From ‘Ueli Fever’ to the ‘Saturday Night Freezer,’ the Ouray Ice Fest Is in Full Swing
by Samantha Wright
Jan 11, 2014 | 2909 views | 0 0 comments | 71 71 recommendations | email to a friend | print
UELI STECK signed posters for his fans after a standing-room-only presentation at the Main Street Theater in Ouray on Thursday night. (Photo by Samantha Wright)
UELI STECK signed posters for his fans after a standing-room-only presentation at the Main Street Theater in Ouray on Thursday night. (Photo by Samantha Wright)
UELI STECK (Photo by Samantha Wright)
UELI STECK (Photo by Samantha Wright)

OURAYThe Ouray Ice Festival started off with a bang on Thursday night, Jan. 9, as legendary Swiss alpinist Ueli Steck gave a standing-room-only multimedia presentation at the Main Street Theater in Ouray.

Steck was originally scheduled to appear on Saturday night at the Ouray Community Center, but had an important commitment come up at the last minute that required him to be back in Switzerland this weekend, so his presentation was hastily shifted to Thursday night.

News of the schedule change appeared to get out to plenty of people. As the hour of Steck’s presentation drew near, a line stretched out the door of the Main Street Theater, all the way up the sidewalk to Citizens State Bank and around the corner. Cavallo’s Restaurant gave out free cups of coffee out those who waited hopefully in gently falling snow.

In the end, 250 people got inside the Main Street Theater for Steck’s show – the maximum number that fire code will allow – and over 100 more were turned away.

A plan to simulcast Steck’s presentation at Cavallo’s for those who did not make it into the theater was foiled due to technical difficulties. Those who got into the intimate venue, however, were treated to a multimedia presentation narrated by Steck that often left them in stunned silence, focusing primarily on his three attempts to summit Annapurna that culminated with last October’s 28-hour solo of the South Face.

Steck, who is famous for his speed records on some of the world’s most formidable peaks, broke the ice with some homegrown Swiss humor. “There are a lot of people who ask me, why do you always run up the mountain?” he joked. “I can just tell you guys, Swiss girls are really strict; you have to be back for dinner, otherwise they get really mad.”

The so-called “Swiss Machine” also offered some hard-earned words of wisdom to aspiring mountaineers in the audience: “If it doesn’t come out of your stomach, like you really want it, I think it’s not worth it to do it,” he advised. “Just do what you want.”

Nine-year-old Tanner Jenkins of Colorado Springs took the message to heart. He and his family drove across the state on Thursday to catch Steck’s show. Afterwards, Tanner and his big sister Jordan stood in line to get autographed posters from their climbing hero. “He’s lucky because he can do more things than the rest of us can do,” said Tanner, “but he inspires me to do those kinds of things, too.”

Travis Miranda, who traveled to Ouray from Oakland, Calif. to attend this year’s Ice Festival, was equally impressed. “It’s nice to see the ‘Machine’ in the flesh – he is a real person,” Miranda said. “He is influential to so many people – and not just adults, but so many children.”

Daniel Araiza of Guadalajara, Mexico concurred. Araiza is the 24-year-old founder of Linea Directa, a group interested in fostering a new generation of climbing in Mexico. Araiza brought eight young climbers with him to climb in the Ouray Ice Festival this year, ranging in age from 16 to 24.

“[Steck] inspires a new generation to keep on pushing and focus on what you want to achieve and keep positive about it,” Araiza said. “It’s all in the mind.”

Ridgway resident Howard Greene didn’t have to travel quite so far to hear Steck speak, but was equally impressed by the quality of the presentation and the man behind it. “I can’t comprehend that level of skill,” he said after the show. “I am amazed at the fact that there are human beings who can do these things. I still can’t comprehend it.”

The Ouray Ice Festival continues through Sunday, Jan. 12. Saturday’s events include the Elite Mixed Climbing Competition, starting at 9 a.m., and the infamous “Petzl Party” at the Ouray Community Center on Saturday night. This year’s theme is “Saturday Night Freezer” so break out your leisure suits and platform shoes. Sunday’s action includes the Hari Berger Speed Comp and Asolo Awards Ceremony. The free Kids Climbing College and adult walk-up climbing are offered throughout the weekend, and new this year, there is also free ice skating for those who prefer flat ice to the vertical variety. For more information about the Ouray Ice Festival, visit

Climbing order for the competitions is as follows:

Elite Mixed Climbing Comp – Starting at 9 a.m. – Saturday, Jan. 11:

Name/ Bib #

Dempster, Kyle 26

Nelson, Jason 25

Stritch, Kendra 24

Olson, Jen 23

Glanc, Dawn 22

Marin, Andres 21

Goralski, Beth 20

Kim, Ryan 19

Vachon, Ryan 18

Willis, Justin 17

Dailey, Adam 15

Charest, Andrea 14

Elias, Sam 13

Dorigatti, Mauro 12

Mayo, Will 11

Le Lann, Erwan 10

Backes, Scott 9

Garcia, Marcus 8

Mulkey, Aaron 7

Harrington, Emily 5

Maynadier, Mathieu 4

Tyler, Logan 3

Maureau, Stephanie 2

Mercier, Jeff 1

Ouray Ice Festival Hari Berger Speed Climbing Comp – Starting at 10 a.m. – Sunday, Jan. 12:

10:00 Dorigatti, Mauro

10:00 Cotter, Rob

10:10 Mayo, Will

10:10 Berwanger, Stephan

10:20 Myung Chul Kim

10:20 Willis, Justin

10:30 Nelson, Jason

10:30 Vachon, Ryan

10:40 Maureau, Stephanie

10:40 Stritch, Kendra

10:50 Van Sickle, Steven

10:50 Le Lann, Erwan

11:00 Griz, Rob

11:00 Mulkey, Aaron

11:10 Allison, Josh

11:10 Maynadier, Mathieu

11:20 Harrington, Emily

11:20 Spindler, Joanna

11:30 Shepherd, Doug

11:30 Marin, Andres

11:40 Garcia, Marcus

11:40 Tyler, Logan

11:50 Mercier, Jeff

11:50 Daily, Adam

12:00 Goralski, Beth

12:00 Olsen, Jen

12:10 Dempster, Kyle

12:10 Elias, Sam

12:20 Glanc, Dawn

12:20 Cranston, Mathew

12:30 Backes, Scott

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