Practice makes perfect…my pee funnel experience.

by Hillary Nitschke

It’s pre-dawn on Saturday, and I’m happily cruising down the interstate on my way to meet some friends for this season’s first winter mountaineering adventure. Despite the awfully early alarm clock, and the true shiver in this morning’s coming dawn, I’m happy. While I haven’t had to pack this much gear for a few months, I’m going over the day’s potential in my head, and I’m appreciating my place in the world.

Some of us switch purses to suit our needs, and others among us switch back packs. Suddenly I recall… the pee funnel! I will spend enough of the day in a harness, and it’s going to be chilly, too. I’d rather not shimmie out of my harness and bare my butt to the wind when nature calls today. I’d rather not be in a spot where harness removal is not an option. My bladder was still recovering from several pitches earlier in the week!

Alas, no pee funnel. What’s a girl to do but cope? I have a great fondness for my funnel. I knew the day would be just a little different without it. I must say, I liked it especially on a rope team where I was the only woman. I will admit, however, to one occasion of equipment failure. That is to say…yes, I’ve peed down my leg instead of in to the funnel, but only once! A couple of times I simply couldn’t make myself let go standing up. It takes a little practice. When all your life you’ve done it another way, and then you pee down your leg… Well, it gets even harder after that. I’ll now admit when I peed down my leg, all sorts of more accomplished climbers and guides were right nearby. I felt really silly (I wasn’t new at this great and complex skill after all, and to top it all off, I’d practiced at home before taking her out on the trail), but until now, no one ever knew.

To learn more about pee funnels, and have a good chuckle click here:

Lessons from my Cushion

My Cushion

My Cushion

Upon my return from a 10-day silent retreat with 100 hours of “extreme meditation”, it dawned on me that the experience is reminiscent of coming off of a major alpine climb. Whenever I’ve come down from above, the world always looks different – or at least I am different.  Colors appear more vibrant, odors are pungent, a feeling of accomplishment resonates throughout my tired body, I’m glad it’s over and best of all, I feel very alive, acutely aware and transformed in some way. Another handy side effect is I don’t take as much for granted, loved ones feel extra dear, simple moments are precious and my dog is more happy to see me than usual!

I let go of climbing big peaks and living a more vagabond lifestyle over ten years ago and with that, part of me has felt left behind and nostalgic. Last week while sitting on my cushion learning Vipassana meditation, I began to understand the restlessness climbers experience when they attempt to replace this passion with more “responsible” options such as family and/or professions. Sometimes we don’t have a choice and the path we’ve been on is altered forever.



If the root cause of human suffering comes from keeping our attention on our cravings and aversions, it is easy to become miserable in the process of this obsession.  Most of us have a sense that true happiness and contentment comes from living in the present moment where the law of nature/life exists. We can know this, say the words and even believe it, but it is a monumental leap to fully live it. This is why people climb and now I understand, this is why people meditate.  Climbing is a delicate balance between mind and matter as the body experiences pain, fear and the assortment platter of suffering, the mind is constantly working to create equanimity and ease the discomfort.  I use this strong mental determination when I step up to a difficult lead and it is this discipline that commits me to sitting perfectly still on my cushion for an hour at a time, moving through each sensation as they arise, trusting they will pass. This sharpness of my mind points me towards the moment and nowhere else.

Climbers keep going back for bigger and harder climbs with the addiction to recapture this delicate edge where life feels pure and harmonious. At the point we can’t or don’t want to venture to those heights, how do we fill that glass? I am grateful for meditation, an opportunity that is available in my simple, daily life – the highs, the concentration, the challenge, the insights and the fulfillment all survive on my cushion.  I never knew it was so simple.

June Newsletter

News from the Chicks with Picks Nerve Center:

Chicks Rock!We have officially launched our new women’s rock climbing program appropriately named Chicks Rock!

All Chicks are welcome as we are offering beginning to advanced clinics. We even have different packages you can sign up for.  You can come and climb with us in the daytime only or join us for dinners, slide show and camping. You choose.
Register Now!

2009 Dates:
Devil’s Lake, Wisconsin
September 7-10: Full or Daytime Package available

Red Rocks, Nevada
Option 1: October 1-4:
3-Day Weekend, Full or Daytime Package available
Option 2: October 1-5: 3-Day Weekend Plus Multi Pitch Day, Full or Daytime

Chicks Climbing

It’s our  new Social Networking group that combines Chicks with Picks and Chicks Rock as the go-to place for women’s climbing!  Interacting & networking over the internet is the sign of the times!
We have created three great opportunities for like- minded women to connect, have conversations and discuss hot topics about women & women climbers.

Chicks Climbing Facebook Group
Chicks Climbing Blog
Chicks Climbing Twitter

"Happy Home" Kathmandu Nepal

"Happy Home" Kathmandu NepalMedia:


This month Kim got great exposure with an interview on Everest Mind Camp a web site founded with a simple yet powerful mission in mind: To inspire people to take conscious and empowered action to achieve their personal and professional goals. Check it out

Everest Mind Camp: Go to Guests and then Previous Guests to read the interview with Kim

Women's Adventure Retreats

Women's Adventure Retreats

MIND OVER MOUNTAINS: Thought Provoking Retreats

Don’t forget our Women’s Adventure Retreats, combining yoga, workshops, outdoor activities, spa treatments, Life Coaching and lovely accommodations! Sign up for these transformational retreats soon, as they start in July!

Passion and Potential
Location: Chipeta Sun Lodge & Spa, Ridgway, Colorado
Dates: July 16 – 20, 2009
Difficulty: High Aerobic
Min/Max group size: 4/12
Price: $2250 – all inclusive

Circling Back to Simplicity
Location: The Nature Place, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Dates: August 23- 28, 2009
Difficulty: Moderate Aerobic
Min/Max group size: 4/12
Price: $1550 – all inclusive

Nothing is Constant But Change
Location: Colorado Chatauqua, Boulder, Colorado
Dates: September 17- 21, 2009
Difficulty: Low Aerobic
Min/Max group size: 4/12
Price: $1550 – all inclusive

Chicks Rock!

We have officially launched our new Chicks Rock! women’s rock climbing program starting this September in Devils Lake, WI and October in Red Rocks, NV. See web site for details and dates.

Chicks Rock!“Chicks” has become well known for more than just climbing – our women become really good climbers, learn self-reliance and confidence that funnels into everyday life. We not only climb hard all day, we gather at night for dinners, discussions and slideshows. Chicks is as much about community as it is about climbing! We have created THE place for women to network, make friends and find climbing partners.

Our clinics have the reputation of being well-organized and they run like clockwork – this enables you to get more out of the experience than you ever imagined. Best of all, you get to climb with our famous Girly Guides. We welcome beginner to advanced rock climbers, with 5 different levels you can choose from. Chicks Rock will enable you to pursue your passion of rock climbing and take it to the next level in a super safe, supportive, fun atmosphere.

How’s it Hanging?

Look here for the latest ice conditions in the Ouray/San Juan region this winter! We’ll let you know what the Chicks think.

Where Have you Been?!

If there is anyone out there who is getting after it, having fun and kicking axe….it’s our Chicks Alumni! We love to get news of the latest “Chick Sightings” and now we want to hear what you are up to and where you have been on our Blog. Email us your stories and rad photos to

Who wants to Know?

This is for all of you information nuts (should I say nerds) who love to collect the facts. Chick Trivia will be an on-going “project” and everyone knows that climbers love a good project.  Look to this category for fun facts, history and trivia on women’s climbing… past and present. Please email with your historical beta.

When you’re hot, you’re HOT!

Join us here to discuss Hot Topics that are important to women and women’s climbers. We will have one sizzling topic per month to discuss, share ideas, expertise and the latest oppinions. Imagine that, a woman with an oppinion. Please let us know what Hot Topics you could warm up to….we are gathering ideas before we launch this Category. What would You like to read about?

What Do Chicks Like Anyway?

Stay tuned for gear reviews from our infamous Girly Guides, the Head Chick and our up-in-coming fledglings.  Hear what the girliest girls think about the latest, greatest gear in the outdoor industry. What do Chicks like anyway?  Hmm.

Caroline George: AMGA Exam

This winter has been busy with  travels, trainings and exam. Upon returning from the Khumbu Climbing School, I headed to beautiful and  remote Silverton, CO to take my level III AIARE course/exam, which is  a necessary step to take the AMGA aspirant ski exam. After much  talking and learning about snow, I passed the AIARE III and headed to  Vegas to teach clinics at the Red Rocks Rendez Vous. A day later, I  flew to Switzerland to visit my family and friends, to ski and climb  (see my blog for pictures of that trip:  and eventually, by mid april,  flew to AK to train for my ski aspirant  exam with Chicks with Picks guide, Angela Hawse.

We drove from Anchorage to the ski mountaineering and heliskiing mecca, aka Valdez, and immediately got down to business, checking out  the terrain we later be tested on and perfecting our drills: sled lowers, building shelters, beacon search, snow profile and skiing
technique. Each day, we would head up another mountain and ski. Each  night, we were greated with Anna’s – our hostess – amazing home cooked  meals and pies and share beta with the other course and exam  participants. After ten days there, we were ready for the course to  start.

We met our instructors – Howie Schwartz, Bela Vadasz and Martin Volken  – on the first day and headed out to get tested on the above
mentionned drills. We spent three days doing drills, which felt like an eternity. All we really wanted to do was ski. Eventually, the
skiing component started. We learnt new tricks of the trade, practiced  some crevasse rescue and skied amazing corn snow. On day 6 (out of  10), we flew into the range in a helicopter and got dropped off on a  little pass on a ridge. We spent the following three days traversing  back to Thompson Pass (where most of the easily accessible skiing is  located), carrying huge packs with our skiing gear (shovel, probe,  beacon, skins, etc.), our camping gear (stove, fuel canisters, tent,  sleeping bag, mat, jackets, headlamps, food, etc.), navigation gear  (maps, compass, GPS, notebooks, etc.) and glacier travel gear  (harness, ice axe, crampons, prussiks, cordelettes, carabiners, ice screw, first aid kit, tarps, etc.). Heavy! Yet, this was an amazing  trip across gigantic glaciers and we benefited from amazing weather  too. Angela and I shared the tent and the stove! We spent the last  three days getting examined.

The exam component is a new one in the advanced course, and one that  enables American guides to become IFMGA aspirant guides, once they  have passed the three disciplines offered by the AMGA: rock, alpine  and skiing. This was my last advanced course/exam. I completed the  Alpine in August 08, the Rock in September 08 and the ski just this  past April 09. With this, my lifelong dream of being an offical IFMGA  aspirant guide came true and my need to belong fulfilled. This status  will also enable me to be a better guide for Chicks with Picks… and  hopefully, I’ll be an even better guide once I have completed the full  IFMGA certification. To get there, I still need to take the exams in  each discipline: alpine, rock and ski!

To see pictures of this story, view my blog: