Last year, Colorado College added outdoor rock climbing to the extensive list of trips offered by the Outdoor Recreation Club. This Sunday, Feb. 3, however, the ORC ventured into uncharted grounds: up an ice wall in Cheyenne Canyon. Ice climbing, as the name implies, involves using ice picks to ascend walls of frozen ice while roped in as in rock climbing.

The trip filled up within a half hour of being put up on SUMMIT. All three of the trip’s leaders were experienced ice climbers who felt very passionate about their sport and were ready to share ice climbing with CC’s famously rock-climber-friendly community.

“Everyone should ice climb, [especially] the ladies! The world –  and CC – needs more female ice climbers,” freshman trip leader Jamie Sarafan said.

The enthusiasm of both the leaders and the participants was apparent, and everyone emphasized that more ice trips should go out so everyone can try it.

“This was my first time ice climbing. I’ve been wanting to try it as I enjoy rock climbing, and wanted to see the similarities and differences between the two,” junior environmental science major Sawyer Connelly explained. “It’s pretty different than rock [in that] that you’re using tools and whatnot [whereas while climbing] rock you as a person are … more connected to the rock.”

Cheyenne Canyon, less than a half hour from campus, has “farmed” ice, meaning that it is watered down with hoses and frozen to keep it in good shape. The frozen waterfall cascades down the wall for climbers to ascend.

Sophomore geology and chemistry major Zach Keskinen is an Alaska native who guides in Alaska’s Wrangell Mountains and co-led the trip with Sarafan and senior Mike Curran. He and Sarafan agreed that the high point of the trip was the gusto of trip participants, which helped them pick up the new skill. Both also agreed that the ice, admittedly easy, was set at the perfect angle to teach beginners.

“The best part [of ice climbing] is how exhilarating it can be to climb a literal wall of ice… the changing nature of ice makes it a new climb every time you go,” Keskinen said.

Adventurous students scale ice wall. Photo by Jamie Sarafan
Adventurous students scale ice wall. Photo by Jamie Sarafan

Sophomore Emma Longcope, an avid rockclimber, has tried mixed climbing (using ice tools on rock), but Sunday was her first time ice climbing.

Longcope said of the leaders, “While I was familiar with things like rope work and heights from rock climbing, ice climbing is an entirely different skill set. Jamie, Zack and Mike taught us proper use of crampons and ice tools, and helped us learn techniques to conserve energy while climbing. I haven’t ice climbed anywhere else, but Cheyenne was a beautiful place to learn, and all the routes were doable for beginners, which was great.”

Ice climbing can be an expensive sport, making the ORC’s trips especially tantalizing. A guided day of ice climbing can cost $350, not including gear, for the same location that the CC students climbed on Sunday.

Like many things at CC, it’s wonderful that students are given the opportunity to try out various outdoor activities without paying hundreds or thousands of dollars for guided trips and equipment. With climbing and ice climbing just beginning within the ORC, hopefully in future years CC will see an increase in number of trips going out each year for both.


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