fallen in Munising, where dozens of frozen waterfalls and ice curtains
clung to the porous sandstone cliffs of Lake Superior. It was the first
day of Spring.
Well into March, persistent cold weather and
heavy snow contributed to epic late-season ice climbing conditions at
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
"There's more ice than we can put climbers on up here," said park ranger Bill Smith.
Munising Bay last week, lake ice was frozen solid out to Grand Island,
which is part of Hiawatha National Forest, where a bounty of additional
climbing exists. A 3-day storm on March 20 dumped more than two feet of
snow in the area, Smith said.
These conditions are in contrast to
the same time in 2012, when Michigan experienced an unusually warm
spring, with parts of the Upper Peninsula experiencing warm temperatures
-- into the 70s, Smith said -- in March. Virtually no lake ice remained
and the few ice climbs left were crashing violently to the ground.
But this year, Smith said, things are different.
formations are in and climbing is still very much alive and well here,
so the opportunity will continue for probably another month at least,"
Spring is a prime time to climb ice. During
single-digit temps of mid-winter, ice is brittle. As the temperature
warms, ice softens, making it easier to climb and more pleasant to
Equipment outfitter Down Wind Sports -- located in
Marquette, about an hour from Munising -- offers ice climbing gear for
rent and lessons for anyone looking for thrills and guidance.
not every trip has to require a walk across an icy bay. Several climbs
exist within a short walk from the Sand Point parking area near park
headquarters and dozens more exist further down the lakeshore.
Smith said visitors should check with the park service for weather and lake ice conditions before venturing out.