Ice climbing takes winter sports to new heights


    By Julie Angevine

    Avalanche and falling ice warnings at Bridal Veil Falls caused minor glitches in the second annual Wastach Ice festival Saturday, but climbers still came out to give ice climbing a try.

    Richard Harrison, retail manager for High Adventure Specialties in Orem, and event organizer, said warm weather early last week produced extremely dangerous ice climbing conditions in the Provo Canyon.

    The festival was unable to offer the advanced climbing sessions and instead gave all instruction on a man-made ice wall, primarily to beginner climbers.

    “The majority of the people here, about 90 percent, are beginners,” Harrison said.

    This was an advantage to the festival, he said, because the interest in ice climbing is relatively new in Utah.

    Dagmara Walzcak, 19, from Norcross Ga., majoring in Exercise Science, tried ice climbing for her second time at the festival.

    “I love being out in the elements and climbing everything,” Walzcak said, “ice climbing is the next level up.”

    Heather Fillmore, 19, from Bozeman Mont., majoring in Photography, also tried ice climbing for her second time at the festival.

    “It”s so much fun, the adrenaline of being way above the ground, the adventure. I love it!” she said.

    Harrison said Walzcak, Fillmore and other climbers received free equipment rental and professional training from High Adventure employees and well-known area professionals.

    Anna Keeling, a certified mountain guide from New Zealand, who has been alpine skiing, rock climbing and ice climbing most of her life, instructed many of the beginner lessons.

    Keeling said ice climbing is physically easier than rock climbing because of the tools used, but “there is greater room for error because ice is an ever changing medium.”

    Like most experienced ice climbers, Keeling and Harrison started out rock climbing before getting involved in ice climbing.

    “I just absolutely love it!” Harrison said. “If I could, I would rather ice climb all year than rock climb.”

    Harrison said Utah has great ice climbing locations because ice consistently forms year after year.

    Despite being unable to climb the natural ice, Organizers still felt the event met their primary goals.

    “Our purpose in having the festival is that we wanted to make people aware of ice-climbing,” Harrison said.

    High Adventure plans on continuing the event annually, in an effort to increase popularity in the sport of ice climbing, he said.

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