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The Unique Mystique of South Fork Ice

CODY, Wyo. — Dozens of adventurers gathered here over the weekend to strap sharp metal blades to their feet and grip long, pointed axes in each hand before venturing into the Shoshone National Forest in pursuit of their dangerous and elusive prey: frozen waterfalls. Ice climbers from across the country attended the inaugural Wyoming Ice Festival, a four-day event offering clinics, gear demonstrations, a film screening and social gatherings for enthusiasts eager to climb some of the most challenging ice in the country. Less than an hour’s drive southwest of Cody, ice climbers converge each winter in the South Fork Valley to scale literal frozen waterfalls. Some are freestanding columns of ice—gargantuan icicles the size of grain silos—unconnected to anything but the ground below and a cliff edge above. Continue Reading →

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Climbers spar over use of metal tools on popular routes near Cody

A climber scales a rock wall in Shoshone Canyon on Saturday during the 16th Annual Cody Ice Climbing Festival in Cody, Wyo. (Ruffin Prevost/Yellowstone Gate)

Problems with liability insurance and an impromptu decision to send ice climbing students using specialized gear into a favorite rock climbing area have prompted criticism for the organizer of the Cody Ice Climbing Festival, who says he was only trying to make the best of a bad situation. Some local rock climbers are unhappy that ice climbers were using ice axes and spiked footwear over the weekend during a hastily convened beginners climbing clinic held near the Buffalo Bill Dam west of Cody. Continue Reading →

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Cody Ice Fest continues despite avalanche concerns, wild weather

A climber looks for the best route up a rock face in Shoshone Canyon on Saturday during the 16th Annual Cody Ice Climbing Festival in Cody, Wyo.

Climbing frozen waterfalls requires not just physical prowess, but also endurance, versatility and creativity. It was exactly those traits that climbers exhibited during this weekend's Cody Ice Climbing Festival, which persevered despite extreme avalanche dangers and every imaginable kind of weather. Recent heavy snows across northwestern Wyoming have made ice climbing more difficult and risky, prompting festival organizers to move planned climbing clinics to alternate locations, and causing even some experienced climbers to abandon planned backcountry trips. Continue Reading →

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Cody Ice Festival celebrates 15 years of climbing frozen waterfalls

Aaron Mulkey climbs a frozen waterfall called Hells Angel on the Upper South Fork of the Shoshone River, about 45 miles southwest of Cody. (File photo by Joel Anderson - click to enlarge)

This weekend, the Cody Ice Festival celebrates its 15th anniversary, and more than 300 people are expected to attend events Feb. 15-18. With help from other local climbers and a growing list of sponsors and partners, local mountaineer Don Foote has organized the event each February to promote the unique collection of frozen waterfalls in the Shoshone National Forest near Cody. Fed by springs, streams and melting snow, the waterfalls freeze over the course of the long, cold winters along the South Fork of the Shoshone River, creating an ever-changing playground for climbers who seek adventure and variety. Continue Reading →

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