'Glow-In-Dark' Ice Climbing

Photo © Frank Cook

This time of year, while people decorate homes and trees with strings of lights for the holidays, climbers at the Sandstone Ice Park in Minnesota illuminate columns of ice to create a vivid scene and a unique climbing experience.

Climbers and winter enthusiasts flocked to the quiet town of Sandstone, Minn., earlier this month for the 10th annual Sandstone Ice Festival. The weekend event draws dedicated climbers and hikers who come to see the celebration of winter.

The Fest offers a weekend of ice climbing, free climbing technique clinics, winter camping, and an always-engrossing presentation by a local or national climber of note.

Sandstone Ice Park, during the day and at night. Photos by Sean Foster (right) and Jeff Alley

Once the sun sinks behind the surrounding forest, the lights behind the ice blaze a warming glow. This is the third season that light ropes have been employed by climbers and the local community to create the one-of-a-kind display.

See our coverage of last year’s illuminated ice climbing here

But this year the lighted ice meant something more — the illumination was put together in part to honor St. Paul climber Mark Mahaney, who was taken by the Liberty Ridge route of Mount Rainer in the summer of 2014.

Volunteers, many of whom were friends and climbing partners of Mark, hung the lights to spell out Mark’s initials of “M M.” (See above photo.)

Photo © Brandon Olson

Mahaney loved climbing at Sandstone and could be seen there perfecting his craft every winter weekend. He is missed, but the lights will help us remember his passion for outdoor adventure and his glowing smile.

Photo © Brandon Olson

Photo © Frank Cook

—GearJunkie covered illuminated ice climbing in “Lit Up, ‘Glow-In-Dark’ Ice Provides World’s Weirdest Climbing Experience.”