This is a story of place, a scrappy corner of Midwestern flyover land that happens to be home to one of North America's largest concentrations of climbable ice.
Due to be released in Winter 2016, Michigan Ice will share the untold story of the history, geology and wild natural beauty of the Lake Superior shoreline near Munising, Michigan on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Munising, Michigan, population 2,500, is home to Grand Island National Recreation Area and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The town boasts one stoplight, 6 bars—and 100 named ice climbs within 20 miles, making it one of the largest concentrations of climbable ice in North America.
Ice climbing uses ratings ranging from WI1 through WI7. Munising has a handful of truly world class climbs, full rope length WI5's over the open water of the world's largest body of fresh water, Lake Superior. It’s rare to find sheer vertical climbs above crashing waves and the gnashing of bobbing ice chunks, but they exist here in the American Midwest. That's the imagery that will stun audiences, but the true gift in Munising is the abundance of approachable ice for beginners and intermediates. There are sweet 30 to 70 foot climbs in the village limits that can be easily top roped. Many of these are highly aesthetic, totally vertical free standing pillars. It's a great training ground of abundant, natural, accessible, vertical ice with a long season (Nov-April generally) and light use.
The story line of the film is just that—this is the Midwest's training ground. Since the early 1980s Midwesterners with mountaineering dreams have cut their teeth on Michigan ice, before venturing out to the alpine world.
The film will weave the stories of the region’s original climbing pioneers with tales from some of climbing’s more well known athletes with a connection to Michigan: Sam Elias (the Michigan native has never climbed in his home state, but we’re bringing him back for a homecoming), Raphael Slawinsky (Raf first climbed ice in the Midwest while a student in Chicago) and Ben Erdmann (Ben grew up in nearby Marquette and learned to climb in Munising). We’ll also check in with Kelly Cordes, Mark Wilford, Barry Blanchard and Will Mayo who’ve all been a part of the Michigan Ice story.
The film will also feature the increasingly popular Michigan Ice Fest. The festival, one of the oldest climbing festivals in North America, brings around 500 climbers to tiny Munising every February for four days of learning, presentations, giveaways and zany hijinks. Michigan Ice fest is a laid back, down home family reunion style climbing festival where attendees crowd into the upstairs of a bar downtown and average joes can swap stories with world class climbers after a day of clinics.
We’ll look at how ice climbing is helping sustainably reshape the winter economy of the region through active travel. Preregistration for Michigan Ice Fest 2015 shows participants from 13 states and nearly 200 area codes.
Clear & Cold Cinema is the bootstrap collaborative production crew of writer, photographer and filmmaker Aaron Peterson. We are dedicated to sharing the stories of the Lake Superior region. There are authentic, untold stories along the shores of this inland sea, and we believe a globally significant landscape to go with them. Joining Peterson for the Michigan Ice film are Mike Wilkinson, Dan Englund and Ryan Stephens and numerous others who want to see this project come to life.
We began filming Michigan Ice during the brutal winter of 2013/2014 at the height of what came to be known as the Polar Vortex. The 32,000 square miles of Lake Superior froze over for the first time since 1996. While the weather was harsh and filming conditions were less than ideal—it made for some very pretty ice and filming opportunities.
Michigan Ice is our second project. In 2013/2014 we released the 20-min action documentary Cold Rolled tracing the history and culture of winter cycling in Marquette, Michigan that led to creation of the world’s first system of dedicated winter single track for fat bikes. The film, sponsored by Salsa Cycles, was a runaway success on the web, was shown at Mountainfilm in Telluride 2014, screened during winter 2014/2015 in partnership with the Banff Mountain film competition and featured by Outside Television.
We’re humbly asking the climbing tribe of the Midwest and all those who appreciate a fresh, authentic story to support this passion project via our Kickstarter campaign. We are also pursuing outdoor industry sponsorship and response has been positive. We feel the success of a crowd funding campaign will show potential sponsors the energy and excitement around this project and help it grow.
Risks and challenges
As with any outdoor project, weather can be a challenge. For the February 2014 filming, sub zero weather with wind chills exceeding -30F presented challenges with the equipment. Just getting to the locations in this film was a challenge. Last year snowmobiles were used since the lake ice was suitable, this year's filming will require skiing into the routes that we are filming. Fortunately the ice is good as of this writing so we know the climbing will be great even though this winter is proving to be a bit more mild.
The crew on this project is well versed in winter backcountry skills and travel so despite the logistics, there shouldn't be any problems with the final shooting.
The other challenge is that of budget. We are currently working to secure sponsor backing for the project and hope to use this Kickstarter campaign to help show the interest and support from the community to see this through. The network of folks involved in this production has a wide reach in the industry and we feel confident the remaining budget pieces will come together.
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