U.P. offers climbing opportunities year-round


CLIMBING ON UP—There plenty of opportunities to climb and be in the outdoors in the U.P., and none might be better than the opportunity to ice climb with this introduction class. Photo courtesy of Hannah Smith.

Hannah Smith, Contributing Writer

For most people, frozen waterfalls are something to gaze in glory and enjoy from the base of the falls. However, others will stand at the base with ice picks in their hands, crampons on their feet and have the determination to get to the top.

Ice climbing has become an intense sport loved by many. It has gotten extremely popular in the U.P. where there are a lot of frozen waterfalls waiting to be climbed. Students at Northern are not excluded from this infatuation of this outdoor winter activity. Over the weekend of Feb. 18 and March 11,  NMU’s recreation department held an Intro to Ice Climbing class at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

The three-day class consisted of a course that included an introduction to what one should do to prepare for the trip. Students learned what to wear to stay warm, got fitted with the proper equipment and learned some basic climbing skills. The following day students drove from campus to Pictured Rocks. It was there that students, led by professor Scott Drum and Ice Climber and instructor Bill Thompson, set out on a short hike through knee-deep snow to Twin Falls — a pair of frozen waterfalls secluded in the woods.

“Ice climbing isn’t an activity where people can walk into a store and go out and climb for the first time that day,” Thompson said, who is a part-owner of Down Wind Sports. “They need someone to go out and show them the ropes, so it is important to share and teach people about something I have a lot of passion for.”

Different top rope configurations were set up by Tyler Davis, a student in the class so that other students would be able to begin their adventure as soon as they tied in.

“Climbing can be and is one the most inclusive sports,” Davis said. “There are truly no similarities between ice climbing and rock climbing other than you are climbing something using a rope. However, the joy and challenge that you feel in both ice and rock are the same; that feeling is something worth experiencing year-round.”

Although this class is unconventional compared to the typical classroom setting found at Northern it is a unique class that you can’t find at many other universities. The second Intro to Ice Climbing class is held in March and will be held every winter semester. Both Drum and Thompson have taught this course for many years. Thompson also helps run Michigan Ice Fest, an annual event where ice climbers from around the country come together and share their love of climbing in the National Lakeshore.

This class is also welcome to any student no matter what their climbing experience is. Lara Hazzard, a first-time ice climber and student in the class, admitted that she was excited to join the climbing community.

“This was the first class where I felt so comfortable right off the bat,” Hazzard said. “Everybody was so adventurous and friendly, it really felt like a big adventure.”

There are other ways students can explore climbing at NMU and the Marquette area. The PEIF climbing wall hosts open climb nights on Mondays and Wednesdays from 6-9 p.m. Anyone no matter their skill level can come and try their hand on the indoor wall on these nights. You can also become belay certified at the PEIF so you can climb with another certified partner anytime the wall is open. You can find out more information about the Outdoor Recreation Center and the indoor climbing wall by emailing [email protected] or calling the Outdoor Rec Center at 906-227-1369. You can also find more information on their website.

The South Superior Climbing Club is a student organization at NMU that always welcomes new members. SSCC will often host climbing events and trips on both indoor and outdoor walls. If you want to learn more about this student organization you can find them on The Hub or email the club president Micah Carroll at [email protected].

The Marquette Climbing Co-Op is a local house in Marquette with indoor climbing walls. This house has an open-door policy where anyone is welcome to come and climb in a fun and unique environment. The goal of this cooperative is to create a living and community space for local climbers.

Down Wind Sports allows anyone wanting to learn how to ice climb to not only rent proper equipment but purchase guided trips to Pictured Rocks where you can spend the day on the face of a frozen waterfall, Thompson said. No matter if it’s rock or ice there are many opportunities for students and community members alike to get involved with the climbing community.

“With Pictured Rocks and Grand Island being right in our backyard, students have a unique opportunity to experience the winter,” Thompson said.