The ice man cometh

Former Everest climber turns ice into artistry

| Dec 24, 2009

It’s perfect weather for an ice sculpture. When temperatures in Colorado dropped below zero, former emergency room doctor Dee Crouch hooked up his garden hose to a tall ladder. He turned it on a cloth draped tree in his front yard on Jefferson Street in Boulder. Crouch, who received his Master of Fine Arts in Ice Sculpture from the University of Colorado in 1993, knows something about ice.

Dee Crouch, ice sculptor, at work

Dee Crouch, ice sculptor, at work

As a flight surgeon in Alaska in the military during the mid-1960s, he taught an outdoor survival class on on how to survive minus 70 degree weather.

In 1976, a CBS film crew followed Dr. Crouch and a team of climbers from the U.S. as they ascended Mount Everest to the top. Twenty years later, a french filmmaker documented Crouch’s travels down the Alsek River in Alaska, in a kayak. A photo made famous on sports posters shows Crouch fending off the approach of a grizzly bear, mid-river, with his paddle.

The team of three was forced to abandon the river after a fast melting glacier, calving giant icebergs, blocked their way. Their 12-day evacuation overland, in which they crossed icy rivers barefoot to keep their boots dry, was also recorded by the filmmaker.

In the early 1990’s, fresh from the MFA program at CU, Crouch also served as artist in residence one winter season in the Colorado town of Telluride. The melting of his 35 foot high sculpture in front of the new gondola lift followed the decline of ski season into the Spring. It also flooded Oak Street and the basement of the courthouse where county records were kept.

Crouch’s Ice Tree Sculpture should melt by April, he says.

(This article also appeared on Alexia Parks’ blog on Huffington Post.)