Dixie’s ORAC ushers students outdoors, hosts 160-foot rappel

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Fifteen students stood on the edge of a cliff and looked down 160 feet before starting their backward descents.


The Outdoor Recreation and Adventure Center took 15 students of various rappelling skills to Cougar Cliffs Saturday morning. Cougar Cliffs are located off Bluff Street toward Ivins in Santa Clara, near Black Rock, and north of Red Hills Parkway.


Josh Chipman, a junior psychology major from St. George, said he and other ORAC organizers hoped a rappelling activity would get students’ adrenaline pumping.


“All of our outdoor activities are trying to get students to be involved in the outdoors here,” Chipman said. “Outdoor activities can get your blood going and keep Dixie students active. If (the ORAC) can get students outdoors, they will be more likely to do outdoor activities themselves later in life.”


The rappelling activity at Cougar Cliffs was free for students, much like many of ORAC’s hosted events. If not free, the activity fees are typically low-cost so students can join in on the excitement as long as they sign up beforehand by visiting the ORAC’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/dixie.orac.

Gabby Holbrook, a junior communication major from Salt Lake City, participated in the rappelling activity with no prior experience. 


“It was pretty scary, but as soon as you get control, it’s all right,” Holbrook said. “It’s a lot of adrenaline. I’m glad I did it.”


After a rough start, Holbrook figured out how to control the rope, and she got down the cliff. 


“I hope (the other rappels) are not all this tall for beginners,” Holbrook said. “A hundred-sixty feet is quite a bit for a beginner.”


Holbrook wasn’t the only person in the group who had never gone rappelling. Six of the 15 discovered a new experience with ORAC Saturday.


Alexandra Ogilvie, a sophomore engineering major from Salt Lake City, was not one of those. She said she gained some rappelling experience while working in Zion National Park during the summer.


“(Rappelling) is exciting,” Ogilvie said. “It’s scary, but you know you’re going to be OK.”

The group went one-by-one over the side of the cliff and disappeared from those who waited their turn at the top.


“It’s definitely an adrenaline rush,” Ogilvie said. “Especially at the beginning when you first go over (the edge).”


Shortly after the initial drop, the cliff face dipped in, and the rappellers were left to themselves and the rope as they continued their descent.


“I liked the freefall,” Ogilvie said. “It was fun.”

The next ORAC event is canyoneering at Pine Creek Sept. 14. After that, ORAC organizers are planning to go climbing at Black Rocks near Cougar Cliffs Sept. 21 at 9 a.m.

More information regarding the ORAC’s upcoming events is available on its Facebook page and website at dixie.edu/odr. Both sites are updated regularly as new events are scheduled.