Atmosphere

Going Vertical

January 2011

It takes serious guts—and a little bit of madness—to shimmy up a 130-foot wall of gleaming ice while wielding axes sharp enough to puncture a lung. But every winter, hundreds of madmen and women flock from around the world to Ouray, Colorado, for the prestigious annual Ouray Ice Festival. From January 6 to 9, there’s hot (er, cold) competition at the stunning Ouray Ice Park—the world’s first ice-climbing park, with 130 routes—in the Uncompahgre River Gorge. The locals’ dedication to “farming the ice” (hosing down the rock walls) provides nearly a mile’s length of sheer vertical flows along the box canyon. Climbers and spectators hole up in the gorge to compete, attend clinics, test new gear, and, of course, drink plenty of beer. Belay on.