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Saturday, May 8, 2021

Climb to the top

During winter, most people try to stay indoors to avoid Bellingham’s biting cold and harsh winds. But some courageous souls may choose to brave the weather and scale frozen waterfalls during the Outdoor Center’s annual ice climbing excursion, taking place Martin Luther King Jr. weekend in Lillooet, British Columbia.           

Ice climbing is similar to rock climbing but instead of scaling a cliffside, you’re climbing frozen waterfalls. When waterfalls or any other moving water freeze, it forms a sheet of ice solid enough to climb.

Junior Natasha Hessami, a rock climber who participated in the excursion last year, describes the act of shuffling up the waterfall as many small but difficult maneuvers requiring a lot of forearm strength.

“Once I got to the top I was really proud of myself for accomplishing it and I definitely enjoyed the view.” 

Natasha Hessami

“You have to wear crampons on your boots, which are like very spiky cleats. And you have one ice pick in each hand,” Hessami said. 

On the trip, staff members will place ropes at the top of the ice sheet and a belay at the bottom, which secures the participant from falling. Participants will be able to perform ice climbs all the way to the top of frozen water, said Gus Landefeld, front desk staffer

Sarah Pearson climbs during an Outdoor Center trip. // Photo by Tatsu Ota, courtesy of Sarah Pearson
Sarah Pearson climbs during an Outdoor Center trip. // Photo by Tatsu Ota, courtesy of Sarah Pearsonat the Outdoor Center .

Hessami said she wanted to try ice climbing, but didn’t know how to get started in the sport.

“It was a type of trip I could not take on my own because I had no training, so going with the Outdoor Center was a perfect introduction,” Hessami said.

At the beginning of the trip, Hessami said she didn’t know what she was doing. By the end of it, she was more comfortable and was able to build up a technique instead of clambering up the waterfall.

During her first ice climbing experience, all Hessami could think about was how much her arms hurt, how cold it was and how tired she was.

“Once I got to the top I was really proud of myself for accomplishing it and I definitely enjoyed the view,” Hessami said.

The Outdoor Center marketing coordinator, Sarah Pearson, also went on the December trip.

“It was something I had never done before and never thought I would do,” Pearson said. “Just being out there and on the ice was a once in a lifetime experience,” Pearson said.

Students ready to start the excursion on Dec. 11, 2016. // Photo by Tatsu Ota, courtesy of Sarah Pearson
Students ready to start the excursion on Dec. 11, 2016. // Photo by Tatsu Ota, courtesy of Sarah Pearson

The Outdoor Center does a similar ice climbing excursion in December, which involves going to Banff, Canada for six days. Hessami attended this trip as well and mentioned the climbs were amazing, but the conditions were colder and the trip was longer.

Since the upcoming trip is only a weekend long, there won’t be any other group activities besides ice climbing. Students are allowed to relax and enjoy themselves whenever they are not climbing.

“While you’re not actively climbing or belaying, there is always some down time to hangout and drink some hot coco with everyone else,” Pearson said.

The trip costs $200, which covers transportation, lodging, ice climbing gear, guidance and dinner, Landefeld said. Students have to provide their own warm clothing.

“It is a great way to get outside and do something you wouldn’t be able to do on your own.” Hessami said. “Everyone can go on a hike on their own, but you really can’t go ice climbing on your own.”

Students can sign up and pay at the Outdoor Center front desk. For more information, students can visit the Outdoor Center, located on the first floor of the Viking Union.

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