Years ago, an Eagle River teen began his ice climbing journey. Little did he know, the adventure would take him much farther than up and down a few local walls.
“I started mountaineering with my dad four or five years ago,” said 16-year-old Calvin Daugherty. “We climbed this mountain in Africa called Kilamanjaro, and then I started rock climbing, and my dad just got me into it. And it was kind of a mix of the two – rock climbing and mountaineering.”
Now, however, he’s taken on a new endeavor.
“It’s pretty exhilarating,” Daugherty said. “First time is scary. If you’ve rock climbed before, you kind of get the feeling, but when you’re on ice, you never know if the ice is going to break or something.”
He’s talking about ice climbing: The sport of climbing glaciers, ice falls, frozen waterfalls, and other features – such as cliffs and rocks – that are covered with frozen water.
Daugherty said he trains close to home for the most part, including a few areas near Eagle River. Caribou Creek was the first one that came to mind for him, along with some spots less than an hour from home.
“We go down to Valdez sometimes,” he said. “A lot of cool waterfalls to climb down there.”
His mom said local spots are a good place to start.
“We’re kind of in the early stages of the sport,” Prairie Daugherty said, “and he’s excited because he loves it, and my husband does it a lot.”
This time, though, the sport is taking him much farther from home.
Daugherty received an invitation from the American Alpine Club to compete on the 2019 USA World Cup Ice Climbing Team, with competition set to begin in Finland next month. He will be part of the Youth World Championship Team, which features a roster of 10 standout climbers from across the United States.
“I’m pretty excited,” he said. “For this year, I’m just trying to compete, have some fun. Maybe next year I’ll set some goals as far as placing or competing-wise, but this year is more of an experience year.”
The 2019 UIAA Ice Climbing World Youth Championships will take place in Oulu, Finland, one of the most northerly cities in the world, where a 22-meter-high ice tower will offer competitors challenging and technical routes. The series begins Feb. 28, with competition wrapping up on March 2. The conclusion of the UIAA Ice Climbing European Tour will be held the next day at the same location.
“I’m really thankful for this opportunity, and super excited to go to Finland,” Daugherty said. “It’ll be a really fun experience.”
According to the American Alpine Club, the USA World Cup Ice Climbing Team has grown significantly over the past year. As a developing sport, little sponsorship money is available, and athletes have to fund their own trips and purchase unique and expensive equipment to be able to train and compete. You can learn more about the team and contribute to fundraising efforts by heading to the team page.