Skelly, a Painting for the Ouray Ice Festival

Skelly, a painting for the Ouray Ice Park, mixed media on canvas by Kellie Day, 40" x 24" ©2014

Skelly, a painting for the Ouray Ice Park, mixed media on canvas 40″ x 24″ ©2014

I had five days off from my US Forest Service job surveying and chainsawing line in remote bays around Prince William Sound. I wanted to see more of Alaska. I wanted to climb mountains. So I took a Ranger friend’s advice and hitchhiked to McCarthy to learn to ice climb.

McCarthy, Alaska was a tiny town with a year round population of 25. It sat at the convergence of the Kennicott and Root Glaciers, the headwaters of the Copper River. It was the jumping off point to our country’s most incredible mountain range and wilderness, the Wrangell-St. Elias.

There was no road into Cordova, so I began my journey with a ferry to Valdez, and started hitchhiking towards McCarthy. I caught a ride on a small airplane for the last leg, and arrived at the Kennicott river. There was no road into the town of McCarthy either, so I pulled myself across the river on a hand-tram. This is how all folks got to the town of McCarthy at that time.

At the old Power House I hired a guide who I would later spend years climbing with, but that is another story. I fell in love with ice climbing, and returned the next summer to do an internship as a mountain guide with St Elias Alpine Guides.

Ice climbing out of a moulan on the Root glacier when I was 25. My friend, Nelson, belaying.

Ice climbing out of a moulan on the Root glacier when I was 25. My friend, Nelson, belaying.

The root of my ice climbing took place on these great glaciers , down into their bellies in vertical ice tubes called “moulans”.

The ice was not like our glorious frozen waterfalls here in Colorado, it was bullet proof at times.

That next summer I flew all over the Wrangell St. Elias in small planes, where passengers sat in luggage compartments, and backpacks were strapped to the wings of the plane. I traversed enormous and wild country climbing unclimbed peaks. I lived in a tiny cabin, in a meadow of wildflowers, with a moose antler-door handle, and no electricity or running water.

Flying over the Wrangell St-Elias, photo courtesy of Ultima Thule Lodge

Flying over the Wrangell St-Elias, photo courtesy of Ultima Thule Lodge

Flying over those mountains I witnessed the expansiveness  of this wilderness: endless rivers of ice, uncountable peaks, and the sparkling ocean on the other side. These sites became a benchmark of what this world looks like to me.

Between travels and a decade of climbing around the world, I ended up near Ouray, Colorado, where we are lucky enough to have a virtual training ground in the Ouray Ice Park. Better yet, the long and wild climbs our surrounding mountains offer, from Silverton to Telluride and beyond. I ended up here, in a valley surrounded by 14,000′ peaks, and hot springs, and a small, rich community of exceptional folks, who have amazing talents they never talk about. So many of us came just to ski and climb.

This painting, Skelly, is for the Ouray Ice Festival 20th Anniversary, where it will be auctioned off at the fundraiser. This post tells a little of what’s buried in these layers of paint. Be sure to check out this fantastic event if you get a chance!

To purchase a print of this painting, email me here.

Detail of Skelly, for the Ouray Ice Park

Detail of Skelly, for the Ouray Ice Park

 

 

4 Comments

  1. Howie says:

    The goodle days. I see your past in all of your amazing artwork Kellie.

  2. Joanna S says:

    Kellie- I loved seeing your awesome paintings while they were hanging at the Telluride Library & was immensely gratified to see you chosen as this year’s Ice Fest poster illustrator! I could tell it was your work instantaneously. Great dimension, cool details, and I really enjoyed this backstory!

    • Kellie Day says:

      Thanks Joanna! The Ouray Ice Fest poster was so fun to work on, because of the backstory. I’m glad you picked up on the energy and fun that went behind it. Hope to see you at the Ice Fest!

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