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!

Right?

Elaina Arenz, Co-Owner Chicks Climbing & Skiing, pushing her limits on her brand new dirt bike. ©Arenz collection

Elaina Arenz, Co-Owner Chicks Climbing & Skiing, pushing her limits on her brand new dirt bike. ©Arenz collection

I’ve always wanted to learn how to ride a dirt bike.

A few weeks ago, I went out, bought a bike and signed up for lessons!

Right?

I’m 44. What business do I have? A motorcycle?

I’m not strong, like a man. What if I get hurt? I’m not brave.

The other night I watched Casselli66, a movie about one of the winningest motocross racers of all time. It’s a documentary tribute to Kurt Casselli’s life and his many accomplishments with anecdotal stories from his loved ones.

Kurt lived by the words, “Do one thing a day that scares you.”

One of the scarier things for me is change. Change has so many unknowns. It’s full of the unfamiliar and unanswerable.

I’m human. I want to avoid stress and I feel the strong pull of staying in little, safe circles.

But, I do my best to prevent this fear from holding me back, especially when it comes to learning new things (like how to ride a dirtbike:) because when I venture out and push the edges of my comfort zone, I learn and grow.

I challenge myself in order to live a fulfilling life.

Otherwise I’d never know and that bothers me.

Also, change is scary, but the thought of plugging along through life locked in my comfort zone is even scarier.

Learning, growing, and experiencing new things makes me feel alive.

See you at the crag!

We Have What You Need

Heather V’s goal for this clinic was to push herself to lead higher grades. She’s comfortable on 5.9 terrain like this. On this trip she surprised herself by on-sighting her first 10a. Way to go woman! 
Photo by Elaina Arenz

Earlier this season, after our Indian Creek clinic, we at Chicks took on the mantra “We can do hard things.”

Later as the summer was in full swing, Chicks reminded us all ” that it was time to make Lemonade.” After a few months of this newfound power, I can see that a positive, focused mindset is the result. These sayings are no longer mantras; they’ve become a way of life.

Over the summer we have had many women come through our rock and alpine programs. Some ladies were there because a bucket list pushed them to experience the joys of rock climbing or the expanse of a glacier. Others came to the clinic with more defined goals of improving their climbing and gaining new skills. No matter what drew the ladies to the clinic in the first place, everyone was there for a reason.

When you let go of expectations and allow the learning process to unfold, great things can happen. At Chicks, we believe in each of you. We know you can do hard things. We know that you are capable of exceeding the goals you have. By incrementally stretching each individual comfort bubble, the guides watch climbing transformations happen at every clinic.

During the Rifle clinic and the Maple Canyon clinic, our guides were proud to say, “we never left the ground.” The Chick’s participants were tasked with picking the climbs, leading and belaying all routes, setting anchors, and cleaning the anchors at the end of the day. It was awesome to see everyone step up to the challenge and become an equal member of the team.  This atmosphere is only possible because of the solid foundations we have all helped to build. The level of trust between the guides and the participants is what makes this type of clinic day possible.

This advanced clinic is a source of pride for us at Chicks. Facilitating and witnessing your independence grow is why Chicks Climbing and Skiing exists. Don’t finish your rock season wishing or hoping to be “better.” Wishing and hoping are not strategies. Be proactive in your learning and actively challenge yourself to improve.  Our guides know what you need, even if you don’t! Come and see us soon to move your climbing self forward.

What Inspires You?

Diane Mielcarz enjoys the rewards of achieving her dream to climb in the Black Canyon. ©Angela Hawse

Why we climb, what motivates and inspires each of us is a personal experience.

It’s easy to lose sight of our own potential and compare ourselves to others.  Rock climbing has become a mainstream sport, sensationalized by images and stories of super heroine feats that plaster social and print media on an hourly basis.

We should remind ourselves frequently that climbing is about us.  The possibility that we have to enjoy it the rest of our lives is really quite remarkable.

Going inside and tapping into my own motivation is a healthy exercise that I do on a regular basis.  When I identify what I love about climbing, I can shape my climbing experience into a journey to fulfill it.   When I make the effort to keep it personal and internal, my day out climbing becomes more fun, more inspired and focused.

Whether I’m striving for a personal best or simply caught up in the joys of movement on rock and of sharing the rope with a partner, climbing should be what you want it to be because you enjoy it.

Whether you climb for fitness, the flow of movement, connecting with friends, enjoying nature, challenging your personal best, or because you love gear, it’s all legit.

Unplugging from distractions regularly and tapping into what makes your heart sing will help you set intentional goals that are on par with your passion.  If you can dream it, see it, and feel it, you can be it.

What inspires you to climb?

 

Floating

Elaina Arenz demonstrates how to fall while climbing, Maple Canyon, Utah. © Louis Arevalo

by Kitty Calhoun

Co-Owner, Chicks Climbing and Skiing

A couple of weeks ago, I arrived at the International Climbers Fest in Lander, Wyoming, and was warmly greeted by a Chicks alumna, Amy Skinner.  She informed me that they were doing a podcast called the Hooligan Narratives (https://www.facebook.com/thehoulihannarratives/),  and wanted me to tell a story with the theme of Float.  I would have eight minutes to tell the story and there would be three other storytellers.

I decided to relate an incident from our 1987 Dhaulagiri East Face Expedition.  We were a team of four – Colin Grissom, Matt and John Culberson, and myself.   None of us had ever tried to climb an 8000m peak and I was the only one who had even seen one.  We were on a tight budget – $3000/person including airfare – and planned to climb alpine style with minimal gear and no fixed ropes.

Our intention was to do the second ascent of the Kurtyka-McIntyre route on the east face, but the ice ribbon was not frozen when we arrived.  In fact, it has never come in again and was an early victim of climate change, as I described in my Ted talk, Last Ascents.  Upon seeing water dripping over the rock, we decided to climb the Northeast Ridge in order to acclimatize. Hopefully the East Face would freeze in the meanwhile.

A Japanese team had fixed lines to a high point of 22,000’ on the Northeast Ridge and we agreed to break trail above for them. We were near the end of their ropes when the wind slab we were on avalanched.  It pulled us down the steep north face.  I made a couple of efforts to go into self-arrest, but each time the rope came tight and pulled me off my feet.  I curled into a ball and put my arms over my head to protect it as I tumbled down the slope.  After falling four hundred feet, we came to a stop.  The Japanese fixed line was anchored with eight pickets and they had zippered out one by one and the last one held.

In dire situations such as this, my senses are finely tuned and time seems to slow down. I do what I can to survive, but I feel a sense of acceptance of what may happen.  It is as if I am an outside observer to the action, a sensation expressed by an old family friend by the statement, “I am flotsam floating on the ocean of life.”

Though we were shaken by the fall, we decided to try to summit by the Northeast Ridge as fast and light as possible.  After a short recovery in base camp, we summited in five days, and hastily retreated back to base camp just before a monster storm enveloped the entire country of Nepal.

Other storytellers spoke of floating in terms of the release that climbing gives them, above the fray of life.  Another spoke of floating on the support of parents during turbulent times.  I recently thought of floating as I practiced falling at a sport crag.

What does Float means to you?