A taste for adventure. That's one way of stating the purpose or motto behind the actions of many of the outdoor enthusiasts of Laramie, WY. It is this hunger which brings people from all over the country to our fair town at the corner of "No" and "Where". Here in the Laramie Valley nature provides perfect conditions for a convergence of some of the most popular outdoor activities in the country. If one were to travel just 45 minutes from Laramie they would find a cornucopia of possibilities to make the most of the untamed outdoors including rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, skiing and snowboarding, camping, hunting, fishing and... Ice climbing?
That's right; ice climbing can now be added to the list of activities that outdoor enthusiasts and thrill seekers in Laramie enjoy, and within city limits none the less! But how is this possible? Laramie, while seemingly made for a multitude of outdoor activities (including those listed above), is sadly lacking the natural features which make recreational ice climbing possible, namely tall waterfalls with relatively decent accessibility. This was no mystery to the founders of the Laramie Alpine Adventure Club (LAAC) when they resolved to add ice climbing to their outdoor repertoire in early September of 2010 when the club was being formed. With a spirit of adventure and a goal in their mind they began planning their next project, constructing an ice tower for the club's recreational usage. Using a Farmer's Almanac they determined that the winter of 2010/11 would be ideal for such a project as it promised to be one of the coldest and wettest in five years. With that, they set to work.

After obtaining permission for the usage of land and water from the Laramie Valley Chapel and securing the generous donation of a 40 foot tall telephone pole, the groundbreaking began. Finding out from local sources that telephone poles (surprisingly) only need to be buried 5-6 feet into the ground to remain solidly planted and maintain structural integrity they began to dig. The fact that the procured land was located directly on top of at least 5 feet of solid bedrock just 6 inches below the surface posed some serious challenges but in just 3 days with the use of shovels, pick axes, a jack hammer, an auger, a post holder and a trencher the club had secured a 4 foot hole in the solid limestone bedrock of East Laramie with a trench to run the water line through to prevent freezing. In early January, the promised telephone pole was delivered and planted in the hole and anchored with rebar which was tied into a 5’ x 5’ x 1’ pad of concrete. With the freezing temperatures fast approaching the team quickly ran a sprinkler drip system up the side of the pole and ended it with misting heads wrapped around the circumference of the pole just 2 feet from the top where (just above the misters) a top rope system was installed for belaying climbers. From there, the work was simple, just turn on the water and let nature take its course.

If ever you are driving down East Grand Ave. off of I-80, across from Wal-Mart and gaze behind a pristine white church, you may catch a glimpse of a small yet determined figured clawing its way up a glistening citadel of ice. The tower now stands a daunting 30 feet high, is encased in more than 3 feet of ideal climbing ice with the base now rising a full 4 feet from ground level and is a regular destination for the intrepid members of the LAAC. Donning crampons (sharp spikes for digging into the ice worn on the bottoms of special boots) and ice axes the club navigates the virtual ice skating rink around the pole to climb and belay adventure hungry comrades up their creation of guess and check engineering. A small one-time membership fee to offset the cost of the construction is all that it costs and is more than worth the thrill and satisfaction is has brought and is sure to continue to provide.

The LAAC is a private club and is comprised primarily of members from Solid Rock Outdoor Ministries (SROM), a local Christian outdoor education and leadership ministry – www.srom.com – and The West Institute , a new seminary offering accredited Masters degrees in one or two year programs which specializes in outdoor adventures – www.thewestinstitute.com . Both organizations yearn for the outdoors as a means of enjoyment in addition to acting as a catalyst for physical, mental and spiritual growth and find great elation in being amidst God's creation. There's no doubt in this group of no formal education in engineering or construction that faith plays a major part in how they live their lives whether that be in their education and career or their designs and equipment. After all, one would have to have an awful lot of belief in the seemingly impossible to quite literally put their lives on the line while climbing a 40 foot frozen log buried just 4 feet in the ground.

Contact Clayton Schultz at (307) 760-3860 for more information on The West Institute.

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