Outdoor Students Dig Into Ice Climbing

Kristen Collins and peers in CMC Leadville Ice Climbing course.
CMC Leadville Outdoor Recreation Leadership students in a Leadville Ice Climbing course.
PC: Kristen Collins

Colorado Mountain College Leadville Ice Climbing Course Introduces Students to Four-seasons of Climbing

Does hanging onto a wall of sheer ice while suspended 30+ feet over a mountainside sound like fun? If so, you just might belong at an adventure college. Outdoor students at Colorado Mountain College Leadville got an introduction into the world of ice climbing during a 3-day course last month. The class was taught by Dalton Reed and Thomas Davis (Kip), experienced climbers and outdoor instructors.

Ice Climbing 101

“The first day began with some gear logistics, belay practice, and introductory climbing at Chalk Falls,” says Kristen Collins, a 24-year-old Outdoor Recreation Leadership student at Colorado Mountain College, “The second and third day were spent at the Firehouse walls in Vail working on technique and more challenging climbs. The approach was steep but the natural beauty and glissade made it worth it.”

Though Kristen enjoys rock climbing, this was her first time trying its winter counterpart. The experienced outdoor instructors helped her learn new skills and build confidence.

“Kip and Dalton knew exactly how to help us improve our technique no matter what climbing experience we had,” said Kristen, who is originally from Parker, CO, “Trusting the crampons was definitely the biggest challenge because in order to engage them you have to defy your instincts. You have to drop your heels away from the wall and rely on small spikes to hold you so it’s truly a struggle of mind over matter.”

CMC Leadville ORL student ice climbing a wall in Vail
PC: Kristen Collins

Climbing a Waterfall

Ice climbers endure rigorous physical activity, overcome mental obstacles, and experience breathtaking scenery in a supportive, communal setting.

“The greatest reward was my final climb of the course,” says Kristen, “The day before I had attempted this climb I could hardly get my feet on the wall. The next day I tucked a picture of my G’dad, who passed away 4 months ago, into my pocket and conquered that climb. I stood at the top thinking “I just climbed a waterfall with my G’dad!” It was really emotional and fulfilling.”

Perks of an #AdventureCollege

Thanks to hands-on training and incredible networking opportunities, outdoor students at Colorado Mountain College are prepared for successful careers. Many students become professional guides, wilderness instructors, or outdoor recreation business owners.

“We get to know our classmates over campfires and in ice caves,” says Kristen, “We get to know ourselves mustering up the courage to rappel into a canyon. The teachers and their experience are out of this world and truly care about each of us succeeding.”

Being a woman building a career in the outdoor industry comes with its challenges, but the community is supportive and encouraging. The outdoor industry is growing and changing, and CMC’s Outdoor Recreation Leadership students are guiding that progress.

“If it kind of scares you then you should absolutely pursue it,” says Kristen, “The most growth comes from opportunities just beyond your comfort zone and you are worth the risk. Don’t wait for it to happen, make it happen.”

Build a future in the outdoor industry with an Outdoor Recreation Leadership degree.