Wednesday, January 12, 2011

HoURAY for the Ice Climbing Festival

After 4 months of waiting in anticipation, our chance to attend the 16th Annual Ice Climbing Festival in Ouray, Colorado finally arrived this past weekend. Ouray is approximately a six hour drive from Denver so Chad and I decided we would fly into Montrose where Jason and Angela would pick us up on their drive into town. Angela is fairly new to Colorado so Jason wanted to show her the scenery and since the Magee's fly for free we figured why waste a day in the car? The flight was even more scenic than the drive and gave us amazing views of all the Fourteeners and Crested Butte and the Black Canyon.

(crested butte mountain)
I have to admit I was excited to have an extended stay in Ouray. The only time I had seen the the town previously was while driving through and over Red Mountain pass on our way to a wedding in Durango a few years ago. I must admit Red Mountain pass was terrifying even in the early fall but I remember stopping on the side of the road to overlook the, "Switzerland of America" as it is often referred too.

Neil and Meghan arrived shortly after us that evening; meeting us at the Ouray Victorian Inn where we were staying. The hotel was referred to me by the clerk at the Best Western because it was the only hotel which had room enough to sleep 6 people and allowed pets (we left Bebe at home but N&M brought their dog Marley) AND was close enough to walk to the Ice Park. Of course you can pretty much get anywhere in town by walking around but, seeing as the main attraction was the Ice Park we wanted to be as close to there as possible.

(our hotel)

Ouray, like most small towns in Colorado (it's population is somewhere around 800) was established by miners chasing after silver and gold. It's entire economy today is sustained by tourism. In the summer visitors can soak in the hot springs, hike or take a 4 wheel drive tour over to Telluride or Yankee Boy Basin, visit Box Canyon Falls or take the pass over to Durango. However, since Ouray isn't a ski town, it relies on it's largest ice park in the country to draw visitors in. The ice climbing festival is the only one of it's kind and attracts visitors from all over the world which helps local businesses thrive which were once previously closed throughout winter. The world's first ice climbing park, expanding on previously-popular natural falls, consists of dozens of frozen waterfalls from 80 to 200 feet high farmed along more than a mile of the Uncompahgre Gorge. The water is supplied by a sprinkler system developed and maintained by a volunteer organization and supported by donations from local businesses, gear manufacturers and climbers. Best of all the park is free and so is the event!

(view of part of the ice park)
Living in nearby Crested Butte, Neil and Meghan have visited Ouray several times so they were our unofficial guides for the weekend. Since it was Neil's birthday on Friday we decided to go out and have some drinks and check out what this town had to offer. Neil took us down a side street to a bar called Grumpy Pants which he swore had the best beer in town. He didn't dissapoint us. Grumpy Pants is exactly the kind of bar you would expect to find in a small mountain town. The whole establishment is made of rough wood and the only thing they serve is beer which Mister Grumpy Pants brews himself. The owner, who probably lives above the bar, is there to serve you himself from a swing he built that he glides back and forth down the bar on. While there weren't many people in the bar at first, as the night continued and more ice climbers piled in, it became something out of a movie.

(Grumpy Pants himself with the mug he prefers to drink out of)

(sampling the local brewskis)
Everyone was friendly with everyone and one guy even climbed up on the bar and announced he was buying the whole bar a round of beer. We played several rounds of jenga and sang several renditions of Happy Birthday to Neil (which the whole bar participated in) and before we knew it, it was way past dinner (which we never ate) and time to walk back to our hotel. After all we had ice climbing to watch the next day...

No comments:

Post a Comment