Rock climbers have the luxury of moving indoors when the weather turns too wet, too hot or too cold for the real thing. Not so with ice climbers, who are subject to the fickle nature of the elements. It doesn’t help that a complex recipe of conditions are needed to create climbable ice: temperatures warm enough during the day to melt snow, but cold enough at night that meltwater will freeze.
Thrill-seeking ice climbers “farm” ice using various hoses and sprinklers. The devices are switched on overnight, allowing water to freeze into an icy playground of behemoth structures. Ice climbers in the excruciatingly flat Midwest have taken to doing this on grain silos. In Ouray, Colorado, where there are bountiful cliffs but unpredictable weather, climbers sprinkle canyon walls near town with water from the municipal grid. The result is a superb climbing destination known as the Ouray Ice Park, the site of an annual world-class ice climbing competition. Every winter, the City of Ouray holds the Ouray Ice Festival to celebrate with exhibition climbing, seminars and gear demos. The beautiful park is free and open for public use despite the high cost of maintenance. Yes, there are some indoor ice climbing facilities (much like a rock gym with an overactive air conditioning system), but the cliffs are short and the ice thin – the adventure is all but melted away. With ice farming, climbers get to enjoy the great outdoors without having to deal with annoyingly imperfect conditions.
Cover Photo Credit: liveactionsports / Flickr.com