of outdoor sports, snowshoeing is one that’s very doable. If you can walk, you can strap on these big paddle feet and set out into the woods. The Marquette/Munising area is loaded with trails (many of which tie into the North Country Trail, which runs from New York to North Dakota).
Here are a few picks from my travels:
Presque Isle Park – One of the great city parks in the region; more like a state park on the edge of town. When you snowshoe out there in the morning after a fresh snow, you have the place to yourself—except for deer bounding in a photogenic manner across your path. From the cliffs, look down on Superior. The water—choked with ice blocks—swells up and down in an ever-shifting, living action.
Hogback, Sugarloaf, Wetmore’s Pond, Wetmore’s Landing
– These are all trails along County Road 550. The Landing provides easy access to Lake Superior. After about 300 yards through the woods (a beautiful otherworld when snow is gently falling among the towering evergreens), you’re at Superior’s beach. On my visit, the waves had formed great mounds of ice all along the beach, standing about six feet high. I climbed up on them and let the waves’ spray splash over my coat, instantly freezing. Before going out, read up on your polar explorers. Then stand and watch these crashing waves full of ice and think about setting out into that in a rowboat 1,000 miles from any civilization. Marvel. Repeat.
Trevor Meers, executive editor of Midwest Living magazine, is an avid outdoorsman with a special passion for Lake Superior and the UP. His adventures on Superior have included snorkeling on shipwrecks, kayaking, fishing for lake trout, snowshoeing the shoreline, picnicking with woodland caribou and driving the Superior Circle Tour.