Braving the cold: GV students to travel to Ice Fest

Courtesy: Hanna Nordbeck

Courtesy: Hanna Nordbeck

Autumn Babas

From Friday, Feb. 15 through Sunday, Feb. 17, professional ice climbing athletes from all over the world are flying to Munising, Mich. for the annual Michigan Ice Festival. Grand Valley State University community members will be joining the climbers in a thrilling weekend, inviting students to conquer world-class ice on the frozen waterfalls of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. 

GVSU’s Climbing Center and the Hospitality and Tourism Management Department is transporting a group of 15 to 20 students to Ice Fest. Lakers will get to meet these great climbers, learn along side them, and participate in contests and giveaways. 

The festival is hosted by Downwind Sports, an Upper Peninsula-based gear shop. No previous experience of climbing is needed to attend this public event. 

“If you can swing a hammer and climb a ladder, then you can ice climb,” said Assistant Director of Campus Recreation Joe Bitely. 

Although no experience is needed, GVSU will host an intro to ice climbing workshop to help students navigate the techniques of climbing. 

There will be a small non-refundable deposit of $50 to help cover the costs of lodging. The total cost of the trip will be $150 for the entire weekend. Additional costs may include food, gas and workshops. Necessary equipment, gear and clothing will be provided by the GVSU Climbing Center and participants will be fitted for rental equipment. 

Beyond tactical applications, Ice Fest gives students to meet some of the , well-known sponsors fly in mountaineers and professional climbers. Students will have the chance to get autographs, meet and even climb with them. Meanwhile, sponsors have donated thousands of dollars in outdoor prizes that students will have the opportunity of winning. 

“Sponsors donate all kinds of really quality prizes for students such as coats, backpacks and ice climbing gear,” Bitely said. “For students that win, it totally outweighs the cost of the trip.”

Instead of being locked inside all day, Ice Fest provides students the opportunity to get out and partake in a physical activity even during cold temperatures. 

Students aren’t left in the dark when learning how to climb. There will be a demo area with ropes and volunteers to help guide them along the way. 

“Volunteers help tie your ropes and give you pointers as you go up and down,” Bitely said. “A lot of the time, those same volunteers are professionals, so you’re getting great advice from people who do this for a living.” 

The professional climbers will put on presentations Friday and Saturday evenings. These presentations will display a variety of climbing they have done all over the world, including Mount Everest.

“A lot of people are learning the sport and then they come back all excited and can hear their instructor up on stage telling stories of their adventures,” Thompson said. 

GVSU is one of many universities that are planning on attending Ice Fest. Going with a university provides a lot of opportunities to socialize and build friendships in a unique setting. 

“You get to stay in a hotel with new people and get to know them,” said GVSU junior Hanna Nordbeck. “The U.P. is also so gorgeous, seeing everything frozen.” 

This will be GVSU’s eleventh visit to the Michigan Ice Fest. Bitely hopes to give students the chance of a lifetime to partake in something they will never forget.