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Monday by Mateo: The Ouray Ice Festival

If you’ve never watched a mixed/ice climbing competition, you should. “But it sounds about as exciting as filing my taxes!” you protest. “They’re just flailing those tools around trying to stick them into stuff over and over” OK, sure, it’s a circus act, but there is a high-stakes athleticism at play as these climbers swing their very sharp-picked tools and scrabble for purchase with their very sharp-pointed crampons. Sometimes, they even swing at artificial holds and bizarre Cirque du Soleil contraptions like hanging, swinging logs, then pretzel themselves into improbable figure 4, figure 9, Steinpull (upside-down ice axe), and other futuristic maneuvers. It’s crazy and pointless, and crazy-pointless, but fun in a terrifying-monkey-bars sort of way. There’s been a mixed competition...

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Monday By Mateo: The American Southwest

Americans tend to take the scope and grandeur of the Southwest desert for granted—the red rocks, buttes, mesas, towers, and river-etched sandstone canyons have been imprinted on us by countless appearances in TV shows, movies, advertisements, etc. But when visitors from abroad make the pilgrimage, they are usually left dumbfounded. “Ma guarda tutta questa roccia!” a friend from Italy once said upon driving the River Road, east of Moab, Utah, where endless red walls of Wingate sandstone loom over the languid green waters of the Colorado River: “Wow, look at all this rock!” They have nothing like this in Italy—not even close. So, get in your car, load your camping gear in the back, and head for the desert.

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Monday By Mateo: The Ouray Ice Park

Not all things manmade are automatically bad. Take the Ouray Ice Park aka the Uncompaghre River Gorge above Ouray, Colorado. Taking advantage of Ouray’s high elevation (7,800 feet) and steep, Alps-like surrounding peaks that keep the valley in invernal shadow, the locals have turned this box canyon into an ice-climber’s paradise, with over 200 frozen waterfall and mixed climbs—all “farmed” using hoses and pipes running off a water pipe above. As legend has it, it all began with the San Juans climber James Burwick aka “Bobo,” who back in the early 1980s peered into the gorge upstream of the Camp Bird Road only to see an 80-foot frozen waterfall where the pipe had sprung a leak. Light bulb! We all love...

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