Why would you ice climb?

Kyra Bremer
Kyra Bremer climbing at Cascade.
(Courtesy of Kyra Bremer)

When Kyra Bremer is ice climbing, there is a moment when everything slows down.

"Winter has that hush to it. If you walk on ice it makes noise. Your ice axes make noise, the weight of your body makes noise," she said. "It allows me to focus."

Bremer, 41, was born in Two Harbors, Minn., and started climbing after the birth of her second child. Fifteen years later she's teaching ice climbing at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

She said the international ice climbing community is surprisingly intimate. It's a small enough group that Bremer knows five of the seven climbers from North America who went to the Winter Olympics in Sochi. The sport was showcased there for the first time in a first step for consideration as an official sport.

"Both my kids grew up in the community and from age 5 on were climbing," Bremer said. "It's something that I think has a place for every level that you are at. The people are so excited to share their joy and enthusiasm."

Kyra Bremer
Kyra Bremer ice climbing at Tempest in Canada.
(Courtesy of Kyra Bremer by Dean Einerson)

The ice climbing season in Minnesota begins in early December and usually wraps up in early March. This winter's extreme cold has made it possible to climb even longer, Bremer said.

Cascade waterfall near Grand Marais is one of Bremer's favorite places to climb in Minnesota. Ice climbers hike in and rappel down from the top of the water fall into an area without footprints.

"No one goes there," Bremer said. "You lower down into this pristine snow and climb up ice not many people see."

Bremer's advice to absolute beginners who want to try the sport is to connect with a university's outdoor program or try out a clinic led by experienced climbers at an ice climbing festival. She said two of the most popular nearby festivals are the Sandstone Ice Festival and Nipigon Ice Fest in Ontario, which Bremer organizes.

The main danger of ice climbing comes not from a fall but by being struck by falling ice while you are waiting to climb or leaving the area, Bremer said.

She said climbing has helped her learn to use her individual skills.

"Someone with powerful arms can use their arms. I have powerful legs. My center of balance might be different than the next person's," Bremer said. "I am able to use my own strengths."