By Chad Peele
I believe that climbing should be fun, and what better way to have fun than visiting a climbing festival, meeting new people, and seeing new terrain!
I recently attended the Southfork Ice Festival in Cody, WY. Having never been to Cody before, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I quickly found out that its slogan, “The friendliest little ice festival in the Northern Rockies,” was spot on! With a population of just under 9,000 people, Cody offers a quaint atmosphere as well as some very impressive ice climbing just outside of town.
Like all great ice festivals, we gathered on the first night to meet and greet while enjoying a beverage and dinner. Climbers were able to demo free equipment and clothing to use over the weekend as well as meet their clinic instructors. As people settled down with their bellies full and gear in hand, we all went home in anticipation for the first day of climbing.
On Saturday, I joined Don Foote, Jo Josephson, and others to run the beginning ice clinic with 27 participants. After meeting at the Cody Auditorium, we hopped in our vehicles and started the long caravan to Aldrich Creek. Aldrich Creek is a relatively new area and just outside the actual Southfork entrance, currently not in the local guide book. After slowly working our way up the “road” (which I use casually), we parked on top of a ravine, suited up, and descended down into the creek bed. Following the creek bed for about 30 minutes, we came to our first ice flows that were perfect for teaching the fundamentals of ice climbing. I led up and rigged three climbs while others taught the fundamentals of crampons. Once the ropes were up, everybody got on and had a great time. People took turns cycling thru the routes while others warmed themselves by the fire—yes a fire! This was my first time ice climbing anywhere while having a fire to warm up by, and I thought it went over really well!
After finishing up the day, I V-threaded an anchor (drilling two connecting holes into the ice using an ice screw and threading it with cord to make a loop) into the ice and rappelled off back to the ground. One of the cool things about Cody or at least a difference from the Ouray Ice Park is that all the climbs are “ground up” and many do not have permanent anchors, hence the V-thread! We enjoyed our walk and drive back while enjoying Don’s stories of local grizzly attacks and near misses.
Nightly slideshows were shown and a lot of laughs were had during the annual “tough axe” awards and pull up contest. There’s nothing like watching people trying to “cheat” one last pull up! As the night slowed down, we converged on Cody’s local watering hole, The Silver Dollar, and continued our laughing and friendly conversation.
On Sunday, clinics ran again, although many opted to join newfound friends and do some personal exploring and climbing. I met up with a couple of folks from out of town and went to Cabin Creek to explore a couple of routes. The temperatures were very cold that day, and my hands were in constant pain while leading the route. It was still a great time, and we had our fun until it was time to head back into town and enjoy the last evening of festivities.
Sunday evening wrapped up very nicely with another great slideshow, and we all said goodbye as friends and climbers. I can’t wait to see everybody again next year, and until then be safe and have fun!
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