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Grand Marais Area Ice Climbs (North Shore)
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Cascade Icefall 
Nightfall 

Nightfall 

WI4

   
Type:  Ice, 2 pitches, 180'
Consensus: WI4 [details]
FA: 
Page Views: 8,325
Submitted By: Kris Gorny on Mar 12, 2007

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Joel Therneau and Lana Nysse on the 2nd pitch. Mar...

Description 

The most spectacular, and may I add, the only spectacular natural icefall in Minnesota. Grade may vary depending on conditions but the top section is most often WI 4. Nightfall is relatively wide so several variations exist. The climb may be done on top-rope or on lead and it is fun either way. It is usually led in two pitches. For a one pitch lead a pair of 60m ropes is required (70m is better) and long runners are needed to minimize drag.

Pitch 1: Start from the river bank and climb over a short steep section leading into a wider snowy bowl at the bottom of the main flow. Ice conditions rarely permit to set up a belay at the bottom of the bowl (best fo avoiding being hit by falling ice.) Most of the time you need to suck it up and set up an anchor where the ice gets steeper.
Pitch 2: Go up the steep flow. Fixed sling anchor on top. Use your own slings to back it up.

Reference: "Ice Climbs of the Lake Superior Region", Granite Publishing

Current Ice conditions: refer to conditions forum at climbingcentral.com

Location 

From Grand Marais drive north on Hwy 61 for about 2 miles until you see the bridge over Devil Track River (sign). Drive roughly 100 yards past the bridge and park on the right side of the highway. Make sure you parked well past the last mailbox. Walk back towards the bridge. If the river is frozen follow it into the canyon for about 1 mile. Nightfall flows down the cliff on the left side of the river.

If the river is not frozen, you could walk back additional 100 yards along the highway, turn right into a private driveway leading to a log cabin. To get into the state forest you need to cross private land past the cabin. Do not cross the private property without owners permission. In the forest locate the well-maintained snowmobile trail which roughly follows the cliffline. Hike the trail until it gets closest to the edge of the canyon. You should clearly see reddish cliffs on the other side from that point. Locate the snow gully on top of the climb and scramble down to the sling anchors around the trees. Set up a top rope or rap to the bottom of the canyon. A pair of 60 meter ropes barely makes it to base of the climb.

Protection 

Ice screws


Photos of Nightfall Slideshow Add Photo
Nate coming up Nightfall. Kate belaying. Jan 01 2011.
Nate coming up Nightfall. Kate belaying. Jan 01 20...
The kilted gentlemen on Nightfall: Peter Mittelstadt (left) and Dave Brandt (right). <br /> <br />Courtesy of Dave Brandt.
The kilted gentlemen on Nightfall: Peter Mittelsta...
R. Love on Nightfall.  2/1/13
R. Love on Nightfall. 2/1/13
2006- A great year for Nightfall
2006- A great year for Nightfall
Steve and Henning on Nightfall, 11 Jan '10 <br />Photo by Kate Muehling <br />
Steve and Henning on Nightfall, 11 Jan '10 Photo b...
Roberto Gallina coming up Nightfall in cold conditions. Winter, 2003.
Roberto Gallina coming up Nightfall in cold condit...
Higher up on pitch 2.
Higher up on pitch 2.
Its in, and looking good. Jan. 9 2010.
BETA PHOTO: Its in, and looking good. Jan. 9 2010.
Starting pitch 1.
Starting pitch 1.
Nightfall Jan '08 and one month later, in February. A little fatter.
BETA PHOTO: Nightfall Jan '08 and one month later, in February...
Frequent gear adjustments are crucial in ice climbing. <br /> <br />Courtesy of Dave Brandt.
Frequent gear adjustments are crucial in ice climb...
Melody for the brave. Bagpipe martial music inspiring the gentlemen higher up. <br /> <br />Courtesy of Dave Brandt.
Melody for the brave. Bagpipe martial music inspir...
Nigh Fall in 08.
Nigh Fall in 08.
Some years, this baby doesn't form. 1/07.
BETA PHOTO: Some years, this baby doesn't form. 1/07.
Nightfall looks really good this year.  January 2008.
BETA PHOTO: Nightfall looks really good this year. January 20...
Nightfall. Jan. 9 2010.
Nightfall. Jan. 9 2010.
January 1, 2012 conditions.
BETA PHOTO: January 1, 2012 conditions.
Nate Erickson and Kate Muehling on Nightfall. Jan 01 2011.
Nate Erickson and Kate Muehling on Nightfall. Jan ...
The view from the start of the 2nd pitch.    I roughly followed the snow line on the left. January 2008.
BETA PHOTO: The view from the start of the 2nd pitch. I rou...
Me showing a little concern with taking the sharp end on the 2nd pitch.
Me showing a little concern with taking the sharp ...
Night Fall Jan 20, 2013
BETA PHOTO: Night Fall Jan 20, 2013
Relief, me at the ridiculously over rigged rappel anchor on Nightfall.
Relief, me at the ridiculously over rigged rappel ...

Comments on Nightfall Add Comment
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By kevin fox
From: parker
Aug 4, 2008

180 feet and 2 pitches. wouldn't it be easier to just climb it in one pitch?
By Kris Gorny
Administrator
Aug 27, 2008

Kevin, because of the large bowl in the first one third of the climb, after the initial 30ft, it is actually easier to do it in two pitches. It is possible to do it in one pitch but that involves placing very long slings (so long that you could actually deck) at the start of the vertical section right after the bowl to avoid rope drag.
By mark55401
From: Minneapolis
Mar 14, 2012

has anyone done this recently (i.e. in 2011/12)?
By Tradoholic
Mar 14, 2012
rating: WI4

Yes, a few friends of mine did this last week. Reportedly still shedding some rock but the ice was overall in good condition. There's some pics from FBook I can steal for ya if that's what you want.

I did it in 2010 if pretty poor ice conditions but the real hazard was constant rock fall from the sides.
By Frankenheimer
Mar 15, 2012

Tried to access this one via the private property west side of the river and it seems the two residents are not at all pleased with climbers that have been using that trail without permission. We spoke with each household on the driveway for half an hour but claims of climbers running off when questioned about going through their yards apparently leaving trash(which I doubt) has seemingly ruined this access point for everyone else. The man also stated that if he sees people going through he will call the cops so do know that...
By Ken G
From: farmington, mn
Jan 23, 2013

Climbed Sunday Jan 20 2013. Great ice, a little thin at top but made interesting.
By Dan Kolar
Feb 10, 2013

Climbed it on Friday, 2/8. Ice was great until the top, pretty thin, but climbable (not really protectable). Last 20ish feet is really unprotectable but climbs fine. We did have a dinner plate come down and hit my partner in the arm. Be sure you set up the second belay on the steep section to avoid this,...lesson learned. Because he wasn't able to climb I had to repel from the top to him so there are two v threads set up (one at 25 meter from top, the other 30M from bottom). I did drop a petzl screw from the top....my last screw,...so the top was interesting. We checked around at the bottom and didn't find it. If someone does find it, I'll be indebted to them if they're kind enough to let me know.
By Zach Chase
From: Duluth, MN
Dec 16, 2013

Is anyone aware of the condition of Nightfall at this point?
By Lspade
From: Chaska, MN
Jan 5, 2014

My climbing partner and I spent 4 days on the North Shore iceclimbing and backpacking. When we got back my partner decided to edit a video of the climb, check it out...

v
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v- GoPro video of Night Fall



^- GoPro video of Night Fall
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I hope you enjoyed it!