Ice Climbing in Pure Michigan

February’s page of the 2012 Pure Michigan calendar features a photo of an ice climber scaling a frozen waterfall in Munising, one of the state’s most popular destinations for the activity. Garrett Peabody, owner of Peabody Ice Climbing Club in Fenton, shares some insights into this exciting sport and why Michigan is such a popular destination for it.

Q: How does somebody get started with ice climbing?

A: Ice climbing is a lot like rock climbing with respect to movement and belay systems. Understanding those concepts helps when getting started, though they can be learned quickly. Climbing outdoors or in a climbing gym is a great place to practice those skills in a controlled environment. That said, ice climbing requires additional considerations because of conditions and needed equipment.

Q: What equipment do you need?

A: Clothing suitable for cold temperatures with a water resistant shell is best. Harness, boots, ice axes, crampons, helmet and gloves. Eye protection helps too. The equipment is technical, and it helps to have a knowledgeable person go through its features and functions prior to using.

Q: Do you need any special skills?

A: A sense of awareness helps. Ice climbing involves inherent risk. The risk can be addressed by being aware of the situation and learning from others with experience.

Q: Where can you ice climb around Michigan?

A: Most of the climbing in Michigan is focused along the shore of Lake Superior in Munising. There are literally miles of sandstone cliff lined with hundreds of frozen waterfalls ranging from 20 to 210 ft tall.

Q: Do people travel to Michigan to ice climb?

A: Absolutely. Many come from surrounding states as we are home to one of the best ice climbing regions in the country.

Q: Do you have any tips for ice climbers – regardless of experience?

A: Communication is key. Climbing is an individual and team pursuit combined. Being aware of your and your partner’s combination of ability and experience is inherent to safety and success.

Q: How can people learn more about ice climbing?

A: The Michigan Ice Fest in Munising in early February is the best way to see and experience the sport firsthand in its true element. It is hosted by Downwind Sports out of Marquette. Interested individuals can demo equipment, participate in a clinic with a professional climber, view slide shows of their trips, do some climbing and see the scenery. There is a lot of info online. Alternatively, interested parties can contact us if they have questions.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the Peabody Ice Climbing Club?

A: Peabody Ice Climbing Club is an ice climbing venue. Two towers, 45 and 72 ft tall, are iced over in the winter to offer a place for experienced ice climbers to train. Trying out ice climbing on these towers also provides a great introduction to people interested in the sport. The club is located on an old apple orchard south of Fenton. We provide gear and instruction. See our Facebook page for conditions and  general information. Call us at (810)433-3304 or e-mail us at peabodyiceclimbing@gmail.com with questions.