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Ice Climbing In Sandstone, Minnesota

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The first time we attempted to ice climb at Robinson Park in Sandstone, Minnesota, it was an unbearable -14 degrees Fahrenheit.  My breath was freezing to my hair, and icicles were forming on our eyelashes.  We had to throw in the towel and reschedule.

Yesterday was a balmy 7 degrees- nearly tropical- time to hit the ice!

Ice climbing isn’t on my 40 before 40 Bucket List.  We initially planned on doing it before I started my bucket list.  However, it is certainly a bucket list kind of activity, so I am going to write it up just like my other check-offs using interview style (who, what, when, where, why, how) questions.  I also thought it would be fun to start adding a bucket list scale to my check-off items.

  • 1 bucket= Absolutely no physical or mental effort.  It requires a little more oomph than getting out of bed in the morning, but not much more.
  • 2 buckets=  Requires some mental effort but little physical effort.  The activity requires some planning or mental prep, but a follow-up nap is not required.
  • 3 buckets= Requires some physical effort but little mental effort.  I may have a scrape or bruise, but no one made me solve a rubrics cube.
  • 4 buckets= Requires a significant amount of physical and mental energy.  I left this activity ready for bed, bruised and bleeding.
  • 5 buckets= This is the most challenging thing I have done both mentally and physically in my entire life.

It’s Q/A time…

What was the activity?

Ice climbing at Robinson Park in Sandstone, Minnesota.

Who participated?

My husband, Scott, was my climbing partner.  For the record, I made five climbs to the top.  He made four.  We are rather competitive- I think I won this one.  Just sayin’.    Ice Climbing Robinson Park

When was it completed?

February 8, 2018 which happened to be my 39th birthday.  The countdown to 40 begins!

Where was it completed?

Robinson Park in Sandstone, Minnesota.  The park is an hour and a half north of the Twin Cities.  Climbable ice is pretty much guaranteed between December and early March as the ice is farmed.  What is farmed ice?  Waterlines run along the top of the quarry ridge and water trickles down the rock wall forming ice.  Robinson Park Sandstone Minnesota
Why did I choose to put this item on my bucket list?

As I mentioned before, ice climbing isn’t on my 40 before 40 bucket list.  However, the reason I wanted to go ice climbing at Robinson Park is because we went ice climbing in Alaska this past summer, and I loved it.  I really enjoy rock climbing and adding ice to the equation adds another element of challenge.  I like that the sport is just as much about mental stamina as it is physical.  For me, rock/ice climbing is like solving a giant puzzle while adrenaline is pumping through your body!

Ice climbing Exit Glacier in Seward, Alaska.

How did I find out about this activity? How would one go about making arrangements to do this activity?

Our ice climbing guide in Alaska told me about Robinson Park.  A quick Google search when I got home took me to Hard Water Sports , a guide service and equipment rental shop, in the small town of Sandstone.  We booked the 5 hour guided ice climbing course with the owner of the shop, Tony.  The course included equipment, instruction and belaying.  If you are confident in your ice climbing skills, you can rent equipment from Hard Water Sports and go out on your own.  There is no admission fee to use the park.  

Interesting Tidbits:

  • I learned a new phase while ice climbing-Screaming Barfies.  According to, it is a “term used mostly by ice climbers to describe the feeling of having your hands go numb only to come back to feeling with extreme pain. The terminology coming from when your hands are coming back to feeling you want to scream and barf at the same time.”  Scott got a bad case of the Screaming Barfies on his first ascent.  There was a lot of screaming but fortunately no barfing!
  • In the summer, you can rock climb and/or go white water rafting at Robinson Park.  The Kettle River flows through the park and offers rapids that rate up to a class IV depending on water levels. Hard Water Sports offers equipment and guide services.  We will definitely be back in the summer!

So how many buckets does ice climbing receive?

4 Buckets! I am sore and have bruises on my knees.  It’s takes a lot of mental  effort to keep climbing when your fingers are numb and your legs are burning.  Would I recommend it to others?  Most definitely!  It is a thrilling experience and as the saying goes…no pain, no gain!


Share this article

  • Julie
    February 11, 2018

    I’m so totally impressed! I love your bucket rating system! I’m not sure I could do this one!!

  • Kim
    February 11, 2018

    This looks like an awesome experience!! I’m afraid I’m too out of shape to try this now lol

  • Tara
    February 11, 2018

    I have never heard of farmed ice! What an interesting concept, but it makes perfect sense!! I don’t think I am coordinated enough to go ice climbing.

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