Story by Verna Barr, Photos
by Deb Folsom & Tracy Gibson
Participating were ninth graders Kirsten Berghauser, Nolan Carney, Shane Charlton and Brandon Reynolds; 10th graders Matt Pennella and Antonio Cortez; 11th grader Dylan Frantz; and 12th graders Brittanie Shannon and James Heatt.
LAUNCH coordinator Tracy Gibson, math teacher Bob Bollinger, and English teacher Ross Williams, along with guides Dan Ihnot, John Turman, and Chris and Deb Folsom, instructed the students and helped wherever needed. Ross Williams grew up in Ouray. He served as an instructor and is a member of Ouray Mountain Rescue. He currently is a member of West Elk Search and Rescue and has been an ice climber for a number of years. Williams was a big help in organizing many aspects of the event. He contacted Erin Eddy, director of the Ouray Ice Park, and equipment was acquired from San Juan Mountain Guides.
"I think it's fantastic," Williams said, "for these kids to be exposed to an activity that can provide such a feeling of accomplishment as well as exposing them to this outdoor recreation opportunity on the Western Slope. Hopefully some of them will take an interest in climbing-mountaineering and all of the wonderful opportunities it provides."
Chris and Deb Folsom are members of Ouray Mountain Rescue. Both are EMT-Bs in the community. Chris has hosted the kids' climbing clinic for the Ouray Ice Festival for six years. Deb came into that program in 2006. This season they have introduced ice climbing to Matt Pennella and three "other abled" young adults, including a below-the-knee amputee, and two above-the-knee amputees from Ouray, Boulder, and Salt Lake City. Chris, along with several helpful and enthusiastic friends, have been working on modifying a unique design for each person, as they all require a different approach in apparatus style.
By utilizing special techniques and equipment, Matt was able to join his classmates and take part in ice climbing at the ice park in Ouray recently.
Matt was born with spina biﬁda. He has been dealing with the effects of this birth defect all of his 16 years. After about 15 surgeries, six of these in the past year, he can move his legs, but hasn't enough strength in those legs to bear weight.
Undaunted, Matt climbed about three-quarters of the way up an ice-wall with his classmates from Cedaredge's Vision LAUNCH program.
"It turned out pretty good," Matt said. "Chris climbed beside me. Chris has been working with disabled people, teaching them how to adaptively climb using only arms, ice picks and a pulley-type mechanism.
"It wasn't easy. As the wall got steeper and steeper, the climb got harder and harder. Dragging my body along was like doing pull-ups with ice picks. I did put too much stress on the ice with one pick and it broke away. I did a cartwheel and was hanging upside down. Chris ﬂipped me back to a climbing position."
Matt commented that his arms could take it. He did only 20 to 30 pull-ups, but his stomach muscles suffered the most and his ﬁngers were clenched tight from the handhold on the picks. He likes to think of himself as creative and innovative when it comes to adapting so he can participate in most activities. He's ready to try ice climbing again.
Dylan Frantz found the climb to be "really fun, though a bit scary at ﬁrst because I've had a bit of a phobia with heights. I loved it and climbed it at least 10 times." He's ready to conquer a bigger hill. "I cheered all of my friends, especially Matt. He did a good job!" Dylan also said, "Johnny and Danny were really good about explaining how to use all of the equipment and how to get geared up for the climb."
The ice climbing trip and other special LAUNCH events, called Sky High Fridays, are planned for once a month. A past event was a trip to the courthouse in Delta. This included a trial, a talk with the judge, and a tour of the jail. Guest speakers were invited for another Friday. Community engagement projects have included decorating the space used for the Gala at AppleFest, helping with the Council Tree Powwow and conducting a food drive. A ski trip to Powderhorn was planned for February.blog comments powered by Disqus