Climbing to New Heights at the Ouray Ice Festival
KREX News Room
OURAY, Colo. Adventure enthusiasts celebrated winter and ice climbing at the 18th Annual Ouray Ice Festival this weekend. The four-day event featured competition, interactive clinics and the latest sportswear for people to try out.
For some athletes, climbing is way of life, with each step taking them to new heights.
Patty Winford, a beginner ice climber, said, "I had friends that said, 'Oh man, if you love rock climbing you've gotta ice climb!'"
Sam Elias, a competing climber, said, "The real roots of this festival were just kind of in people coming together to celebrate winter and celebrate climbing."
Competitors are invited from all over the world to tackle the course, as far as France, the Netherlands and Iceland.
One of the four directors of the Ouray Ice Park, Cory Jackson, said, "So we try and tune the route to make it as hard as possible for these guys and women to get up. Brings in some of the best natural climbers in the world."
"It involves real rock and real ice, hanging logs and some old school ice ax handles," said Elias.
"There's about $16,000 in prize money to give away, but most of these men and women are competing for the pride," Jackson said.
Non-climbers still enjoyed the thrill from the sidelines
Jackson said, "Everybody's leaning forward, yelling at the top of their lungs, and you can see people tensing up with the climbers, just before they're about to fall off or make a great clip."
"I've been coming to this festival for years now and I just love the feeling here. The town and the festival, it's a really special event," said Elias.
Ice park officials also use the festival to recruit more adventure junkies.
"The whole weekend we really try to open up the park to the public and introduce everybody to what ice climbing is all about," Jackson said.
"If this lady can do it starting at 50, then you can do it, no matter what age!" Winford said.
Whether your a novice or an expert, ice park officials invite you to grab a pick and give their mountain a try.
The competition concludes on Sunday, with an award ceremony at 2:00 p.m.
To learn more about ice climbing, head to http://ourayicepark.com/.