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.
Hooked From the Start
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.
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.
Climbing Ice and Rock
Marcus Garcia pulls into the overhanging ice on the mixed climbing competition route.
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.
Willis, from Bozeman, Montana, was the youngest competitor at the festival, ever. He has been climbing ice since he was eight years old.
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.
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.
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."
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 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 sets his pick on his first ice climb.
Nate Duray, from Flagstaff, Arizona, nears the top of an ice pillar on a route in the Five Fingers area of the ice park.
A Spectator Sport
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 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.
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.
The 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.
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.
Ryan Vachon strains to hold onto his ice axe before falling from the Golden Nugget section of the mixed-climbing route.
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
Chris Cronick takes a break on the final day of the festival with the snowy San Juan Mountains at his back.
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.
Keith Martin from Durango, Colorado, carves an ice climber relief in the awards podium.
The podium for the awards ceremony. Martin exchanges his work for a lodging and food at the festival.
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.
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.
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.