OURAY – Paradox Sports brings the seventh annual Paradox Ice event to the Ouray Ice Park on Feb. 28 through March 2. Throughout the weekend, 20 adaptive athletes will learn about the specialized equipment and adaptive techniques needed to climb vertical walls of ice.
Participants range from military veterans with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder to amputees and the visually impaired.
Paradox Ice instructor Chad Jukes, a U.S. Army veteran whose foot was amputated following an encounter with an anti-tank mine while on patrol in northern Iraq, said participating in the annual event has been a transformative experience for him and fellow participants.
“The camaraderie, the group environment is a powerful thing,” said Jukes, who now lives in Ouray County. “It’s amazing how people rally around each other and are super supportive. At the end of the experience, participants are a lot more open and accepting about what has happened to them.”
This year’s Paradox Ice event gets underway on Thursday, Feb. 27, when Program Director Pete Davis, a below the elbow amputee, will join forces with Sean O’Neill, a T-12 paraplegic, and Andres Marin, a local guide, to climb Bridal Veil Falls, a 365-foot waterfall in Telluride.
The majority of participants arrive on Friday, and will spend all day on Saturday and Sunday climbing in the Ouray Ice Park. Instructors use an ingenious variety of adaptive techniques and equipment, many developed right here in Ouray, to get participants up the ice.
Tools range from adaptive custom-made crampons and ice axes that work with prosthetics, to ascenders and Yates chairs which give paraplegic climbers a mechanical advantage as they ascend vertical ice using only their upper-body strength while their lower extremities are protected in a seat-like splint.
A community fundraiser will be held on Saturday night, March 1, at the Ouray Community Center. The evening event gets underway at 7 p.m., and will feature several short film screenings, the annual “Got Stump” auction, and a gripping presentation by Marine veteran Dan Sidels.
Sidels fought in Fallujah during the Iraq War, where he sustained a traumatic brain injury. He still struggles with the condition, as well as with post-traumatic stress disorder, and has embraced climbing and the outdoor lifestyle as a way to quiet the demons that still haunt him.
Sidels was among the 11 U.S. veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, including Jukes, to be featured in the movie High Ground, a 2012 documentary film that tells the story of how the group of veterans set off to climb one of the tallest peaks in the Himalaya to heal the physical and emotional wounds of war.
All proceeds from Saturday’s fundraiser will be split between Paradox Sports and Ouray Ice Park. The event is open to the public. There will be a slight cover charge to get in. “I am really psyched to pack the house,” said Davis.
After the auction, there will be live music at the Ourayle House, a favorite haunt of Paradox Ice participants, where beer can be swilled from an old prosthetic leg that used to belong to U.S. Paralympic Snowboarder and Ouray native Heidi Duce.
Paradox Sports co-founder and below-the-knee amputee, Malcolm Daly, launched Paradox Ice in 2008.
“Ice is the great equalizer,” he said. “None of us can climb it without adaptive equipment. We just go one step further.”
Paradox Ice is open to people with physical disabilities, their families or caretakers and military veterans. This is event is made possible by Ouray Ice Park, Ouray Brewery and San Juan Mountain Guides. For more information or to register for the upcoming climbs, visit http://paradoxsports.org/programs/paradox-ice.