Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Fort Carson Mountaineer

Climbers take on ice

Patrick O’Connor swings his ice axe as he makes his way up one of the 50-foot waterfalls Saturday during a beginner ice climbing trip to Helen Hunt Falls, which was sponsored by the Outdoor Recreation Center at Fort Carson. O’Connor, a former Soldier and Family member, said he enjoyed the physical challenge and would continue ice climbing.

Story and photo by Andrea Sutherland

Mountaineer staff

Climbers braved the cold Saturday, trekking to Helen Hunt Falls for a lesson on ice.

Sarah Saccoccio, wife of a Soldier supporting 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), strapped on crampons and began making her way up the 50-foot frozen waterfall. Swinging her ice axe and stepping up with her feet, Saccoccio made quick work of the five-story climb.

“As a chick, you feel pretty bada– doing this with all these dudes,” she said.

Saccoccio was one of seven participants in the beginning ice climbing course, which was sponsored by the Outdoor Recreation Center through the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation.

“It was physically challenging,” she said. “I would definitely do this again. Our guides, Jen (Corteo) and Sarah (Baker), they were very helpful. Every time things got tough, I’d look down and see them smiling up at me. That was awesome.”

With years of experience in the ice climbing world, Corteo and Baker, both Outdoor Rec employees, led Saturday’s trip.

“I’ve spent a lot of time on my off days preparing to teach people efficiently,” said Baker. “They get a lot out of it and they try stuff they never would have before.”

“This was awesome,” said Capt. John Cheng, 64th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. “I probably would not have done this if Outdoor Rec hadn’t offered it.”

Cheng said that he recently moved to Fort Carson after redeploying from Iraq.

Despite battling hand cramps post-climb, he said he would participate in future ice climbing trips.

“It’s physical and mental, but it’s also technical. That’s what I like,” he said. “Upper body strength helps, but it’s about technique, where you place your feet.”

A variety of participants, including Soldiers, Family members and friends, took advantage of the event.

“I’m keeping up with the young folks,” said Capt. Monique Jeanbaptiste, a nurse with Medical Department Activity.

Jeanbaptiste, 51, was the oldest participant, but hung strong for several climbs up the falls.

“You have to have the strength,” she said. “I’m grateful to the Army for making us exercise so I can do things like this.”

Civilians working on Fort Carson can also participate in events sponsored by Outdoor Rec. All eligible participants can sponsor up to four friends on trips.

Patrick O’Connor, former Soldier and Family member, traveled from Denver to test his skills.

“I could definitely make a habit out of this,” he said.

The Outdoor Recreation Center offers one more beginning ice climbing course Sunday as well as an inter­mediate course April 6. Visit the Outdoor Recreation website at–education.php for more information on upcoming events.

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