Former quarry serves as adventurous ice-climbing attraction

February 10, 2014


A former quarry in Minnesota recently served as a facility where the adventurous can climb giant mounds of ice.

The Sandstone Ice Festival, held every December for the past nine years at former sandstone quarry Robinson Park, allows residents and visitors in and near Minnesota to go ice climbing at one of the best sites in the area, according to a report from the St. Cloud Times.

The park, about 90 minutes from the Twin Cities, has been a popular ice-climbing location for years, and people used to sneak into the quarry to climb the ice before it became home to the ice festival.

It wasn’t until about 11 years ago when an advisory committee was formed to develop the quarry into a city-approved ice-climbing site.

Now Robinson Park serves as a spot where beginners can learn to walk up the ice, experts can enjoy the climb and spectators can watch.

The festival caters to beginners, devoting an entire day to teaching them how to grip the ice and even offering to let them try the $1000 equipment for free.

Safety is a major emphasis at the park. The premiums cost $1,500 a year, and an extended water line that allows for ice “farming” — building several layers of ice to form a solid wall, which the report notes is more predictable that relying on nature — added another $4,600.

Also, instructors are sure to push technique and safety during lessons. And, though the safety precautions often make ice climbing tough to sell, Jennifer Stewart — Chicks With Picks guide, 1998 X Games ice-climbing bronze-medalist and University of Minnesota ice-climbing teacher — told the St. Cloud Times that ice climbing gives her a sense of control.

“There’s definitely something to be said for the need for concentration and safety and awareness,” Stewart said. “I think that gets billed as extreme. I don’t climb because it’s dangerous or because it’s extreme. In fact, I have the opposite personality. What I like is the complexity of the situation and controlling that.”

Minnesota Climbers Association President James Loveridge, who was on the committee that helped turn Robinson Park into an ice-climbing attraction, added that climbing gives him greater focus.

“It’s a form of meditation,” Loveridge said. “People can be screaming and playing with their dog and laughing with their girlfriend. You don’t hear any of if because you’re focused on what you’re doing because you have to be.”

About 200 people attended the festival in 2013.

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