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Ice Climbing Opens Outdoor Opportunities

By Leah Veldhuisen ’19

For many students, block breaks are an opportunity to relax and reset between blocks, but some students take the time to explore new places and activities. During the Block 5 block break, eight students chose to dive into a new skill, going to Ouray, Colorado, on a beginner’s ice climbing trip offered by Outdoor Education (ORC).  

David Crye, associate director of outdoor education, says “everyone on the trip [was] pretty much brand new to ice climbing so the trip [was] a great way to get exposure to the sport and try something new. We also [stayed] in fun, cozy cabins that help make our evenings very community focused with food, games, and lots of laughs.”

Prior to the trip, a few students explained why they were excited to head to Ouray. Saria Sato Bajracharya ’20 said that she enjoys climbing outside, but has never “had the opportunity to go out and ice climb,” and adds that “the trip is highly subsidized and accessible to everyone.” Crye echoes that this trip makes ice climbing uniquely accessible, saying “ice climbing can be very expensive and most people really need to hire a guide or find a friend who is experienced in the sport.” For this trip, the ORC provided participants with necessary gear and instruction to make it available for anyone with the desire to go.

Upon returning, Bajracharya says she enjoyed the trip and was successfully introduced to ice climbing. “It is different from just regular rock climbing as you incorporate more equipment and rely on tools to hold you,” she explains. The excursion was “a perfect two days of climbing and having fun with your friends” and allowed participants “to make the most out of Colorado winter [and was] definitely a good time to experience something new.”

The ice climbing trip is part of a larger goal of the ORC to ensure inclusivity for all their programming. In addition to working with executive-in-residence Britt McClintock in Fall 2018 to assist the program in furthering diversity and inclusion initiatives, they are instituting an Inclusion Committee with student representatives, and focusing on programs for students with little to no outdoor experience. Their efforts have been working, as around 50 percent of participants on ORC trips this year have listed themselves as first-timers.

“We are continually working to better market our programs and expose all of our students to the outdoors and help make all students feel welcomed into any of our spaces on campus and off,” Crye explains. In this vein, students are planning a Spring Break trip to float the Green River and paddle a beginner section of rapids on the Colorado River near Moab, and Crye says many other trips are also in the works for the springtime.