The Power of Chicks


Why is female empowerment still a thing? How are we not yet past the necessity to highlight this concept?

Is it because last week our nation swore in the first ever Madam Vice President?

Is it because last week I attended a guides meeting where I was the only woman?

Is it because female guides are still challenged on our abilities, our prowess, our strength, our confidence, and our intelligence?

Or are we past those antiquated concepts but still locked in a cycle of girls and young women need strong female role models? Shouldn’t men and boys be guided by women in the mountains? Don’t all human populations need strong female role models?

It is with these questions in mind, I know what sets Chicks apart.


Because this is what we are. We are a female collective of experienced and talented climbers and skiers, trained and certified guides, incredible role models, and excellent educators with a passion to share our knowledge and skill set.

Because this is what we believe. We believe women build communities through inspiring people to support one another and to realize our potential. We believe by empowering those we are around creates a stronger whole.

Because this is what we offer. We offer a supportive community invested in everyone’s success. We offer an unparalleled outdoor educational experience through camaraderie and friendships that last a lifetime.


I have loved Chicks since working my first program in Cody, WY. I’ve witnessed the transformation of a budding top rope climber into a self-sufficient leader. I have seen firsthand the impact of a remote trip to the massive fjords of Iceland to climb “who-knows-what-this-is/ has-it-been-climbed?”

When Chicks was dissolved over the summer, an overwhelming outpouring of love and affection arose from the Chicks community and the same adoration when she was reinstated a couple months ago. This isn’t just another company. Chicks is a force.



Much has changed in the climbing community since 1999 when Kim looked out over a sea of ice climbers and saw almost no women. Thanks to companies like Chicks, women are now everywhere in the back-country. But we still have a long way to go. Chicks remains invested in the belief of women-led programming. What will always be etched in my mind, what outlines the future of our all female guide collective, is the Notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s famous quote: “when there are nine.”

-Lindsay Fixmer, Chicks Director

Navigating Impermanence

As 2020 closes, a year filled with a different reality for us all (and an abundance of craziness), it leaves us reflecting on how our existence and interaction with the world has transformed.

As any ice climber could attest to, these drastically changing, inconsistent times are analogous to ice climbing.

Walking into the east fork of Hyalite Canyon outside Bozeman, MT with a climbing partner the other day, we were discussing the unique differences between the ice and rock realms. What one medium can offer climbers that the other cannot.

I said that ice is an incredibly aesthetic medium due to its ever-changing conditional formations: every second something has morphed.

Such is the wind-sculpted ice found in Newfoundland.

Or just look at the differences in massive waterfalls offering bulges, fans and mushrooms or simply a thin shell of a veneer to tiptoe over.

The most engaging lines offer us a quest throughout. Gavin nodded in agreement, adding it’s “navigating impermanence.”

To which I responded, “Yes; that’s my newsletter topic!”

If anything sums up ice climbing and a pandemic, it is how we all have to find a path through the ephemeral landscape of life.

And while this maze is intimidating, at times stressful, and occasionally the desire to bail is real/ often warranted, what keeps us engaged, mindfully active and desiring more is navigating the impermanence of it all.

And who doesn’t love a good forearm pump?

Happy New Year to all!

Lindsay Fixmer; Chicks Director

The Chicks Legacy Continues

Lindsay Fixmer

The Chicks Legacy Continues!

The former owners – Angela Hawse, Elaina Arenz, Karen Bockel, and Kitty Calhoun – of Chicks Climbing & Skiing are pleased to announce that we have passed the torch to Dan Zokaites, a longtime friend and IFMGA Guide from Ridgway, CO. He then asked the preeminent guide, Lindsay Fixmer to be Director of Chicks. We couldn’t have dreamed of a better succession team.

Only a week after becoming Director of Chicks and delving into the unseen business side of her role, Angela and Kitty, sat down with Lindsay to have a chat about their vision for the future of Chicks.


Kitty: As you may know, Lindsay is an adventurer at heart who desires to share her love of the unknown with others. I first remember guiding backcountry ice with Lindsay in Cody, WY four years ago. We were discussing the common routes we climb and Lindsay patiently listened to me as she turned through the pages in her well-thumbed guidebook to the area. Then she presented her plan for the next three days – hidden climbs that she and her group would likely have to themselves. Lindsay’s signature trait might be her going above and beyond what is expected of her. As I worked side by side with her, I noticed that she is a meticulous teacher with a genuine desire to impart her knowledge of rope systems and movement skills. Her memory of one-liners in comedies and movies kept us laughing throughout the day. It all appears effortless for Lindsay, but I have seen the way she anticipates, organizes and prepares for what is to come. What an awesome soul to take the lead.


Kitty: What is your vision for Chicks?

Lindsay: Our Chicks resurgence will offer new programs both in style and content in the beautiful outdoor landscapes you love and have desired to visit. We will strive to be a company that is welcoming to people getting into climbing and skiing. Chicks is a community built upon our passion for outdoor pursuits where we see familiar faces and learn and grow together. That same passion, community, and camaraderie that drew you to Chicks will continue to drive our programming. 


Kitty: How do you see the past legacy of Chicks continuing into the future?

Lindsay: What I love about history is it informs where we are going. Chicks has always been a leader. Kim Reynolds noticed in 1999 there were not many women climbing ice. We want to open doors for people who haven’t had the opportunity to come into these sports.


Kitty: What is your vision for creating and maintaining community within Chicks?

Lindsay: Chicks will always value the friendships and camaraderie built on courses. It’s exciting to see Chicks alumni return with friends for another step in their learning and progression as climbers and skiers. Continued interactions through newsletters and social media is a way to keep our guests informed and stoked!  


Kitty: What attracted you to working for Chicks?

Lindsay: Chicks is uniquely rewarding work; every clinic I build amazing relationships. It’s a testament to the fact that women’s community building is so important: particularly in large landscapes with women pushing themselves. For example, I was guiding Louise and Vivian in Iceland a few winters ago and when Louise topped out on the climb, she said with big eyes, “I can’t believe I climbed that!” I had no doubt Louise could climb the route. Because Louise was so shocked by her abilities, it dawned on me we are giving women opportunities to realize their potential and what that means in a larger realm. Another example of this unique work are the numerous replies from Chicks’ guides when the dissolution of the business was announced (before we found this opportunity to keep Chicks continuing into the future) what Chicks has meant to them – that’s revolutionary.


Kitty: How will Chicks courses look in the future?

Lindsay: We’ve only been thinking about this for a week (laughs). Our first priority is to get the word out that the ice courses are up and running. While managing COVID, we will climb with small group numbers and not include group gatherings. Once spring arrives, camping provides one solution. We are planning to continue rock programs in places like Indian Creek, City of Rocks and Maple. We are also brainstorming new areas.


Angela: We are so stoked for you to take the helm. From our very beginning, Chicks has been a leader in providing safe spaces for women to learn mountain sports together.  I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge any misunderstanding our gender specific name has caused. And also that we respectfully acknowledge that the lands on which we operate are sacred territories of ancestral Native Americans. I am excited to continue to be involved with the company and am particularly looking forward to helping develop LBGQT and BIPOC courses.

Do you see the opportunity for the company to expand its boundaries to be more inclusive?

Lindsay: Definitely. Moving forward we are committed to diversifying our offerings to create the same opportunities for the LBGQT and BIPOC communities and being a welcoming and respectful community to all.


Kitty: Let’s talk about Covid.  How will Chicks cope with the pandemic?

Lindsay: Chicks has up-to-date Covid policies on the website, including refund and cancellation policies. We have adapted our programs and follow CDC guidelines. We encourage people to travel and climb in pods or groups that are familiar to them.


Kitty: What kinds of relationships do you envision with Chicks sponsorship partners?

Lindsay: We value our sponsor relationships. While Covid can put a strain on our industry, maintaining those solid connections is important. Chicks can provide quality feedback on sponsor’s demo gear being the testing ground for participants. Tangible evidence that participants like demo items are when they purchase the gear following a clinic. 


Kitty: Can you say a little about what makes Chicks guides unique?

Lindsay: People choose Chicks because we are leaders in the industry with talented, experienced guides. The guides who work with Chick’s are excellent climbers and skiers, and AMGA certified and trained. What really sets us apart is our ability to teach, mentor guests through their climbing and skiing development, and foster life-long friendships.


Kitty: Anything else you want to add?

Lindsay: Check out the website! And stay tuned! 

If you are inspired and have ideas, we want to hear from you! What have you loved about Chicks, where are areas for improvement and what you are looking forward to in the future with Chicks?


Osprey – A Company You Can Feel Great About – Gear We Use

Approaching Camp on Mount Baker with loaded up Osprey Packs, Chicks Mount Baker Program 2019. ©Kitty Calhoun

Approaching Camp on Mount Baker with loaded up Osprey Packs, Chicks Mount Baker Program 2019. ©Kitty Calhoun


Osprey Packs has been a long-time supporter of Chicks and if you’ve ever attended one of our programs, you’ve no doubt had the opportunity to use one of their packs for a day out on the rock, ice or snow.

Not only do they make great day packs, crag packs, travel luggage and hydration packs to fuel your adventures, they are also a company you can feel great about supporting.

Osprey is based in Cortez, CO in the four corners area of Colorado.

Up until 2000, a team of women sewers from the Navajo Nation did all of the production. Today that team is the workforce behind Osprey’s “All Mighty Guarantee”, a lifetime warranty on all of their packs. Osprey is committed to repairing any damage to their packs free of charge, no matter the age of the pack. 

At the onset of the covid pandemic, Osprey was one of the first outdoor brands to shift their in-house production to making face coverings. It’s this dedication to community and health that makes us love Osprey all the more.

Osprey partners with many non-profit organizations who are aligned with their five core values:

  1. Environmental Stewardship. Our planet is important to protect.
  2. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Everyone has a right to enjoy the outdoors without fear.
  3. Health and Recreation. Increasing opportunities for folks to lead healthier lifestyles.
  4. Building Communities. Engaging the communities they work and play in.
  5. Outdoor Education. Teaching our future generations the importance of stewardship.

They support organizations like Chicks because we also stand by behind these values and we stand up for companies like Osprey who are doing their part to make the world a better place, one pack at a time.

If you’re in the market for a new pack, you should consider an Osprey, and feel good about knowing you’re also helping them give back in so many ways.

Eyes of a Child

Larissa, Simone, Olga, and Yuliya climbing in the Grimsel region of Switzerland. ©Karen Bockel.

Larissa, Simone, Olga, and Yuliya climbing in the Grimsel region of Switzerland. ©Karen Bockel.

When I am out in the mountains climbing with my Chicks, my friends or my colleagues, I often think about how lucky I am to get to go to places like these, to call the mountains home.

What stirs these thoughts are often just the tiny glimpses of what makes this world so special, so different.

This past weekend, for example, I was out in a beautiful, remote region of Switzerland. I was with four women, mostly new to the mountains. We had a long trek to our mountain hut where we going to spend the night. The trek followed a narrow footpath above and around cliffs and gorges, adorned with steel cables and ladders along the way.

Not five minutes would go by before one of the four would stop to take a picture, or three, again, and again. I started getting impatient and urged the group to keep up the pace. I wanted them to concentrate on moving along.

Then I caught myself. This was their first foray into the wild and beautiful alpine world. Everything was new and they had to take it all in. The view of a giant glacier above a granite-walled gorge, the sound of the melt-water rushing down the narrows, the wildflowers along the rocky steps, the stones piled into cairns guiding the way through fields of talus, the brilliant blue sky above. The mountains were so new and so fascinating. It was as if they saw it all with the eyes of a child.

Views I had seen many times, steps I had taken without a second thought, evoked their curiosity and wonder. “Just amazing!” they said.

The next morning we started up a glacier in the pre-dawn to find yet more unexpected, previously unimaginable experiences. Navigating with headlamps, the women heard the first crunch of their crampons on the old, hardened snow and ice. And so they kept going, finding new horizons as they went.

At the end of the trip, their legs were beyond tired, their backs were bruised from their packs and their skin burned from the sun, but their eyes shone so brightly, and they could not stop recounting what they had just lived. My heart was full.

Working it – Marry Your Hips to the Wall

hips married to wall

This position is correct. My hips are “married” to the wall.

The key to working routes is as much about developing movement skills as it is about memorizing sequences of holds.


You would think I’m a broken record but I just sent a long-time climbing project and I was again reminded of a key climbing-movement concept:

Your hips are your power center. The foundation of all climbing movement comes first from your hips!

I know you have heard this from me before. But listen.

I’ve been going to this same climb over and over and I’ve never been able to climb it without falling or hanging—until recently.

Whenever I don’t have a climbing partner I slip off to this route which is on a cliff where I can approach from the top. At the top, I throw a rope over a warm-up then climb the warm-up, using a mini traction for a self-belay. From the top of the warm-up I can traverse over to set up a harder route. This route is an overhanging arête with tiny holds and it has been my nemesis for years.

The problem was all about balance. I had to stay over my feet.

But what does balance and staying over your feet mean when the route is overhanging?

I found when I hung my hips too far away from the wall, I’d over-grip, get pumped and fall off.

But, when I pushed my hips up and into the wall, contracting all of my leg and butt muscles, I could relax my grip. I could also take some deep breaths in this position.

It is easy to see this position when you watch good climbers in a gym.

They bring their hips out, but only to move their feet up because it’s easier to watch their feet go precisely on the chosen hold from this position.

All the rest of the time, their hips are “married” to the wall. They are using their leg and butt muscles to hold themselves in.

But, don’t just listen to me.

Try to visualize this movement of hanging your hips out to bring your feet up and then marrying your hips to the wall. Now go out and try it for yourself.  I bet you’ll send!

hips hanging out too much

This position is wrong. My hips are hanging out too much.


Christina Lujan, who is Cheyenne/Arapaho/Taos Pueblo, climbing in Utah. ©Kitty Calhoun Collection. Afterward, Christina wrote, “What happens when your friend is Kitty Calhoun? 
Have you ever had a moment where you didn’t know you didn’t know something until you knew it? 
For example, did you know you truly are the only thing stopping you from going further?
I have an incredible amount of power and control in my life, I just never believed it until I was hanging off the side of a cliff and I realized the only thing stopping me from going up was me. 
Like I said…..what happens when your friend is Kitty Calhoun?” 


“That’s not the story I had in mind,” I said in disappointment.  

“Can’t you tell me about the bravest warriors? Those who were brought back from the dead? Didn’t they train during the day and feast at night as they prepared for the battle of Ragnarok?” I asked.

“No. They were just men who killed and got drunk,” the storyteller said. “I will tell a story about Freya, the goddess of love.”

Kim Reynolds and I were meeting with a Norwegian storyteller named Heidi.

We’d just climbed a difficult ice climb in Norway and cameras were rolling to record the exchange for an Outside TV segment.

I had read that Vikings drew courage and inspiration from Norse Mythology and I hoped to hear the storyteller tell a Norse Myth that paralleled our experience. 

Instead, Heidi insisted on telling the story of Freya. 

“Freya wanted to enter Asgard––the heaven made by the gods. But, when she approached Asgard in the nude, it scared the gods because they’d never seen anything like her before. Afraid, the Gods tried to kill her, but in vain. Finally, they accepted Freya and she taught them determination, courage and wisdom.

I was distraught. Freya was not the story I wanted to hear.

I called my storytelling coach for advice.

“Well,” he said. “It might not be the story you want to hear, but it’s the story you need to hear. The story of Freya is about the journey. It’s about acceptance and how we treat each other and the environment while on our summit quests. Love always wins over conquering, using and abusing.”

Twenty years later, I reflect on this story, thinking about how to make positive change through climbing. I believe it starts with making connections and a commitment to sharing resources and listening to how others see the world.  

Meanwhile, the Chicks Scholarship for Women of Color was conceived when Chicks Alumna Jennifer Reikenberg generously pledged her cancelled Mt Baker course-fee to a woman of color to take a Chicks course. Details to be announced soon.

The AMGA, as well as many of our sponsors, also have lists of ways that you can Pass It On!

Grivel Trend Harness – Gear We Use

Grivel Athlete Angelika Rainer sporting the Abstract model of the Trend Harness.

Grivel Athlete, Angelika Rainer, sporting the Abstract model of the Trend Harness. ©Grivel.

Grivel Trend Harness – Comfort, Fun and Fashion

We love our Italian friends at Grivel who’ve been in the climbing-equipment game longer than anyone. 

After two centuries of building high-performance gear, Grivel adds some flare to their line with this uber-fashionable harness. 

This little number comes in four flashy styles: Leopard (my favorite), Abstract, Python and Black (with a subtle leopard print).

The Trend is not only adorable, it’s light and thoughtfully designed. For example, for sport climbing, the Trend has extra padding, making popping and hanging more comfortable. 

All the while, the Trend makes a fashion statement in whatever flavor suits your style. 

Kudos, Grivel, for making climbing more fun and fashionable!

Grivel Trend Harness colors

Grivel’s Trend Harness 2020 (L to R) Abstract, Black, Leopard and Python. ©Grivel.

Good Story, But It Didn’t Happen That Way

Kitty Calhoun, expedition leader, on the first female ascent of Makalu, the world’s fifth highest mountain. 1990. Nepal Himalaya. ©Kitty Calhoun Collection.

Kitty Calhoun, expedition leader, on the first female ascent of Makalu, the world’s fifth highest mountain. 1990. Nepal Himalaya. ©Kitty Calhoun Collection.

Revelation came to me while relaxing with friends. It was after giving a slide show at a climbing festival.

“Good story, Kitty, but it didn’t happen that way,” John, my Makalu Expedition teammate, said with a smile.

“Yeah?” I asked.

Then he went on to describe the events of our climb totally differently than I had experienced them. According to him, the weather had been horrendous with high winds and numerous large storms. I remember feeling blessed with clear skies and sunshine! Hearing him tell the story, I could not believe we had been on the same expedition. And, it occurred to me that we saw the same things but interpreted those things differently, through lenses shaped by our individual pasts.  

In a recent sermon addressing racial injustice,

Pastor Scott Fine built upon my concept of lens when he said that no one sees everything and no one sees perfectly. Everyone is of infinite value and we are all connected. Build bridges of understanding; lift others up through caring.

Meanwhile, Zahan Billimoria, a black Patagonia ski ambassador, exhorted a group of us to act driven by love and compassion, not by guilt. When he said this, I felt tension rise in my gut. Z doesn’t know my history. 

He doesn’t know that I spent every weekend skiing or playing tennis with my dad. My dad, who modelled minimalism for me, was also a proud Southern attorney. His great, great grand uncle, John C. Calhoun, led the state’s rights movement and was vice president of the confederate states. When the colleges decided to rename buildings that were named in honor of John C Calhoun, or tore down statues of him, I thought about dad and the stories he had told.

Dad had explained our past like this,”It was a socio-economic system where black people were treated like family and all their needs were provided for in exchange for work. Some white people mistreated black people, but those were bad apples. And, the bad-apple-stories were the ones that got told.” That was my father’s lens, and it was also what I chose to believe.

However, because of Z––what he said and how he said it––I am looking at history through a different lens. I can see systemic racism and discrimination rather than merely a few bad apples. All my life, I’ve heard stories told about black people, but now I am hearing black people speak for themselves. 

So what now?

The next steps can not be a performative act, but must have depth to carry lasting change. They will be motivated by a genuine desire to lift others up and in recognition of our intrinsic interconnectedness and equal worth rather than a sense of guilt or obligation. I, and my partners at Chicks, look forward to creating change, and to reporting more in the next newsletter.

Patagonia Caliza Rock Pants | Gear We Use

Patagonia Caliza Rock Pants in action.

Patagonia Caliza Rock Pants in action.

I am lovin’ the Patagonia Caliza Rock Pants!

If you know me, you know that I am loyal to a fault, and can be slow to change. 

But I have to admit I am, slowly, changing. 

My new, favorite rock pants are no longer the RPS pants but the Caliza.  

The Caliza are my latest, greatest for several reasons, but the main reasons is that they move with me. In fact, the Caliza move so much that I don’t really realize I have pants on! With so much stretch, they are a slim fit but not restrictive. An organic cotton/spandex blend with 4-way stretch and articulated joints make the Caliza feel like nothing. 

The Caliza Rock Pants waistband is knit and contoured so it doesn’t rub under your harness or pack. 

Additionally, they are light, yet durable.

The biggest problem I’ve had with my Caliza Pants so far is deciding which color to get!