Ouray Ice Festival 2019

This year, my dear friend Karen Williams flew out from California to go to Ouray with us. She arrived on Wednesday while we were attending Phoebe’s learning fair, so her friend Zazou picked her up from the airport and drove her to our house. She survived a night on our futon, and in the morning she was cheerful about watching terrible cartoons with the children. I got up early and went for a run before packing up the car for the trip. Dave had a work phone meeting, so he went to the coffee shop, and we all piled into Cherry Blaze to go and meet him. Alas, when I pressed the starter button, the engine wouldn’t turn over. Dave came back and disassembled the battery while we watched some more terrible cartoons. He went out to the auto parts store, bought a new battery, and installed it. Then we all piled back into the car and went to get some burritos for breakfast. It was snowing like the dickens when we headed out, which meant it was going to be a long drive. Hero Dave drove the whole way, often in blowing snow, and it only took us 7.5 hours, including stops.

Coconut (Benjamin’s favorite Christmas stuffie) is wearing a french-fry box hat.
Little Lion looks pretty cool in Jess’s sunglasses.

We unloaded the car at Alpenglow Condo #6 and went out for dinner—Karen stayed behind because she hadn’t been feeling well throughout the car ride. Poor thing! The Gribbles enjoyed a delicious dinner at the Ouray Brewery. I had something called the loaded bowl: quinoa tossed with sauteed spinach and mushrooms and topped with sweet potato crisps, house-made romesco sauce, fresh avacado, and a fried egg. Yum! We all went to bed pretty early that night, worn out from the drive.

In the morning on Friday, Dave and I went out reasonably early to find a climb. We got a cup of coffee at Mouse’s and walked up the hill. After checking out a few things at the tents, we hiked up to South Park and were actually able to find a spot a few showerheads from the downclimb. One of the things I love best about the climbing in Ouray is the walk from town up to the climbs. It’s so strenuous and familiar, thudding through the snow in my heavy plastic books. I’ve seen the same scenery so many times, and it’s so beautiful every time. I know where all the little hills are, and the new outhouse, and the ladder over the pipe. Our climb was fairly easy, which was a nice reintroduction to waterfall ice. Dave and I each climbed twice, and then we packed up; we had promised to be back at the condo for lunch.

In the canyon during the Ouray Ice Festival.
Looking the other way.
Our Friday climb.
The river was running between these two boulders.
Dave at the top of our climb.
A bluebird day!
Starting to get busy in the canyon.
Climbs near ours.

Karen and I went to the grocery store to get some lunch food and supplies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner the next day. We made some sandwiches and had a few chips and vegetables.

The view out the window of our condo. (Photo by Phoebe)
Close-up of the mountain out our window.

That afternoon, we went down to the hot springs pool for a couple of hours. They did quite a bit of work on it during the past year; it was wonderful before, but now it’s just amazing. After the hot springs, we had dinner at the Outlaw; I look forward to it all year, but Phoebe always complains that it’s creepy in there. I managed to enjoy my 6-oz. filet despite her disapproval. (The kids ate spaghetti.) We went back to the room for a little while before Karen, Phoebe, and I went to hear a DJ and then a roundtable being given by four women climbers and mountaineers to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the climbing school Chicks with Picks.

Each person is on an electronic device!
The stage for the 20th-anniversary celebration of Chicks with Picks.
Jess and Karen at the presentation.
Hilaree Nelson, Kitty Calhoun, Caroline Gleich, Steph Davis

The next morning, Dave and I left about half an hour earlier to try to get an even better climb than the day before. We took the bus that runs during the festival and hiked straight up to South Park. We were indeed early enough, and we got a terrific climb; there was a good place to stand to belay, and we could attempt a couple of different routes on the same rope. Being earlier, it was a bit colder, but when a couple of guys asked if they could hop on our rope, of course we said sure. I assumed they’d be very good climbers and sprint up, but they took their time while I froze. I was starting to feel somewhat miserable when, lo and behold! The sun came out. My temperature and my mood both warmed right up, and we had a great morning of climbing.

The town of Ouray, looking back down the hill.

Our Saturday climb is the waterfall ice to the left of the photo. The tree in the foreground made a great belay anchor.

You have to have a keen eye to see the rope attached here for the walkdown. With all the snow, the walkdown was the least sketchy in years!
There’s Dave up top.
A wider view of our climb.
I love this photo of Dave throwing the rope! Look carefully above his head.
My pack nestled in an out-of-the-way spot.
This is the other side of the canyon. See my pack under the tree.
Jess climbing. (Nothing too fancy!)
The guy halfway up in a blue one-piece suit is climbing on our rope.
Look at that gorgeous sky!
Dave heading up. The sun has come out.
Looking back down the road at the mountains that surround Ouray.

We got back to the condo at noon and had some lunch with Karen and the kids. Then we all bundled up and took the school bus up to the lower bridge. We watched some of the climbing competition, checked out the gear tents, and moseyed up to the upper bridge, but Phoebe decided she wasn’t up for climbing with the Kids Climbing School this year. It was a great day to be out, and we saw some incredible climbing in the competition!

I’m not totally sure, but this might be Liam Foster attempting the competition route.
He made it to the hanging box! Climbers weren’t allowed to hook a hand, foot, or tool on the top of the box.
Moving around to the side.

Nope, he didn’t fall off at that point!
Still maneuvering.
Upside down with his foot hooked over the only sizable hold on the climb.
Almost to the second trapeze.
Reaching for the hold on the back of the box. He didn’t win this competition (that was Sam Elias), but he did win the speed climbing competition on Sunday.
I can’t remember who was wearing the red European pants, but they were made much of by the commentators.

Karen wearing the hat her niece knitted.
Our only photo of Phoebe outdoors.
Karen, Benjamin, and the mammoth bottom.
Mommy and Benjamin.
Marianne van der Steen, who won the women’s mixed climbing competition. Men and women compete on the same route.
In case you’re wondering, yes, it’s still bitter cold out there.

I love this photo with her ice axe clenched in her teeth.

She was just about here when she ran out of time. (Competitors have to finish the route within 11 minutes.)
The crowd urged her to keep climbing, and she obliged!


Lowering down to plenty of applause.

Back at the condo, we made spaghetti for dinner and Karen and I took the kids to the hot springs pool while Dave went to hear Marcus Garcia and Nick Bullock give presentations.  We spent one more night in town and headed home in the morning. The drive was easy, and we got Karen back to Zazou’s house in Boulder just as it was getting dark. Another amazing Ouray Ice Festival in the books!

Adorable hat hair!
Karen as we get ready to leave condo #6.

Phoebe promised to put together a presentation for her class, so I helped with the slide show while she wrote an account of the trip, which follows.

Thursday, January 24
Friday, January 25
Saturday, January 26
Sunday, January 27


January 21

We had a great time ice skating with the Wilensky Berzanskises on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Phoebe, Whit, Tilley, Milam.

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