Ames Ice Hose, Telluride CO


2nd Pitch

OK truth be told, I haven’t been on the sharp end of my rope in a few years, but who’s counting? I got busy, I lost ambition or didn’t feel like I had it in me to lead anything sort-of hard anymore. Who knows?

So here we go. My new climbing partner actually showed up as planned so we headed off for our first climb together on Ames Ice Hose near Telluride – a classic three pitch climb that offers steep, narrow and long leads. We hiked in and had to wait for the second shift, getting us on the route around 2:00 PM which was perfect. Kitty Calhoun and I had been on it a week before though we only had time to each lead one pitch before she had to pick up her son Grady at the ski area. I lead the first pitch with Kitty so I let Mr. X jump on it this time before I took the 2nd and 3rd as to complete my goal to lead the entire route this season. Mr. X looked solid enough and I thought to myself that he will make a fine partner…plus he was proving to be a lot of fun.

Kim pointing to the third pitch

Kim pointing to the third pitch

When I was half way up the third pitch a certain unnamed party came up and ruined our wilderness experience by the seriousness of their need to climb everything in one day, pass us by and set the world’s record on speed coiling. Whatever. After the satisfaction of making fun of their serious mood, we hiked out after a successful and fun first climb together. Nice! Off to dinner in Telluride before Mr. X had drive home to his girlfriend. What a pity.

My new climbing partner

Mr. X

Mr. X

I love climbing with women and by the nature of my work, I do quite a bit of it but this winter I was blessed with a new climbing partner…a cute, humorous, 39 year old, unavailable, cop from Crested Butte. Quite the package deal wouldn’t you say.  Practicalities aside, I was certainly ready for a little excitement in my life…especially since he let me do all of the leading.

So here’s the deal, when I turned 50 I didn’t feel as if my life was suddenly passing me by or I needed to head on some major adventure that would put me on top of a symbolic summit to my soul. Instead, I felt grateful for my life and the fact that I’ve always done exactly what I wanted to do.  Even so, I still  felt like a total looser for not setting any “goals” for this milestone. With that said, I quietly decided it would be fun to lead all of the major backcountry ice climbs in the San Juan’s and ski some of the classic north faces of the peaks I gaze upon everyday.  Somehow the simplicity of this goal, close to home, sounded perfect and besides, I found a new belay slave. Sweet.

Getting my Grrr Back

It’s been quite a year: not only did we celebrate our 10-year anniversary at Chicks with Picks, host the first full-on women’s ice festival and start a new program called Chicks Rock…. I turned 50, got an amicable divorce, remodeled a house, took a group of women to Nepal and got my grrrr back.  Not necessarily in that order.


The Head Chick

Over the past ten years, I’ve been busy starting things such as Chicks with Picks, Mind Over MountainsdZi Foundation and becoming a certified Life Coach. That all looks good on paper & web sites, but the truth is the adventurous aspect of my life, not to mention my confidence, has suffered in the last few years. It was Kitty Calhoun (one of my Girly Guides) who looked at me this winter, saw the wind knocked out of my sails and encouraged me to “get my grrr back”. She kept throwing me back on the ice to do lap after lap until my arms fell off. So thanks to her, I decided it was time to reclaim my passions.

End of the Season

Did that really just happen?  The ten-year anniversary of Chicks with Picks womens ice climbing has come and gone. Yup, time flies when you are having fun kicking axe and kicking butt! Notice that no one has tried to replicate this program but then again, why would they? Who knew that womens ice climbing would take off and gain such momentum since we hosted our first clinic in 1999 with 18 gals.  Women are smart – if you look at the odds, ice climbing is a great way to meet guys and lesbians, for that matter. Better than, Fitness Singles or E-Harmony for hooking up that like-minded, adventurous, soul mate to share gear with.

Getting to the top of an ice climb


In 2009, we offered our three standard clinics with a 4-to-1 ratio:  The Totally Chick, The Complete Chicks & The Sampler held court in the Ouray Ice Park and then in February, we introduced the first Annual Betty Ice Ball: a women’s festival of ice. Forty-four women gathered for half-day clinics with a 6-to-1 ratio, group dinners, slideshows, auctions and dancing to our local band “Fall Baby” – whoa some match making was going on that night! Women loved The Betty Ball and being able to attend Chicks with Picks at a more affordable price and we all know they will be back for more!

Chick Sightings

Word has it that Chicks alumni have created quite a stir out there. We want to hear and see photos of your recent gatherings and adventures because here at the Chicks Headquarters, we have the dreaded disease called FOMO (fear of missing out).   Please go to our facebook group and fill us in on all of the juicy little details!

NBC Weekend Show

Chicks on the NBC Weekend Show

Chicks on the NBC Weekend Show

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CURCUIT TRAINING: creating power endurance

Circuit training is invaluable when done well, not only does it take less time which many people have very little of but you not gain strength and also a CV benefit from this style of training. As well, it may more accurately mimic what your body is going through when climbing demanding terrain.

How to build a circuit: this can seem challenging and often is so once again I will keep it simple to begin:
Four to five exercises combining these critical components:

  • Squat: (ex) squats, dead lifting, lunging, step-ups, box jumps, side lunging
  • Sit: (Core) sit ups, back extension, rotational strength, leg raises, med ball throws, and balance
  • Push: Push-ups, dips, over head press, bench press
  • Pull: pull ups, high pulls, cable rows, bent over row
  • Metabolic (optional): rowing machine, running intervals, jumping rope

These are all the functional Ranges of Motion that our bodies can and do work in. We have to train them all and in harmony with one another. You will rapidly discover that a weakness in one area will diminish your capacity to perform specific movements. We want to train away those weaknesses. Those weaknesses are what will lead to inability to perform any complex endeavor such as ice climbing, skiing, and biking, at your absolute best.

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Strength and Flexibility

I always put Strength and Flexibility or ROM (range of motion) together because they should be inseparable in your training. Simply put, your muscles have a functional ROM in which they can apply force, that functional ROM is determined by your level of flexibility. It is that simple. Gymnasts, Martial Artists, Dancers are a perfect example; most people are impressed by the display of strength of these sets of athletes. As well, most injuries (unless they are the result of trauma) occur when there is an imbalance in either strength or flexibility in the system. My experience has shown that the first aspect of training many athletes fore go is stretching or increasing functional ROM.
The most important point I want you to take away from the following segment is that of training the system as a whole. Muscle isolation exercises are inappropriate for anyone but a body builder, the elderly, inexperienced population or injury rehab. We as athletes do not ever use our muscles in isolation. We use our bodies in complex movements, ergo: we need to train our bodies using complex movements, challenging our strength, increasing our flexibility, testing our balance, and opening new neuromuscular pathways.

Simple ROM to work on:
After a warm up and in between sets you should stretch.

  • Aboriginal Squat: this is a full squat with your heels on the floor, toes relaxed, and torso upright. You can prepare for this by stretching your hamstring, quads, and calves in a traditional manner, however we want the flexibility to equate to a functional ROM for an exercises like Squats, dead lifting, lunging, step ups, box jumps etc.

Imagine climbing, you can only pull your leg up and stand in relation to the body as far as you can squat down and stand up.

  • Arms Over Head: Can you stand up right and hold your arms straight over head, elbows even with your ears, without arching your low back or lifting your shoulders? If yes, great! If not, this is a ROM we need to develop. Practice an overhead squat with a stretching belt or dowel rod over head, between your hands.

Imagine swinging an ice axe overhead with enough FORCE to penetrate the ice, you need all your functional ROM to generate enough force correct? Perfect correlation to the sport, you will be able to swing that ice axe more effectively if you can access all of your functional strength.

  • Chest Opening: Stand in a doorway, door open, place your arms out at 90 degrees, elbows just below shoulder height and step forward to stretch your chest/pectoral muscles. This will help with posture, delivery of force from the muscles of the back and shoulders, and breathing capacity (making room for your lunges to expand with air).
  • Hip Opening: Frog stretch on the floor or against a wall. Lean against a wall, move your feet/legs as far away from one another as they will reasonably go, squat down so your legs are at 90 degree angles. Place your hands on the inside of your legs open them further while holding the squat position, hold this for 30 sec to 2 minus. Repeat.
  • Rotation of the body: Back lying twist. Lying on the floor, raise your knees to your chest, then bring you feet up so your legs make a 90 angle, move you knees away from your chest until they are over you hips. Keep you right shoulder on the ground as you let your lower body twist to the left try to touch your left knee to the floor. Repeat opposite side. You can do this with your legs straight as well, it makes it more difficult to bring your legs back to center.

These are examples of ways to increase flexibility in these key areas.
If you aren’t sure about how to stretch and gain ROM in these areas, I highly recommend taking a GOOD yoga class. Yoga not only develops strength and flexibility, but teaches you to become more body aware and has elements of relaxation and meditation. Some of the mental components that are beneficial to being/becoming a climber.



Specifically Cardiovascular training. This element can often be over looked by climbers, who just want to be “STRONGER”. In actually it is as critical as strength as it allows your body to manage the demands of the climb while you are in the midst of it. We need to train your heart/lungs in two capacities, aerobic and anaerobic. I’ll keep this simple for now:

  • LSD: (long steady distance) – “cardio” hill climbing, hiking, running, biking 45 minutes or more. Steady state fitness for the long climbing effort so you can recover on the go.
  • Interval training (speed/power) – This capacity of CV fitness is often overlooked by a recreational athlete. Yes, LSD is important however to increase your absolute capacity we need to push the threshold at which you perform higher. There are many techniques for interval training and it can get crazy, so picking a simple format to begin this practice is best:

5 minute warm-up, 2 min interval, 2 min rest, 2 min interval, 2 min rest,…a total of 4 intervals then a 5 minute cool down. Rest periods should be rest, do not stop but decrease your output so your body can recover. Intervals should be difficult. If using a perceived exertion scale of (1 – 10) Rest 5- 6, Interval 9 -10. If using a heart rate monitor, Rest 50 – 60 % of Max, Interval 90 – 98% of max.

Muscle specific endurance, you often hear about muscle specific endurance training for ice climbing, like calves and forearms. We will deal with this in the next piece, Strength and Flexibility.