Begin It

Karen Bockel, Co-Owner Chicks Climbing & Skiing, Beginning Les Grand Galets, Cap Trinité, Quebec, Canada. ©Forest McBrian

Karen Bockel, Co-Owner Chicks Climbing & Skiing, Beginning Les Grand Galets, Cap Trinité, Quebec, Canada. ©Forest McBrian

Now at last let me see some deeds!
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Summer is gone.

Cool nights, blue skies and yellow leaves announce another Rocktober—fall climbing season.

I’ve been thinking, “How is this one going to be different?”

Have you set a goal? Have you committed to step into the unknown? Will you push a new grade? 

My plan for this fall is to connect with my environment, take things as they come, and give myself room to try new things in climbing.

I was just on a climbing adventure in Northern Quebec, Canada.

The plan was to climb a little big-wall via canoe access.

At the bay it started to pour. The next day we paddled across, set up our bivy and began to think about fixing the first pitches when it started to rain again.

We sat in our tiny camp below the wall, lost in the sound of the drops pattering on our tarp.

Climbing seemed impossible. Our climbing window was shrinking.

Slowly the sound quieted and we felt a breeze. Stars came out. Wind dried the rock and we awoke to the wall bathed in sunlight.

Even though we knew we didn’t have time to fire for the top, we decided to begin and go as far as we could. We climbed beautiful rock all day, and then we rappelled back down and packed up everything for a pre-dawn paddle back to the bay.

It was a grand adventure, and success wasn’t measured by getting to the top, but by getting out and beginning it. And that’s exactly what I want to do more of!

Right?

Elaina Arenz, Co-Owner Chicks Climbing & Skiing, pushing her limits on her brand new dirt bike. ©Arenz collection

Elaina Arenz, Co-Owner Chicks Climbing & Skiing, pushing her limits on her brand new dirt bike. ©Arenz collection

I’ve always wanted to learn how to ride a dirt bike.

A few weeks ago, I went out, bought a bike and signed up for lessons!

Right?

I’m 44. What business do I have? A motorcycle?

I’m not strong, like a man. What if I get hurt? I’m not brave.

The other night I watched Casselli66, a movie about one of the winningest motocross racers of all time. It’s a documentary tribute to Kurt Casselli’s life and his many accomplishments with anecdotal stories from his loved ones.

Kurt lived by the words, “Do one thing a day that scares you.”

One of the scarier things for me is change. Change has so many unknowns. It’s full of the unfamiliar and unanswerable.

I’m human. I want to avoid stress and I feel the strong pull of staying in little, safe circles.

But, I do my best to prevent this fear from holding me back, especially when it comes to learning new things (like how to ride a dirtbike:) because when I venture out and push the edges of my comfort zone, I learn and grow.

I challenge myself in order to live a fulfilling life.

Otherwise I’d never know and that bothers me.

Also, change is scary, but the thought of plugging along through life locked in my comfort zone is even scarier.

Learning, growing, and experiencing new things makes me feel alive.

See you at the crag!

We Have What You Need

Heather V’s goal for this clinic was to push herself to lead higher grades. She’s comfortable on 5.9 terrain like this. On this trip she surprised herself by on-sighting her first 10a. Way to go woman! 
Photo by Elaina Arenz

Earlier this season, after our Indian Creek clinic, we at Chicks took on the mantra “We can do hard things.”

Later as the summer was in full swing, Chicks reminded us all ” that it was time to make Lemonade.” After a few months of this newfound power, I can see that a positive, focused mindset is the result. These sayings are no longer mantras; they’ve become a way of life.

Over the summer we have had many women come through our rock and alpine programs. Some ladies were there because a bucket list pushed them to experience the joys of rock climbing or the expanse of a glacier. Others came to the clinic with more defined goals of improving their climbing and gaining new skills. No matter what drew the ladies to the clinic in the first place, everyone was there for a reason.

When you let go of expectations and allow the learning process to unfold, great things can happen. At Chicks, we believe in each of you. We know you can do hard things. We know that you are capable of exceeding the goals you have. By incrementally stretching each individual comfort bubble, the guides watch climbing transformations happen at every clinic.

During the Rifle clinic and the Maple Canyon clinic, our guides were proud to say, “we never left the ground.” The Chick’s participants were tasked with picking the climbs, leading and belaying all routes, setting anchors, and cleaning the anchors at the end of the day. It was awesome to see everyone step up to the challenge and become an equal member of the team.  This atmosphere is only possible because of the solid foundations we have all helped to build. The level of trust between the guides and the participants is what makes this type of clinic day possible.

This advanced clinic is a source of pride for us at Chicks. Facilitating and witnessing your independence grow is why Chicks Climbing and Skiing exists. Don’t finish your rock season wishing or hoping to be “better.” Wishing and hoping are not strategies. Be proactive in your learning and actively challenge yourself to improve.  Our guides know what you need, even if you don’t! Come and see us soon to move your climbing self forward.

Floating

Elaina Arenz demonstrates how to fall while climbing, Maple Canyon, Utah. © Louis Arevalo

by Kitty Calhoun

Co-Owner, Chicks Climbing and Skiing

A couple of weeks ago, I arrived at the International Climbers Fest in Lander, Wyoming, and was warmly greeted by a Chicks alumna, Amy Skinner.  She informed me that they were doing a podcast called the Hooligan Narratives (https://www.facebook.com/thehoulihannarratives/),  and wanted me to tell a story with the theme of Float.  I would have eight minutes to tell the story and there would be three other storytellers.

I decided to relate an incident from our 1987 Dhaulagiri East Face Expedition.  We were a team of four – Colin Grissom, Matt and John Culberson, and myself.   None of us had ever tried to climb an 8000m peak and I was the only one who had even seen one.  We were on a tight budget – $3000/person including airfare – and planned to climb alpine style with minimal gear and no fixed ropes.

Our intention was to do the second ascent of the Kurtyka-McIntyre route on the east face, but the ice ribbon was not frozen when we arrived.  In fact, it has never come in again and was an early victim of climate change, as I described in my Ted talk, Last Ascents.  Upon seeing water dripping over the rock, we decided to climb the Northeast Ridge in order to acclimatize. Hopefully the East Face would freeze in the meanwhile.

A Japanese team had fixed lines to a high point of 22,000’ on the Northeast Ridge and we agreed to break trail above for them. We were near the end of their ropes when the wind slab we were on avalanched.  It pulled us down the steep north face.  I made a couple of efforts to go into self-arrest, but each time the rope came tight and pulled me off my feet.  I curled into a ball and put my arms over my head to protect it as I tumbled down the slope.  After falling four hundred feet, we came to a stop.  The Japanese fixed line was anchored with eight pickets and they had zippered out one by one and the last one held.

In dire situations such as this, my senses are finely tuned and time seems to slow down. I do what I can to survive, but I feel a sense of acceptance of what may happen.  It is as if I am an outside observer to the action, a sensation expressed by an old family friend by the statement, “I am flotsam floating on the ocean of life.”

Though we were shaken by the fall, we decided to try to summit by the Northeast Ridge as fast and light as possible.  After a short recovery in base camp, we summited in five days, and hastily retreated back to base camp just before a monster storm enveloped the entire country of Nepal.

Other storytellers spoke of floating in terms of the release that climbing gives them, above the fray of life.  Another spoke of floating on the support of parents during turbulent times.  I recently thought of floating as I practiced falling at a sport crag.

What does Float means to you?

Mountaineering – Reflecting on 30+ Years of Mountaineering

 

Angela Hawse on one of her first big mountaineering trips contemplates Kedarnath Dome, Garwhal Himalaya, India in 1988

Angela Hawse contemplates one of her first big mountaineering objectives, Kedarnath Dome, Garwhal Himalaya, India. 1988. ©Mike Goff.

A flood of images overtakes me as I reflect back on 30+ years of mountaineering.

The memories begin with pre-dawn starts by headlamp over noisy stoves. Then, I’m crawling out of a cramped tent and roping up under starlit skies. Next, the sound of my crampons biting frozen surfaces comes back to me. After that, the feeling of cold, fresh air fills my lungs. Then, I remember the thrill of navigating by headlamp as I recall the route I previewed the day before. Where are the crevasses? Which section do I need to pick up my pace. What zones can I cruise with a little less attention? Is my partner awake? Would they arrest my unsuspecting fall? How honed are their crevasse-rescue skills anyway?

Images of suffering and discomfort easily slip away as I head to the high mountains again and again. The stunning combination of rock, ice and glaciated terrain compels me to keep coming back for more. I love that mountaineering demands all of my skill sets as well as a resolute will to succeed.

Mountaineering requires the journey mindset, not the destination mindset.

Getting to the top is always the goal, but never a given; the unknown adds to the adventure. It encompasses active problem-solving, decision-making and thinking on my feet in order to weigh risk against consequence.

Mountaineering is the ultimate dance with sunrises, alpenglow, endless horizons and comradery through shared effort. Taking us to the most beautiful places on the planet, mountaineering requires us to dig deeply, disconnect from modern-day life and reconnect with nature, our partners and ourselves.

Join Us! Share the rope with Chicks on one of our upcoming Mountaineering Courses

More about Angela Hawse, Co-Owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing.

Inspiration at 80

Rocking it out 80s style with Chicks Alumna Kris Machnick

by Elaina Arenz

One of the best things about Chicks is getting to know the women who attend our clinics. They represent a wide range of ages from teenagers to septuagenarians. There’s one woman in particular who has been a constant inspiration for me and who falls in the upper end of that age scale. While my own mom isn’t the adventurous type, Kris Machnick is the exact opposite. Kris isn’t afraid to get out and try new things, she pushes herself to her physical limit on the end of the climbing rope and in her life.

She immigrated to the United States from Norway, earned an MBA, and went to work as the Director of Finance for the City of Santa Clara. She’s married to a Lockheed scientist from the Czech Republic, has a daughter, a granddaughter with whom she is very involved, does crossfit on the regular and enjoys hiking the stairs with Balder her standard poodle. Not only that, but Kris has also kicked breast cancer in its teeth not once, but multiple times.

Kris is the definition of badass and there is no slowing her down.

So how does a woman like Kris choose to celebrate her upcoming 80th birthday? Well, she decides that she is going to do the #8for80 challenge. That’s right. Her plan is to climb 8 major climbs (rock, ice and alpine) and raise $100,000 for Parkinsons and Alzheimers research while she does it.

It’s a cause near and dear to her heart. Over the past few years Kris has lost several good friends plus a brother to these diseases. She is bound and determined to help fund research and discover preventative measures to stave off the onset of these lethal brain diseases. She believes that the key to mental health is physical fitness and having fun doing it.

So I sit here in the Lofoten Islands of Norway, Kris’s motherland,  awaiting her arrival to take on the next few climbs on her birthday ticklist. She’s also enlisted the partnership of another Chicks alumna, Diane Mielcarz, whose strength, wit, and wry sense of humor will no doubt contribute to the fun factor.

Please consider supporting Kris’ cause and donate if you are in a position to do so. Every little bit helps and this mountain is one to be climbed with a little help from our friends.

http://www.krisclimbingforlife.com/

One of Norway’s blue lagoons. @Elaina Arentz

A is for Alpine

Karen Bockel, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, on the Peuterey Ridge, Mont Blanc--the longest ridge in the Alps ©Emilie Drinkwater

Karen Bockel, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, on the Peuterey Ridge, Mont Blanc–the longest ridge in the Alps ©Emilie Drinkwater

Alpine Climbing is Awesome!

Pre-dawn starts, a bit (or a lot) of suffering, an adventure in a high and wild place.

Can I Go?  These three words changed my life forever.

Southern Germany, 1992. I was 17.

I’d never been to the mountains, or done as much as a hike in the hills.

I was a runner. At a summer, Friday-evening, track meet, I overheard two of my older male friends, Heiko and Damian, making plans for the weekend.

They were going to the Alps to climb mountains. I stared at them.

I knew of climbing through coffee table books of Reinhold Messner’s 8,000 meter ascents – a foreign and unconquerable, yet intriguing world to me.

“Can I go?” I asked.

They agreed and Heiko’s mother loaned me all her gear.
I packed my rain jacket and tracksuit.
I called my Mom from a payphone along the way and told her, “I’m going into the mountains.”

Finally, after ever-smaller roads we parked in a long valley guarded by high, snow-covered peaks—the Oetztal, Austria.

We shouldered our packs, which seemed enormous and filled with things I had no idea how to use. The leather boots felt stiff on the rocks and they rubbed on my anklebones. The path was steep and I breathed as hard as if I was still in the race the night before.

We dropped gear at the hut, ate some snacks and then headed up for our first peak. My head pounded (from altitude I would later come to know), my shoulders felt crushed and my hips were bruised.

Brockenkogel was our objective.

We climbed along a path then we scrambled. Clouds swirled around us and I had no concept of height or distance.

I asked Heiko, “How far?
“10 minutes,” He said. The time it took me to race 3,000 meters—an epic distance and effort! I stumbled with my head down. Then, I saw a large iron cross. The summit! I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Back at the hut, I crawled into my bunk. Damian nudged me to get up for dinner, but everything hurt. All I wanted was to sleep.

Before dawn, the hut guard rang the breakfast bell. Soon our little team found itself donning harnesses and helmets again.

Today we were going for the Wildspitze. This involved a lot of elevation gain, then a scramble up a rocky, ice-filled gully, and finally a long, summit snowfield.

I was too tired to think. I put one foot in front of the other and shivered in my tracksuit when we stopped to put on crampons. I watched and copied my teammates as best as I could, glancing nervously at the knot that tied me to the rope. I remember sharp steel scratching over rocks. It was barely light.

Then, just as we gained the immense snowfield, the sun emerged above the ridge and the snow glowed in orange light and the world dropped away.

We marched and I smiled, and we hugged and cheered when we got to the summit. This was amazing. I was exhausted, but somehow it didn’t matter at all.

The descent caused a few more stumbles and bruises, as did the walk down from the hut. My feet were raw and bloody. Every part of my body hurt, but my mind was blown. I had visited the world of alpine climbing that I had only known from books. And, I intended to return.

Want to have your mind blown?

Chicks are going Alpine Climbing at Mount Baker this summer.

You Should Go!

How To Be The World’s Greatest Climbing Partner

How to be the world's greatest climbing partner? It takes practice. Chicks participants learn how to belay attentively during 2017 Chicks Maple Canyon Clinic, Utah © Louis Arvevalo

How to be the world’s greatest climbing partner? Diane Mielcarz and Olga Lopatina, belaying attentively during the Chicks Maple Canyon Clinic. Maple Canyon, Utah. © Louis Arvevalo

Best climbing partner ever!

I’m often asked, “How can I get outside and climb more?”

Become a climbing asset and you’ll be well on your way to climbing to your heart’s content.

The best climbing partner is competent, psyched, and able to perform a wide range of technical skills.

The best climbing partner can shoulder the responsibility of a day at the crag.

How to be the World’s Greatest Climbing Partner – 5 Tips:

1. Be an Ace Route Caddy

Just like golfers need someone to help them call the shots, your climbing partner needs you to be proactive and useful.

If your partner is going to lead, then get things ready for them to simply shoe up and tie in. Prep the rope by flaking it out and tying a stopper knot in the end. Stick-clip the first bolt. Do a draw count or gear assessment to make sure she has everything she needs. And, once she’s back on the ground, pull the rope so it’s ready for the next person to top rope.

If the route is a top rope, make a plan to set it up from the top.

2. Know How to Clean an Anchor

This will help keep the climbing train rolling and you’ll get more pitches in.

Remember, the leader bears the burden of getting the rope up. This is hard enough. Taking the rope down shouldn’t rest on their shoulders too.

Don’t forget to communicate your plan. How will you clean the anchor and get back down. Will you lower or rappel?

3. Be Positive, Try Hard and Don’t Make Excuses

We all have bad days. Keep your excuses to yourself. No one wants to read that book.

4. Don’t Bail

If you make climbing plans, keep them. Life happens but there’s nothing worse than a climbing partner who bails, especially on short notice. If bailing is unavoidable, notify your partner ASAP and help them find a replacement partner.

5. Be a Good Belayer

Give your climber your undivided attention. Don’t chat up others when belaying. It’s distracting and can compromise safety.

Know how to give a soft catch.

Don’t spray the climber down with beta (unless they ask for it).

Do offer words of encouragement (but not too loudly).

Do remind her to breathe.

Finally, if you’re still not comfortable approaching strangers to make climbing plans, try connecting with partners through the Chicks Alumni Facebook group, “Friends of Chicks Climbing & Skiing.”

It should give you confidence knowing that everyone in the group has received the same high level of instruction and should be on the same page with climbing best practices.

See you at the Crag!

“It Makes More Sense to Live in the Present Tense.”

Crusher Alli Rainey works Last Man Standing, 5.13a, Wild Iris, Wyoming © Louis Arvevalo

Crusher Alli Rainey works Last Man Standing, 5.13a, Wild Iris, Wyoming © Louis Arvevalo

Green grass, blue skies, 60°F on the rock, tank tops, camping, climbing and focus.

The nearest springtime rock-climbing destination for me is Lander, Wyoming.

Pale-orange walls, greasy and reachy warm-ups, sharp pockets, throes of weekend warriors sending their projects, families with dogs and babies, “crushers” climbing the big routes around the corner, waking yellow-jackets, and tiny yellow bitterbrush flowers.

The crag is alive with people and their plans below the steep walls and amongst the blooms.

And, I exist in the middle of all the colorful noisiness. I’m tuned into all the going-ons, the chaos, the distractions.

I’m a mountain guide so my situational awareness knob is turned up to ten. I forecast events and outcomes as I absorb the variable inputs and outputs of the system around me.

It’s a key skill to fit all the pieces together to make a big climb or long ski-tour work: How are we doing on time? Is the weather holding? Who’s getting tired? Are we on the right route? Is that the right ridge?

But when I’m sport climbing, I have to remind myself to dial the knob back.

“It makes more sense to live in the present tense” is a quote from the band Pearl Jam.

When I’m sport climbing only the rock right in front of me matters. Not Time. Not impending rain.

I need to block out the chatter, let go of thoughts and focus on my next move.

Because, if I am right here, right now, in the present tense, then I can make that next pocket!

Happy Climbing everyone!

You Can Do Hard Things

Chicks Indian Creek Closing Meeting, a celebration of having done hard things.

Chicks Indian Creek Closing Meeting, a celebration of having done hard things.

It’s good to be home after a whirlwind of Chicks rock climbing clinics.

Vegas, Bishop, Joshua Tree, Indian Creek.

Early in the month, Elaina and I teamed up with Mountain Gear to present clinics at the Red Rock Rendezvous. Over four days, 1000 climbers took part. We are always honored to participate in this amazing climbing festival.

After the Rendezvous, came Flash Foxy’s Women’s Climbing Festival in Bishop, California, where Kitty and I taught a clinic together in the Owen’s River George. Flash Foxy is an excellent place for Kitty and me to spread the good work of Chicks.

Next, a small, intimate clinic over Easter weekend in Joshua Tree: only five of us allowed us to really minimize our impact on the crags. Chicks works hard to be respectful and low-profile when visiting National Parks and other sensitive areas.

Indian Creek clinic finished up the month with a different level of engagement. Indian Creek is remote. There’s no wifi or cell service. I watched everyone let go and focus on the moment. Unplugging allowed for a childlike playfulness—needed to climb splitter cracks!

All month, I worked with women, supporting them to tackle objectives with power and confidence. They all came with goals and I watched them all obtain and surpass their goals.

Now, it’s my turn. I must practice what I preach, walk the walk, climb the climb.

But I’m lucky, I take with me the infectious spirit and empowerment of each woman. Their courage emboldens me.

In summary, I leave you with a very short story:

A mother was climbing with her daughter.

The daughter said, “This is hard.”

Her mother replied, “You can do hard things.”

I take it with me; My mantra: You Can Do Hard Things!

Happy Spring,

Dawn Glanc