Ritt Kellogg’s name is one that nearly every student at Colorado College knows. The climbing gym itself is named after him. Many students apply for “Ritt Grants,” which help fund wilderness-based trips spanning more than 12 days in the field. On Thursday, Feb. 21, a reception in El Pomar’s Great Hall celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Ritt Kellogg Memorial Fund.
The anniversary reception was a fancy affair, complete with platters of quinoa-stuffed cremini mushrooms, elk meat, polenta, and two fondue fountains all cooking upon MSR WhispreLites – spindly stoves popular with backpackers. In a corner of the Great Hall rested a blow-up raft filled with ice cubes keeping a variety of local brews chilled.
Elegant yet full of distinctly backcountry-esque touches, Thursday’s reception was attended by both current students and alumni who have received Ritt Grants, several members of the Ritt Kellogg Memorial Fund board, and a few of Kellogg’s college friends.
The fund aims to honor Kellogg’s spirit and love of the outdoors by providing grants for wilderness-based expeditions and wilderness safety courses as well as funding the climbing gym, environmental service and obtaining books for Tutt Library.
As senior Chris Dickson, a familiar face in the climbing gym, explained, “Out of the tragedy [of Ritt’s death] we were given this amazing funding opportunity.”
Honored alum Colby Coombs, who was part of the three-member climbing crew on Alaska’s Mount Foraker where the avalanche that caused Kellogg’s death occurred, shared anecdotes at the reception about Kellogg, and explained how the fund came to be through the generosity of the Kellogg family.
CC’s President Jill Tiefenthaler and Ritt Grant recipient, Dickson, also addressed the reception.
The reception allowed grant recipients and the board members who choose the expeditions to meet each other and talk about their shared love for the backcountry. In the final moment of the reception, alumni and students alike stood in a circle and toasted to Kellogg’s memory.
Kellogg was an avid outdoorsman, who loved lengthy traditional climbs, averaging around 2,000 feet in length. To commemorate him, it seemed fitting to host a challenge to CC climbers: climb 2,000 feet in the gym. With a bit of math, it was calculated that the 27-foot high wall must be climbed 37 times to reach the coveted 2,000-foot mark.
In teams of two, CC climbers used any hold they could to scale the wall. Some raced, finishing the required height in under 40 minutes. Others climbed for the free hats: red and white trucker hats emblazoned with the Ritt Kellogg Climbing Gym logo on the front in gold. It seemed that everyone leaving the gym had snagged one of the hats, which had been hung on ropes at the top of the climbing walls.
The CC gym is usually filled with shirtless boulderers, heel-hooking as they cling upside down from a cave. On the night of the 2,000-foot challenge, however, the gym was filled with (shirtless) climbers using any hold they could to reach the top, time and time again.
Smiling tiredly and rubbing their forearms together, climbers continually added tally marks to their sheets before having another go at the wall.
Sophomore Betsie Hopper grinned as she finished one of her last climbs on an overhanging route, proud that she still had the strength for it after over 1,700 vertical feet of climbing. She and her sophomore climbing partner, Jessica Badgeley, were both tired and covered in a mix of chalk and sweat, but the girls captured the festive spirit of the event in a short dance break before nearly every ascent.
In preparation for the event, often-neglected top-roping routes were changed and more holds peppered the entire wall so the gym had a nearly-new feel. Energy was high at the event as Outdoor Education directors, Ryan Hammes and Neal Smeltzer, led mini tours of the gym for guests, picking through chalk bags and talking over “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” by The Beatles.
A large framed photo of Ritt Kellogg reminded climbers that the challenge of climbing 2,000 feet was to remember an alum who has made an impact on countless CC students. Since Thursday, the red and white trucker hats that sport Ritt Kellogg’s name have become a frequent sighting on campus—testament to the prevalence of CC climbers.
Kayla Fratt and Kate Leaf
Staff Writer and Active Life Editor