Elliot Kennedy, 21, dove headfirst into the climbing scene after his first climbing encounter over a year ago. His hands-on experience and strong passion for outdoor adventure brings a wealth of knowledge and unique perspective for those looking to explore their more extreme interests.
Marquette has some great places to trad climb (traditional climbing). Most crags will have trad routes or routes that can be trad climbed, but even more so Marquette is a potential gold mine for bouldering. The land around Sugarloaf and Hogback Mountain called “The Sugarcube” is littered with hundreds of beautiful and technical undeveloped boulders. Find a crew and start making Marquette climbing history! This land also holds a Marquette climbing hidden gem, an apparently never-completed 5.14 route called “The Sugar Bowl.”
The best free climbing location in the U.P. is by far Silver Mountain in Houghton County. It is a 140-foot tall basalt cliff roughly an hour and a half drive from Marquette and consists of 52 main wall climbs, 6 backside climbs and endless hiking trails, making it easy to make a weekend or day trip out of it.
The best places to train for climbing are Hangdog Climbing, the Marquette Climbers Co-op, and for you Northern Michigan University students, the PEIF. Each place provides a different type of climbing: Hangdog is great for those technical boulder problems, the Co-op is great for a few friends to get together and work on individual moves in the “Boulder Cave,” and the PEIF is the place to train for free climbing during those winter months.
DEGREE // DIFFICULTY
The difficulty of rock climbing depends on the route grade. Free climbing routes are graded with the Yosemite Decimal System starting at 5. Beginner grades are from 5.0-5.7, intermediate grades are from 5.8-5.10d, advanced grades are from 5.11a-5.12a, and the expert grades are from 5.12b to the only 5.15d in the world. Marquette has a variety of crags with grades for all difficulties. Cheese and Crackers (Big Bay) 5.7, Fine Wine (Big Bay) 5.10a, and Between a Block and a Hard Place (Houghton) 5.10c/d are a few of the most famous and popular climbs in the Upper Peninsula. Each and every crag that you can visit will have climbs in several different difficulties.
DISTANCE // ELEVATION
Most of the Marquette climbs vary from 30-60 feet with some outliers like the 140-foot cliffs at Silver Mountain.
ONE WORD OF ADVICE
Mountain Project (mountainproject.com) is a great website for in-depth directions, beta, and route information for the established crags in the Upper Peninsula.
LOCAL RENTALS // RETAILERS
Downwind Sports is the place in Marquette for anything climbing. The owner Bill Thompson is a local Marquette climbing legend and his staff is extremely knowledgeable and helpful in all aspects of climbing. They have just about every piece of gear or can order it for you. They also do rock climbing tours in the summer months and ice climbing tours in the winter months.