Ice Picks Echo Over the Hills of Fenton, MI, by Macrae Stone

There comes a time when you have to reexamine where you are in the spectrum of strength, courage, and vigor. I did exactly that when I went to Fenton Michigan’s annual Ice Fest last weekend. With the journey from Detroit being over an hour, the all you could eat chili and bottomless cup of beer for 20 dollars kept morale at a steady high. I was ill prepared for the temperatures of Fenton, but the warm faces and personalities kindled my dwindling hearth of a body.

When I approached the entrance to the festival I first saw the tower of ice through a pocket in the thicket of tall brush. The sun soaring high over the tower backlit the ice in a palate of greens and blues. It was gorgeous. There was plenty of places to park and almost everyone there greeted you with a smile. I ran into fellow rock climbers from my gym at Wayne State. They were clothed appropriately for the ice. My leather jacket and crude hoody paled in comparison to their insulated thermal jackets. I believe at that moment my toes were just beginning to be nipped at by the frosty conditions. We made haste to the tower of ice. The orchestra of picks puncturing thick ice guided our nervous hearts through the snow. When we reached the foot of the tower a large chunk of ice gave way on a climber.

“Ice,” he yelled. I went over to the “ice-splinter”. It was large enough to injure someone with a helmet from the height it fell from. Despite the danger everyone laughed, and continued on with their business. Clearly there was a force out here holding these fearless climber’s sanities together that I had yet to experience. I knew then that I had to rent the gear, and make a path up that tower. I had to act quick because the tower was slowly slimming its options of where to climb.

It was 35 dollars to rent the gear, a fair price for an experience so rare as this. The sun was making its slow decent beneath the surrounding foliage of the Peabody’s apple farm as I tested my picks against the ice. Soon, I was ascending the tower. Every movement was careful. Gripping the ice picks was the most difficult part of the climb, and I soon realized in those first movements that this sport was of a different caliber than anything else I have attempted before.

Once my toes had become certainly numb I made my way for the barn. The festival, by this time, had collected a substantial amount of attenders and the farm’s main barn had plenty room to shelter them all from the dropping temperature. The people I had climbed with earlier notified me that a band was to play. Ice climbing, unlimited chili, beer, and a band? Obviously the Peabodys know how to fashion an excellent festival. I spoke with many of the Peabody’s and their close relatives, while enjoying the food and spirits, and they all were friendly and welcomed my questions. This Ice Fest was the 5th making the festival a 5 year old event. It may just be in its fledgling years, but at the rate Ice Fest is growing the Peabodys are going to need a bigger barn.