Fun

fun in the present moment watching sun-shadow line on approach to chandelle du tacul, chamonix, france

Fun in the present moment — watching the drama of the sun-shadow line play out on the approach to Chandelle du Tacul, Chamonix, France. ©Kitty Calhoun

“It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun.”

—Mark Twight, alpinist extraordinaire

When it comes to alpine climbing and mountaineering-style climbing objectives, one of the things you’ll learn about yourself is how much you can endure.

Tough conditions

like post-holing to your waist, sleep deprivation (check out Kitty’s Unplanned Bivouac story), heavy packs, and suboptimal weather will all test you.

When you go alpine climbing or mountaineering, you’ll find yourself immersed in the wild, miles away from the trailhead without a choice but to soldier on.

Ladies, you’ve got to put one foot in front of the other and keep marching!

Sound like fun?

To some, it’s not fun while they’re doing it. It only gets fun once they look back on the experience and realize how much they stretched themselves. Fun comes from having gone beyond perceived personal limits. Only in retrospect can some appreciate the amount of personal growth they’ve gained through a climb.

However, in my personal experience even more fun is possible by focusing on being in the moment. Trying to escape my current situation by wishing I were somewhere else, or complaining, just prolongs my personal suffer-fest.

I’ve found a better approach

is to focus on what the present offers: beautiful views, fresh mountain air, and the camaraderie of a shared experience with friends. Sometimes, it also helps to think of all the skills I’m learning that will take me on to bigger goals.

If you’re a rock climber or a blossoming mountaineer and you’re looking for the next step in your personal progression as a climber, consider joining our Mt Baker, Washington trip. Mount Baker is a great introduction to climbing glaciated mountain summits. You’ll also learn the skills you need to camp, climb, and travel on snow.

If you’re more of a multi-pitch rock climber at heart, kick things up a notch on our Chamonix trip. The alpine rock routes in the French Alps are fantastic. Alpine climbing in Chamonix is world class with lift-based access to some of the highest peaks in Europe. Quaint French villages, delicious food and wine every evening and all under the wing of experienced and fully certified AMGA Chick Guides.

Now that sounds like fun!

Elaina

Gigantic – Step from Skiing to Climbing

Where skiing meets climbing. A view of the Matterhorn from the Haute Route.

Where skiing meets climbing. A view of the Matterhorn from the Haute Route.

Hello everyone, it’s Karen here checking in about the gigantic step from skiing to climbing.

This year I’m spending the spring in the Alps guiding the Haute Route. The Haute Route is a week-long, high-alpine ski tour that starts in Chamonix, France and ends in Zermatt, Switzerland. Along the way, we spend the night in mountain huts and traverse across big glaciers and high peaks all day.

On Friday, my friend and co-guide, Caro North and I finished a Haute Route tour late in the evening. The next day we drove back from Zermatt towards Chamonix to start another Haute Route tour. Along the way we stopped at a local climbing crag.

I felt like a beginner.

Basking in the spring sun, warm rock under my fingertips, I felt happy.

I also felt like a beginner climber again.

Slowly and carefully, I explored the rock features. The footholds were so small and hard to see! Yet piecing the sequences together exhilarated me.

After our climbing session (which did not take very long to get to!), we continued to Chamonix.

Changing seasons can be painful.

Driving along, I got to thinking that changing seasons can be painful. I think it has to do with change being hard in general. Change often requires pushing yourself to take a step. It might be a different step, a next step, or a huge step. In this case, it is the step from one activity to another, the step from skiing to climbing.

For me, stepping into rock shoes instead of ski boots always feels like a gigantic step.

And every spring, I try to figure out ways to make that step feel smaller and more manageable.

This time I had an advantage because I had Caro.

Not only did I have a good friend to hang out with. In Caro, I had a super strong rope gun.

Watching Caro lead up the climbs helped me figure out the moves when it was my turn to climb. Somehow mirroring Caro was part of the exhilaration I felt when I finally did the moves for myself, and it made me realize how important it is to have good partners.

So, if stepping from ski boots to rock shoes feels gigantic for you too, then here are my top tips to help this change feel less huge for you this season:

Easy Transition from Skiing to Rock Climbing

  1. Climb with fun partners that you can trust and emulate.
  2. Stick to the easier routes. Seriously! Only do easy routes.
  3. Stop before your arms turn to spaghetti.
  4. Don’t set your expectations too high.
  5. Don’t define success by how hard you climbed.
  6. Define success instead by feelings of fun and exhilaration.

The first day of rock climbing season should leave you with a smile on your face as you crack open the door to rock climbing season just a tiny bit.

POW | Uniting Climbers to Protect 0ur Winters

POW poster of Angela Hawse climbing a 5.10 crack climb in Indian Creek, utah

Jamming with POW! Angela Hawse, Co-Owner Chicks, on just another 5.10 crack climb. Indian Creek, Utah. ©Ace Kvale

Last week I joined POW.

The purpose of POW is to unite the climbing community on climate advocacy. POW has a vision of a carbon-neutral future and is building a platform for climbers to have a voice on climate change.

As the seasons change, so does our dance with gravity from skiing to climbing. The wondrous transition of the seasons always reminds me of our precious planet Earth.

Planet Earth is something we can’t take for granted anymore. Each year I strive to live more consciously and take more responsibility for my carbon footprint.

In 2016, 7.7 million people in the U.S. participated in some form of climbing. As a community, we have the potential to move mountains. Together we can make positive change for future generations to enjoy the outdoors.

POW! Let’s do this! Let’s tie-in and talk about how we can step up our game.

Our Indian Creek Climbing Clinic

is just weeks away and as we’ll be sinking our jams into Indian Creek’s perfect sandstone splitters, we salute the fight for Bears Ears National Monument.

Indian Creek is one of our favorite climbing places because it’s the splitter crack capital of the world. If you want to take your crack climbing and trad climbing skills to a new level, Indian Creek is the place. But the best part of climbing in Indian Creek is its scenic beauty and remoteness.

Spring and rock climbing provide the amplified nature fix that Kitty talked about in her recent Doldrums post. We all need nature to reboot our outlook on life.

Fighting our way up a perfect crack climb gives us untold POWer that translates into everything we do.

So, hurry up already!

Join Chicks for all-women camaraderie, campfires under the stars and learn how to take your crack climbing technique to the next level.

Sign up now because there are only a few spots left on our Indian Creek Climbing Clinic.

Come jam with us and let’s get down to getting fired up!

Doldrums 

Kitty Calhoun navigating the doldrums, skiing at Red Mountain Pass Colorado

Kitty Calhoun, Co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, can’t quit laughing. Chicks Intro to Backcountry Skiing and Spitboarding Hut Trip, Red Mountain Pass, Colorado. ©Kitty Calhoun Collection

For days, I was in the Doldrums

For no particular reason, I felt listless.

Everything was a chore. I had to force myself to stay on task and be productive.

Yoga and the climbing gym helped, a bit, but I had no motivation to work on the computer.

I wasn’t even excited to go skiing with Angela, but I figured I should.

As we drove up the winding road towards Red Mountain Pass, we craned our necks and mused in awe at the large avalanche crowns on either side of the valley.  We imagined the avalanches starting, collecting speed, growing, and then destroying everything in their path.

Naturally occurring slides are most likely within 24 hours of the last storm.

I’ve witnessed enough to know that within minutes there’s calm and stillness again. It’s as if nothing ever happened.

We donned our skis, checked our beacons, and started skinning up a track through the trees.

I became focused on my breathing. Rhythmic, cold, white breaths formed frost on my hair.

It was snowing, and wind built drifts and further caked the heavy tree branches.

I became mesmerized with the cadence of my breath, the crystal beauty. I lost track of time.

Eventually, we arrived at a bench in a cirque near tree line and prepared for our descent.

Skiing down, I felt weightless in the deep, untracked powder.

We swept over rolling hills and snaked our way through large, evergreen trees.

I heard Angela laughing as she disappeared over a mound.

I followed, yelling,  “Yee-Haaa!”

Today, I feel like I can tackle anything, uplifted by of the power of the outdoors, the majesty of the mountains, and the wonder of snow.

I agree with Florence Williams, author of “The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative.”

The best prescription for the doldrums yet—go outside!

Two Scoops –  Favorite Spring Climbing Areas 

Elaina Arenz, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, applying just the right amount of pressure in the amazing and surreal, Joshua Tree, California. ©Greg Epperson

Elaina Arenz, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, applying just the right amount of pressure in the amazing and surreal, Joshua Tree, California. ©Greg Epperson

One of the questions I get asked the most is “What’s your favorite climbing area?”

Honestly, “Where’s your favorite place to climb” is akin to asking, “What’s your favorite ice cream?”

It depends.

When it comes to ice cream, I could be in a mint-chocolate-chip mood, a salted-caramel-gelato mood or a strawberry-cheesecake kind-of-mood.

When it comes to climbing, since right now I’m ready to thaw out after winter, I’m in a warm-sunshine kind-of-mood.

My favorite spring climbing areas are Joshua Tree and Indian Creek.

Both Joshua Tree and Indian creek are sunny desert places!

Joshua Tree has 6000 climbs in an amazing and surreal setting. No cell service, deep orange sunsets, stars, friction and traditional climbing.

Friction climbing means many of the handholds and footholds are invisible. But when you carefully apply just the right amount of pressure, you stick. Friction climbing can be humbling and amazing when you discover what you can hold onto.

Joshua Tree is also a favorite because of its traditional climbing history. You have to place gear and build anchors. Placing gear adds a gratifying technical element. Fixed protection, like bolts, are rare but there are many climbs in the easier grade ranges. New trad climbers can work out the physics as they practice placing gear and building anchors.

Indian Creek is my other favorite sunny-desert, spring climbing area. Indian Creek is also a trad climbing Mecca.

However, gear at Indian Creek is easier to sort out.

Indian Creek is the land of the exalted splitter crack that goes on for an eternity.

Often 8-10 of the same-size cam makes up an Indian Creek rack. Then, the (mostly) parallel-sided crack systems tend to have bolted anchors.

Bolted anchors free your attention to focus on the climbing technique itself.

Crack climbing technique requires jamming skills—stick a body part (usually fingers, hands or feet) into a crack in such a way as to gain purchase.

There is nothing like a bomber hand jam!

So pick your favorite flavor and if you can’t decide, go ahead and order up two scoops;)

Anniversaries Call for Reflection

photo of a pair of Original Terrordactyls.©Ashby Robertson c/o VerticalArchaeology.com

The Original Terrordactyls. “With those little clubs in my hands, I felt like a warrior”–Angela Hawse, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, IFMGA Mountain Guide. ©Ashby Robertson c/o VerticalArchaeology.com

This month Chicks is celebrating its 20th and I find myself reminiscing.

I started ice climbing in Ouray’s box canyon, at the north end of the Uncompahgre River Gorge.

It was 1985—a decade before the Ouray Ice Park came to be. At that time there were only a few climbs in the box canyon. These natural ice climbs were steep and intimidating.

I remember it was very cold and the ice was hard.

But 25 years ago, I felt invincible! Despite wool mittens and half-inch webbing that leashed my tools to my wrists and cut off my circulation, I still managed to fight my way to the top using ice axes just like those pictured above.

Two winters later I traveled with my boyfriend to the Highlands of Scotland. There I cut my multi-pitch-climbing teeth up a long gully on Buachaille Etive Mor in Glen Coe. I still vividly remember the aesthetic of that long strip of ice. It filled a deep cleft to the summit of this epic, pyramid-shaped mountain.

Climbing The Buachaille gave me things I had never experienced before: the surreal way the ice glistened, the quiet of winter and the singular reward of focused effort. I endured cold for hours. I suffered multiple bouts of screaming barfies. I banged my knuckles with every whack. But I walked off the summit knowing. Climbing made my heart sing.

When Kim Reynolds started Chicks in 1999, she invited me to guide. It was at Chicks that I found my tribe—strong, motivated and fun women. Together we were a force. I still climbed with my boyfriend but I’d discovered the magic that happens when climbing with other women. I became a Chicks lifer.

I continue to cherish the friendships and partnerships from all the years of Chicks; and, I can’t wait to party with my tribe here in Ouray where it all began for me 25 years ago.

I’d love to see you all here to help us celebrate women, climbing and Chicks.

For details on our big public party go to Chicks 20th Anniversary Celebration.

For the Chicks Alumni Happy Hour at Kitty’s House in Ouray, January 24, 2019 5-6pm. RSVP kittycalhoun007@gmail.com.

Still Kicking Axe,

Angela

A Skiing Legacy

Newspaper clipping of Kitty Calhoun age 5-years skiing with her Dad at Cataloochi ski area, North Carolina

Skiing Legacy—learning how to ski with Dad ©Kitty Calhoun Collection

“We have to get dressed. We’re going skiing.”

One of the last memories I have of my dad is of him saying this as he tried to get out of a hospital bed while under the haze of Alzheimers.

“Not today Pops,” I said and gently helped him back to bed.

I love skiing and always have.

Growing up, my Dad took me every weekend.

We drove up into the mountains of North Carolina—just the two of us. There was nothing better than being outside all day, skiing and then coming in tired and happy.

Once when I was seven-years-old, Dad and I somehow got separated. Dense fog had descended and pellets of graupel stung my face. Chilled to the bone, my tears instantly froze my eyelashes shut.

“Kit, Kit, where are you?” I heard Dad’s desperate voice through the mist.

The next thing I remember is being scooped up and set by a fireplace where the icicles melted off my eyelashes.

Much later I realized that most of my ski days were spent standing in lift lines, meanwhile, there were no lines to climb frozen waterfalls or peaks.

I bought a beacon, shovel and probe and learned about avalanche safety from a book. I fit my climbing boots into cable bindings and mounted them onto cross-country skis with metal edges.

Then, for many years, skiing became about getting into the backcountry to go climbing. The only problem was my skis were not made for the extra torque; more than once my bindings pulled off my skis while I was loaded down with a multi-day climbing pack. (But, that’s what duct tape’s for!)

The truth is my dad passed his skier’s heart on to me.

I often fantasize of skiing silently through forests and over hillsides blanketed with velvety, shimmering snow on a bluebird day.

Skiing untracked powder, then celebrating by a fire with family, friends or Chicks participants still brings back the giddy excitement I felt as a kid.

In this season of giving, it seems to me that one of the greatest gifts is that of experience. The memories of all the times Dad took me skiing are priceless and I relive them to this day.

Join Chicks in 2019 where the skiing legacy continues with Chicks Skiing clinics, backcountry hut trips and avalanche awareness skills

Hello, Snow!

Hello, Snow!, Karen Bockel, Chicks Climbing and Skiing co-owner, IFMGA Mountain Guide, selfie in a snowstorm ©Karen Bockel

Hello, Snow! Karen Bockel, Chicks Climbing and Skiing co-owner, IFMGA Mountain Guide, selfie in a snowstorm ©Karen Bockel

After last year’s dry and warm winter, I’ve been worrying about this year’s ski season. All fall, these questions looped through my mind:

Will it snow before Thanksgiving?
Will the Colorado ski areas open on time?
Will Chicks be able to run early season avalanche courses?
Is climate change ending skiing as we know it?

Suddenly, the warm autumn (and my climbing season!) ended. The ski season announced itself with a bang: two sizeable storms hit Colorado in two weeks. Wyoming and Utah aren’t far behind.

Yay for snow! I’m breathing a little easier now.

Of course, I don’t know how the winter will unfold. El-Nino isn’t a surefire ticket to powder snow in the San Jaun Mountains. But at least the backyard of Chicks headquarters has got something to start with. The mountains are wearing a nice white blanket.

Despite the early snow raising my spirits, the tenuous state of winter has me doubling my efforts to protect my favorite season. I’m taking the bus to the ski area, walking to the gym, bringing my own containers and bags to the grocery store and eating less meat.

“Thank you Mother Nature,” I say to myself as I check over my winter gear, put fresh wax on my skis and head out to practice companion rescue skills.

See you in the hills!

 Natural American

Stars and Stripes! Karen Bockel, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, at her US Citizen Naturalization Ceremony under the Rooselvelt Arch, North Entrance Yellowstone National Park, MT. ©Yoshiko Miyazaki-Back

Stars and Stripes! Karen Bockel, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, at her US Citizen Naturalization Ceremony under the Rooselvelt Arch, North Entrance Yellowstone National Park, MT. ©Yoshiko Miyazaki-Back

Congratulations! 

Karen Bockel, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, US citizen!

Close friend and AMGA rock guide, Yoshiko Miyazaki-Back, was at the ceremony.

Yoshi reflects on Karen’s accomplishment:

Having witnessed first hand my husband going through the same process, I was reminded of the time and the emotional and financial commitment it takes. There are reams of paperwork, mandatory interviews. You must provide biometric data. There’s a test on US history, culture and political institutions. Candidates must show good character and financial responsibility.

Becoming a naturalized US citizen is a long, hard and committing process. It’s been remarkable watching Karen work her way through the process , all the while travelling for work as a guide, running a successful and inspiring business, and becoming an IFMGA Mountain guide!

All of us at Chicks are so proud and inspired! Go Girl!

Begin It

Karen Bockel, Co-Owner Chicks Climbing & Skiing, Beginning Les Grand Galets, Cap Trinité, Quebec, Canada. ©Forest McBrian

Karen Bockel, Co-Owner Chicks Climbing & Skiing, Beginning Les Grand Galets, Cap Trinité, Quebec, Canada. ©Forest McBrian

Now at last let me see some deeds!
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Summer is gone.

Cool nights, blue skies and yellow leaves announce another Rocktober—fall climbing season.

I’ve been thinking, “How is this one going to be different?”

Have you set a goal? Have you committed to step into the unknown? Will you push a new grade? 

My plan for this fall is to connect with my environment, take things as they come, and give myself room to try new things in climbing.

I was just on a climbing adventure in Northern Quebec, Canada.

The plan was to climb a little big-wall via canoe access.

At the bay it started to pour. The next day we paddled across, set up our bivy and began to think about fixing the first pitches when it started to rain again.

We sat in our tiny camp below the wall, lost in the sound of the drops pattering on our tarp.

Climbing seemed impossible. Our climbing window was shrinking.

Slowly the sound quieted and we felt a breeze. Stars came out. Wind dried the rock and we awoke to the wall bathed in sunlight.

Even though we knew we didn’t have time to fire for the top, we decided to begin and go as far as we could. We climbed beautiful rock all day, and then we rappelled back down and packed up everything for a pre-dawn paddle back to the bay.

It was a grand adventure, and success wasn’t measured by getting to the top, but by getting out and beginning it. And that’s exactly what I want to do more of!