MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WBOY) – Ice climbing isn’t a popular sport in north central West Virginia, but one Morgantown man is actually ranked number one in the United States in the sport, while still aiming to be one of the best in the world.

“It means that this goal, which in certain ways was almost not even realistic or an impossibility, and I wasn’t even sure if I would be number one for a day really, motivates me to take that objective more seriously both in terms of this season and the future,” said Dan Koepke, a world-class ice climber from Morgantown.

Koepke has been ice climbing for almost 10 years now and has been reaching some pinnacle accolades. He has been selected to the USA Ice Climbing Team since 2020 and has been reaching the finals and placing high in elite competitions across the world.

“Some of these international competitions, it’s very exceptional for an American to come into someone else’s country and take some of those spots from them,” Koepke said.

Koepke is currently overseas competing in the 2023 UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup. He just wrapped up competing in France last weekend, where he placed second in the speed competition against other athletes from North America. On Friday, he will compete in Switzerland for another round of world cup action.

You may wonder how someone that spent time in north central West Virginia got into ice climbing, but for Koepke, it was a dream that he fell in love with.

“My father is a professor at West Virginia University, he had a position in Seattle and while we were there, he climbed Mount Rainer, which is one of the most icy, glaciated mountains in the lower 48 states, so I always had this ambition and role model in terms of mountaineering,” Koepke said. “I always had posters of ice climbers with some extreme type of environment.”

“The more I started doing it, the more I fell in love with it,” Koepke said.

Koepke attributes a lot of his success to hard work and other competitors around him that have been willing to give him tips. In return, Koepke is trying to teach others lessons, while appreciating his growth and the knowledge he’s learned.

“I really do get a lot of joy helping other people achieve their dreams,” he said. “There are times that I enjoy that more than my own climbs.”

If you’re interested in following along with Koepke’s performance on Friday in Switzerland, you can do so by clicking on this link.

Koepke wanted to offer words of gratitude to many people that have helped him throughout the years. The video is below: