Ski Mountaineering is “The Goods!”

 

Angela Hawse ski mountaineering in Antarctica

Angela Hawse ski mountaineering in Antarctica

There’s an illicit and secret connotation in the expression, “The Goods.” It’s as if anything that is really good must somehow be too good to be true, in other words, wrong.

Winter has finally arrived and my backyard, Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, is ripe for getting “The Goods.” There’s nothing better, nothing more complete, and nothing more right, than ski mountaineering.

I learned how to ski when I was 17, straight off the YMCA bus, schooled in hard knocks and anything goes.

Free-heeling was the rage; and for years I got more face shots from falling on my face than I got from powder turns.

It wasn’t until I was in my mid 40’s and serious about guide certification that I finally fixed my heel, thus fixed my face-plant problem, and found my calling.

I love climbing mountains but non-technical descents are not very enjoyable.

I’ve found with skiing, I can dance with gravity on the descent, linking turns with the wind in my face. And, cut the time down in less than half!

Ski mountaineering makes what was already fun, more fun, and in large part adds a degree of safety. I’m more nimble. I can move through terrain faster and more efficiently. This broadens my scope of possibility and minimizes my exposure to hazards.

But what I love most about skiing is that that it requires digging deeply. From just getting started, all the way to ski mountaineering, backcountry skiing encompasses big picture stuff like weather, avalanche hazard, communication, and technical skill. It requires homework. You don’t just show up when you go skiing.

Which is why I couldn’t be more stoked that Chicks has rounded out its mountain sports collective with backcountry ski basics, avalanche courses and ski mountaineering for a full line up the mountain and more fun on the way back down.

 See ya on the slopes!

 

Angela Hawse, Co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, IFMGA Mountain Guide

Hey! I Didn’t Die.

Total Bitch. Dawn Glanc wrestling with the first log, 2013 Ouray Ice Festival Competition ©Marcus Garcia

Total Bitch. Dawn Glanc wrestling with the first log, 2013 Ouray Ice Festival Competition ©Marcus Garcia

Many women who take Chicks Climbing and Skiing clinics are not athletic—I mean, they did not grow up being active. Women in their fifties and early sixties (we’ve even had seventy-year-olds) come who’ve had no sports opportunities in their entire lives. Chicks is their first athletic experience, ever.

When I’m teaching a clinic, I’ll often watch a woman realize that there’s another world, an athletic, active one, and all they have to do to live in that world is to step into it.

They wrestle with the contradiction, the shifting mental model, “Hey! I didn’t freeze to death. I didn’t die? I climbed a vertical wall of ice!”

As their guide it’s easy for me to see that what they really did was conquer themselves. They conquered their fear, their fear of heights, of failure, lack of skill, the belief that they are weak. In an ice climb, they grew strong as they pushed themselves out and over their comfort zone.

And, the best part? It was fun!

Two weeks ago, I competed in the Ouray Ice Festival Competition. I’ve competed in this competition 10 times now and each time it’s been a different experience.

At first I was just stoked to be in the finals, competing against the best climbers in the world. I felt like the luckiest person alive.

Then, I wanted to win.

Mixed climbing and ice climbing were my every thought. I trained uber hard phsically AND mentally—visualizing my success. For four years, 2009 – 2012, this dedication paid off with podium spots and cash prizes. I was on cloud nine and felt invincible.

Then, in 2013, I did not meet my competition goal and I became a total bitch.

It turns out my competitive nature is my biggest downfall. In 2014 and 2015 disappointment plagued my entire winter season. I decided to give up competition until I could learn to be a better sport.

I started commentating which came naturally: I knew the rules; I had first-hand experience; I know the competitors; I provided comic anecdotes. However, inside I suffered. I had a serious case of FOMO.

So, I decided to compete again.

Instead of winning, my goal was to be the first elected official to compete in the Ouray Ice Festival. (I was elected to town council in 2016.)

All I had to do was show up, tie in and climb.

I felt I could manage this goal and still feel successful. With this new attitude, I felt free and had fun competing for the first time ever.

Am I back? No. I’m still a terrible sport; I don’t deal well with poor performance. I’m hyper-critical of myself. Competition brings out the worst in me.

However, I met my goal. I feel really good about my climb. Instead of falling, I timed out. And, I stopped along the way to wave at the crowd. This is how I honour the competition that has taught me so much about myself, an event that I will always hold close to my heart.

See you in the Ouray Ice Park next year for some serious learning and some serious fun,

Dawn Glanc, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, AMGA Rock and Alpine Guide, Mixtress

Are You Avalanche Aware?

Avalanche ClassHappy 2018 everybody! I’m so excited. It’s snowing.

As I watch the flakes come down, I feel a wave of joy. I want to run and shout, build a snowman, throw a covert snowball, and GO SKIING!

When I was a kid I dreamed of being a downhill ski racer, flying down mountain slopes. I was fearless and strong. Gravity was my best friend.

I chased my ski-racing dreams from North Carolina to the University of Vermont, home of many ski Olympians. But after a few years of over-crowded ski areas, I escaped to the backcountry where I found ice and alpine climbing. That’s when I discovered the pure joys of winter, where I feel the most at home in this world. I finished university six months early (so I could get on to what was really important!), moved into “Camp Subaru” and headed West.

A few weeks later I found myself with my newfound mentor, Lyle Dean.

Lyle and I were on skis approaching Liberty Ridge on Mt. Rainer when a thick fog rolled in and Lyle said, “We need to stop.”

I said, “Why?” We weren’t near our intended camp.

“It’s dangerous to travel in a whiteout.”

Suddenly, there was a loud BOOM—and I was falling.

Everything went white and silent.

I remembered from the avalanche class I’d taken from Rob Newcomb, that I should

SWIM. And, once the snow started to settle I should
MAKE A SPACE FOR YOUR FACE, and
RAISE YOUR OTHER ARM so it might stick out of the snow.

I kicked my skis off, let go of my poles, and swam hard.

Finally, everything stopped. Both Lyle and I ended up OK and on top of the cement-hard snow.

It turns out that we’d been standing on a cornice. The cornice gave way under our weight, and the force of us hitting the slope below started an avalanche.

They say that failure offers an enormous opportunity for learning and that good judgment comes from surviving mistakes. While that may be true (as long as you get back in one piece!), I’ve learned many things from mentors, partners and the courses and classes I’ve taken over the years.

So, I want you to do two things:

1) Click the link (Know Before You Go), watch the video, and share with all your backcountry partners
2) Take an avalanche course

Take a Chicks Avalanche course!

Chicks and the Silverton Avalanche School have partnered to create all-women’s avalanche courses taught by the most bad-ass, knowledgeable and expert women in the industry.

In December, despite no snow, the partnership launched with three super successful one-day Avalanche Rescue Courses. Check out Angela’s trip report to find out how in the heck you practice Avalanche Rescue with NO SNOW?

Also, Chicks is offering Avalanche Rescue and Safety for Ice Climbers and an AIARE Recreational Level 1 course.  If you want to spend a day learning backcountry ski skills or making the transition from downhill to backcountry, join us on our Intro to Backcountry Skills course; If you want to combine turns with avalanche education while staying in a ski hut (so much fun!), we would love to have you on our Intro to Backcountry Skiing and Riding Hut Clinic; And, if you’ve got the experience and mojo for black runs in the backcountry, join us in La Grave, France for Intro to Ski Mountaineering with 7,000′ couloirs and epic fondue!

Lastly, don’t miss the opportunity to sign up for the Subaru Chicks Jiffy Ice Climbing Scholarship, Feb 2-4, 2018.  Check the guidelines for deadline http://www.subaruadventureteam.com/home/womens-ice-climbing-clinic-contest

Hope to see you soon—and look out for snowballs!

Kitty Calhoun

Opening Up

Funny how the Thanksgiving season is followed by Christmas. During Thanksgiving we are to take notice of all that we are to be thankful for and one of the greatest gifts we have is each other.  So on Christmas, we demonstrate that appreciation and love with gifts.  This is a reaffirming occasion since much of the time we can become focused on protecting ourselves.  In our busy lives we tend to concentrate on what we need to do to make sure we get done what we need to do by a certain time.  Others either help us or they hinder us. The ego gets fed and the journey is forgotten.  At least that’s what happens to me, as I wrote in my blog for Subaru, “Dropping the Ego

Arno Ilgner, in his book, The Warriors Way, discusses how ego gets in the way of the climbing experience.  “For most of us, when it comes to meeting challenges, our own worst enemy is ourselves.  Our self-image and our self-worth are far too wrapped up in achievements.  Ego controls much of our behavior.  We constantly act out of fear and avoidance, rather than out of the love of challenge or of climbing itself.  Our mental habits raise unnecessary barriers and often, unconsciously, drain the vitality from our performances.”

At Chicks, we recognize the importance of awareness in climbing and skiing and believe that our women’s environment is a place that is supportive, yet asks each participant to push their comfort zones rather than protect the ego.  I think one of the greatest gifts that climbing continuously gives me is the humbling experience that it often is – and at the same time I gain confidence.  Sharing this with my belayer or teammate, where I have to open up and let down my guard, or ego, is an experience that I rarely get in my every day life.

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,
Kim

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: kimreynoldslifecoach.com