Difficulty Meter Less about muscle strength, more about puzzle solving
When frozen waterfalls ice the 200-foot sandstone cliffs of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula, climbers don’t quit coming; they go ice climbing instead. These ax-wielding athletes catch stunning views of Lake Superior as they make their ascent. Ice climbing is a sport that requires instruction, and the Michigan Ice Fest (February 10 to 14, $40, michiganicefest.com) offers one of the country’s best opportunities for newbies. “It’s kind of like you’re going to basketball camp, and you’ve got Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, LeBron James, and Magic Johnson as your instructors,” says Bill Thompson, co-owner of Down Wind Sports, which hosts the event. This year’s instructors include Tim Emmett, who recently completed Canada’s tough-as-nails Helmcken Falls; ’70s climbing great Henry Barber; and young hotshot Jess Roskelley, who conquered South America’s insanely steep Cerro Torre last year. Thompson recommends the all-day, gear-inclusive Introduction to Ice Climbing clinics ($130, no rock-climbing experience required). Your entry fee buys access to evening socials on all five nights. Can’t make the fest? You can still book a group lesson with Down Wind Sports ($130 a person, downwindsports.com), as long as you’ve got at least four in your party.
Body Burn Your arms (you may need help tying your shoes the next day), legs, and analytical brain
Get in Gear Bring thin gloves for climbing and an extra pair for when those get wet.
Stay The Holiday Inn Express Munising-Lakeview (from $104, hiexpressmunising.com) isn’t exactly a five-star resort, but its convenient location on Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore makes it a favorite of Ice Fest fans. Plus, think of all the “But I stayed at a . . .” jokes you can make.
While There Try a hot pasty at Muldoons Pasties & Gifts (muldoonspasties.com). This pot-pie-meets-calzone has been a UP staple since the 1860s, when miners would pocket them until break time.