Frozen droplets of precipitation from a cloud inversion inundating the community of Glendo the morning of Dec. 7 caused a mystical atmosphere as the rising sun attempted to burst through above a frozen ice castle.
Glendo resident Travis Gruwell’s boot-covered metal crampons scraped across his backyard sidewalk as he approached his creation that kept growing by the day. He transitioned from hard concrete to three to four feet of ice in just a few short steps, walking up an icy slope that supported a sculpture rising more than 20 feet tall.
Four days earlier, his modest backyard fit right in with the quiet neighborhood homes in the vicinity along Lincoln Avenue, but he and his fiance Kodi Noyce have been busy and folks around town had started to notice something rising from behind Gruwell’s tall wooden fence.
“We’ve had a lot of people drive by and look at it,” Noyce said. “People are curious.”
As a carpenter in town, Gruwell knows a thing or two about how to build, but this structure is unlike anything he’s attempted to do before with just one other helper. Starting just four days earlier, the couple began building an ice castle, adequately named “Frozen in Time.”
The two braved bitter morning temperatures to work on the sculpture before work and returned to make additions in the evening. In just four days, the sculpture had grown to 23 feet tall. Their goal was to set a new world record for tallest handmade ice sculpture, which would have to surpass 53 feet. According to guinnessworldrecords.com, the current record belongs to the People’s Government of Yichun City in Yichun, China and was set back in January 2010.
When asked what prompted the unique frozen water creation, Gruwell noted his experience in Utah where he was part of a team that built an ice structure spanning roughly an acre and a half.
Upon his return to Glendo, his curiosity got the best of him when wondering how an ice sculpture would fare in a much windier and warmer environment.
“I wanted to see what Wyoming weather would do because the weather fluctuates so much,” he said.
He was also looking to bring something fun for town residents to look at this Christmas season. The structure consisted solely of ice and a few colorful lights to make it come to life during the nighttime hours.
The couple attempted to build such a structure earlier in the winter season, but 50-degree weather coupled with strong winds caused it to melt.
A more ideal temperature, he said, was 20 degrees, bringing approximately nine inches of growth an hour.
“We spray water to help it build up,” Gruwell noted. “It expands so you don’t have to do too much to it.”
The ice sculptors eyed the future weather forecast, noting a 46 degree high on Monday, Dec. 10, but seemed confident at the time the structure could withstand what mother nature had in store.
“We’re not worried about much,” he said on Friday of last week.
One day later on Saturday, Gruwell opted to cease work on the ice castle, citing concerns that it would grow to a point of no return.
“We decided it was growing too fast for the location next to our house that we honestly think it would overtake our house,” due to flooding if not before, he said.
“We will make the attempt next year in a different location to go for the world record.”
Even if he didn’t achieve the goal this year, it was an enjoyable experience with Noyce and her children who took a liking to the unique structure.
“I’m pretty fascinated with water and freezing,” Gruwell said with a smile.