The biggest and longest running ice climbing festival on the East Coast once again brought together climbers, but this time it was for a 20th anniversary ice fest birthday party! Organized by Rick Wilcox's International Mountain Equipment and the International Mountain Climbing School, the event is the highlight of the year for many ice lovers.

Central Amphitheater Lake Willoughby, VT - photo: © D. Karl
The Black Dike & Fafnir on Cannon Cliff in Franconia Notch, New Hampshire. Photo: © Dave Karl.

Elite climbers flew in from all over the world to offer celebrity guiding opportunities to the climbing school’s clients. Equipment manufacturers set up booths offering the public the chance to demo the latest climbing equipment, and an early look at some of next season’s hot new products, like Petzl’s LASER SPEED ice screws and LIM’ICE screw sharpener.

At the end of each day, a social hour with free pizza and beer provided climbers the chance to rub elbows with their heros as plans were made for the following day on the local cliffs. The evening’s film and slideshow presentations offered an inside look at the determination and commitment required to tackle some of the most significant climbs of the past year.

Trestle Cut at Frankenstein Cliffs in Crawford Notch. Photo: © D. Karl

This year's presenters included Nick Bullock, Kyle Dempster, Peter Doucette, Renan Ozturk, Silas Rossi, Josh Wharton, and Freddie Wilkinson. In 2012, Freddie won the prestigious Piolet d’Or for his first ascent of Saser Kangri II (7,518m) in India. This year Freddie and Renan presented slides and a 10-minute film of their first ascent of the “Tooth Traverse” in Alaska’s Ruth Gorge. A helicopter captured the absolutely amazing footage with a specially equipped gyroscopic mounted camera. It left many speechless and sweaty-palmed. After the presentations, DJ Mon Voyage Neon (aka Tim Keenan) kept the action going.

Over the past 40 years, Rick Wilcox has pioneered many of the most significant ice climbing ascents in New Hampshire. Along the way he also authored the last three ice climbing guidebooks to Northern New England. In addition, Rick has been on over 40 expeditions to Nepal, submitting Mt. Everest in 1991. The staff, guides, and program that Rick and his team assemble each year are very impressive. This year the IMCS guides were joined by guest guides and climbing embassadors including; Freddie and Janet Wilkinson, Majka Burhardt, Mark Synnott, Adam and Caroline George, Emillie Drinkwater, Art Mooney, Matt McCormick, Peter Doucette, Silas Rossi, Conrad Yager, Ben Gilmore, Kevin Mahoney, Bayard Russell, Matt Shove, Lindsay Fixmer, Andrea Charest, and Karsten Delap.

Petzl athlete, Cloudsplitter Mountain Guide and local hero Emillie Drinkwater made the front cover of the local paper.

The American Alpine Club was the primary beneficiary of this year’s event through a silent auction fundraiser with equipment donated by participating vendors and sales reps. Sarah Garlick, regional coordinator of the AAC, supplied the morning coffee and a great smile for everyone. Craig Taylor, an IMCS guide and Mtn. Rescue Service “A” team member, also raised over $2,000 for MRS as he shaved his beard. Apparently the last time that Craig’s chin was bare was back in the early '90s, when Jerry Garcia was still touring with the Grateful Dead. 

After a few beers Freddie, Nick and Janet try to decide where to go tomorrow? See you next year!

Over the course of the three days, 270 client guiding days were completed, with another 300 estimated climbers in town for the demo, and 600 people attending the event’s evening presentations. The amount of beer consumed, stories told, and future climbs planned is too vast to fathom. If you were home watching the Super Bowl, you really blew it! 

– Dave Karl