Ice Climbing at MPA

New Ice Climbing Program Takes Students To New Heights

Imagine being suspended nearly 50 feet off the ground, clinging to a frozen column of ice! Such was the scene this past winter for a daring group of MPA students as part of the school’s adventure-based learning program. Led by Outdoor Paraeducator, Connor Sullivan, the group was outfitted with crampons, mountaineering boots, harnesses, ice 

picks and other climbing equipment before they headed north to the east side of Franconia Notch near Cannon Mountain. 3 students were led into the woods on a cold, blustery day faced with wind and snow squalls. After hiking for a half hour, they reached their destination, a 45 foot series of frozen waterfalls jutting from a mountainside. Instructors set up and anchored rope at the top and students took turns finessing their way up the ice, hours of training put to work navigating the ice pockets, crags and steep gullies.
“It’s certainly not as dangerous as it sounds,” explains Sullivan. “Climbers are secured by safety ropes at all times, with belayers on hand to assist if a student needs assistance or encouragement.” 
Still, the ascent presented a formidable challenge for the students, 2 of whom had never climbed. Sullivan reported that each picked it up quickly, putting their training to work by relying on all their senses, not just brute strength. Although there was little danger given the team’s experience and all the safety protocols, falling debris in the form of ice fragments chipped loose by each climber posed the greatest danger, so a safe distance was maintained by those waiting below. Which isn’t to say there was time to stand around, idly . . .
“It was great to see students helping and enc
ouraging one another as they climbed. It really highlighted what adventure based learning is all about: communication, creative thinking, problem solving; all at work in one activity.”
The trip lasted over 4 hours, with plenty of stories to follow when the students returned to school. Look for even more adventures with Sullivan and his team this year, including several backpacking trips over the spring and a presidential traverse this summer.