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  • The Biggest Ice Festival in North America

    Jacob Wells scales a frozen cliff in Ouray, Colorado, at the 19th annual Ouray Ice Festival on January 12, 2014. The festival draws thousands of climbers from around the world to this little mountain town. The nearby gorge features 200 ice routes on frozen waterfalls that are artificially created by a piping system that sprays water daily onto the sheer walls. Photos and captions by Kevin Zeichmann.

  • An Ouray Newbie

    Photo: Kevin Ziechmann

    An Ouray Newbie

    Anne Banister has been climbing ice for three years and says she was addicted as soon as she started: "I just love being out in the cold." This was Banister's first time attending the festival.

  • Marcus Garcia

    Photo: Kevin Ziechmann

    Marcus Garcia

    From Durango, Colorado, Garcia has competed at Ouray for the past six years and says his favorite part of the festival is the camaraderie. He has been climbing for 25 years.

  • Going Up

    Photo: Kevin Ziechmann

    Going Up

    Marcus Garcia pulls into the overhanging ice on the mixed climbing competition route.

  • Wolfgang Schweiger

    Photo: Kevin Ziechmann

    Wolfgang Schweiger

    A climber of 35 years, Schweiger attended every Ouray Ice Festival. Schweiger enjoys how accessible climbing is at the festival because the sport can often seem intimidating and unapproachable to outsiders.

  • Justin Willis

    Photo: Kevin Ziechmann

    Justin Willis

    Willis, from Bozeman, Montana, was the youngest competitor at the festival, ever. He has been climbing ice since he was eight years old.

  • Emily Harrington

    Photo: Kevin Ziechmann

    Emily Harrington

    From Boulder, Colorado, Harrington was well known in world of rock climbing before ever picking up ice tools. She won last year's mixed competition after only a year and a half on ice.

  • Figure Nine

    Photo: Kevin Ziechmann

    Figure Nine

    Emily Harrington employs a technique called "figure nine" on an overhanging section of the competition route. The technique involves wrapping your same-side leg around your arm when footing is difficult or non-existent.

  • Chad Butrick

    Photo: Kevin Ziechmann

    Chad Butrick

    From Boulder, Colorado, Butrick began ice climbing after attending a clinic for disabled athletes in Ouray a few years back. A below-the-knee amputee after a car accident in 2005, Butrick was thrilled to find ice climbing after being told that he would be unable to be as active as he wanted. He says he appreciated the community that came together to ensure that "no person with a disability is ever treated like a second class citizen."

  • Caroline Gleich

    Photo: Kevin Ziechmann

    Caroline Gleich

    A professional skier, Gleich enjoyed her first festival and tenth day of ice climbing in Ouray. Gleich wants to learn ice climbing to supplement her technical skills in the mountains in order to approach bigger objectives for skiing.

  • Tim Pasek

    Photo: Kevin Ziechmann

    Tim Pasek

    Tim Pasek straps crampons on five-year-old Cavan Pasek, who is about to experience his first ice climb. Pasek senior is an Ouray local and a volunteer member of the Ouray Mountain Rescue Team.

  • Cavan Pasek

    Photo: Kevin Ziechmann

    Cavan Pasek

    Cavan Pasek sets his pick on his first ice climb.

  • Nate Duray

    Photo: Kevin Ziechmann

    Nate Duray

    Nate Duray, from Flagstaff, Arizona, nears the top of an ice pillar on a route in the Five Fingers area of the ice park.

  • Training for Alaska

    Photo: Kevin Ziechmann

    Training for Alaska

    A spectator looks on from a viewing platform as Ryan Jennings lead climbs in the park. Jennings came to train on the steep ice in Ouray to prepare for a trip to Alaska's Ruth Gorge later this year.

  • Andres Marin

    Photo: Kevin Ziechmann

    Andres Marin

    Andres Marin tries to get blood flow to his hands during the mixed climbing competition. Marin, originally from Columbia, moved to the U.S. for climbing and has represented his new home in World Cup competitions.

  • Mademoiselle

    Photo: Kevin Ziechmann

    Mademoiselle

    Stephanie Moreau Waves to the crowd while hanging mid-route high above the gorge. Moreau traveled from France to attend the festival, and she took first place after continuing on the route.

  • Victory Whipper

    Photo: Kevin Ziechmann

    Victory Whipper

    This sequence shows Mauro Dorigatti climbing to the pinata that marks the top of the mixed competition route. Dorigatti takes a "victory whipper," a celebratory upside-down spinning fall before being caught by his rope. No climbers were injured during the competition.

  • Golden Nugget

    Photo: Kevin Ziechmann

    Golden Nugget

    Aaron Mulkey tries to control his swing as he transfers on to the Golden Nugget section on the course. Each nugget is made of wood and spray painted gold to represent the town's mining history.

  • Hanging On

    Photo: Kevin Ziechmann

    Hanging On

    Ryan Vachon strains to hold onto his ice axe before falling from the Golden Nugget section of the mixed-climbing route.

  • Buster Jesik

    Photo: Kevin Ziechmann

    Buster Jesik

    Buster Jesik is a climbing guide at Kent Mountain Adventure Center in Estes Park, Colorado. He came down for the weekend to climb and see friends.

  • The Final Day

    Photo: Kevin Ziechmann

    The Final Day

    Chris Cronick takes a break on the final day of the festival with the snowy San Juan Mountains at his back.

  • The Last Day

    Photo: Kevin Ziechmann

    The Last Day

    Jacob Wells, of Denver, Colorado, belays from the top of the gorge as snow and wind pick up on the last day of the festival.

  • The Artist

    Photo: Kevin Ziechmann

    The Artist

    Keith Martin from Durango, Colorado, carves an ice climber relief in the awards podium.

  • A Work of Art

    Photo: Kevin Ziechmann

    A Work of Art

    The podium for the awards ceremony. Martin exchanges his work for a lodging and food at the festival.

  • Women's Speed Climbing

    Photo: Kevin Ziechmann

    Women's Speed Climbing

    The winners of the women's speed climbing festival stand atop the icy podium to claim their cash prizes. Kendra Stritch took first place, second came to Dawn Glanc, and Stephanie Moreau placed third.

  • Mixed Climbing Winners

    Photo: Kevin Ziechmann

    Mixed Climbing Winners

    An international podium for the mixed climbing competition included American Will Mayo in third, Italian Mauro Dorigatti in second, and Frenchman Jeff Mercier in first.

  • Dessert

    Photo: Kevin Ziechmann

    Dessert

    Ice-climbing themed chocolates decorate the shelves at Mouse's Chocolates in downtown Ouary. Most businesses welcome the added traffic during winter, and the town itself is a financially invested sponsor of the ice park.

  • Start over
    Next Up: The 2014 Ouray Ice Festival

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