Man of the Cliff event brings in brawn and brews |

Man of the Cliff event brings in brawn and brews

Brian Cerkvenik hurls his ax towards the target in the finals of the men's hatchet throw during Man of the Cliff on Saturday in Red Cliff. Cerkvenik took third place in the competition.
Dominique Taylor | |

RED CLIFF — Tim Byram is much better at throwing axes than tossing kegs. The Vail resident was the champion ax thrower during Saturday’s fifth annual Man of the Cliff competition in Red Cliff, and he says each year the weekend is full of friends and fun.

“We come to the event every year and camp for the weekend,” Byram said in gratitude of his fellow beards and plaid. “We got snowed on last night and it was rough, but with stuck it out and still camped.”

Many individuals were excited to have the Colorado blue show up in all its autumn splendor.

“This event is just awesome,” said John Wayne Smith, of Minturn. “And the fact that it snowed last night and we have all this great weather today definitely underscores the heart, people and the land, that make up Man of the Cliff and this community.”

Not all the competitors are “mountain men,” but they still hold up their fair share of brawn.

Six-foot-nine “Big Red” is Brian Waymire. This is his first year competing in Man of the Cliff, and he attributes his absence last year to an athletic endeavor with the National Football League.

“Unfortunately, last year I was at the N.F.L. Combine trying out for offensive tackle, so I could not participate,” said Waymire, who was also a Division I swimmer for Xavier University. “I was the biggest guy there, but the N.F.L. told me I was an old man at 30 years old.”

He said Man of the Cliff is not as taxing as a professional football tryout, but he said the event still holds its own challenges.

“This is much easier,” he said. “You know, the keg toss started pretty easy, but I don’t know about this ax throwing stuff. I’ll have to figure it out. I’m just going to throw and pray. But I’m gonna destroy the strength competitions.”

Waymire did, in fact, make it to the finals of the keg toss — probably the most prominent power event of the weekend. It was a three man toss-off, but Waymire lost to a man the crowd knew as “Sweaty.”

“See that guy over there, the one drinking out of the horn,” said Sean Hanagan, reigning Man of the Cliff, gesturing toward Sweaty in the opening round of the keg toss. “He won the last five years, and the guy next to him is the guy that just slam dunked it,” Hanagan continued as he pointed out Big Red. “So those two are gonna be it … we’re not going to have a tall enough bar this year.”

Sure enough, the bar was raised to its tallest height, forcing competitors to take several steps away from the bar.

Sweaty soon walked over to stand in line for the ax throw next to Hanagan, offering the reigning champion a swig of bourbon from his long, pointed cup.

“I like bourbon,” Hanagan said, “But it’s out of your horn.”

The event’s beverage of choice is beer, specifically the event-themed brews flowing all weekend from Bonfire Brewery.

Kika Wirtz stood at the Bonfire tent to fill plastic cups and pitchers on Saturday. Her husband, Matt Wirtz, is a co-owner of Bonfire Brewing out of Eagle. She said it’s their second year participating in the event and that it just keeps getting better.

“These beers are great for Man of the Cliff, but this crowd is what makes all this so amazing,” she said.

Plenty of savory aromas were making their way around the Mango’s Mountain Grill parking lot, the event’s annual venue.

“We love it every year,” said Chris Keran, co-owner of Mango’s with his wife, Jaclyn. “Every year it has gotten bigger, better and more fun, and every year it’s great to see more people come up and there’s always new things added. There is definitely a lot of work prepping for this weekend, but we get the food ready and then just enjoy the heck out of it.”

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