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

What Inspires You Now? | Chicks Climbing & Skiing – Angela Hawse

What Inspires You? Angela Hawse, Co-Owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing working on the Grand Teton, Grant Teton National Park, WY. ©Angela Hawse Collection

What Inspires You? Angela Hawse, Co-Owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing working on the Grand Teton, Grant Teton National Park, WY. ©Angela Hawse Collection.

Given the gravity and chaos in the world all around us right now, I turn to inspiration. And I wonder, “What inspires you?”

We are all experiencing loss, struggle, uncertainty and fear of the unknown on many levels. Many have it far worse than being asked to hole up and not go on trips. Schools are closing and people are suddenly working from home. I’m cancelling upcoming trips to Iceland and Svalbard.  Many guides, and I’m sure many of you, are out of work into the foreseeable future.

As we self-isolate and social distance from each other, I’m reminded how Chicks serves as a foundation of treasured relationships and shared experiences. I think about the skills I’ve learned from climbing and skiing like managing stress under adversity, problem-solving, will power and thinking on my feet.

Our goal at Chicks is to inspire and support emerging, female climbing and skiing leaders. And, in the spirit of service, we hope the lessons of climbing carry over to support women as leaders in their communities at large.

In these difficult times does it help to ask, “What Inspires Me?” Can you focus on inspiration and motivation instead of fear? Can you adopt a spirit of service to help others in need if you’re able?

Climbing has taught me many healthy exercises.

It’s taught me to go inside to find my own passion instead of looking outward at streaming distractions of media-sensationalized narratives of super-climbing heroines. Comparing myself with my heroines only belittled my efforts and obscured my inner drive and motivation. Focusing inward taught me that I have the ability to shape my experiences into a fulfilling and meaningful journey that is my own.

It doesn’t matter if you’re striving for a redpoint or simply caught up in the moment of moving over rock, what matters is unplugging and tapping into what makes your heart sing. This exercise helps, not just in climbing, but in everything.

We all have an “Everest.” Currently, a novel coronavirus is our collective Everest. Try to remember in these difficult times that climbing has taught us, no matter how high, how far or how difficult the mountain, it’s ultimately the journey that matters.

Wherever you’re holed up, isolated or socially distanced, you have the ability to tap into the presence you’ve learned from climbing. Focus and try not to get distracted by fear, sucked up in following the news every hour or anxious with uncertainty.

Take this opportunity to focus, just like you do on every pitch and be present. That will create a ripple effect that positively influences everyone around you.  It’s living in the moment that inspires me, whether on the rock, a high mountain or in line at a grocery store behind someone hoarding toilet paper.  It’s the energy we bring to every moment that determines its outcome.

What inspires you?

Stay healthy and strong!

Angela

Play – Summer Solstice in the City of Rocks

chicks city of rocks participants enjoying dinner together after a day of play, learning to climb

Chicks City of Rocks Climbing clinic participants enjoying a summer dinner with the telling of heroic climbing deeds ©Kitty Calhoun.

Ah the benevolence of God to provide mortal climbers with such a place to play as the City of Rocks!

One of my favorite things to do is climb during summer solstice in a landscape littered with giant, granite domes and towers! Lucky for me, that is exactly what I’ll be doing this summer solstice in City of Rocks, Idaho at our City of Rocks Climbing clinic.

It’s just March, but last week, during a brief warm-spell, I caught myself thinking about summer. Especially the part about wearing nothing but a long-sleeve shirt and shorts. Summer evenings––gathered with fellow climbers to laugh and tell stories of heroic deeds, both real and imagined––are the best. Then, I was brought back to winter as the wind picked up, temperatures plummeted and it started to snow.

You may not think of a rock climbing Mecca like City of Rocks as a playground. You may not think play is important.

But, think again… Play is a “voluntary, intrinsically motivated activity normally associated with recreational pleasure.” And, according to Play, Creativity, and Lifelong Learning, there are many benefits to playing:

“Play is a doorway to learning. It stimulates our imaginations, helping us adapt and solve problems. Play arouses curiosity, which leads to discovery and creativity.  The components of play – curiosity, discovery, novelty, risk- taking, trial and error… are the same as the components of learning.”

Not only does City of Rocks fit the description of a climber’s playground. With over 1000 traditional and sport-climbing routes, the City of Rocks is endowed with tons of high-quality granite climbing classics. Renowned for solution pockets and chicken-heads, good footwork and balance are key climbing skills at the City. Meanwhile patience rewards you as you learn to play the fine-granite long game, figuring out sequences and learning to trust small holds.

It’s a pity that for most, “play” connotes triviality because it’s just as important for adults as it is for children. Remember, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing,” said George Bernard Shaw.

So, stop growing old! Come and play with Chicks at our City of Rocks Climbing – Idaho Rock Climbing Clinic over summer solstice.

Slaying Dragons with my Six-Year-Old

Grady Grissom age 6, ice climbing with his mom, Kitty Calhoun

Slaying dragons with my six-year-old. Kitty Calhoun, Co-Owner Chics Climbing and Skiing ice climbing with her son Grady.©Calhoun.

“Look, Mommy, this is re-credible!” my six year old son exclaimed as he hit the ice with his ice hammer as if slaying dragons.

The concepts of precision and balance, using the tool as a point under which to center his feet, were uninteresting to him. What was interesting was the fantasy-land of ice.

Slaying dragons with my six-year-old I realized I too have a dragon to slay, but it’s the beast within – the beast that always wants to be more – perfect mom, stronger climber, lovelier wife, astuter business partner.

I battle with this beast until I remember that Super Woman is a misguided ideal and that it’s not within my power to protect my son from challenge.

What is within my power is to guide him with wisdom gained from my experiences.

I know that adventure, reflection, play, creativity and deep learning take time. 

It’s so easy to get caught up with instant gratification and convenience. 

Even though going to the climbing gym regularly helps protect my sanity, it’s not enough.  I need to get outside, to push myself and have an adventure.

There’s more to me than what I can learn inside the four walls of a building.

Sometimes, when I find it hard to jump off the treadmill of an endless ticklist, I’ll wonder where the time went. Then I’ll think back on my life, marked by expeditions and slaying dragons with my six-year-old: open doors to adventure, summits, people, and dreams come true.  

“Yes, climbing is re-credible!”

 Join us for a re-credible start to 2020. 

We only have three spots left in our 4-Day Ice Climbing Clinic.

and two spots left in our 3-Day Mixed Climbing Clinic.

And our rock climbing programs are filling fast!

Climbing Partner – Who Can you Trust?

Kitty Calhoun belayed by climbing partner, Cheryl Wallace

Kitty Calhoun and climbing partner, Cheryl Wallace, on The Bone, Colorado. ©Jay Smith.

My climbing partner sniffed out the seldom-formed ice pillar like a hounddog on a scent. It was a 100-foot, WI 5+, slender column of loosely associated icicles, aptly called The Bone

 The trick to climbing sustained ice pillars is to avoid panic. Take the time to find balance, to climb efficiently. I could tell the hardest move would be at the top, pulling over the bulge while pumped.  

Jay, who believes in saving-strength-by-running-it-out-rather-than-placing-screws, racked up with all the screws he had. Then, he methodically worked his way up the pillar. Pulling over the crux bulge he disappeared from view but I heard a shout of joy. 

I followed the pitch, thinking “I would never lead this.”  

At the top Jay said, “You should lead this and I’ll take pictures!” 

Suddenly, my only thought was, “Who would be my partner?”  

I’d walked out of “never” and into “Ok” in an instant. Still, what if I panicked? What if I ran out of strength? What if I backed off the first screw? 

Who could I trust? 

I need a climbing partner who knows what to say and when to be quiet. 

Regular climbing partners synch like clockwork–no need for discussion. Efficiency in small things while approaching and preparing for a climb breeds confidence.

 I called my partner Cheryl who happens to be a Chicks alumna. Cheryl is always game, which is a great trait in a partner, but more importantly, I trust her.

As Cheryl flaked the rope out at the base of The Bone she said, “Kitty, what are you going to focus on?”  

I laughed. I’d asked her that question many times. 

I’d forgotten my own advice:

Focus on movement

  • to help you climb more precisely
  • & create a positive path for emotional stress.  

I said,  “OK. I’m gonna keep a relaxed grip and keep breathing.”

Within minutes I was in the zone with no sense of time or distance. My only sense was breathe, swing, kick, kick

I paused to place a screw at the crux. “Keep breathing,” Cheryl called.  

“Breathe, swing.” I took a deep inhale.

Suddenly, I was at the top. I almost couldn’t believe it. 

Belaying Cheryl up, I thought about all of our shared adventures together and about how grateful I was for her.

As we say farewell to 2019, I want to thank the Chicks community, my friends and climbing partners. Y’all are what I value most!

Here’s to strong and intense partnerships in the new year.

Snow Safety Epiphany

group of women ski touring as it relates to my snow safety epiphany

It was my second season backcountry skiing that I had a snow-safety epiphany. 

Until then, I’d been privileged with a strong group of experienced skiing partners, both male and female, to follow around.

On the day of my snow-safety epiphany, I happened to be backcountry skiing with a group of seven men. I was the only female. All day, I asked questions, “Why are we going this way? What are you thinking?” I had no idea. But nobody answered me. Instead, suddenly, one of the guys would take off, and the rest would fall behind him… “What?” Wait! I’d follow along, wondering what the heck?

But the kicker for me was that the guys had also invited a friend who had limited skiing experience. I had limited backcountry experience, but I’d been skiing my whole life. Our goal that day was a committing, 4000-foot, ski mountaineering objective. Not only was our friend a novice skier, he was hung-over, had limited water and no food. 

I stressed about our friend all day, meanwhile the guys laughed. I thought, “Great. If he breaks his leg, then what? He doesn’t even have enough water. What if he bonks?”

Later, the sun suddenly fell behind the ridge as I stood below and watched him face-plant. A humid wind pushed down the slope and met me in the face. And, I promised myself, from then on, that I’d gain the skills and knowledge to answer my own questions.

The next day I signed up for a weekend avalanche course at Brighton, Utah. And I talked to my friend and skiing partner, Julie. Together we committed to take a 3-Day Avalanche course in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Click on the following links for more information:

Chicks | Avalanche – Silverton Avalanche School courses

Angela’s Avalanche Skills Checklist

‘Tis the Season for Avalanche Training

It Takes 20 Hours To Learn A New Skill

It takes 20 hours of practice to become skilled enough to enjoy a new activity

Chicks Ouray, Ice Climbing 3-Day clinic participant progressing on steep ice in the Ouray Ice Park, Ouray, Colorado. ©Angela Hawse.

It takes 20 hours, not 10,000 hours to learn a skill.

Last week I stood on the beach in Kauai and jealously watched kids catch small waves on their surfboards.

Even as they fell off their boards they laughed. But, I hesitated.

Why start now?” I asked. Surfing has a slow learning curve and requires regular practice. I only get to do this once a year.

My friends beckoned from the waves and called, “The conditions are perfect!”

“Okay,” I thought, “I have to work up to this. I can’t be afraid.”  I had no illusions that I’d figure out how to catch and ride a wave in the hour before sunset.

Kneeling on my board, I let a few waves pass under me. Then I paddled as hard as I could, my friends yelling, “Paddle! Paddle! Paddle!”

“Holy S—!” I rode the wave into shore like a big kid.

Musing over my surfing misgivings, I came across an interesting interview, Josh Kaufmen: It Takes 20 hours, Not 10,000 Hours To Learn a Skill, by Dan Schawbel.

Most of us are deeply disturbed at the prospect of being horrible at something, even temporarily. When you try something new, you’re usually very bad, and you know it. The easiest way to eliminate that feeling of angst is to quit practicing and go do something else, so that’s what most of us do.

The early hours of trying something new are always challenging, but a little persistence can result in huge increases in skill. The human brain is optimized to pick up new skills extremely quickly.”

It turns out it takes 10,000 hours to reach the top of competitive fields. However, for most of us, the aim is not the top of a field but to be skilled enough or proficient enough to enjoy an activity.

Kaufmen’s research suggests people can usually reach a level where they can have fun in just 20 hours of “deliberate practice.” Deliberate practice is marked by targeting performance levels, breaking skills down into smaller parts and practicing the most important, or “base” skills first.

At Chicks, our gold standard is the 3-day (24 hours of climbing) course.

Learn where you are in your progression of skills on our Ice Climbing Levels page.

Bring It! – Ski Season

Karen bockel and friends during 2019 ski season on the Zermatt to Chamonix haute route

Karen Bockel, Co-Owner Chicks Skiing with Chicks enjoying 2019 ski season on Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route. ©Karen Bockel Collection.

It’s November and the ski season is chasing us down in big steps—

The high mountains glow with their white slopes. I’ve had to scrape my windshield a couple times. And I drove through a snowstorm coming back from my last climbing trip in the desert Southwest. Some ski areas have announced early openings.

Bring it!

I feel like a kid (almost!) at the beginning of every new winter, barely able to contain my excitement. And, why not, it is FUN to be excited!

Time to go into the basement, dig out the ski gear, give my boards a fresh coat of wax, put new batteries in my beacon, fill the backpack with shovel, probe and extra layers.

Then, I’ll have to wait some more. Because it isn’t actually time to go skiing yet, at least not out-of-bounds or in the backcountry.

I don’t go into the backcountry much in early season conditions because I find it too dangerous. Thinly hidden obstacles like rocks and roots could end my ski season in a hurry. So I wait patiently until there’s a bit of a base on the ground. I might take a few laps on a groomer at the ski area just to hold me over until the backcountry games begin. And when they do, backcountry skiing is about the best thing on earth.

So, be patient. And then, have fun!

If you need a little help with the fun part, come join us for an early-season Avalanche Rescue Course. 1-day Avalanche Rescue Courses are essential for backcountry newbies and as refreshers for experienced backcountry travelers. They’re a fantastic way to kick-start the ski season.

If you are just starting out in the backcountry, Chicks has a 1-day Intro to Backcountry Skills in January and a Backcountry Hut Trip in February.

If you’ve got some backcountry experience and are looking for a mind-blowing, powder-skiing extravaganza, come join us in Hokkaido, Japan.

What is Effective Support?

 

Guide Elaina Arenz giving support and teaching an ice climbing clinic to Chicks Climbing clients in the Ouray Ice Park

Chicks Ouray, Colorado | Ice Climbing participants lend support by watching the climber attentively in the Ouray Ice Park.

What is support?

Arno Ilgner, of  The Warriors Way – Mental Training, once told me,

“Don’t belay as you would have others belay you.  Rather, ask your partner how they like to be belayed.”

I thought about this recently as I watched a young woman struggle to lead an off-fingers crack.

Slowly, but surely, the woman climbed through deceptively difficult sequences until she reached the off-finger section. Then she yelled, “take” and grabbed the gear she had just placed. A few moments later, she continued until the crack widened to tight hands. There she tried to stuff her feet into the finger crack below and when she looked down, she saw her belayer putting on a sweater. At that point, the woman placed two cams, clipped through them and asked to be lowered. On the ground she changed her shoes and walked away without a word.

I imagined that she had hoped to look down and see an attentive belayer giving her the thumbs up and saying, “You’ve got this!”

I wish she had said, “Watch me!” and kept climbing instead.

Why do we need support?

Confident, competent, independent women, shouldn’t need support. Right? We just need to focus on the task at hand…

Wrong.

When I’m pushing my limits, I need to feel safe – both physically and emotionally. It’s hard to feel safe when my partner is apathetic or critical. Meanwhile, a supportive partner helps me get into the “zone.”

Everyone is different. Although, for the record, I don’t think anyone likes shouts of unsolicited beta! Ultimately, listening to a person and giving them personal attention is the best way of supporting, respecting and belaying them.

Further, note to belayers: even a brief hand on the woman’s shoulder from her partner would have made a positive impact.

No one is great in a vacuum. Behind every great person is a great person. Certainly, behind every great climber is a great belayer!

So, belay not as you want but as others would have you!

Frequently Asked Questions About Chicks’ Ice Climbing Clinics

ice climbing in Ouray Ice Ice Park

Chicks Ouray Ice Park Ice Climbing Clinic 2019. ©Kitty Calhoun.

Even though the mountains are starting to see their first glimpse of winter across the country. At my home in Las Vegas, NV, the temperature has only just fallen below 90ºF. Finally, the weather is comfortable enough to climb in the shade.

It’s hard to believe that in a few short months I’ll be trading in my rock climbing shoes for boots and crampons but it seems to be true as I’m currently in the process of planning my annual winter trip to Ouray, Colorado.

Every winter, Chicks hosts a series of climbing clinics in Ouray. This winter we’ve got our usual 2-day, 3-day and 4-day Ouray Ice Park Ice Climbing Clinics. We’ve also got a 3-day Ouray Ice Park Mixed Climbing Clinic.

Since, ice climbing in Ouray is always a highlight of my winter, I thought I’d answer a few frequently asked questions about ice climbing and our Chicks Ouray Ice Climbing clinics:

How much climbing experience do I need to try ice climbing?

None. Although, it’s helpful to have the basics (like how to wear a harness, tie-in and belay), it’s definitely not necessary.

When you sign up for one of our clinics we match you in small groups with women who share similar experiences and goals to yours. Climbers of any level, from complete newbie to developing lead climber, can take one of our clinics.

Click on Chicks Ice Climbing Levels to learn more.

What kind of gear and clothing do I need for ice climbing?

All you need are the clothes on your back!

One of the signature attributes of a Chicks clinic is that we can outfit all of our clinic participants from head to toe in the latest and greatest technical gear and clothing. Thanks to the generous sponsorship of all-women programming, you are welcome to try out anything that strikes your fancy from Patagonia, Black Diamond, Grivel and Petzl.

When you sign up for a clinic, we send you a clothing and equipment checklist. Together we’ll help you be sure you’re outfitted properly.

Which program do you recommend?

That depends on how much time you have and when your schedule allows for a trip to Ouray.

The more time you have for climbing the better of course! Each Chicks clinic accommodates all levels.

However, here are some additional things to consider:

Register now for all of our winter ice programs. Spots are filling up fast.

If you need further help deciding which program is best for you, please don’t hesitate to drop us an email or give us a call.