A few Januarys ago, my friend Drew called me for tips on planning his cross-country drive from Michigan to California. I gave him a few ideas and then said, “How about you pick me up in Pennsylvania and I’ll copilot?” A week later, we were rolling West on a very cold, very beautiful winter road trip through Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California.
In Colorado, driving the scenic route north up highway 550 between Durango and Silverton, we passed through the tiny mountain town of Ouray, where we were greeted by a crazy traffic jam and a banner across the road announcing the 16th annual Ouray Ice Climbing Festival. Never one to pass up a flash of road trip serendipity, we shelved our driving plans for the day and joined the spectators at the edge of the ice park.
Within a few minutes, Drew ran into his friend Tom, who he knew from grad school in Michigan. Tom happened to be visiting his brother in Telluride that weekend and they had driven around the mountains to Ouray for the festival. A couple of years later, Drew and I ran into Tom unexpectedly once again at another world-famous climbing spot in the New River Gorge in West Virginia. Small world!
The Ouray Ice Park is a manmade ice climbing venue in a spectacular natural gorge just south of downtown Ouray. Boasting more than 200 named ice and mixed climbs in 14 distinct climbing areas, each winter the Ouray hosts the Ice Festival in part to raise money for operating the ice park, which is free and open to the public. For more information on the Ice Park check out their website at www.ourayicepark.com.