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Fear factor

Ice climbing with fear, not in it

In Ouray, Colorado, there's something growing in the famous Uncompahgre Gorge, and people come from all corners of the planet to see it, and especially to climb it.

The Ouray Ice Park is a natural rock chasm featured with ice, man made, farmed and manicured to perfect conditions every morning from December to spring. One of the park's notorious ice farmers, the crew that keeps the ice going - nearly three vertical miles of it- all season long, says the job calls on an “extreme plumbing mentality.”

“It's not so easy as throwing water off a cliff and making ice,” Logan Tyler said, rushing around the edge of the 200-foot deep canyon with a wrench and a propane torch. “You've got to think about three things every night: Wind speed, temperature and water pressure.

The water is from the municipal overflow tanks, 660 gallons per minute- up to 200,000 gallons of water every night and the Ice park uses 7,000 feet of piping to manage it.

It's is the biggest of its kind, inhabiting a mile of the long, winding natural canyon with walls polished and smooth from ions of flash flooding. Two hundred routes in all challenge ice climbers of every skill level. It's a mecca for alpinists the world over.

We caught up with one die hard local who has been climbing out of this canyon for 18 years. Professional climber, climbing coach and owner of the Rock Lounge in Durango, Colorado, Marcus Garcia has lived half of his life kicking his crampons and swinging his ice axe in to solid ice, and he's not ready to stop. In fact, when he's not coaching everyone from elite competitors to aspiring mountaineers, he's competing in world class competitions himself.

From the surreal, dramatic shapes that form the bottom of the teal blue canyon, Garcia shared a few of his secrets. And with his cool and calm demeanor, he made the seemingly impossible possible- ascending overhanging roofs of stone and dagger chandeliers of solid blue glass look easy. For Garcia, it's all about controlling his fear. He climbs with fear, but not in it.

“In fear, you're going to limit yourself, what you can do as a person,” he said. “You've got to learn how to live with fear.”

Contact editor Brandon Mathis at bmathis@bcimedia.com or 970-375-4576

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