A Fine Balance

DSCN7720by Lisa Nelson
It’s late afternoon when Jason and I arrive at the crag. Looks like rain, but we have decided to hike up the sleep slope to get a few pitches in before dinner anyway We’re exploring a new area in our home state of Colorado, and Zane, or 14 year old son, doesn’t want to leave the van. Arguing seems futile. The weather looks like shit and the hike looks like work, enforcing my decision to let him stay. Besides, our van is “home” many weeks out of the year and he is able to entertain himself quite well. Lately, getting him excited about climbing and spending generous time in the outdoors has become more and more difficult. When he was small, I looked forward to a time when he could “keep up with me”. Now that he is physically able to do just that he wants nothing to do with climbing. Last weekend he stayed home from a weekend trip for the first time. All went well. I climbed without distraction for two whole days and Zane got to hang out with friends. This has been a summer of letting go and realizing he is his own person.

It seems my life has always been about balancing climbing with motherhood. Although I know there was a time when Zane was not with me, I just can’t remember it anymore. I love being Zane’s mom and have no desire to trade lives with the 20- something climber living out of the back of a truck. But I love to climb, and I want to climb well. In my journey of balancing climbing with being a mom, I just wish I had met more women like me. How great it would be to have another family to go to Indian Creek with and trade off kids so the moms could rock those towers! Zane is not new to travel. He’s probably clocked more time in Indian Creek than most adult climbers, traveled all over the Western US as well as Peru, Thailand, Spain, Australia and Mexico. We usually spend several weeks, if not months, roaming the country in our van. Spending time together this way, without material distractions makes us a strong family and gives Zane a different perspective on life. We have been home schooling for the last three years, which allows us endless flexibility.

Climbing in SpainToday at the crag, Jason and I talked about going to Lotus Flower Tower next summer, one of many places I have dreamt about for years. Already I am thinking about how I can make this possible. My immediate family is busy and hard to pin down for childcare, so perhaps a camp. He will be 15 so there are lots of options. Better start planning and saving now, though.

Each summer Jason and I try to do one big trip together, but this takes lots of planning and coordination. Although I feel very lucky to be able to have those adventures to look forward to each summer, I often go into them feeling totally under prepared, both physically and mentally. I find it hard to train for big days like Half Dome when I usually need to leave the crag early to cook dinner or to entertain Zane. Finding both partners and time is always a challenge. My lead heads a continual roller coaster. Parenting often leaves me so completely spent mentally I couldn’t imagine getting it together to lead a hard climb. But I’m realizing motivation will go a long ways, even if I haven’t been able to properly train, and in the end determination plays a bigger part than preparation in the success of my big of adventures.

Zane on 5.11 at Indian Creek (before his hands got to big)Over the years we’ve managed to experience many wonderful places; Elephants Perch, La Esfinge in Peru, Big Walls in Yosemite and Zion, The Incredible Hulk in the Sierras, several peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park, The Black Canyon. Yet even when I am in the backcountry or on a big wall, I’m concerned about being unreachable – a constant reminder that I’m first and for most, Mom.

I feel so blessed to be living this life. I relish the adventures I have had because I have worked so hard to get them. The memories of those trips put a smile on my face and fill my heart when I’m frustrated with parenting and everyday life. I meet many women who have given up climbing to be a mom and when I hear them talk about how they used to be a climber it makes me sad. While their husbands are off on climbing trips, they are content to stay home with the kids, finding other physical and emotional outlets. I guess my life would be easier if going to the gym and scrapbooking filled my bucket. My big adventures are why I can’t stop being a climber and I listen longingly when other women talk about first ascents in far away countries.

I’m happy we choose to live our life a bit differently and want that to be an example for Zane. Even more than teaching him Math and Language Arts, I hope to teach him honesty, responsibility, and how to be happy in life. I want him to know the satisfaction and joy of working hard and digging deep to achieve a goal. I know he sometimes misses his friends in Ouray and part of him longs for “normal” life, complete with TV sitcoms and Kentucky Fried Chicken. He is doing great, however, learning and growing like me. When I watch him socialize with the other climbers and hear their comments about what a great kid he is, I’m proud of him and proud of me. I’m doing it, and doing it well. I’m happy and raising a great kid, balancing the two things I love most; being a mom and a climber.

Tips, tricks, and ideas to make it easier:

*Pick areas that are kid friendly. This will be age dependent, of course.
Western areas include:
Shelf Road
Indian Creek
Joshua Tree
Ten Sleep Canyon
Red Rocks (single pitch stuff)

International places include:
Rai Lay Beach in Thailand
El Potrero in Mexico (single pitch stuff)
Grampians and Arapoles in Australia
Gandia and Sella in Spain

*Go easy on yourself. Do your best, but don’t beat yourself up if you’re having a bad day. I continually remind myself that I climb because I love it, not because of a grade.

*Don’t give up if you have a bad climbing outing involving children. The great thing about kids is that they change. What seems impossible (like taking a 2 year old to Indian Creek) will be fine down the road. At every age there will be both easy and hard times.

*Don’t push the climbing – gradually build on it. I would be psyched if Zane loved climbing like I do, but we have never “forced” him to climb. Bribed? Yes. The first time he climbed the Flat Irons we hid skittles in the cracks! Get creative and try to incorporate favorite games into this great learning experience.

*Climb in a party of three whenever possible. This will make it incredibly easier on everyone. Since you’re either belaying or climbing with a pair, three people allows a nice break when needed. This way I can enjoy time with Zane, reading or playing.

*Bring lots of entertainment to the Crag. Zane has a bag FULL of goodies…books, art supplies, hula hoops, juggling rings, juggling rings, poi, throwing knives, even those evil handheld devices. We recently added a unicycle and a mountain board to his bag of tricks.

*A two way radio has been a great investment. If Zane wants to wander down to the van early, I can still connect with him. In Thailand, we took one up on a multi-pitch. He thought it was a blast to talk to us while we were up there.

*Own a van. We own a campervan and although it’s not a cheap vehicle it has been our most treasured investment. I would sell my house first! This one thing has been the biggest reason we are able to live the life we do. Our life would just not work with a tent.

*Get out with the gals. Make sure you have time to yourself, away from the husband and kids. It’s great for me to be on the sharp end with no distractions.

*Have time alone with your significant other. We plan one trip together each year and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

*Be OK with a bored or grumpy kiddo. They are not going to be happy 100% of the time regardless of where you are. I would rather Zane be bored in a beautiful place than sitting at home in front of the TV. Downtime leads to creativity.

*Lastly, relish the time you have with your children in these spectacular places. Some of my best memories are of hanging out in the van at camp with Zane at Indian Creek or Joshua Tree. There is no house to clean, no laundry to do, we are just spending time together. As he grows up, I cherish the memories we share and look forward to making more.

Girly guide Mattie Sheafor-Hong gets down to business

By Mattie Sheafor-Hong

Conditions yesterday were as hard as they get, barring avalanche. disease, pestience or famine. The ice was boilerplate hard, prone to this specious, wicked fracturing calledl “dinner plating” (every contact strike makes a discolored shape about the size of a turkey platter, which means it has fractured around and under the ice and you trust it at your peril). It means a boat load of work on the sharp end and your belayer is probably going to get shelled unless you’ve been very wise and very thoughtful and luck doesn’t hurt.

Click here to

June Newsletter

News from the Chicks with Picks Nerve Center:

Chicks Rock!We have officially launched our new women’s rock climbing program appropriately named Chicks Rock!

All Chicks are welcome as we are offering beginning to advanced clinics. We even have different packages you can sign up for.  You can come and climb with us in the daytime only or join us for dinners, slide show and camping. You choose.
Register Now!

2009 Dates:
Devil’s Lake, Wisconsin
September 7-10: Full or Daytime Package available

Red Rocks, Nevada
Option 1: October 1-4:
3-Day Weekend, Full or Daytime Package available
Option 2: October 1-5: 3-Day Weekend Plus Multi Pitch Day, Full or Daytime

Chicks Climbing

It’s our  new Social Networking group that combines Chicks with Picks and Chicks Rock as the go-to place for women’s climbing!  Interacting & networking over the internet is the sign of the times!
We have created three great opportunities for like- minded women to connect, have conversations and discuss hot topics about women & women climbers.

Chicks Climbing Facebook Group
Chicks Climbing Blog
Chicks Climbing Twitter

"Happy Home" Kathmandu Nepal

"Happy Home" Kathmandu NepalMedia:


This month Kim got great exposure with an interview on Everest Mind Camp a web site founded with a simple yet powerful mission in mind: To inspire people to take conscious and empowered action to achieve their personal and professional goals. Check it out

Everest Mind Camp: Go to Guests and then Previous Guests to read the interview with Kim

Women's Adventure Retreats

Women's Adventure Retreats

MIND OVER MOUNTAINS: Thought Provoking Retreats

Don’t forget our Women’s Adventure Retreats, combining yoga, workshops, outdoor activities, spa treatments, Life Coaching and lovely accommodations! Sign up for these transformational retreats soon, as they start in July!

Passion and Potential
Location: Chipeta Sun Lodge & Spa, Ridgway, Colorado
Dates: July 16 – 20, 2009
Difficulty: High Aerobic
Min/Max group size: 4/12
Price: $2250 – all inclusive

Circling Back to Simplicity
Location: The Nature Place, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Dates: August 23- 28, 2009
Difficulty: Moderate Aerobic
Min/Max group size: 4/12
Price: $1550 – all inclusive

Nothing is Constant But Change
Location: Colorado Chatauqua, Boulder, Colorado
Dates: September 17- 21, 2009
Difficulty: Low Aerobic
Min/Max group size: 4/12
Price: $1550 – all inclusive

When you’re hot, you’re HOT!

Join us here to discuss Hot Topics that are important to women and women’s climbers. We will have one sizzling topic per month to discuss, share ideas, expertise and the latest oppinions. Imagine that, a woman with an oppinion. Please let us know what Hot Topics you could warm up to….we are gathering ideas before we launch this Category. What would You like to read about?

Caroline George: AMGA Exam

This winter has been busy with  travels, trainings and exam. Upon returning from the Khumbu Climbing School, I headed to beautiful and  remote Silverton, CO to take my level III AIARE course/exam, which is  a necessary step to take the AMGA aspirant ski exam. After much  talking and learning about snow, I passed the AIARE III and headed to  Vegas to teach clinics at the Red Rocks Rendez Vous. A day later, I  flew to Switzerland to visit my family and friends, to ski and climb  (see my blog for pictures of that trip:  and eventually, by mid april,  flew to AK to train for my ski aspirant  exam with Chicks with Picks guide, Angela Hawse.

We drove from Anchorage to the ski mountaineering and heliskiing mecca, aka Valdez, and immediately got down to business, checking out  the terrain we later be tested on and perfecting our drills: sled lowers, building shelters, beacon search, snow profile and skiing
technique. Each day, we would head up another mountain and ski. Each  night, we were greated with Anna’s – our hostess – amazing home cooked  meals and pies and share beta with the other course and exam  participants. After ten days there, we were ready for the course to  start.

We met our instructors – Howie Schwartz, Bela Vadasz and Martin Volken  – on the first day and headed out to get tested on the above
mentionned drills. We spent three days doing drills, which felt like an eternity. All we really wanted to do was ski. Eventually, the
skiing component started. We learnt new tricks of the trade, practiced  some crevasse rescue and skied amazing corn snow. On day 6 (out of  10), we flew into the range in a helicopter and got dropped off on a  little pass on a ridge. We spent the following three days traversing  back to Thompson Pass (where most of the easily accessible skiing is  located), carrying huge packs with our skiing gear (shovel, probe,  beacon, skins, etc.), our camping gear (stove, fuel canisters, tent,  sleeping bag, mat, jackets, headlamps, food, etc.), navigation gear  (maps, compass, GPS, notebooks, etc.) and glacier travel gear  (harness, ice axe, crampons, prussiks, cordelettes, carabiners, ice screw, first aid kit, tarps, etc.). Heavy! Yet, this was an amazing  trip across gigantic glaciers and we benefited from amazing weather  too. Angela and I shared the tent and the stove! We spent the last  three days getting examined.

The exam component is a new one in the advanced course, and one that  enables American guides to become IFMGA aspirant guides, once they  have passed the three disciplines offered by the AMGA: rock, alpine  and skiing. This was my last advanced course/exam. I completed the  Alpine in August 08, the Rock in September 08 and the ski just this  past April 09. With this, my lifelong dream of being an offical IFMGA  aspirant guide came true and my need to belong fulfilled. This status  will also enable me to be a better guide for Chicks with Picks… and  hopefully, I’ll be an even better guide once I have completed the full  IFMGA certification. To get there, I still need to take the exams in  each discipline: alpine, rock and ski!

To see pictures of this story, view my blog:

Caroline George: Khumbu Climbing School

Each year, I look forward to my time guiding at Chicks with Picks:
sharing my passion for ice climbing, meeting new ladies, spending time  in Ouray, eating great food, and above all, having a blast. This year  though, I chose to deprive myself of such a joy but donating my time  and knowledge to the Khumbu Climbing School in Nepal. The 2009 edition of the Khumbu Climbing School was run by Chicks with Picks guide Amy Bullard. So, in a way, it felt like we were having our own little CWP time over there.

The Khumbu Climbing School enables Nepali people to learn how to be  safer in the mountains. We teach them how to build anchors, walk and  climb on ice, belay, rappel, tie knots, climb up fixed ropes, etc. At  the end of the ten day course, the students take an test, which
provides them with a certificate, which, in turn, enables them to get
work more easily on Everest or other big mountains around. Working at  KCS proved to be really gratifying in that we were teaching for a
cause. Although it was a different venue than Chicks, it offered much
of the same satisfaction: at Chicks, we raise money for women
shelters, in Nepal, we provided our students with a paper that would
open doors.

Check out my blog for pictures of KCS:

You Tube – NBC Today Show

Chicks on the Today Show

Chicks on the Today Show

Watch Chicks with Picks on YouTube. The NBC Today Show and Nightly News: featuring an interveiw with Chicks alumni Amy Boebel.  Learn what ice climbing has done to help this cancer survivor overcome her fears and embrace life with new a passion.

Mt. Everest Mind Camp Interview

Kim Reynolds

Kim Reynolds

I want to share a recent interview posted on The Mt. Everest Mind Camp website, which was founded with a simple yet powerful mission: to inspire people to take conscious & empowered action to achieve their personal & professional goals. I am honored to be chosen as their featured guest for June and have the opportunity to share my passions.
Life is full!  Happy Summer, Kim

The Mt. Everest Mind Camp:
Our Number One Goal is to inspire YOU to take conscious and empowered action to achieve your personal and professional goals.

To get started, we suggest you ask yourself the following questions.
Commitment: Is your goal tangible and specific?
Development: Will the journey to achieving your goal require you to grow as a person?
Integration: How will achieving your own goals help your friends, family, or community?

To learn how the worlds most accomplished mountaineers, philanthropists and self development leaders found their own answers to these same questions, visit our monthly Featured Guest page.

Bridalveil Falls, Telluride CO

Bridalveil Falls, Telluride CO

Bridalveil Falls

It’s been 11 years since I’ve climbed Bridalveil Falls in Telluride and back then, I didn’t lead the difficult 2nd pitch. For some reason, the climb has always intimidated me and for years it was closed, making it illegal to climb. This San Juan classic is now open to climbers and it sees ascents almost daily. It was the climb on my 50th year hit list that I most anticipated because for some unknown reason, I had decided that leading all of Bridalveil was something I didn’t want or have to do. But now that I was getting my grrr back…that perspective changed.

Mr. X and I headed up for the second shift on March 11th with a guided party ahead of us. As we walked up to the climb the beginning of the route wasn’t obvious to either of us and I kept staring at it wondering if I’d actually get on it. The party coming off happened to be good friends and we got a little beta which helped my confidence… at least I knew where to go. We got on the climb around 2:00 PM for the second shift, which was perfect.

Putting in a screw on the 2nd pitch

Putting in a screw on the 2nd pitch

This year, both the first and second pitch proved to have some interesting climbing on it and to my surprise, I actually had a lot of fun leading it.  Poor Mr. X got a scare right off the bat when I took off on the first pitch and my crampons skidded out from under me, on what we now refer to as the “gerbil ramp”. Luckily after that (not so) impressive start, I got my act together and enjoyed weaving my way through the ice on this sometimes convoluted route. As the belayer, you can only see the leader on the first few feet of each pitch – so to reassure my nervous partner, I yelled down occasionally to let Mr. X know how I was doing. I remember saying two things: “I’m having fun” and “watch me, this is tricky”, the irony being that he couldn’t actually “watch me” at all. That about sums it all up.

Kim & Mr. X

Kim & Mr. X

Climbing is an intense internal dance and I love holding it together while solving the pieces to the puzzle as I go. The complete and total focus of that moment, the camaraderie and trust of my climbing partner makes for a powerful shared experience. When Mr. X reached the top of the first pitch, we made eye contact and he said to me “who are You?”  Now that I think of it, I often wonder that myself.