Learning the ropes…of blogging, not climbing

I was scared.  Sure- yet, unsure, of myself.  All I knew was that I had been struck with an idea, in the middle of the night, an idea that told me in no uncertain terms that I should change the course of my education, thus changing the course of my career. So I did, but I was scared to death.  I decided, with only a semester left in pursuit of my teaching degree that teaching was not what I wanted to do with my life.  I realized it was my path to make writing about the Outdoor Industry the cornerstone of my career.

My good friend advised me to start blogging and making connections on Twitter ASAP.  This was also scary for me.  My friends and family supported me and told me they enjoyed my writing.  But what if no-one else did?  What if I really sucked and I was just being humored?  Putting myself out there was intimidating.  It seemed riskier than submitting ideas privately; that way if I faced rejection, that was also private.

I took my friend’s advice anyway.  I began following outdoor companies and the friends I had in real life with Twitter accounts.  I began my blog and starting Tweeting about my posts.  I had no idea what I was doing, and was busy reading everything I could about how to effectively use Twitter and what the do’s and dont’s were.  I’m not gonna lie, I made some mistakes in the beginning, like asking for re-tweets and other pathetic things, but I was catching on.

Then my first dose of positive reinforcement arrived, through Chicks Climbing.  That’s right.  Chicks came to the rescue and found my one of my first blog posts about climbing floating around in a Tweet; I didn’t even use any hash tags, but they found the word “climb” and starting following me.  Let me back up a moment and say, that, I had often seen half page ads for Chicks with Picks and Chicks Climbing in Magazines like Rock and Ice.  I can remember looking at the color pictures of Betty, hair done up, make-up, sunglasses, with a rope slung over her shoulder like it was no big thing; conveying the message of “Yeah, I got this.”  Betty, to me, represented how a woman can embrace her femininity, yet keep her independence and her identity.   The Chicks were the epitome of cool, and so bad-ass, that I only wished I could be half as cool! And here they were following… me?  Retweeting my Tweets, and mentioning me in the Gossip Column?! Wha…(lifting my jaw off of the floor) ?  Words cannot describe how much this meant to me.

My acceptance by Chicks Climbing seemed to give me the street cred I needed because soon afterward I had an increase of followers that also blogged about climbing and gear.  I have made some many great connections through Twitter with some truly awesome peeps.

That is the way social media works, you build up relationships that don’t happen overnight, but it takes time, like in real life.  Chicks Climbing, an authority and leader in the community gave me an in, but the rest was up to me.  I had to build relationships and I now work hard to maintain them by re-tweeting my Tweeps as well as reading their blogs and comment when I can.

This is true in all online communities.  My newest, growing, community is in the marketing and business world where I found the same to be true.  Once I got the attention of a well-known blogger, doors suddenly opened to me and I found my following and connections increased.  It is really exciting to see it happening.  I am grateful to living right now in the world because I am watching it grow smaller and see my desires become more attainable.

Krysia Hepatica is a mother, climber, blogger and goal setter that harbors a love for social media and has a secret crush on skin care products.  You can read her adventures on her blog or follow her on Twitter @Ventrsomekrysia.

Poster Plaster winners & a big thanks to all the Chicks Ambassadors!

One of our winning Chicks Ambassador posters, plastered by Margaret Gorman in the Brooklyn Boulders

Jill, our Head Office Chick, has been packing and shipping out Chicks Rock! summer 2011 posters for our several dozen new Chicks Ambassadors across the country for the past two months.

In that time, our wonderful volunteer ambassadors have plastered the posters in climbing gyms, coffee and gear shops across the states helping us get more exposure than ever before!

We want to extend a heartfelt THANK YOU to all who took part in the poster plaster to help us spread the word about our summer rock clinics.

As we detailed at the start of the poster plaster, three lucky winners will be rewarded for their efforts as Chicks Ambassadors with prizes from some of our sponsors. Among the giveaways are one Osprey Hornet 24 daypack, a pair of Julbo Guide Glasses, and a Princeton Tec Fuel headlamp!

AND, we are excited to announce that the winners of the Chicks Ambassador Poster Plaster giveaway (who were randomly drawn) are: Katie Levy in Pennsylvania, Margaret Gorman in New York, and Paula  Gillispie in Missouri!

Katie is the winner of the Osprey Hornet 24 daypack, Margaret the Julbo Guide Glasses, and Paula the Princeton Tec Fuel headlamp! We will be shipping out the prizes to the same address we sent the posters, so make sure to check the mail for your prizes!

Thank you again to everyone that helped get Chicks posters up in more than half the states! We’re psyched to know there are now Chicks Ambassador posters up in the following states:
– Arizona
– California
– Colorado
– Florida
– Georgia
– Indiana
– Kentucky
– Maryland
– Massachusetts
– Michigan
– Missouri
– Nebraska
– New Hampshire
– New Jersey
– New Mexico
– New York
– North Carolina
– North Dakota
– Ohio
– Oregon
– Pennsylvania
– South Dakota
– Tennessee
– Texas
– Washington
– Wyoming

And maybe more?! If you’ve seen a Chicks poster up in a state not listed, please leave us a comment so we can add to the list! 🙂

Chicks posters now up in over half the states!

Krysia got Chicks up at Moosejaw in Michigan!

There are just a few more days left to get your poster up in the Chicks Ambassador Poster Plaster! We will be drawing the three lucky winners Tuesday, May 31st, and announcing them next Wednesday, June 1.

As a reminder there is an Osprey Hornet 24 daypack, a pair of Julbo Guide Glasses, and a Princeton Tec Fuel headlamp up for grabs!

The turnout in this inaugural event has been AMAZING! We had volunteers from more than half the states request posters and many have been busy plastering our Chicks posters in their region.

Among the states represented in the poster plaster were:
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
South Dakota

A huge thanks to everyone that has participated and helped put up posters. It’s been fun to see Chicks everywhere from SoHo in NYC to North Dakota! 🙂

Evolution of a Betty

Lots of gals ask about the Chicks with Picks logo and what’s the story behind it. When I created her, the sassy climbing gal that is our dear logo was all of us at the time. Me, Kim, all my girlfriends –  free as a bird and off to the next adventure at the drop of a hat. Climbing road trips with girlfriends were the best that life could offer – in my opinion.

A typical scenario: Susan, and me, footloose and fancy free in the Needles of southern California. Towering, stunning, granite spires with names like The Sorcerer and The Witch. We ate French toast with peaches from a can and life never tasted better. We were photographed by a famous photographer and published in a Climbing magazine. These were my 15 minutes of fame.

The desert towers – Castleton, Fine Jade, Sunflower Tower, Coffee Pot Tower – there was no feeling as exhilarating as sitting atop one of these and seeing as far as the desert could reach. Sun baked, parched, taped up hands and sand in the eye. These adventures morphed into drawings I did for Chicks T-shirts, The North Face T-shirts, posters and more.

Through all of this I supported myself with graphic design. Starting with the Chicks logo, I began to support other women who were launching businesses they were passionate about. I drew bike logos, surf logos, yoga logos, ski logos. I designed brochures and websites for mountain guides and outdoor companies. My passion had permeated into what I did for a living. I knew these people and I could capture the spirit of their business with design.

In Winslow, Jen, Wendy and I sat for a day in the back of Wendy’s pick up truck, waiting out a wind storm, drinking camp coffee, wanting to get down in Jack’s Canyon and pull on some limestone. We had no idea what was ahead of us: children, life, death, relationships, responsibility. The metal roof of the camper took the nonstop hit of sand. We were fit and energetic, the world was whatever we wanted it to be.

In 2009 I found myself painting in Mexico for a week with my teacher. Every morning we ate papayas and yogurt, drank coffee on her porch, and watched the whales breach. We painted cactuses and waves outdoors in the morning, and then worked on canvases in the studio in the afternoons. I took long naps and did yoga. I swam in the ocean. I had finally found my bliss.

So this is Betty in evolution. The rock face has changed. It’s more complex now. I still have my graphic design business, but the Betty that was once on the rock every spare moment is now exploring this new passion – my art – and raising my beautiful son. My love of the outdoors has morphed into a keen sense of the beauty that it is. I have slowed down. I’m an artist and a mother.

Recently my sister gifted me with an hour on the phone with her Shaman from New Orleans. I had never spoken with a Shaman before and she told me lots of things. I am from Cereus. I am an Indigo child. But what really stuck is this: “You have a gift for seeing beauty, and sharing it in your paintings. Other people do not notice the things you notice. You need to look at your life like one of your paintings.”

So this is my new challenge. I am morphing into a butterfly, but I am still climbing out of the cocoon. This is how women are, I think. We grow and love and put our hearts on our sleeve. We search so hard for our peace and our passion. And all along the way, we are in the process of blooming.

Kellie has lived in Ridgway, Colorado since 1998. Before that she worked for the U.S. Forest Service as a ranger surveying, wilderness rangering and fighting fire in Alaska, Idaho, Arizona and California.
To see more of Kellie’s art and graphics, visit her websites: http://dayzigngraphics.com/ and http://kelliedayart.com/

We want to know – ‘what’s making you blossom these days?’ Let us know in the comments below. On May 17 we will select three random comments as the winners of a free Chicks T-shirt designed by Kellie!

You Are Who You Hike With

Photo from The Women's Wilderness InstituteToday we are going to introduce you to Lori, who is the mother of “Little L” who will be heading into her third summer in The Girl’s Wilderness Program at The Women’s Wilderness Institute in just a couple of months.

Continue reading to see Lori’s testament to the program – and how it’s changed her daughter. And if you missed yesterday’s post introducing you to The Girls’ Wilderness Program, you can check that out here.

Mother & Daughter

A Mother and Daughter’s Experience with The Women’s Wilderness Institute and The Girl’s Wilderness Program

Wow, what can I say? These women are amazing! When I grow up, I want to be just like them!

My daughter, an only child, goes to a prestigious private school for girls in the northeast.

We are very fortunate to be in that academic environment and benefit from all of the gifts it offers. There is a difference in class that is evident.  We cannot afford the luxuries that most of the families enjoy on a daily basis. I have the oldest auto in the car line. I grew up in this wealthy town, there’s not even a chance that I would be invited to the next Junior League Charity Ball.

It is where I grew up, left after high school, spent the next twenty years in the west.  I loved rock climbing and hiking in the canyons. I wanted my daughter to have that amazing experience.  I found out about the program through my favorite librarian.

I hesitated to call thinking, how was I going to afford all of that equipment? it’s crazy! Forget it.

But, somehow my women’s intuition led me to call, and Im glad I did.

My first call was with Lori Matthews who is a top notch professional. She gave me parent contacts to get the real low down (the parents were really nice too, one offered to pick my daughter up from the airport for me). Lori’s friendliness and knowledge about the program made me comfortable. I was impressed by her consistent follow-up and attention to details.  It was unbelievable we didn’t have to go out and buy everything! We could borrow sleeping bags, tents, jackets, hiking boots, etc.

I liked the fact they had a Latino program, a mother-daughter program, women’s program, etc. Their staff were fully certified in wilderness first responder very experienced and program had very little or no turn over.


The changes I saw in my daughter after her first summer with The Girls’s Wilderness Program…she definitely appeared more motivated in all areas of her life, more outspoken and with the courage to think and speak for herself!

After the second summer she continued building on prior skills and now appears to really understand natural consequences of her actions and taking initiative to change. She’s forming close friendships with her girlfriends, finding trust, and bonding in times of crisis.

This summer will be my daughter’s third summer with The Girl’s Wilderness Program. (And we will hear from “Little L” herself tomorrow! :))

The Girls’ Wilderness Program at TWWI

We are going to spend the next three days talking about our good friends at The Women’s Wilderness Institute. Today we are going to give you an introduction to who they are, and what programs they are running for girls this year. Tomorrow we will hear from Lori, the mother to “Little L” who is going on her third summer participating in The Girls’ Wilderness Program, who we will hear from on Friday.

So, what is The Women’s Wilderness Institute and what are they looking to help girls achieve this summer?

The program

The Girls’ Wilderness Program, offered by The Women’s Widerness Institute, is designed to build the strength and resilience girls need to effectively negotiate the challenges of contemporary female adolescence, and the leadership skills to create positive futures for self and others.

The visionary program model is designed to meet the specific needs, issues, and learning styles of adolescent girls as well as to develop the self-efficacy, self-confidence, leadership skills, and capacity for authentic relationships that have been shown to be significant protective factors for girls.

The program serves a racially and economically diverse population of girls, ages 8-18, on 1- to 12-day wilderness-based courses of backpacking, rock climbing, and expressive arts. Course activities are facilitated within a program model that builds courage, confidence and leadership skills, and helps each girl express her authentic voice.

The original model of teaching decision-making, designed to build self-awareness, critical thinking skills, and the ability to make self-affirming choices uses the many choice-points of a wilderness expedition to give girls the skills and self-awareness to make choices that are in their own best interest, and based on their personal beliefs and values rather than the expectations of others or impulsive decisions. This awareness and ability to express personal values and needs is directly related to girls’ ability to make positive choices in their life.

A key element of the program is the role-modeling component; caring adult women leaders with the capacity for authentic relationships. Research shows that modeling is an effective pathway to self-efficacy, and the degree of perceived similarity of the role model to one’s self (i.e. same gender) is a key factor.


Three outcome studies conducted by independent researchers have validated the efficacy of this program model. The first two found that The Girls’ Wilderness Program had a statistically significant positive impact on participant’s self-confidence, self-esteem, and ability to initiate action. The second study also found an increased positive body image and body acceptance. The third revealed positive changes in the girls’ sense of self including perceived academic competence and self worth.

The Women’s Wilderness Institute is committed to offering this program to any girl who wishes to have this experience, and serves girls of all races and economic backgrounds. In the history of the organization, no girl has been turned away for lack of funds. In 2011, TWWI will serve approximately 140 girls and anticipate that half of our participants will qualify for full or partial scholarships.

2011 calendar

What programs are available in The Girls’ Wilderness Program? Looks like some rock climbing, leadership courses, wilderness expeditions and MUCH, MUCH more. Click here to see all of what’s on tap for the summer of 2011!

Stay tuned tomorrow to hear from Lori about the decision to send her daughter to The Girls’ Wilderness Program, and check back on Friday to hear from “Little L” about how each experience in The Girls’ Program has been a life changing event!

Chicks Ambassador Poster Plaster!

It's missing a Chicks Rock poster!

Calling all ambassadors of Chicks Climbing! We need your assistance in getting our Chicks Rock! 2011 posters plastered across the country. Can you help?

How about if we tell you there is an Osprey Hornet 24 daypack, a pair of Julbo Guide Glasses, and a Princeton Tec Fuel headlamp up for grabs for three lucky Chicks ambassadors! Now can we count on your support??? 😉

This giveaway is open to everyone – men and women – since we know some of our biggest fans are the men who climb with the women who have been to a Chicks clinic!

The Chicks Ambassador role is an easy one to fill – all you need to do is fill out this form with your name, mailing address, and the number of posters you would like us to send you (the limit is 4).

Once you get the posters, please put them up at your rock gym, sports store, coffee shop, school, or yoga studio – basically wherever you think there might be Chicks who want to give climbing a try. Once it is up, take a picture of your poster plaster, then post that photo on your Facebook wall, tell us where you plastered it, and tag us at Chicks Climbing. That photo – with the Chicks Climbing Facebook tag – will be your entry into the drawing for the pack, glasses, and headlamp!

Each poster you plaster, photograph, and share will get you one entry into the giveaway – so you can earn up to four total entries!

The contest will run through May 31, so there is plenty of time to get your posters strategically placed. Please allow for up to three weeks for your posters to arrive (i.e. sign up to get yours now) as we work in batches for shipping!

Any questions? Let’s hear ‘em! Otherwise, get started by filling out the form here to get your posters!

And a huge thank you in advance to all the wonderful supporters of our Chicks clinics who will help us plaster our posters!

Pushing boundaries

Carol in Thakhek, Laos, January 2011.

Carol Simpson, a traveling Bikram yoga teacher, has been climbing for 24 years.

In that time she’s redpointed a 5.12b sport climb and a 5.11b trad.

Carol started climbing when she was 42 years old.

Wait, that means this 66-year-old mother of three and grandmother of four is still rocking out?

Yes, she is!

For anyone that’s been to a Chicks with Picks or Chicks Rock! clinic you know it’s not unusual to see at least a 20-year spread in the ages of the women that come out to scale either rock or ice with us. Most climbing publications today focus on the recent projects of young up-and-coming climbers who are rarely more than 30 years old. And because we often have women who are just starting to climb in their 40s and 50s we wanted to give you a little insight and inspiration from other amazing women who started the sport at that age, and are continuing to climb hard. First up is Carol, who is still onsighting 5.11a’s on sport routes, and 5.10a trad lines.

One thing Carol has noticed as she’s gotten older is that her climbing technique has only gotten better. She also hasn’t suffered an injury in more than SEVEN years. So how does she do it, and who does she look up to for inspiration?

Read on for our Q&A with Carol, a true inspiration for millions out there who have said “I’m too old to start…”

Name:  Carol Simpson
Age: 66
Years climbing:  24 years
Lead climb at –
Sport: Can usually onsight 5.11a, depending on the climbing area.  Hardest sport redpoint 5.12b (age 53)
Trad: Can usually onsight 5.10a.  Once again, it varies depending on climbing area.  Hardest trad redpoint 5.11b (age 60)
Mom & Grandma: 3 children and 4 grandchildren
Occupation: Traveling Bikram yoga teacher

Can you talk about your first climbing experience?
I was 42 years old when I experienced my first climb.  Went out with a ski buddy and he put a toprope on a 5.9 for me and a young guy, Joe, who was around 21 years of age.  As I watched Joe climb, I got more and more terrified because he was falling and cursing and finally got lowered down.  I will never forget the feeling of working my way up that climb.  My whole body was quivering, my mouth was dry as a bone and my heart was racing the whole way up, yet I had the experience of being in some kind of altered state of consciousness.  I got up the climb without falling and when I got to the top, I had a feeling of elation like I’d never had in my life! A major adrenaline rush!  I only did one climb that day because I was so mentally and emotionally spent from the whole thing.  I couldn’t wait to come back out and do it again!

Has your climbing improved with age? My technique has improved over time.

How many days do you try to climb a week? When I am climbing, I climb around 3 or 4 days a week.  However, I am not consistent because we travel a lot and there’s not always a climbing area nearby.

What do you do on rest days? Bikram yoga or read, draw, cycle, hike, etc.

What other activities and/or sports do you do? (Any cross training or cardio?) Road biking, skiing, Bikram yoga, Bikram yoga, Bikram yoga!

How do you avoid injuries? Bikram yoga!

If you are injured, how do you deal with it?  I haven’ been injured since I began practicing Bikram yoga 7 years ago.  Prior to that I had shoulder, knee and foot surgery.  I handled each by resting longer than I wanted to, but forcing myself to rest until I was completely healed.

As you’ve gotten older, how has your body changed as a climber? I have muscles now that I never had in my 20s and 30s.  Arms, shoulders and back.  Very nice to enjoy while in your 60s.

I have noticed that I need more rest days between climbing days, especially if we’re climbing in a steep, overhanging area.  I will climb one day and rest the next.  Sometimes, it’s two days on, one day off if it’s, for example, an area like Smith Rock where the climbs are not as steep.

Who do you look up to as a mentor in the climbing world? (Or, who influences your climbing (if anyone)?) Someone you probably don’t know because she’s not a famous climber.   Her name is Susan Price.  Susan lives in Portland, OR .  She exemplifies an ideal climbing woman in my mind.  She is over 50, extremely strong and makes 5.12 look like a walk in the park.  She’s intelligent (former physician), humble, kind and a truly genuine person.  Really fun to be around as well.  She never tried to be one of those women who is out to please the guys, if you know what I mean.

I never really knew anyone older than me to be a role model or mentor.  That’s why it’s such a pleasure and an honor to be an inspiration to younger women.

What kinds of projects do you find yourself focusing on now? Is this different from what you worked at in the past? I don’t work projects.  I did some of that in the past but I prefer to try to onsight a climb or get it within 2 or 3 tries.

What kind of training plan do you employ? No formal training plan.  I just eat right, get plenty of rest, climb and balance my climbing with yoga.

Nutrition – how conscious are you of fueling your body for performance? I don’t eat red meat, pork or chicken but I eat seafood to ensure my protein intake is sufficient.  I never eat fast food, junk food or drink sodas.  I don’t feel like I go overboard with food.  Just try to eat fresh, natural fruits, veggies and grains.  No supplements.  No secret Chinese herbs.  I’ve tried all the supplements as well as “high performance” diets off and on during my life and I have concluded that my basic concept is portion control.  I pretty much eat what I want, and yes I love chocolate AND cheese, but I eat small portions of everything, so I can keep my climbing weight.  I’m almost 5’9” and my climbing weight is 118-120 pounds.

If you could offer one piece of advice to a woman in her 40s that has never tied into a rope before but is curious to try, what would it be? Here is how you tie a figure 8 knot.

Note from Chicks: Carol doesn’t have a lot of pictures of herself climbing and noted about the one she sent: “I don’t have any good climbing shots of myself.  I’m sending this one from January, 2011 in Thakhek, Laos.  It’s OK, but unfortunately I’m toproping.  Somebody had to take the draws off cause it was so steep, so I volunteered!” 🙂

Chicks Climbing networks stretching far and wide!

Photo by Ilana Marcus Rock Climbing Instructor and Founder, Thrillseekers Anonymous

We love hearing from our Chicks Climbing alumnae!

This week, alumna Caroline Doucet sent us this fun photo of Santa Claus getting after it on some ice (which we thought was pretty cute), along with a note saying this winter she will be doing her ice climbing with fellow Chicks alumnae Karen, Cheryl, Kate, and Sarah in the Canadian Rockies!

Even when our Chicks take a break from visiting us here in Ouray, we’re happy to see those ladies sticking together in their climbing! Developing a strong climbing network is just one of the many great things our alumnae get out of joining us at Chicks events.

And, speaking of another Chicks sighting, we got a report from alumna Sarah Goldman in South America that she bumped into her roommate from Chicks with Picks (2008) in Argentina! They were both down in South America with the same goal – to climb Aconcagua! How random is that?

We truly believe that one of the best things about the Chicks experience is those lifelong friendships and climbing networks that naturally form during the clinics. It’s only natural to easily relate to other ambitious women climbers that are always up for an adventure – be it in South America, the Far East, or Canada!

Thanks Caroline and Sarah for letting us know about your past and future Chicks sightings, and make sure to share those trip reports with us!