Forging Self-Reliance

One cold, windy day many years ago Jay Smith, Doug Hall, and I eagerly donned our packs and began post-holing up a gully to do a first ascent of an ice route that rarely comes in.  The new snow was not particularly deep, but the gully was steep so we took turns breaking trail.  We were nearing the base of the climb and the wind had begun to howl overhead. My partners had stopped to pull out the 7ml tag line and were looking for an anchor.  “What’s up?” I asked, knowing full well that they were roping up because they were afraid of the avalanche danger and hoped a belay would save their lives should an avalanche drop down on us from above.  “If it’s that bad, I am going down!” I exclaimed.  After a lengthy discussion, Jay and Doug packed up the rope and followed me down the gully.  Because of my taking a stand, we did not make the first ascent.  The slope above never avalanched, but we will never know if the gully would have slid with our weight on it.

Still, I wanted to know more.  Was I being too conservative?  Was my tolerance for risk below those of my partners?  Perhaps the rope and anchor (a scrawny tree) would have held in an avalanche.  I consulted with a local avalanche expert and he stated that if he were in my shoes, he would have expressed the same concerns as I and retreated.  I realized that both Jay and Doug had listened to my arguments intently that day and had not treated me any differently because I had a lower testosterone level.  Any thoughts of personal doubts were ones that I brought on myself.

When Kim Reynolds started Chicks Climbing and Skiing nineteen years ago, she noticed plenty of women, in the Ouray Ice Park, climbing with men.  What bothered her was the fact that they were not leading or setting up anchors. They relied on their more experienced partners. 

Since 1999, Chicks has been working to increase the skill and knowledge base in women in rock, ice, and alpine climbing and most recently – backcountry skiing.  Recently, my four Chicks partners and I were discussing our purpose.  We had to narrow it down to two words.  We settled upon Forging Self-Reliance.  Brilliant!

Chicks Legacy

chicks legacyAs we look forward to winter, we take a look back at the Chicks legacy and it’s roots with Chicks founder Kim Reynolds

Its not long now before the temperatures will be falling, mountains will be receiving the first snowfall of the year, and water running over rock will be freezing at night. At Chick’s world headquarters, we are excitedly lining up new winter programs. At the same time, we are mindful of the traditions and accomplishments of Chicks that began with Kim Reynolds 18 years ago. With that in mind, I recently interviewed our founder.

Kitty: Why did you start Chicks?

Kim: I started ice climbing in 1982 and there weren’t many women ice climbers then – maybe just you and I and a handful of others. Then the Ouray Ice Park opened around 1997 and I noticed that there were more women climbers but they didn’t seem to be leading or setting up their own anchors. Instead, they were relying on their more experienced counterparts. So I started Chicks.

Kitty: Why do you like ice climbing?

Kim: I fell in love with ice climbing when my boyfriend took me out to climb in the Ice Park (it wasn’t open then but there was still ice) and to climb Bear Creek Falls. I fell in love with the winter magic and the beauty and obscure places. I appreciated the fact that not many people did it. It felt adventurous.

chicks legacyKitty: Why do you like skiing?

Kim: It is just pure fun. They are my favorite days. I like walking up hill. There is nothing like getting to the top, taking in the view, and making fresh tracks downhill.

Kitty: What do you miss most about Chicks?

Kim: I miss the participants and an amazing community of women. I love the friendships. Do you remember the time we had a clinic where 22 of 24 women were Alumni? It is a sisterhood. Chicks became a life of its own. I also miss the giving back. Women faced fears during the clinics but energy also grew from giving back and the community got involved too and became a part of Chicks.

Kitty: What is your most memorable moment at Chicks?

Kim: There are many. There was the 22 out of 24 participants returning as Alumni, as I mentioned. The night at our fundraiser when the money raised over the years hit $100,000 for the local women’s shelter – that was a significant contribution. The day Mark Miller looked over at some of our Alumni climbing and asked it they had been to Chicks. I said yes and asked why. He said because they are good climbers. Then I knew we had arrived.

chicks legacyKitty: What are you taking away from Chicks that you are using in your new profession?

Kim: When I left Chicks, I had become an administrator. I had gotten away from what I am good at – which is working with others. From Chicks, I learned how to take a unique idea and make it happen. When I sold the business, I made a commitment to take my skills to the next level. So I I got a second coaching certificate and more leadership training. Now I work for think2perform where I grow leaders and teams through focusing on the human side of business. It helps leaders make better decisions under pressure like we do in climbing.

Kim added, “I loved the creativity part of the Chicks business and trying to do something different every year.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. In honor of our roots and Kim’s vision for Chicks, we are continually looking at ways to serve you better. That’s why we are super excited to share our new ice climbing, skiing, and avalanche courses with you this winter.

Single Pitch Trad Climbing

…Simply Beautiful in its Complexity

The beauty of climbing is that you can experience it in so many forms – sport climbing, trad climbing, multi-pitch climbing, and big wall climbing.  You can climb on slabs, technical face, as well as overhanging rock.  And don’t forget the nuances of climbing a particular form of rock such as granite, sandstone, cobblestone, limestone, and quartzite.  We have certainly been blessed with endless options and variations as rock climbers.

One of the most gratifying single pitch trad climbing experiences I have ever had was in Arapiles, Australia.  We walked across a dusty expanse to the base of a small quartzite sandstone dome.  The rock was golden and grey streaked, hard, and polished.  This area is world- renowned for its 2000+ sustained and technical faces.  I looked up at the route and could see a few defining holds but some sections seemed devoid of gear placements as well as holds.  As I racked up, I added a set of HB off-set nuts, which were designed in Australia for small flaring cracks.

I decided to focus on breathing and precise footwork.  “Trust and commit”, I told myself repeatedly.  Miraculously, when I reached the blank sections, small cracks appeared in the rock that accepted my HB’s and tiny edges appeared for my feet that I could not see from the ground. Finishing the route, I once again reveled in the accomplishment of a climb that seemed impossible from below.

It seems to me, that rock climbing in its various forms is like an artist, writer, or a cook.  You start with the foundation – the movement skills – like an artist starts with a framework, a writer starts with a theme, and a cook starts with the main ingredient.  Then you add layers, which adds interest and complexity.  A climber would take their movement skills and add complexity by learning to protect not only bolted climbs, but also climbs which only take gear (trad climbs).  And to carry the analogy, the artist would add color, the writer would add character development and the cook would add spices.  When you piece it all together, the achievement is like a masterpiece.

You don’t have to go to Arapiles, Austrailia to experience the thrill of learning to climb single pitch trad climbing routes.  We are psyched to offer clinics this fall in two of the most popular trad climbing areas in North America – Red Rocks,  and Joshua Tree.  Although both have an abundance of bolted sport routes, they also are renowned for a plethora of classic trad routes in the 5.7- 7.9 range.  Whether you are just learning, or wanting to develop your lead skills, we can help you reach your goals. Join us.

Confessions of a secret Sport Climbing Addict

sport climbing

I have a confession to make…I may be addicted to sport climbing.

First of all, what exactly is sport climbing?
Sport climbing is a discipline of rock climbing and means that a climb is protected with permanently installed bolts that a climber clips a quickdraw and the rope into for fall protection as she climbs up a cliff. It’s exactly the kind of climbing you would find in an indoor climbing gym, except these sport climbs are outside on a cliff or “crag”. The movement is gymnastic and when you find your flow, sport climbing can be down right addicting.

“I just want to give it one more try”, I said desperately and looked down at my swollen, pumped forearms.  No matter that we had run out of time and that my veins were jammed with lactic acid.  I was not troubled so much by being humbled on a sport climb that I had sent last year, but by the style in which I was climbing.  I truly wanted to be back in the zone, where mind and body work together seamlessly to move gracefully through sequences. Sport climbing allows you to do this. If I did not push myself to reach that state during a day of sport climbing, then I had wasted a precious opportunity.  It was as if there was one voice in my head that would say I was not good enough and another that said I could do anything if I put my mind to it.  The question was, which voice would rule that day.  A rock warrior would say these voices are judgment statements that I should let go of.

Setting the emotional aspect of sport climbing aside, the quickest way to improve our movement skills is to consistently test them in a variety of situations.  Otherwise your body adapts to familiarity quickly and then plateaus.  In the long term, your climbing will improve most when you are exposed to the different movement styles that are required on different different kinds of rock – sandstone, limestone and cobbles.

For example, we have a secret area near my home in Utah that is face climbing on vertical sandstone.  Many of the moves require you to reach high with both hands, run your feet up vertical, smooth rock until you can turn one hand into a mantel.  The other hand searches for a layback hold so you can bring a foot up onto the ledge and pull your weight over it.

Manteling, however, does not work so well on overhanging limestone.  Limestone tends to either have solution pockets or be blocky with sharp edges like the kinds you find in Rifle, CO. Often times you have to move your body into a position so you are pulling and pushing together creating an opposition force so you stick and can stay on. If your body isn’t using the holds in a positive direction of pull, no amount of strength will keep you from skating right off the wall.

Have any of you tried cobblestone sport climbing like at Maple Canyon, UT?  These holds tend to be more open-grip slopers and can range in size from a golf ball to a watermelon.  Most people are used to crimpers and the thought of grasping rounded cobbles the size of a tennis-ball just sounds insecure.  I try to remember not to rush the moves and that subtle shifts in balance will make the tennis ball feel good enough if I stay focused and trust.

Just thinking about it all makes me want to shut down the computer, grab my rope and draws and a climbing partner and “give ‘er”.  Ah, so much fun to be had and so little time.

A Farewell from Head Chick, Kim Reynolds

Dear Friends,

Kim Reynolds Hall of FameAfter 16 years holding the vision of Chicks Climbing: Chicks with Picks and Chicks Rock!, I am moving on and passing the torch. It is a rewarding journey to create a climbing program that is unique, that gives back and inspires women to be more than they can imagine. This mission is simple and achieved through motivating our participants to push beyond their self-imposed limits and believe in what is possible!  And, in the process, these ladies also become really good climbers. I love that!  This intended design means a lot to me. And, as Chicks has evolved, so have I.

The women who make the magic happen are our infamous Girly Guides, and I am happy that five of them have banded together to fill my shoes and take this organization to the next level. I have complete faith in them because no one understands the spirit of Chicks better than they do. I am happy they will carry on in service of our beloved “Chicks” who have been part of this adventure for the past sixteen years.

I believe that there are no coincidences, and as I bring this chapter to a close, I received the distinction of being inducted into the American Mountaineering Hall of Excellence —an honor that combines a lifetime achievement of climbing/adventure with giving back to the outdoor community. I am incredibly moved by this recognition, which comes at a time when I can pause and fully appreciate the value of this amazing journey.

With joy and appreciation for the people I’ve met along the way,

A Renaissance of Return

As many of you know, when Head Chick Kim Reynolds takes off her helmet, harness and crampons, she is a Certified Life Coach. She recently wrote the below article which started my wheels turning, so I thought you all would enjoy as well.

I have to admit that I’ve had some challenges lately, a few setbacks that have taken the wind out Groupof my sails and shaken my confidence. It is my nature to be upbeat and positive; I have the ability to dig deep and navigate through difficulties, yet this time I’m having trouble picking myself up. Be it mid-life or menopause, there is a natural shift that is occurring, and on some level, I feel fixed in this change.

I am experiencing an inevitable cycle of life that we don’t usually talk about. We ignore it because we are uncomfortable making adjustments to what we become used to. During the recent months I lost touch with my core values, and the ways of life that have always brought me joy. So, I took stock and thought, “I’m ready for something really good to happen, something that will propel me forward.”

Over time I’ve continued to pile on more responsibilities, and am fully accountable for obligations I’ve initiated. Sometimes I just want to run away from it all, but instead, I head into the mountains. This time, it was an opportunity to work for Outward Bound in Marble, Colo., where I instructed my first field course in more than 20 years.  In this course, we put everything we need for a week on our backs and go out into the wilderness. During this time the students learn how to navigate and use a map, cook yummy one-pot dinners and set up shelters in the pouring rain. We crossed a 13,000 foot pass with full packs, got lost and climbed a peak – a natural environment for leadership and team building. I almost forgot how much our students get out of this wilderness experience!

At the start though, I was nervous. I loaded my pack with what I needed and hoped I wouldn’t feel too rusty, I even voiced my concern. Much to my delight, everything I learned over the past 37 years as a leader came flooding back to me, and I felt completely at home. I experienced a profound recollection accompanied by utter joy. I could clearly remember just exactly what it was that had me captivated with this job for so many years.

One night we were camped high in an amazing lightning storm that was much too close for comfort – I feared for our safety but felt the aliveness of the moment, the beauty and fierceness of the passing storm, the light and the calm that followed.  It was a rare opportunity to be fully present, far away from my responsibilities or worries at home. And the realization struck me: these are the moments that define the wild and untamed places, that cause me to fall to my knees with complete humility and awe.

And with the flood of innate joy I felt during this wilderness leadership experience, my confidence was renewed and my sense of purpose restored.

Why is that? Where did it go?

I think I just got caught up in the complexities of life and it was simply time to lighten my load, and reconnect to what is most important. It is indeed a strange luxury to want so much out of life and when I simply return to the purity of nature, I seem to be able to sort things out and my life just makes sense again.

It’s important for me to surround myself with people and places that inspire me to wake up, tap in and thrive. It reminds me of this poem:

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.

-David Whyte

What I am describing is a renaissance, a reemergence and reawakening of something fundamental to my life: simplicity, connection, truth, purpose, passion and inspiration. The remembering is coming home and returning to what is most familiar and important to me. It’s my reference point, my compass pointing to true north. It’s important for me to slow down and appreciate the journey thus far. I believe that there are no coincidences – if I ask for what I want and follow the cues – my chance will come, not by chance at all.

Kim Reynolds is a Certified Life Coach living in Ridgway, Colorado. To learn more about coaching, call 970-623-2442. Read more:

The Evolution of Dreams

As many of you know, when Head Chick Kim Reynolds takes off her helmet, harness and crampons, she is a Certified Life Coach.  She recently wrote the below article which started my wheels turning, so I thought you all would enjoy as well.

prayer flagsThe information highway is ever-expanding and there seems to be no limit to the material available on the internet.  My friends and family often send me links to articles they think will pique my interest, and I even still get an occasional newspaper article in the mail from my dad. Recently, I received a blog post called “10 Habits of People Who Follow Their Dreams,” and since I want to be intentional about this next phase of my life, I decided to review the column in hopes of insight and inspiration.

I read the 10 statements and it was easy to agree with all of them. However, I noticed the scale was tipped toward the twenty- to thirty-year-old perspective. It is clear that as I evolve, so do my dreams and my approach to them. This particular article is anchored in personal achievements and getting somewhere, that lively conquer-the-world kind of spirit. I appreciate this type of tenacity, yet I am simply observing that I just don’t have that same edge anymore. Over time my edge has softened and my approach to the world has naturally morphed into something new. I don’t want to conquer anything or anyone, anymore.

I’d like to play with a few examples from the list to illustrate how my viewpoints and approach to following my dreams has matured:

Article: They (who follow their dreams) create their own rules instead of fitting into society’s norms. They make decisions from a place of what they want to have instead of what they think they can have.

Kim: I think there is a natural period of disobedience when following rules, and norms just aren’t very appealing. This comes earlier in life when we are seeking individuality and putting our unique stamp on the world. Some of us hold onto this longer than others. It’s out of respect and going with the flow of life that we learn to do the right thing by operating within the guidelines of the structure that has been created for us. If we didn’t have regulations, we’d have chaos. Simply put, most humans just aren’t disciplined enough to stay in alignment with what is right and what is wrong.

I also see a form of entitlement with this generation around the things they want – setting themselves up for instant success instead of having to work towards a goal. There is a deeper sense of appreciation when we put in the mileage to slowly progress up the ladder of life. I think the digital world has offered an illusion that everything is at our fingertips and we can access it quickly, right now.

Article: They (who follow their dreams) see life as a game. Having this vision of life opens up space for playfulness and creativity instead of limitation. This also cultivates qualities of resilience, problem solving and confidence that helps them take risks to get to the next big place.

Kim: Life can hold a wonderful sense of fun and innocence that naturally begins to dim as we age and occasionally get ‘run over’ by life experiences. It is a sacred space to be in and appreciate; we are meant to be filled with joy and a sense of unlimited possibility. This is always available to us and yet we have to learn to navigate the unexpected bumps in the road with this being the true place of creativity, resilience and problem solving.

We gain confidence through our successes and learn profound lessons from our mistakes. There also comes a time when life circumstances become more immediate and we are faced with our changing bodies, aging parents, a shift in energy, interests and even finances. I’m sorry, but it just doesn’t feel like a “game” anymore. It feels like I have really had to step up and be the best I have ever been as I get older and honestly, this is not easy and I want to approach this with as much humility and grace I can muster.

Article: They (who follow their dreams) have teachers, mentors and role models. Having teachers increases their awareness. Having role models and mentors helps them quickly identify where they’re stuck so that they can immediately change their results.

Kim: It can be a pivotal experience in life to have someone we respect and admire point us in the direction we want to travel. A role model can inspire and give us new tools, they inherently hold us accountable for what we want. The shift for me is wanting to mentor and encourage people to shine and be their best. To live my life with the integrity and inspiration that will pave the way for others to go beyond. That, to me, is true evolution.

In closing, it feels important to me to honor change and look at it directly instead of trying to skirt around it. Avoiding the inevitable usually backfires, hardens us and causes resentment. Acceptance and creating new dreams is a place of peace, self-actualization and learning – it is the act of following the water that is flowing downstream.

Kim Reynolds is a Certified Life Coach living in Ridgway Colorado. To learn more about coaching, call 970-623-2442. Read more on her website.

“What I’ve Learned” – Head Chick Featured in Rock and Ice

Kim Reynolds, our Founder and Head Chick, is featured in the February edition of Rock and Ice.  Learn more about Kim’s inspirations and adventures as a businesswoman, philanthropist, and ice-climbing guru!

“I grew up on Christmas Lake in Minnesota and had plenty of territory to explore.  During my grade-school years, we drove the family station wagon to Colorado four times and I decided my fate from the back of that station wagon.  I was going to climb mountains, be a ski patroller, and live in a log cabin when I grew up.”

Click here to read the full article.



Karen McNeill Scholarship

Chicks with Picks is pleased to bring back the Karen McNeill award in memory of our beloved, spirited Girly Guide who disappeared on Mount Foraker six year ago. Her bright, sparkly spirit has been missed ever since. To honor her spirit and memory, Chicks Climbing is sponsoring a space in “The Quickie” Chicks with Picks ice climbing clinic to one lucky woman each winter.

We are looking for a woman who appreciates the camaraderie of women, has a zest for life, loves sparkles and gives back to her community in some way. We want to keep Karen’s spirit alive through giving away this opportunity to attend Chicks on the Karen McNeill Scholarship! You can read more about Karen’s amazing zest for life here on the Karen McNeill scholarship page.

This year, we selected Connie Sciolino to be the Karen McNeill scholarship award recipient, from the large pool of applicants we had gathered for the Eddie Bauer First Ascent scholarship. Connie is the owner and head coach at the Alpine Training Center, a small privately-owned gym in Boulder, Colorado. Many of our Chicks alumnae actually train under Connie at the ATC, and rave about how she has literally changed their lives!

The ironic thing is, Connie is training some of the country’s best ice climbers at the ATC – who credit her programming with making significant progress and gains in their climbing – and she has never personally climbed ice herself (although she is an avid rock climber)! So, we are really looking forward to getting Connie out on the ice at Chicks with Picks during “The Quickie” to experience it first hand!

In her application Connie wrote: “Women enter my gym looking for something and often not even knowing what that might be. They leave with greater self-esteem and a self-confidence that is indescribable. My greatest joy of being a coach is when they come back and tell me of their adventures, accomplishments and joys they have had because of training with me.”

We hope Connie will go home a better trainer to the women and men of the ATC after her Chicks experience, and look forward to her serving as an ambassador to Chicks Climbing!

Thank you to all of the amazing women that applied for scholarships this year. We are so fortunate our sponsors at Eddie Bauer First Ascent generously handed out two to Jennifer and Victoria (who we will introduce a bit more in a blog post tomorrow!).

25 Ways to Keep Your Lover

Self-help and personal growth is a hot topic.  People are waking up to the fact that life feels full – even hectic – and they want to slow down and find themselves. As we tick off the to-do list of life, there is a desire to bring the mind, body and spirit into balance. We want to reclaim the self that got lost in a full-time career, raising kids and gathering enough nuts to put away for the future.

At least that is my perspective as a Life Coach in conversation with people around these topics. There is a longing to meld our outer material world with our inner spiritual realm and there are a lot of ways to do this. When you Google words such as ‘transformational change’ and ‘self-improvement’ you will find hundreds of pages listing seminars, books and retreats from experts such as Alan Seale, Seth Godin, Tony Robbins or Oprah Winfrey.

The best place I know to get an accelerated education is to be in a committed relationship. Alone, it is relatively easy to get along with yourself and see forward progress. However, if you really want to know more, examine this with another human being. Things you ignored or concealed will likely be revealed and you will fast discover who you truly are.

I haven’t attended any seminars lately; instead, I just look within my relationship for the most valuable tools and life lessons I’ve collected to date. In this article I want to share part of my tool belt – namely the tools that have helped me through conflict. The ability to navigate disagreements is what makes or breaks a relationship – it’s easy to sail smoothly on calm seas; it’s how we handle ourselves in rough water that really matters.

Healthy Habits:
1. Develop your friendship – know what is important to your partner and ask them about it.
2. Create an intimacy bridge when your partner is upset – reach out and do something they will respond to well.
3. Give each other 15-20 minutes to speak while the other listens. The other will not comment for an agreed-upon amount of time.
4. Speak in “I” statements: that is to say only speak of what is true for you. This deflects blaming the other person.
5. Speak from how a situation makes you feel. No one can disagree with that.
6. Show your partner your best side and practice being the person you want to be with.
7. Reinforce good conduct: point out what your partner is doing well.
8. Voice their fine qualities and not just what irritates you.
9. Your partner is coming from their own level of comprehension – don’t take their lack of understanding personally.
10. Do what the other enjoys even though it’s not your thing.
11. Avoid alcohol when there is an issue at hand; alcohol feeds off of negative emotions.
12. When something is bothering you, ask if now is a good time to talk about it.
13. When something makes you angry, walk away and give it space.
14. Do not discuss a sensitive topic until your voices are small and your words are coming from your heart. It is easy to see and feel the difference.
15. Come from a place of humility and admit when you are wrong. Ask for forgiveness when you have made a mistake.
16. STOP negative discussions midstream! When the darts start flying, drop your weapons!
17. Know the four horseman: criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling and contempt. If this is unfamiliar, read The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work, by John Gottman.
18. It is impossible to persuade someone to see it your way; instead, find out what it’s like on the other side.
19. Let go of having to be right.
20. Never go to bed angry or hurt. It’s not healthy to have that energy circulating within the relationship.
21. Respect your partner – once that is lost, it’s more difficult to regain.
22. Be honest and truthful. It’s the right thing to do, plus it’s easier to remember.
23. Have fun and do the things you enjoy together.
24. Choose patience and peace.
25. Practice loving kindness.

This list is obviously part of a much larger picture. Google the experts and they will have more to say. I am simply a Life Coach who is committed to looking deep inside myself and my relationships. I like to take the road less traveled and I’m committed to higher learning. This is what is true for me…what’s true for you?

NEW: Kim’s Coaching Conversation – each month I will host a discussion about this article at the Ridgway Community Center, Town Park in the small meeting room. Please come Thursday December 13th between 7:00 – 9:00 PM. It’s free!

Kim Reynolds is  the founder of Chicks Climbing: Chicks with Picks & Chicks Rock!, Mind Over Mountains ( and the dZi Foundation ( Kim is a Certified Life Coach. For a free Life Coaching sample session give Kim a call at 970-623-2442 or email To read more of her articles go to: