Ouray 2008: A Video Story

Posted on: January 16, 2008

A climber swings his way out of the gorge just up canyon of the finals route. [Photo] Erik Lambert

Alpinist reported on the 13th annual 2008 Ouray Ice Festival competition in the January 12 NewsWire—but why read about it there when you can watch it here?

The Unitoolers

Click play to watch Rich Marshall fighting upward with a single ice tool.

Not for faint hearts: fighting for a toprope in Ouray on Festival weekend. Flashing my just-sharpened axes threatened no one, and I considered my odds of winning an ax battle slim (although I did manage to win $10 arm wrestling a few hours later).

Climbing long ice just down canyon of the finals route. Note the flags: twelve of the seventeen finalists hailed from outside the US. [Photo] Erik Lambert

There are over a hundred lines in the Ouray Ice Park, but—if you're actually looking to climb—any veteran's recommendation is: "Wake up at 6 a.m., claim a line, and lap it all day. Best of luck." Yet competition morning, January 12th, was different, if only for a few minutes.

No "Where you from? Texas?"


No "Can I get seventh dibs on this TR?"

No "Up rope!"

Will Mayo had captured the show. He cruised the opening mixed section of the finals route but accidentally dropped an ice tool 70 feet into a pool of water below. Flabbergasted at first, he converted with the help of the cheering throng. Folks down canyon stopped climbing to watch the unitooler continue through the man-made features, hugging hanging logs and strategically placing his single ax. Three minutes later he popped off, cashed. The crowd went wild—and with good reason: in the end, Mayo was the top US finisher thanks to his gloved groping.

As though jealous of Mayo, Rich Marshall (who last year competed in a spandex outfit topped off with a green wig) also dropped an ice tool at the same point and similarly fought for higher ground with one ax.

Afterward, when the announcer asked Marshall if he was trying to outdo Mayo, Marshall responded: "It looked like [the route] would be easier to climb with one tool. It's a strategy I developed last night."

Scroll down and click "NEXT PAGE" to watch Jeff Mercier win the 2008 competition.

Jason Stadler outfits a climber on competition day. Although the booth had almost no view of the finals route, it offered the best seats in the house when the strongest made it to the very top, the "diving board." [Photo] Erik Lambert

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