Soldiers take on vertical
July 28, 2011
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Sgt. Jeff Collins gripped the granite, slowly extending his right arm to feel for his next handhold. Nothing. Switching hands, the Soldier reached with his left arm, nabbing a small nubbin of rock. Working his feet up the rock face, Collins hoisted himself to the top of “Waiting on the Staircase,” a moderate route at Arch Rock in Eleven Mile Canyon, near Lake George.
“That was terrifying,” Collins said as he was lowered to the ground.
Collins, a Soldier in 3rd Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, joined three battle buddies and seven other climbing enthusiasts for a weekend climbing trip sponsored by Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation and Fort Carson’s Outdoor Recreation Center.
“I don’t do well with heights,” Collins said. “I came to conquer that fear.”
Collins tackled more than 10 routes Saturday and Sunday, including an attempt of the 450-foot multi-pitch route, “Schooldaze,” on Turret Dome. Lightning forced climbers off the route before they could finish.
“The trip was amazing,” said Pvt. Derrik Hess, 3rd STB, 3rd BCT, 4th Inf. Div. “I loved it.”
Hess, Collins and 3rd STB Soldiers Sgt. Mark Wangerien and Spc. Andre Wright signed up for the trip without much experience.
“We took the ‘On-Belay Class’ a couple weeks ago,” Wangerien said. “I liked the whole (trip)
experience. It was exhilarating, challenging and fun.”
Wangerien said he plans to continue refining his climbing technique.
“I’ve definitely got to work on it,” he said. “I’m still a novice. But this is a good way to spend my free time rather than going to the bars.”
Soldiers weren’t the only participants on the weekend trip, which was originally scheduled to travel to New Mexico, but was diverted to Eleven Mile Canyon due to fire danger.
“We want to open these opportunities up to everyone on Fort Carson,” said Trevor McConnell, program director for the Adventure Programs and Education at the Outdoor Recreation Center. McConnell added that Soldiers, Family members and civilians working on Fort Carson can take advantage of adventure programs on post. Eligible participants can also sponsor up to four civilian friends.
“I’ve been at Fort Carson for six years,” said Kendra Rodgers, a field archaeologist with Fort Carson’s Cultural Resources Management Program.
“I wish I had taken advantage of these kinds of programs back then. Programs like this are just awesome -- the pricing, the trips, you can’t beat it.”
For less than $100, participants on the climbing trip were chauffeured to the climbing site, guided through climbs, had their camping and park fees paid and ate four meals catered by the Outdoor Recreation Center staff.
“The food was on point,” Hess said. “The chicken pesto (pasta) was delicious.”
“The trip went really well,” said Michael Hunter, an intern and climbing guide for the Outdoor Recreation Center. “The storms were a bit iffy, but it seemed like everyone had a good time.”
Ashley Sherlock, another intern and guide, agreed.
“It ended up being a great trip,” she said. “It’s great seeing people getting back from (deployments) and getting outside.”
Leaning against a boulder near Turret Dome, Wright reflected on the weekend.
“It was a good workout,” he said. “I liked the area, the river, the mountains.”