climbers dig spikes into Ouray’s icy canyons
It’s a town surrounded on three sides with 13 thousand foot snowcapped peaks.
The combination of cold temperatures and expert "ice farming" is what makes Ouray perfect for one of the world’s most extreme sports: ice climbing.
"Literally these people are sticking axes in there just a few millimeters and suspending their bodies off of that," Ice climber, Vince Anderson, said.
Ouray Ice Park manager, Kevin Koprek, says, "For me it’s very relaxing. It’s almost like a vertical yoga sort of thing."
This small community is known by many athletes as the ice climbing capital of Colorado.
Every January thousands come to the climbing festival with sharpened ice axes.
“It reminds me more of the traditional mountaineering," Anderson said.
Anderson is the route setter for the festival's competitions. He sets each with three things in mind.
"Make is safe so the competitors don't get hurt, make it difficult so that it’s hard enough for these world class athletes, and is it going to be exciting to watch?" Anderson explained.
The fastest growing user group at the Ouray Ice Park is Spectators, people coming to watch others climb.
"It’s really cool. It makes me want to do it," spectator Michelle Davis said.
The annual ice festival is what keeps the homemade ice park going.
"70-percent of our revenues come from this weekend. It’s free to climb in the ice park but it’s certainly not free to operate,” Koprek said. “We really appreciate the support of the climbing community and visitors at large."
The festival wraps up Sunday, January 13th.
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