It’s been a short-lived season for U.S. ice climbing. Only last week Ouray Ice Park announced its closure following unseasonably warm weather, and now the Valdez Ice Climbing Festival
in Alaska, which runs every year over Presidents' Day Weekend, has had to follow suit after days of rains and abnormally warm weather resulted in the
decline of conditions that would threaten the safety of climbers. The events organizers, Levitation 49, made the hard decision yesterday. In a statement
on the Valdez Ice Climbing Festival Facebook page, Levitation stated:
“Levitation 49 regrets to announce that unseasonable weather has caused conditions at our venue to deteriorate and we are canceling all ice climbing clinics, comps and climbing. In particular, days of heavy rains and higher than normal temps have caused the Lowe River to begin to melt, precluding safe access to some of the signature features we intended to use in Keystone Canyon. Refunds will be issued for event and clinic registration/donations…
… We did not make this decision lightly. We ask for your patience as we work through the many details and logistics this entails. We will provide updates on this Facebook site and the Valdez Ice Fest website as more details become available.”
Needless to say there were plenty of broken-heart emoticons being thrown around in the comments section of this post.
This was a fully booked event, with 13 of the 16 events running over the weekend being sold out, and only one or two tickets lingering for the remaining
three events. Festival attendees were also travelling from all over the U.S. to participate in this world-class climbing event—hence the heartbreak
Climbing will still be an option for those going to the event, as there is plenty of ice and mixed climbing around Valdez, but this will not be in association
with the festival or as part of the organized clinics and comps. Access to key venues will also be limited for safety. The bonfire feast on Sunday
night has also had to be cancelled and there will be no free camping at the basecamp/bonfire site as the area is off limits to the public.
Nonetheless, as Chris Kalous of the world-famous Enormocast says, "Don't let climbing get in the
way of a good climbing festival." Climbing festivals are equal parts climbing and social events, and community is the most important part. Friday's
Mountainfilm screening and Saturday night's dance party with live music from the Unfaithful Lovers are still on, and those who wish to climb on
their own still have that option.
"It will still be a great time," says Rock and Ice's online editor, Hayden Carpenter, who is in Valdez for the ice fest. "We hope to see you there!"