CLIMBING SLIPPERY SLOPES
Try ice climbing, an extreme winter sport
By Taylor Weeks
Minnesota is known for chilly, white-blanketed winters. The snow and cold doesn’t keep Minnesotans inside, though. Popular winter sport options include sledding, snowshoeing, skiing (downhill or cross country) and ice climbing.
Yes, ice climbing.
Ice climbing is a winterized version of rock climbing. Instead of plain rocks, you scale frozen waterfalls, icefalls, or cliffs covered in frozen waterflows. Ice climbing involves much of the same equipment as traditional climbing, such as carabiners, a climbing harness and a helmet. In addition, you also need crampons, spiky metal plates that attach to your boots for added grip on ice and snow, and an ice axe. Don’t worry if you don’t have this unique equipment—there are several locations with rental options around the state of Minnesota. Many locations also offer classes to learn how to participate in this extreme sport, too—after all, Minnesota, specifically the Lake Superior region, is the third best ice climbing destination in North America. Ice climbing is considered easier than rock climbing, too. With rock climbing, the climber’s route must follow a crack or line; with ice climbing, the climber doesn’t have that restriction and can go anywhere on the wall. People both young and old can participate in ice climbing; it comes in all levels, from easy to challenging.
There are two major ice climbing festivals that take place every winter. The first, Sandstone Ice Festival, takes place in Robinson Park in Sandstone. This year, the festival was Jan. 5-7, celebrating its 13th annual year. The second festival is gearing up for its 3rd annual winter rendezvous: Duluth Ice & Mixed Fest is coming up on Feb. 2-4, and will be held at Casket Quarry in Duluth. Both of these festivals offer ice climbing clinics for youth to adults, as well as additional activities for non-climbers.
Additional Class Location Options
- Hard Water Sports in Sandstone
- North Shore Adventure Park in Silver Bay
- Stone Harbor Wilderness Supply in Grand Marais
- Vertical Endeavors in Duluth
Rental Location Options
- Equipment may be rented from one of the above locations or from the University of Minnesota Recreation and Wellness Center at the Twin Cities and Duluth campuses.
A Sampling of Climbing Location Options
- In the Twin Cities area, visit:
- Up North, visit:
- In Southeast Minnesota, visit:
- Winona Ice Park in Winona