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?

lindsay@chickswithpicks.net

_______________________________________________________________________

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.

Freya

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!

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.

Ally

Bethany Lebewitz and Genevive Walker practicing AMGA Single Pitch Instructor (SPI) Skills. Red Rock, NV. ©Irene Yee

Foundational to Chicks’ ethos and mission is gender equality in the outdoors, specifically in climbing and skiing. We stand for human rights and oppose violence and systemic racism. We do our best to be an ally to women who wish to improve their climbing skills.

A few years ago, in partnership with the AMGA, The American Alpine Club, Flash Foxy, and Brown Girls Climb (BGC)*, I taught an all women’s Single Pitch Instructor Course to a group composed almost exclusively to women of color.

This pilot program aimed to help bring diversity to climbing instructors by teaching women of color the skills they need to become certified Single Pitch Instructors.

The first course was a huge milestone: in addition to being an all-female course, it was the first time an all-female instructor team had been assembled to teach. Along with my co-instructors and fellow Chicks Guide, Tracy Martin, and Erica Engle, we spent long days in the field teaching the curriculum building technical skills, answering questions, sharing laughs, wiping away tears, and passing on our experience and knowledge to a new generation of climbing instructors.

Women of color in leadership roles will serve as role models for generations yet to come. It’s a bit of a ripple effect. If black and brown girls see women in these leadership roles, it will have a huge impact on them and maybe even inspire them to become a climbing guide one day. Climbing is an excellent vehicle for affirming the message that you can do hard things, you are strong, independent, and confident. 

Since that first course, we’ve held a total of three courses and one assessment. As a result, we’ve added four women of color to the ranks of Certified Single Pitch Instructors. Even though this is only a small step towards bringing diversity into outdoor spaces, it’s a step in the right direction. But there is so much more work to be done and we need your help.

How can you help out? Be an ally in the Black Lives Movement.

Join us in the common goal of bringing diversity to our world. There are many levels of engagement and BGC has put together a great resource guide on how you can be an ally in the Black Lives Matter movement. Visit the Ally Resource Guide on the BGC website. You can choose one that works for you:

  • Register to Vote
  • Make a Donation
  • Sign a Petition
  • Contact Representatives and Officials
  • Listen, Watch or Read Anti-Racism Resources

*Brown Girls Climb is a Women of Color owned and operated company with the mission to promote and increase the visibility of diversity in climbing by establishing a community of climbers of color, encouraging leadership opportunities for self-identified women climbers of color, and by creating inclusive opportunities to climb and explore for underrepresented communities.

Wild Risk

Peace and inspiration. High above Chamonix, in the alpine, for the first time in 2 months. ©Karen Bockel.

Sometimes I like to live wild and dangerously . . .

Hello from Chamonix, France, the alpine-climbing capitol of the world.

Since early March, I’ve been confined the French way but it hasn’t been all baguettes and cheese.

Regulations here were very strict. We were locked down for two months. Everyone kept to his or her houses with minimal interaction. Police enforced the rules and allowed only short trips for necessities. In the end, infection rates here stayed low.

Now we are in a slow de-confinement progression. As of recently, we can go trail running and mountain biking. We can go rock climbing and we can go high up into the alpine world to go mountaineering.

Hotels, restaurants and bars are still closed, as are the borders. We wash our hands frequently and keep hand sanitizer close by. We are careful with shared climbing gear. Most importantly, we keep to small groups and only go out with the same few climbing partners.

The other day, however, I’ll admit it. I took some risk.

I rode the Téléphérique de l’Aiguille du Midi with 30 strangers.

Why would I risk a ride in an enclosed cable car with 30 others?

I risked it because I couldn’t contain the fire inside me. My need to go into the mountains burned. I had to be high above the valley, where there is nothing but rock, ice and snow. I hadn’t been to my place of inspiration and peace for two months and it felt like a lifetime!

The tram only ran for a few days over the holiday weekend. On the last day, I decided. I got up early and packed everything, including plastic gloves, glasses and a facemask. At the base, quite a few mountain addicts were already in line. We stood 1-meter apart, wearing masks. Each of us had to pass a temperature sensor to enter the bin. Markers indicated where to stand. The tram holds 90 but they only took 30.

The top of L’Aiguille du Midi is almost 4,000 meters (just over 12,000 feet). Fresh, overnight snow gave everything an extra brilliance. I went for a glacier tour and came back smiling, my heart full.

At home, I washed everything: my hands, face, body and clothes. I did my best to minimize my exposure to the virus. But, I couldn’t eliminate the risk that came with stepping into that tram.

We often choose some level of risk to do the things we love.

In alpine climbing and mountaineering, especially, we have to deal with risk. There are so many objective hazards and conditions change very quickly. Climbers constantly think about risk and decide what to do. Go? No go? Maybe, go around?

I thought about the risk to take the tram and I decided to go. Meanwhile, I’m still careful about who I interact with. I disinfect my gear and I wear my mask in public.

Climate Change on Dhaulagiri

High camp on Dhaulagiri at 25,000 feet

Kitty Calhoun, Co-Owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing,  at high camp on Dhaulagiri. Circa 1987. ©Calhoun Collection.

When telling stories, I often choose to focus on climate change and sustainability.

During a recent Instagram Live session, Brad Wertnz, of Boulders Rock Gym asked me to tell some stories for younger climbers who might not have the depth of experience to process the current times – both in terms of perspective and lessons learned.

Just like Covid-19, climate change sneaks up on us. We don’t recognize the significance until it’s well under way.

I first ran into the effects of climate change in 1987 when I tried to make the second ascent of the East Face of Dhaulagiri.

After months of dreaming, planning, traveling and climbing through icefall, we finally saw the East Face. But, where the ice should have been was only running water. I was devastated.  After much discussion, we decided to acclimatize by climbing the standard Northeast Ridge, and maybe the face would freeze in the meanwhile.

We had to get permission from the Japanese who had the permit for the Northeast Ridge.  They readily agreed if only we would help them break trail.

We were clipped into their fixed rope, pushing through deep snow when we stepped onto a wind slab. The wind slab broke and started to slide down the North Face, pulling us with it. One by one, the top seven anchors ripped until finally the last one held.

We fell nearly 400 feet.

Just like an expedition, Covid-19 teaches us that if we act together, we can overcome challenging problems.

After a re-group, we made it to the summit of Dhaulagiri a few days later. In the end, we were not able to climb the East Face. No one has since, and I believe it has seen its last ascent.

Today, stripped of accustomed luxuries due to the stay-at-home order, I’m reminded that my favorite expedition lesson is about voluntary simplicity. I really enjoy knowing what I can do without. Doing with less makes me feel free and renews my gratitude for what I do have.

On expeditions, we willingly go without. We put ourselves in discomfort, suffering hunger, cold and fear! But it’s a good trade because the things we get back are much greater­­––gratitude, humility and compassion.

Coincidentally, I believe the lessons of voluntary simplicity and the feelings of gratitude, humility and compassion are what our environment needs to recover from our short-term thinking, abuse and neglect.

One of the unexpected gifts that the Corona virus leaves in its wake for me is an increased desire to listen and to spend time with others. I feel power in being inextricably connected and how, together, we can overcome critical challenges.

As with the virus, the science says we can’t allow climatic conditions to get past the tipping point.  Get informed, and get ready to vote!

Still

Angela Hawse makes a heart silhouette

With love from Angela Hawse, Co-Owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing. ©Ace Kvale.

Rarely do things slow down enough for me to take time to just be. 

I’m usually well into the rock climbing season by mid-April. 

Now, I’m confined to climbing inside, on my own walls––I’ve got a home climbing wall, a hangboard and a pull up bar.  

With gyms closed and crags shut down, I’ve had to rely on other resources like creativity to keep my stoke and fitness high. I do this because I want to be ready for my beloved sport of climbing when I can get back on the rock.

Although I know that fitness is extremely crucial for pushing my climbing limits, the mental aspect of climbing is equally as important. Almost imperceptibly and unknowingly I’ve noticed that all the forced stillness is improving my presence. So, I started paying attention and getting back into mental fitness with a dedicated mindfulness / meditation practice.

As I take advantage of this time to practice quieting my mind, I know this will translate tenfold to when I get back on the rock. Think about it–– when you’re climbing well your mind is nowhere else but in the present moment.

While meditation provides me with a solid foundation to quiet my mind chatter, these days I also look for every opportunity to practice. I’m taking my mental fitness a step further, practicing mindfulness with whatever I’m doing and whoever I’m with. 

Not only will this mental training and fitness benefit my climbing, but the quality of my life benefits immensely and I’ve come to need stillness as much as I need fitness.

XOXO,

Angela

Now, It’s Like This

Now, its like this. Remembering the view from tent on Mt Baker

“View from my tent looking up towards the North Ridge of Mt Baker. Note my toes are blue from nail polish, not from the pounding they received.” ©Elaina Arenz Collection.

Right now, it’s like this. I’m spring cleaning. As I clean, I think about the time I climbed the North Ridge of Mt Baker and what I learned.

On the descent,

the sun cast filtered patterns in front of me. It tricked my eyes as I plodded along. Placing one foot in front of the other, I lost count of my steps and started counting over, again. One, inhale. Two, exhale. Three, inhale. Four, exhale. And on, and on.

My feet were barking, like angry dogs. My toes were especially pissed, they were cramping and it felt like my toes were trying to flee into separate corners of my boots. I’d have given anything to stop and take my boots off––to let my toes be free. 

But stopping wasn’t an option. A glacier is no place to stop and take your boots off and I still had a lot of ground to cover. Before too long the sun would plunge, leaving me in the shadows of the Cascade Mountain range spread out all around me. It was a long way down to our high camp, and longer still to the trailhead. 

My only option was to keep calm, breathe and march on.

I turned my mind back to my breath, focusing on in and out. As a Warrior’s Way Trainer, I knew that I needed to keep my attention in the moment, on the task. The task was to put one foot in front of the other and focus on the quality of my breath. 

In moments of stress, my mind tries to escape from the discomfort. I start wishing, hoping and willing for the situation to be different. But I know, rationally, that wishing and hoping is a waste of energy. I know there’s no escaping the present moment. I kept on, marching down from the summit of Mt Baker.

Now, in the midst of the pandemic,

I know that I have no choice but to take things one day––one step––at a time. Worrying about the future is like succumbing to barking, angry feet and stopping on the glacier. Wishing the current situation was different won’t change anything. All I can do is deal with it the best way I know. I know I need to stay focused on the task and breathe. Right now the task is spring cleaning. You wouldn’t believe how organized my gear room and my closets are!

To reward myself for my spring cleaning efforts, I’m teaching myself how to play the acoustic guitar. My mind commands my fingers to contort themselves into different shapes to play the chords. I strum the strings. My forearm cramps. The guitar twangs sharply––it’s barking at me. I take a deep breath and slowly let it out. I place my fingers on the frets and strum, again. Again and again, until I get it right.

Right now, it’s like this.

Confined to Dream – Isolation in Chamonix, France

Confined to Dream, Karen Bockel, Co-Owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, armchair mountaineering during Covid Isolation in Chamonix, France. ©Karen Bockel Collection.

Confined to Dream, Karen Bockel, Co-Owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, armchair mountaineering during Covid Isolation in Chamonix, France. ©Karen Bockel Collection.

Hello Friends,

I’ve been in Chamonix, France since the beginning of March and strictly confined for a week now. Strict confinement means no excursions beyond the grocery store and the occasional neighborhood sport walk. No mountain activity is allowed: no skiing, no climbing, no trail running, no biking.

These are tough rules but ones I support to help protect the vulnerable and the front-line health care professionals. Those who can, work from home. Those who can’t, try to occupy themselves (and their families) with indoor projects, home exercise programs, yard work and the like. The financial impact is only beginning. Most of us have never experienced such a time of uncertainty.

As I sit here, underneath granite and glacier behemoths, having lost my entire spring season of ski guiding work and possibly that of the summer as well, my longing for the mountains, I am now not allowed to visit, remains. Yet I’m at peace.

While mountain guides aren’t used to being confined, we’re used to uncertainty.

Guiding includes a near constant stream of uncertainties: Is this itinerary appropriate? Is everyone healthy and prepared? Are the conditions as expected? Will the weather hold? When do we need to turn around? Do I have the right gear? What’s my margin for error? What if we have to bail? What if we get lost or get hurt?

In the valley, I have a garden. I have a comfortable little studio. And, most of all, I have beauty to behold. I don’t even have to lift my eyes to see my beloved peaks. Tiny flowers are blooming. The grass is a shade greener every day. The neighbors little cat comes to visit.

I built a slack line with an old rope and a block-and-tackle tensioning system.

I’m reading a mountain literature classic: Lionel Terray’s Conquistadors of the Useless. As I read, I stop and look up the route descriptions for all the incredible routes Terray climbed.

And I dream, endlessly inspired to go climbing again when the time comes. Until then, take good care of yourselves and those around you!

Karen