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Spaniard Manuel Cordova leaving the re-belay on the Finals Route. Below lay fifty feet of vertical and overhanging WI5+ ice. All the finalists cruised that section, but most were stymied by the business above: an overhanging, left-leaning, blocky rock ar?te that transitioned into the ?diving board,? an overhanging plywood panel sparsely equipped with climbing holds. Only Ukrainian Evgeny Kryvosheytsev managed to complete the route. Cordova tied Paul Stein and Maxime Turgeon for fifth place. [Photo] Dan Long

The 12th Annual Ouray Ice Festival was held January 10-14 at the most celebrated man-made ice park in the world. Wednesday and Thursday’s preliminary rounds at the Festival eliminated some of climbing’s finest, including Rob Owens, Steve House and Louise-Philippe “LP” Menard. Sixteen finalists returned on Saturday to battle with a heinous mixed route that dwarfed the qualifier.

Despite a Festival sans Hari Berger (who died on December 20 while ice climbing close to his home town near Salzburg, Austria) and Canada’s perennial favorite Will Gadd, hundreds of spectators watched the final route test superstars on more than 100 feet of climbing. The first half of the route–vertical and overhanging ice–gave no issue to the competitors, who made WI5+ look like a jaunt. A secondary belay above the ice section introduced the business: an overhanging, left leaning, blocky rock arete that transitioned into the “diving board,” an overhanging plywood panel sparsely equipped with climbing holds.

Ultimately, the diving board engaged only half the finalists; many were shut down by long moves through the sustained rock section before they could even reach it. Those who did persevere were humbled by the diving board’s slopey and textureless features. Only one competitor, Ukraine’s Evgeny Kryvosheytsev, puzzled it out. His ascent, and the resulting applause, proved that Mark Miller’s route had been set perfectly, allowing only the finest competitor access to the top.

“It was very difficult to read the board up there,” second-place male finisher Rich Marshall said. “But after watching Audrey, I know how to do it.” Quebec’s Audrey Gariepy won the crowd–and the women’s crown–by out-climbing every preceding competitor on the diving board, sending all but two moves.

Quebe?ois Audrey Gariepy dry tooling her way to the diving board on the Finals Route, Saturday, January 13, at the 12th Annual Ouray Ice Festival. The diving board, an overhanging plywood panel sparsely equipped with climbing holds, thwarted every finalist but one, Ukraine?s Evgeny Kryvosheytsev. Gariepy tagged the second-highest point, snagging second in the Finals as a result. No stranger to competition, Gariepy had won the Quebec Ice Cup the past three years. [Photo] Dan Long

The comp format was a timed onsight. Each competitor had one attempt and twenty-five minutes to reach a single highpoint. Heel spurs, increasingly shunned by creative mixed climbers, particularly in Canmore, were banned from Ouray’s competition this year. Plenty of stubby heel scums might have benefited from spurs during the event. But the inverted and contorted bodies and picks were just as entertaining without them, and the competitors fed off the crowd.

Maxime Turgeon, one of dozens of accomplished high-altitude alpinists who flocked to Ouray’s Festival (his accomplishments in Alaska’s Ruth Gorge are featured in Issue 15‘s “Spice Factory”), tied for fifth place after struggling with the diving board sequence for fifteen pumpy minutes. “Everyone is around and above you,” Maxime said, impressed with the crowd. “There is just so much energy.” This was his first trip to Ouray.

Canadian Rich Marshall dressed for success. An impromptu auction during Marshall?s climb netted $95 for the green wig he was wearing (the high bid was rumored to have been made by Steve House). Marshall was the third-place finisher in the 2006 Ouray comp. This year, he took third again. [Photo] Dan Long

Beyond the climbing, hijinks on both sides of the gorge kept the crowd animated for seven hours of competition–snowball fights; burritos carried by the radiant Tracy Lockard to the mid-belay station; fluorescent wigs and women’s spandex worn by Rich Marshall. And to top off Evgeny’s domination–he was the show-stopping, last competitor of the day, nonetheless–after dynoing to the diving board’s lip, he sealed the deal with a bat-hang from his tools.

Ukrainian Evgeny Kryvosheytsev celebrates his victory in the 2007 Ouray Ice Festival with a spur-less bat hang for the crowd. The only competitor to complete the route, Kryvosheytsev has been dominating the international comp scene for years. This year’s event was his first appearance at Ouray, where spurs were banned for the first time. [Photo] Dan Long

Overall Results:

1) Evgeny Kryvosheytsev (Ukraine)

2) Audrey Gariepy (f-Canada)

3) Rich Marshall (Canada)

4) Josh Wharton (USA)

5) Manuel Cordova (Spain), Paul Stein (USA), Maxime Turgeon (Canada)

8) Marc Beverly (USA)

9) Mathieu Audibert (Canada), Jason Nelson (USA)

11) Will Mayo (USA)

12) Dawn Glanc (f-USA)

13) Caroline Ware (f-USA/France/Switzerland)

14) Vince Anderson (USA)

15) Kristie Arend (f-USA)

16) Tracy Lockard (f-USA)