First up, fun fact: residents of Durango are known as Durangotans. I shit you not.
Second. Here are a few quick snapshots and some words that I wanted to share with you. These were 'visual highlights' and moments of humour or beauty that I just had to share with you. In no particular order ...
The first round of the UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup was held in Durango, Colorado. I was delighted to be asked back to commentate on the circuit again and the first round presented an exciting opportunity to revisit the US. I was delighted to take the chance with no hands.
The outbound journey was surprisingly easy, last years 3 day epic just to get to my destination was a learning curve that I had taken on board. This year I was there in a matter of hours.
It was only my second visit to the United States (my first being last years ice climbing World Cup round in Bozeman, Montana).
All my travel across the States thus far had been in the dark. This year however, I got to see much more of it in the light. Colorado and Arizona are mind blowing places of beauty. Sparse, deserted, open, desolate, developed, transformed, natural; I find it very hard to explain.
Seen from the air, I felt it was particularly overwhelming. There were genuine moments of emotion as I looked out of my window seat a few thousand feet above the ground. My mind around different theme. I pondered the blank spaces that we were crossing; I reflected on the people that used to live here (ie Natives) and the way their land was stolen from them and the way their culture was made all but extinct and only a few hundred years ago. I considered the way that we, Humans, changed and continue to change the landscapes in a way that was so far beyond repair. I studied the beauty at the mountains and the beauty of the city. The irregularities and patterns of the landscape as it passed by minute by minute and the regularity of the blocks upon blocks of houses and buildings and roads and schools and sports stadiums and fields and ... there is so much. This is America. Maybe I drank too much coffee, maybe the jet lag was playing marbles with my brain cells. Whatever was going on in there I was thinking. A lot.
This year the UIAA has decided to opt for different broadcasting tactics. Last year, individual events had to provide live streaming facilities themselves – crew, cameras, uplink, the works, the only thing that the UIAA provided was a bald, bearded lad from't'North of England to talk over the action.
This year, it was decided that one company would be elected to broadcast all but one of the rounds (long story). QTV, based out of Glasgow, Scotland would be starting their time as official broadcasters in Durango and honestly, I couldn't have been more excited.
Prior to meeting the full crew in the States, I had the pleasure of joining Producer Ale (say: Alley) for coffee in Manchester to get the gist of what they were expecting and what we could do together.
I was bowled over by the level of their enthusiasm. I was expecting a skilled bunch and – no doubt about it – skilled they were. But skill doesn't necessarily equal energy, thankfully Jack McGill (boss man) and his team are on it 100% and delivered VT's and packages in ways that the ice climbing broadcasts have never seen before. Not only are they shit hot at what they do, they also happen to display extraordinarily high levels of banter. Excellent times.
So. Post event I arrive at the airport to fly home and find out that my flight (along with several others) are cancelled.
Question: What do you do with another 24 hours stuck in a town that you know nothing about?
Answer: LOTS OF THINGS! First things first, you need to find a room for the night. Followed by finding a way of getting back into town. Luckily those two things happened pretty damn quickly, with much help from Alex Santos (part of the local organising team for the World Cup and all round legend).
So I arrive at my place, right by the competition venue, still with a few hours of sunlight and a need to work out what to do with myself.
During my stay so far, I had felt the urge to get outside plenty of times, I mean, the mountains are so flipping close ... but with a tight work schedule and long days, I hadn't managed to make it happen. Time to scratch the itch, I would go for a run. A quick browse of Google Maps showed that there was a massive lake (it's actually a resevoir) about 3 miles from the hotel. So ... that seemed a pretty obvious place to go.
It was just less than a mile to the base of County Highway 210 and then, uphill, on the adjacent track, for 2 whole miles. No respite. Just uphill. Belting (that means good in Lancastrian). See a short video of the experience below ...
NB: Durango sits at 2000m asl to start with (high for a Lancashire Lad like myself) so it was tough going. The hardest part is finding your rhythm. I did find it and eventually found the Lake too. I tell you what though, despite the sunshine, the air temperature was bloody freezing.
Finally, here is one of the overall highlights of the event, Alexey Dengin (RUS) smashing the final route to pieces. The only competitor to do so. Lad.