So far it appears not too many climbers are going to give the Wyoming Ice Festival the cold shoulder.
“We have some clinics with a few openings,” festival owner and professional climber Aaron Mulkey said. “I anticipate we will be fully sold out by the time it starts.”
Mulkey, his company Cold Fear, and event organizer Janie Curtis have put together a three-day event in Cody starting Friday that will attract climbers of all levels from around the world, and welcome instructors in the top of their fields, he said.
Few areas provide the kind of ice climbing opportunities as Cody does.
“I have traveled all over the world and the South Fork is the highest concentration of ice in the lower 48 states,” Mulkey said. “It is one of the best places in the world if you ask any ice climber that has been here.”
Climbing is skyrocketing in popularity, and those looking for a chance to learn more and sharpen their ice climbing skills will have plenty of opportunities this weekend.
The ice festival features 10 clinics per day, five group clinics and five two-on-one clinics.
Certified guides will provide instruction including a pair of locals from Wyoming Mountain Guides. Six instructors will head to Cody from Bozeman’s Montana Alpine Guides.
“There are more ice climbers in Cody than there have ever been, which is pretty amazing,” Mulkey said. “There are more and more dedicated ice climbers that have moved to Cody specifically for the ice.”
It was the ice climbing on the South Fork that brought Mulkey here in the first place in 1997, after which he set up a website dedicated to updating climbing conditions in the valley.
“All of the climbing will be in the South Fork valley except for one or two clinics that will be held up the Clarks Fork by Pilot Creek,” Mulkey said. “There are some really good clinic areas there.”
The recent cold spell could have put a damper on things as far as conditions go, but so far this year has been ideal for ice climbing.
“Really cold is really not good for ice. You usually want more mild temperatures and that kind of pre-thaw that happens,” Mulkey said. “When it gets really cold it kind of locks everything up and keeps things from flowing.”
After coauthoring a guide book for the area a decade ago, Mulkey is updating the information for a new, eager generation of climbers.
“The new guide book is planning to come out next year, which will be a really big help for Cody in the winter,” Mulkey said. “A lot of people come here for ice climbing, and there are some people who want that updated information on what is here and how to get places to climb. The new guide book should be a huge boost for the economy in the winter.”
Ford Bronco is helping sponsor the event and purchased three different clinics which people simply had to apply for, and those clinics had plenty of applications.
Cody Cattle Company will be the headquarters for the event with evening gatherings and beverages sponsored by Snake River Brewing.
“Ice climbers are like everybody else, I think they are people who like climbing in general,” Mulkey said. “A lot of my climbing friends have professional jobs and for a lot of them it’s a good stress relief. You are not really thinking of work or anything else while climbing, just thinking about the moment in time.”