Michigan Ice Fest Recap

Ever wonder what it's like to attend an ice climbing festival? Liberty Mountain Sales Rep, Thad VanDenBerghe walks us through his week in a frozen little wonderland known as Munising, Michigan. Thad attended the event representing Grivel.

We sent out a very large demo fleet of crampons, ice tools and helmets to help support the event.
Total numbers of demos sent
  • Ice tools: 42 total sets (Tech Machine Carbon, Tech Machine, North Machine, Lil Monsters)
  • Crampons: 38 pairs (G-20+, G-22, G14)
  • Helmets: 6 helmets (new Stealth HS)

A comparison of the front point on the traditional G-20 crampon vs the new G-20 Plus that Grivel had available for demos at this year's ice festivals.

The Grivel booth ready to go in Michigan

2/14/18 - Valentines Day
Wednesday I taught an intro to Ice Climbing clinic at the Curtains area.
There were 8 participants in the clinic and I got them all to do a lap on a pair of Grivel tools
During the clinic, one of the participants was climbing in a pair of crampons from a competitor. Halfway up his first lap, HE BROKE THE FRONT POINTS RIGHT OFF THE CRAMPON! This happened in front of the entire clinic. Luckily, I had a both the G-22 and G-20 plus with me. I lent him my pair of G-20 plus and got him back on the ice. This time he cruised the line all the way to the top and came down exclaiming the crampons worked fantastically! After that, everyone wanted to try them.

Grivel athlete and Michigan native Angela VanWiemeersch teaching a women's clinic during the fest


Thursday I spent most of the day in the Grivel booth educating both the public and many of the Down Wind Sports employees about the merits of Grivel and also the broad offerings of Liberty Mountain. I was able to get a lot of facetime with the locals, over all there is a lot of love for Grivel in the area, with people rocking tools and crampons from up to ten years ago!

Also went out in the afternoon and dropped in on Angelas Vanwiemeersch and Anna Pfaff’s womens clinic to bring a big insulated vessel of latte coffee (with almond milk)


My one free day of the festival. Teamed up with Lowa athlete Carlos Buhler and we set out at the crack of dawn for an area classic HMR. https://www.mountainproject.com/route/107482822/hmr

This lakeshore testpiece is guarded by a 7 mile skin in (and out), but once you get out there you are rewarded with a very unique climb that requires you to rappel off of the 200’ cliff edge to a hanging belay right above the crashing waves.

The view from the top of HMR
The money shot of Thad making his way to the top

Saturday was the biggest day of the festival. The lineup for demo gear was at least 100 people long for well over 3 hours. I think in the end Bill Thompson (director of the festival) said that they outfitted close to 500 people! Again myself and Frank and Paulie Abissi manned the Grivel booth and helped move product into the hands of end users.

I also conducted a community education clinic, “gear maintenance and selection.” This class had about 15 participants and we talked about the differences in crampon styles (binding, and front points) and the differences and merits of straight shafted and also recessed grip ice tools. 

Angela leading a pillar while filming for a Redbull video project. Photo: Andy Mann

See more from the shoot here

Later that night was Grivel athlete Angela VanWiemeersch and Sasha DiGiulian's Red Bull movie premiered. Grivel athlete Aaron Mulkey also presentated on his first accents climbing around Cody, WY and out in Norway!


Taught another intro to Ice clinic, this time it was an AM teaser class that was only four hours long and ended at 12:30. Because of this, I was able to sneak away and join up with a couple of fellow festival goers and get a snowmobile ride over to the fabled Grand Island ice climbing areas. 

Map of the island and all the known ice climbs
This was the first time in my 3 years of attending that the ice was frozen enough to allow people and snowmobiles to safely travel across the channel of frozen ice to the island. The Island is covered in incredible blue ice.

Final Thoughts

Michigan Ice Fest is one of the fastest growing ice festivals in the nation while at the same time still capturing the wild and remote feeling many ice climbers seek out. 

With a fantastic Midwest local crowd and an all-star cast of presenters and instructors, this festival continues to guide the stoke of the sport, while also making it accessible to any one interested in giving ice climbing a try! 

Grivel and Liberty Mountain should be very proud to be a part of this special event.

Final Registered climbers count for MIF 2018: 991!

Thad VanDenBerghe is a climber, breakfast food connoisseur, and sales rep at Liberty Mountain.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Thad what a great re-cap! Almost felt like I was there. Can't wait until 2019 to get on the ice with Grivel and the Liberty Mountain crew.