Chick’s Red Rock Testimonial

We want to thank Chick Christi Milovich for sending in this testimonial after climbing with us out at Red Rock a couple of weeks ago during our Chicks Rock! fall clinic. This is one of the most moving pieces I’ve read in a long time, and it really is a lovely testament to the spirit of Chicks!

It’s difficult for me to put my Chick’s experience into words; but, the fact that several days later I am still marveling at its greatness may be description enough. While it far exceeded my expectations, and probably was the best $795 I’ve ever spent, it also served as some magnificent, unexpected, antidote – an elixir – if you will, to a busted-up confidence and unruly self-doubt, which had (rather rudely) seeped into my life over the past several months.

The Head Chick herself could have been the mastermind; purposefully concocting a radical potion of bad-ass women, good food, perfect weather, challenging climbs, first-class instruction and intriguing conversations. Or, perhaps the Man Upstairs played a part in all of it. In any case, it doesn’t really matter, ‘cause it was what it was, and what it was, was one of the most rewarding, inspiring & encouraging experiences I’ve had in a really long time. Oh, and did I mention the food?

First off, this batch of Chicks was not your average, run-of-the-mill variety. The flock consisted of a doctor, a lawyer, a chemist-turned-software-engineer, an occupational therapist, a chef and a sculptor (and these were just the unhidden talents). And secondly, these women were team players – just as prepared to see another lady accomplish greatness as they were themselves. Collectively, we fostered an intelligent, supportive, light-hearted and energetic environment.

Then, there were the Girly Guides. Kitty, Dawn and Erica. Words really don’t give justice to the intrigue these gals elicit. They are just that stunning. And not just because they’re professional athletes who drive Sprinter Van’s named Betty, run around putting up FA’s in the ice and are former Crystal Mountain Ski Patrols (oh yea, and who grace the pages of your climbing magazines – go ahead – google them), but because they are humble, strong, beautiful and unassuming. Let’s say salt-of-the-earth. They acted with grace and purpose; keying in on each woman’s strengths and helping each of us to reach individual goals. At the end of the trip, utterly astonished at the awesomeness of these ladies, and at a loss for words, I could only describe them as glow-in-the-dark. And if you’ve met them, you know exactly what I mean.

Eddie Bauer First Ascent “The Quickie” Scholarship!

We are so excited to announce that our sponsors at Eddie Bauer First Ascent have ALSO signed on to sponsor a Chick to attend our Chicks with Picks “The Quickie” clinic, Feb. 1-3, 2013.

For complete details on the clinic please see our website at:

The recipient of this clinic will receive a “tuition waiver” for the cost of the clinic in a double occupancy hotel room along with up to $1,000 in Eddie Bauer First Ascent outfitting.

Pretty sweet, eh? Well, there are some responsibilities for the winner including:

Responsibilities of recipient

The recipient of this scholarship will be responsible for
– Paying for their own transportation costs to and from the clinic (please note that check-out from the hotel is the morning of Feb. 3, the last day of the clinic. You must reserve and pay for your own room if you elect to stay another night to travel on Feb. 4).
– Writing a “trip report” to be sent in to Chicks Climbing by Feb. 15 that will be published on Chicks Climbing and Eddie Bauer First Ascent web properties.
– Taking photos during the clinic to be submitted with the “trip report” to be published on Chicks Climbing and Eddie Bauer First Ascent web properties.


You must be a Chick who:
– Is 18 years or older
– Is adventurous
– Values the experience of spending time with women
– Is a first-time Chicks with Picks participant, all climbing abilities welcome
– Is in financial need of a scholarship
– Will provide two letters of recommendation WITH this application

If you meet the above criteria and agree to the responsibilities required please fill out the form. We will take applications through Dec. 1, and will announce the recipient of the Eddie Bauer First Ascent scholarship by Dec. 15, 2012.

Any questions? Let’s hear them!

Indian Creek trip report!

This is my Indian Creek trip report from my personal blog (so you get to read my “real” voice!). It was super fun to climb in the Creek again, including on three lines I did during Chicks Rock! but was SO MUCH BETTER AT this time around, which goes to show how much you get out of a Chicks clinic! I am super psyched to go back to the Creek again this spring with Chicks Rock! Will I see you there?

Since I still haven’t fully written my trip report for the Bugaboos, I decided to work on one from Indian Creek because that only makes sense, right?

I was super psyched to take a trip to the Creek this Fall, since climbing there this Spring made me fall in love with rock climbing.

Wait, that’s a bit too bold of a statement.

It actually made me *want* to go rock climbing more than I previously did, which was not very much (for a variety of reasons, but the primary two being: there is nowhere to rock climb within 4 hours of where I live (so the motivation has to be high), and I kinda suck at rock climbing which makes it not as fun).

BUT. I learned at Chicks Rock! in Indian Creek this April that I suck a lot less at crack climbing than I do at face climbing. Hooray! So that is why I started to want to rock climb more, and agreed to take rock climbing vacations twice this year! (Generally, I only vacation to ice climb, so it was a big deal for the boy to get me out on two rock climbing trips with him.)

The view from our campsite.

Alas, I digress. So, for those of you with little patience let me put it out there that the Creek in early October is AMAZING. It was not too crowded with pretty warm days (we were chasing the shade for sure) and perfectly cool nights that had you snuggling into that sleeping bag. The landscape was also surprisingly green, much more so than this spring when the washes were full of water, which was very surprising to me!

Indian Creek is stunning in the Fall! View from Supercrack Buttress.

Our goal was to climb for two days, take a day off to “rest” and then climb for three more days and we hired Danika Gilbert to guide us. I have climbed with Danika many times on ice – she took me on my first multi-pitch climbs in fact, and has really been an inspiration for me to go out and gain the skills I need to be independent enough to climb backcountry ice.

Lucky for us Danika has also been climbing in Indian Creek for more than 20 years. The funny part is she *just* bought a guide book for this trip. She generally operates on the ‘let’s drive over to this wall and walk around and see what looks fun’ methodology, which I think is totally awesome to be at that skill level and ability!

We were looking to crag most days so that we could get direct instruction and advice from Danika on the ground. While multi-pitching is suuuuuuuper fun (especially on a desert tower), it isn’t the best way to get BETTER at crack climbing, which is what we were hoping to do on this trip. It was especially important for the boy who had never climbed in the Creek before or had any real formal instruction on crack climbing technique.

We flew into Grand Junction and rented a car there then picked up some supplies and headed to Moab for a few more things before heading into the Creek and the Bridger Jack’s Campground. We turned in at Beef Basin and the road was totally sketch (for me, anyways) with our little car. I would say the road to the campground is definitely best suited to a vehicle with high clearance! Danika later told us that it was in much worse condition than it had been earlier in the spring, but it was a really, really lovely place to camp at. The sites were large and not very close to the neighbors. I had been expecting a total s*it show like I have experienced while camping on other climbing trips, so I was pleasantly surprised with the accommodations, even if it came down to pooping in a bag.

Morning at camp site No. 3 at Bridger Jacks.

So, about that. As many of you may (or may not know) you can’t really bury poop in the desert very well. Not like you can in the forests of North Carolina, for example. Within Indian Creek (which is on BLM land) there are just a handful of pit toilets, but they may be several miles away from your campsite (and down a heinous road best suited for 4WD vehicles, for example). It is actually really nice because most of the camping in the Creek is primitive and free! In order to manage human waste the Friends of Indian Creek provide Restop bags (aka “wag bags”) at several dispensers (suggested donation is $2/bag). Here is a video made by Friends of Indian Creek about the importance of using these!


Needless to say, we donated quite a bit of $$ for these precious bags. Which, of course, I thought was totally fun, especially because when we would go by a pit toilet it was like heaven to actually sit down behind closed doors and all. It’s all about perspective, people, now let’s go climbing!

Day 1: Danika was driving in to meet us at our campsite, having spent an extra day at home because she had been kicked by a horse the day before (!) and had some major swelling in her shin/calf and hand. Not an awesome thing to happen before going crack climbing! But, Danika is a super trooper and we headed up to Donnelly Canyon for the boy to get his first taste of Indian Creek crack. We started out on Chocolate Corner, which was a pretty nice hand size for me, but felt like thin hands for the boy. I’m glad we went here day 1 because thin hands on day 1 would potentially turn into uber-thin hands or even fingers once the Creek swelling sets in. We taped up with a different method than I’ve used in the past, which resulted in the tape bunching up and instant gobies on my first climb. SWEET. These little b*tches would subsequently open up and bleed under my tape gloves for the next four days of climbing.

Chocolate Corner, first crack of our fall Creek trip!

Anyways, Chocolate Corner was a super fun climb, and we each ran two laps on it. My second was heads & tails different than my first. For some reason I was feeling really anxious at the start of the day – maybe it was too much coffee? By the time I settled down I was able to really get into a good groove though. After Chocolate Corner we opted to do Elephant Man, after a nice couple from the Yosemite Valley area came over and climbed it. We again did two laps on this route – there were a lot more face features for feet, so we didn’t smash them up too bad. Binou’s Crack was also on the docket for the day, but we decided that four laps on the day was enough – we didn’t want to go buck wild and kill ourselves on day 1 so we headed back to camp.

Day 2: After studying the guide book, talking about what crack sizes we would like to work on, and considering it was a Saturday, we decided to go to the Way Rambo wall, which I was pretty excited about because that is the site of where I did my very first three Indian Creek climbs this past April with Chicks Climbing. I thought it would be fun to try to get on a few of them again to see how much I had improved – and boy have I ever!

We started out on Rochambeau, which was my first climb at Chicks this Spring, but this time I climbed it cleanly. I was so psyched (and under pressure) because this was the “perfect” hand size for the boy so he was going to have an easier time all day. I can’t even imagine what a difference my climbs must have looked from April to October since I’m sure this past Spring I hung on the rope a gazillion times while figuring out how to jam.

Thankful to have long enough legs for this awesome rest stance on Fuzz.

We then decided to put up Fuzz, which is a LONG (115 foot) rope-stretcher of a climb that gets increasingly steep – but with (my) perfect hands towards the top. At Chicks I had flailed and failed on Fuzz, but this go around and despite some intense feelings of FREAK OUT with the boulder-y start, I didn’t fall until I was a lot higher, and now that I am more comfortable with jamming, it wasn’t long before I was at the chains. I was so psyched after cruising the upper part (which I hadn’t even made it to this past Spring) to find some perfect sizes that I could really make work!

Now we are into *perfect* jams on Fuzz!

Our third climb was again a climb I had done at Chicks called Blue Sun. I had actually wanted to do this climb first on the day since I knew that by the end of the day sore hands and feet tend to get the better of me. Again, this was a climb I had not made it to the top of during Chicks, but I sure did this go around! I fell a few times towards the top mainly because I am a sissy and my feet were HURTING. It is a great size for super secure feet, but the twisting and torquing on feet that aren’t used to it can get pretty painful fast. That night I actually saw that I had really bruised the tops of my feet pretty solidly! Ah, the joys of crack climbing – the most physical kind there is (for me, at least!).

Blue Sun, definitely one of my favorite climbs in the Creek!

The boy on Blue Sun (right) while some fun kids from the Boulder area climb an offwidth to the left. They were smart enough to bring beer with them!

Day 3: We scheduled Sunday to be a rest day, and drove up to Arches National Park to do some hiking. We knew we were taking a risk heading into prime tourist territory, but figured it would be worth it to see some of those amazingly sculpted pieces of rock. And it was, sort of. I mean we often don’t go to places that are super touristy, and every time we do I remember why. People are dumb. And annoying.

Balancing Rock. I think. I just threw away all the park literature LAST NIGHT. Oooops.

The road that goes through Arches NP is not very long – maybe 22 miles or so? (I just threw away all the literature literally last night! (doh!!)). There are a gazillion turn offs for scenic vantage points & small little highly groomed trails. We were most interested in making the hike out to Delicate Arch, even though we had been told that Hell’s Kitchen would be better for “us” (i.e. less people). But, we felt that if this arch is important enough to be on the Utah license plate, we should probably go see it.

OMG. I got a picture of Delicate Arch without the mullet dude in it!

The trail to Delicate Arch is pretty easy and well traveled. It is also marked by a gazillion cairns in case you are worried about getting lost. Once we got to the arch it was full on supidity with people lolling around under the arch forever to get their photos taken, or eat lunch, or to basically ensure no-one else could take a picture of the arch without their dumb ass in it. This one dude with a mullet parked himself underneath it to drink some water and then make ridiculous gang sign poses for his equally idiotic hiking buddy to take photos of. I’m sure now that they are on Facebook somewhere that guy is totally getting all the ladieeeeeessss, thanks to those sexed up pics, oh yeah!

Did lightening strike? Second photo with NO people.

When I saw the arch had been vacated for a while so everyone waiting for a picture of just the arch (without all the white trash America – I mean, there were literally ASS CRACKS hanging out in that arch!!!) I ran down for the boy to get a quick photo of me underneath it so my mom could get a sense of the scale. We ate some lunch snacks here and then quickly bailed to go to Hell’s Kitchen.

Me, being an asshole under the arch. For 2 seconds, I swear!

We stopped by some other arch that had a short hike into a slot canyon before getting to the full-on insanity that is the parking lot at Hell’s Kitchen. At this point we are not psyched on the gaggles of people but bust a move and make it a little ways past Landscape Arch before calling it a day and heading back to Moab for a shower (which felt AMAZING) and dinner at the Moab Brewery.

I so wanted to climb up this squeeze and grab the rock to do a pull-up so the boy could take a picture for me to submit to the CrossFit mainsite. Alas, it didn’t happen. It was soooo slippery. He even tried it and it was just too much. Another time!

At the brewery we had an EPIC Chicks Sighting as I saw Cheryl & Kate walking into the restaurant at the same time as us. Literally two minutes previously I had opened up FB on my iPhone and seen a photo Kate had posted of the two of them in Moab and I said to the boy “huh, how random, I have friends in Moab right now.” So it was even more random to see them! I screamed Cheryl’s name from across the parking lot which totally alarmed her, and then ran up to give Kate a hug telling her “I’m Maija!” like ‘duh, aren’t you excited to see me?!?!’ It was great since we have heard so much about each other, but never *really* formally met (and Kate is like 1000x more awesome than I even imagined!). So, the boy and I were lucky enough to eat dinner with these two gals, who I will be climbing with in Bozeman in just a few weeks! And later again in Canada next March (so.freaking.psyched.for.that.trip to the GHOST!!!).

Chicks sighting! You never know when & where it’s going to happen!!!

On our way out I got some dairy-free gelato, which was amazing. But, I was so focused on getting a dairy-free treat (since dairy can make my guts feel yuck) that I ordered it in a waffle cone, chock full of gluten, which I didn’t think of until the whole thing was down the gullet. When I mentioned it to the boy he said “yeah, I was surprised you ordered the cone.” Sometimes I need help, people, serious help! I felt like total dog poo the next morning too thanks to that gluten, when we headed up to the Battle of the Bulge.

Day 4: So until the last climb of the day I was all, “damn, did we LOSE the Battle of the Bulge?” because it seriously was feeling like I did until about 5:30 p.m. (FYI: The Allied Forces did WIN the Battle of the Bulge.) This day of climbing was going to be all about yucky sizes for me, including off-widths. Yeah! Not so much. The boy loves that ish and I am not as much of a fan. We started out on The Warm-Up which was a fine enough climb, but had a few FAT hands (i.e. cupped hands for me). At the base there was a flake we could practice our chimney climbing technique, so we did that and continued working the pitch hoping one of the other climbs we had been planning to do would open up. They didn’t because there was some kind of a splitter camp going on which involved major climb hoggage (more on that later).

We ended up going to Elbow Vices which was a climb that had everything from hands to fingers AND a squeeze chimney. While Danika and the boy climbed the route with their left side facing out, I was completely unable to move in the squeeze chimney in that direction. So, I turned around and faced out right and then grunted, wiggled, swore and wedged my way up the chimney. It felt like HOURS of work. After the chimney the rest of the climb was actually pretty fun. But it was hot and I was grumpy when we were done. By this point we were fully entrenched with this splitter camp who promised we could totally “use our ropes!” for a few other climbs in the same corner. Lucky for the boy he got to climb Pigs in Space which looked like a super fun climb with MY perfect hands. But, these a-holes in the splitter camps didn’t really mean for us to use the ropes, they actually thought we should belay for them. At one point all 3 of us were belaying. WTF was happening? I was so mad. I just wanted to get out of there and go climb something as it was already getting late in the day. The boy belayed this older lady (who had seemingly learned nothing in the camp about how to climb cracks) for what had to have been at least an hour trying to climb Pigs in Space. I kept waiting for her to tell him to lower her as she fell dozens (literally!) of times out of the crack. But kudos for her to making it to the chains!

Finally we pulled our rope and bailed and left that train wreck behind. Speaking of trains, we went to climb Railroad Tracks which was WAY harder than it looked. The start looked nasty for sure, but past a small roof there were twin cracks, which tend to usually be very awesome! They were not. The start was as heinous as it looked with tight fingers and no ‘real’ feet; I had to try it about three times before getting off the ground, and then move past the thin fingers to thin hands. The twin cracks were actually awkwardly spaced and the sizes flared dramatically. I made it to the chains and then lowered two more times to work on different approaches to the parallel cracks. Laybacking the majority of the upper section actually worked the best.

Finally, we put up a line on Unnamed in the corner just near Railroad Tracks where I finally had a good, fun climb. It is always super fun to climb a line cleanly in the Creek, and that I did on Unnamed. Actually, come to think of it the majority of routes I climb cleanly in the Creek are all “Unnamed.” Random. Or, it could be just because there are like 100 of them. So I didn’t lose entirely at the Battle of the Bulge. Had I not been an idiot and eaten gluten the night before maybe I would have cruised the squeeze chimney. Hahaha. So not likely, but I can just tell myself that.

Day 5: This was the day of classics for the boy. He gets really psyched on climbing lines that have some historic significance, whereas I could care less. I just want to climb routes that are fun, I have no interest or investment in climbing lines that are “classic” for reasons X, Y or Z. So, Supercrack Buttress it was!

There she is, Supercrack. Also known as the arm eater!

We actually were the first party to make it to Supercrack that day, which was amazing. Supercrack (aka Super Crack of the Desert, Luxury Liner) was the first crack put up in Indian Creek. It has a most ridiculous bouldery start that I fell on at the top at least three times before figuring it out, and finally I got to the splitter. Make no mistake, this is a pure splitter crack that just goes straight up. Until the small lip/roof it was a reasonable hand size for me, but past that point until the chains it was DEEP. I was reaching in to my elbows to get a cupped hand jam. I was in so deep that it was more secure to shuffle my hands than pull them out to move, which meant each meter of movement took more and more skin off my forearms. I was very aware of this happening but what could I do? I wasn’t going to bail on Supercrack! When I came down the two guys waiting, Nick & Psyched Will, were like “oh yeah, you should’ve totally worn a long-sleeved shirt.” Really helpful stuff there.

It’s always badass to get scraped up, right? The best part is how horrified everyone in public is that sees these things as they heal. Of course at my CrossFit gym no-one thinks it is out of the ordinary at all. I bleed often there, too.

We then went over to the Incredible Hand Crack and got behind a party of two guys. The leader had just climbed it in about two minutes and his partner, who has not done very much crack climbing, was anxious about us having to wait on him to climb. I assured him it was no problem, my forearms were (literally) oozing and I could use a rest since the boy was having elbow pain I was on extra belay duty for him. Plus, I like watching other people climb hard stuff. So Ronnie (the guy who was wearing ouchie-tight sport shoes on a hand crack) really struggled to get past the roof and despite the (perfect) beta his partner Jack had, he just was too frustrated to continue working on it. I felt bad since I think it was partly due to the increasing number of folks waiting to get on the line, but that’s just a part of climbing. Sometimes you have to wait for these classic lines and so if you are climbing you need to just do your thing and not worry about anyone else. But, it was his choice.

At the cruxy part!

When it was our turn I used Jack’s beta and it was awesome. It was such a fun size. The roof was definitely awkward, but I made it past that faster than I thought I would. After the crux it is truly just an AMAZING hand crack with the added bonus of having feet features on the wall, a rarity in the Creek and oh, my toes couldn’t have been happier!

Almost to the FUN part. For a “classic” this is a pretty fun one, no doubt.

We then went a few climbs to the left to 3 AM Crack. It again had some pretty big hands at the top – so big I couldn’t even get a fist! But it was pretty fun to compare my lap to the boy’s because where he had trouble with the crack I cruised, and vice versa. Funny since his hands don’t really seem that much bigger than mine, but the certainly are when it comes to jamming! We were pretty worked by this point and opted to work on a new technique for cleaning anchors that doesn’t require me to untie from the rope (holy hell, I’m so glad I learned this!) and practiced placing gear before heading back to camp.

3 AM Crack butt shot.

Day 6: This was to be our desert tower day. Danika thought Sunflower Tower on the Bridger Jacks would be a good option for us, but the idea of climbing a hard multi-pitch route on Day 6 was not sounding like fun. So, I proposed a trip to the South Six Shooter, which both Danika & the boy were also keen on. It is a much “easier” route although it involves a lot more walking. I wanted us to end the trip on a good note, not a frustrating one!

Danika’s truck saved us hours of walking this creek bed!

Danika’s truck was able to drive super far into the approach, literally saving us hours of walking up the dusty creek bed. We then hiked up the plateau, and then the cone to the three pitch climb, which we took a funky variation on the second pitch, having to completely step over the void to a separate pillar (which really didn’t have any hands or feet). I convinced my shoes to get extra sticky for the move, and they wisely complied. The top out on the climb involves a full-on pull-up after having done a belly mantle, so it isn’t necessarily the most graceful. But, it is fun to be on top of a desert tower.

Hrmmmm, how do I want to step from this to that when there are no hands or feet per se…

OMFG I am doing it.

So funny how our time climbing in the Bugaboos has made us so ‘relaxed’ towards exposure now!

We were glad to have done the South Six Shooter and end the trip on such a high note. I know the boy is anxious to get back to the Creek in the spring. I really love that the people in the Creek aren’t all douchey like they seem to be at so many other climbing areas. Everyone we hung out with during the trip was super cool and just out to have a good time (except for this one girl who was the epitome of MISERABLE! It was too funny. She just hid behind her sun glasses and hat cried and complained about how she wanted to go back to the front range and go sport climbing on credit card crimpers. Apparently she isn’t used to hang dogging and was getting spanked trying to follow the lines her boyfriend was putting up. It was maybe even funnier that he was pretty much ignoring her, and wouldn’t lower her until she really through a fit and then promised he’d get her tacos if she would stay longer. I am pretty sure they left.). But everyone else was again, super nice and helpful. They loan and retrieve gear for other people and share lines (for the most part).

There is no doubt that it is physically tough to climb in the Creek! I am taking a “recovery” week from rowing to all my flared up old injuries calm the F down. I’m really hoping that by next week I am back to my old self, because I have some training to do! Ice season is just a few weeks away!!! Oh and my Level 1 CrossFit cert is this weekend. Lots going on!!!

I tried really hard to get these pants to stand up on their own for a photo, but I guess they were not yet *that* dirty. They are pretty grubby though. Six days of straight wear in the desert will do that (and I LOVE IT!)

Sending “Black Angel”, a Chicks’ first 5.10 trad route

Rock Chicks is a South African website dedicated to all the women and girls in South Africa who are climbing alongside the men and boys. They say “We may be a minority at present in the sport of rock climbing but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t climb up and get noticed (or have a website dedicated to just us). After all, everyone knows girls just look better climbing than guys do.”

Chicks alumna Almine Barton has a special connection to the South African climbing scene not just through her family but with her ongoing pursuit of empowering women & girls to climb. Almine writes “Delaney [of Rock Chicks] & I have spoken several times, and we both have the same dream: to heal racial differences, and to empower young South African girls through climbing. My dream is to work with her in the future, via a non-profit I’m working on spear-heading to get gear (harnesses, shoes, etc.) to underprivileged girls in South Africa. Delaney & I are both of the belief that climbing can be a neutral “playing field” for racial issues. When you have a black girl belaying a white girl, there is an automatic friendship & bond that becomes established between climber & belayer. This relationship can prove beneficial, with far-reaching implications. This is where climbing can become bigger than all of us. Nature is the neutral playing field. It does not see race or income. Climbing will be the way Delaney & I make a difference together in Africa. ♥”

Rock Chicks recently interviewed Almine on her first 5.10a trad route lead of “Black Angel” in Smith Rock. Check it out below to see how Almine mentally HTFU to lead this project that last fall she took a major whipper on (bloody picture below!).

“I began moving away from sport to trad climbing about six months back,” Almine begins. “The last time I was able to jump on Black Angel due to the weather (it’s been snowing until recently here) was last year. So, I’ve been a bit “stuck” with it. I had that big fall on it, wanted to get back on it immediately, but couldn’t, because it started to snow several days after, until recently. Outdoor climbing season has now arrived here, so I could work the route again.”

Fortunately it was a fair-weather day, being about 60 degrees and along for support were Liz Coleman, Stewart Mills and Julie Ziedman.

So, what was the hardest part of the route? “The route itself isn’t extremely difficult,” Almine tells us, “Except for the roof section. It’s a lie-back (or you could stem it, but then you’re face-climbing it more than crack climbing). It’s where I took my big fall on it last year. It was my first time trying to lead it and I fell off the roof. It’s a very thin section, that’s a finger-crack sized ‘crux’. It’s a bit tricky to place small gear in this section, because the crack is irregular (the rock is volcanic tuft) and very small.”

And did Black Angel do you an injury? “Really just bled a lot when I fell on it last year. ‘Cheese-grated’ all the way down, almost to the bottom of the route (volcanic tuft is very sharp) from the top of the ‘crux’. Knocked the ‘wind’ out of myself a bit. It was a ‘decent’ fall!”

We can only imagine how Almine must have felt after sending her ‘nemesis’ but we are wrong. Almine admits to feeling: “Just ‘okay’. I didn’t send it as smoothly as I would’ve liked the first time I lead it. I hung out at the ‘crux’, paralyzed with fear, to be honest. I had to wrestle with a lot of ‘mental demons’ at the roof section. I was doing everything I could to calm my breathing and mind, but all I could think about was my fall from the year prior. It was one of my more scary leads. And it wasn’t the difficulty rating of the route, per say, just the psychological ‘story’ in my head about how I fell, the sound of my body against the rock, the blood that stained the rock (that I could see out of the corner of my eye), etc. I would like to lead it with more finesse, less fear, more elegance. That will happen this climbing season. I feel like my first lead on Black Angel was a bit ‘choppy’ due to how mentally strenuous it was for me.”

Nevertheless, Almine sees the best in nearly everything and her send of Black Angel was no exception. “I like the challenge of a ‘worthy opponent’,” Almine says. “This route has everything I like in a route. Wide sections (for perfect ‘fist-jams’), lie-backing, a nice roof section, stemming at the beginning of the route. It’s all there.”

Well done for facing your ‘demons’ and conquering “Black Angel.”

We at Chicks also want to congratulate Almine for sending “Black Angel”!!!! 🙂

Almine Barton is a licensed acupuncturist and certified personal trainer and “CrossFit” coach. She runs two sports medicine clinics in Bend, OR., and Portland, OR.  She works closely with climbers, olympians, and competing “CrossFit” athletes in her practice, and enjoys seeing her patients achieve their fitness and wellness goals. Almine lives near “Smith Rock,” thoroughly enjoying the immense climbing opportunities that Central OR. has to offer. She is an avid sport and trad climber, “CrossFitter,” mountain biker, trail-runner and Adventure Racer. She has two Malamutes named Tallon and Anok, who keep her running trails all winter long. Learn more about Almine at her new website

Reflections on Indian Creek from Chick Kelsey McMaster

“Dumbo didn’t need a feather to fly, he only thought he did.”

Dawn Glanc, one of our inspiring guides made that brilliant climbing analogy while coaching during the Chicks Rock Indian Creek climbing clinic.

I met Dawn during the Winter Teva Games at an ice climbing competition that she was competing in.  She connected me with Kim Reynolds whom graciously gave me the opportunity to be the event photographer for the Indian Creek clinic.

I had no idea what to expect, but I knew I had to do this for the photographer and passionate climber in me.  Even if I couldn’t crack climb, I had to try and accepted the job.  So off I went to Indian Creek, understanding that I would learn a lot.  Little did I know I was going to have a life-changing experience.

From arrival to departure, all of the ladies were super sweet and supportive.  Everyone pitched in and went out of the way to ensure no woman was left “hanging”.  It really instilled a teamwork atmosphere and sense of community even though we were together for only a short time.  There was a lot of joking, laughter and fun during the approaches, climbing and back at camp; the camaraderie was good and set the trip to a great tone.

Indian Creek was the perfect setting for this clinic to take place. The cracks were perfect for climbing and in contrast to city living survival, we were enabled to concentrate on the present, with each other, and in our own mind, body and spirit.

I’m not sure that we consciously recognize how much the distractions of the concrete jungle occupy our thoughts and emotional energy, but it makes it hard to get in touch with oneself and connect with others.

None of the guides stood for bad attitudes or any negative self-talk which provided a safe environment for vulnerability and learning to take place.  It forced a kind of self-respect and love.  If you were struggling, it was ok. I struggled, and it was ok.  It showed me my strengths and weaknesses that I need to work on. It put priorities into perspective.  It got me in touch with myself and I was humbled.

Climbing can be a very revealing sport.  It really shows you and those you are with what you’re made of.  I wasn’t expecting to be faced with so much, but because it was a safe environment it was ok, and I was able to experience a lot of healing, perspective and self-love.

“Its weird leaving the comfort of one crack for another crack,” said Chick Tori Labs while mid route.

That’s just it though, isn’t it?  Humans love comfort.  It’s nice, easier and well… it’s comfortable because it familiar.  Climbing anything- whether it’s rock, ice, crack etc., many are faced with fear that can come in a variety of forms.   However, because of this, climbing enforces a kind of mental training that makes you overcome obstacles whether it’s physically, emotionally or spiritually.

It’s good for us to leave comfort however scary or hard it is because part of fostering the developing of character is leaving a comfortable place whether it is in life or in the middle of a route on a cliff face.  So when Dawn said, “Dumbo didn’t need a feather to fly, he only thought he did,” it made sense because climbing is such a mental game.  That feather was Dumbo’s comfort; he could fly the entire time, he just had to believe it.

I learned so much from this clinic, nothing I ever expected.  I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to climb with and learn from the Chicks guides.  They are well-rounded, strong women that are beautiful to the core.  Women that I not only now call friends but women I respect and look up to.

So much wisdom was shared on just this one adventure and now we Chicks can pass it onto others.

All photos courtesy of Kelsey McMaster.

Chicks at the Creek!

Will I be able to even get off the ground?

Chicks in the Creek!

That’s what I started to worry about as the Indian Creek Chicks Rock! clinic drew closer. Although my introduction to the world of climbing was through rock, ice is definitely where my heart is – and has been – for the past several years. However, last year I had my first taste of crack climbing and kind of really dug it. It just seemed like my kind of climbing. Repetitive (like ice), formulaic (my brain likes this), and dirty (in chimneys at least) where grunting is fully acceptable. So, when I heard about Dawn spearheading a Chicks Rock! clinic in Indian Creek, I knew I’d be a fool to not go. I mean what better place to learn how to climb cracks?  Even though I do work for Chicks Climbing I’d only ever gone out to Chicks with Picks ice climbing clinics because I just didn’t ever feel the same passion or drive for rock climbing, so I really felt like I was stepping out of my comfort zone signing up to climb in the Creek.

My tent at the Chicks campsite. Nice views, eh?

The day we arrived was a windy one. Dawn, Kitty, Kim & base camp manager awesome-sauce Julie were ready and waiting for us, helping tie tents down with rocks and guide lines. (Note: if you camp in the desert bring lots of guide lines!). At our initial meeting we learned Julie would be providing dinners all week (which were not only delicious, but VERY healthy!) and got totally unexpected prizes from our sponsors and supporters at Marmot, JetBoil, Osprey, Pistil, Omega Pacific, Sterling Rope, Isis, Luna Bars, Fox River Socks, Katy’s Handjam, CHUMS and Beyond Coastal.

Kitty, who is so good at coaching through the mental game.

However, the most important part of the initial meeting was the talk Kitty gave us about climbing in the Creek. While I can’t begin to do it justice, in short she said we should not measure our ability to climb in the Creek on previous climbing experiences. Success would not come by measuring up to previous face climbing grades or having expectations of what you “should” be able to do, or feeling entitled to climbing at a certain grade or ability. As I looked around I could tell that I wasn’t alone in my concern of getting off the ground. I was actually relieved that NONE of us had ever climbed in the Creek, and we had no idea what to expect from the absolutely beautiful perfect splitters we’d be climbing.

Chicks shenanigans. Don't ask me why I thought it was cool to stick out my stomach while posing.

And really, what made me feel better was just knowing I was here with Chicks. Based on my previous experiences at Chicks clinics I knew wouldn’t feel pressured to do anything I didn’t want to do, or be made to feel poorly if (and when) I struggled. So, my sole focus was to learn how to climb cracks right – what techniques should I use, how can I stay in balance, where to find good rests, how to control my breathing (and heart rate) – and that was exactly what I did. Topping out was simply an added bonus!

Food, water & a cooler for the Creek!

I had the pleasure of being in Dawn’s group for the clinic, which I was really excited about since I’ve never gotten a chance be in her group during the ice clinics, and I always hear from her girls about just how much fun they have (and how much they learned!) afterwards. An added bonus was that my hands are very close to the size of Dawn’s, so if she described a climb as having perfect hand jams, I knew I’d have them too.

Tobie "McSends" getting after it at Way Rambo.

Day one we headed to “Way Rambo,” where we made our tape gloves and started to jam. I found Dawn’s method of instruction to be very helpful. She would demo the climb talking about how she was jamming – big hands, fingers, fists, etc. so that when we got on we’d have an idea of what to expect. Even though our group had two ropes set up at almost all times, we generally opted to all climb on one before moving to another. It was different from how I approach climbing in Ouray where I’m all for laps, laps, laps! But the focus on technique, plus the added bonus of having Dawn watch every one of us climb, and my concern for burning out (and losing massive skin) by the final multi-pitch day helped keep my excitement tamed. Not to mention that learning to climb crack is really hard! It was funny how different sized cracks could feel so different. Instead of getting “pumped” while climbing, I got exhausted cardiovascularly. It was a feeling as if I had just sprinted a 100m dash at world-record pace – I was often just gasping for air!

What a gorgeous line this was ("Blue Sun")! See the moon, too?!

So, at Way Rambo all of our fears of not being able to get off the ground were laid to rest as we climbed “Rochambeau” to start things off. Next up was “Fuzz” which had a burly little start that we all had quite a bit of fun with. The last climb of the day was “Blue Sun” which was absolutely my favorite of the day thanks to the PERFECT hands and aesthetic line. The scariest part of the day was cutting off the tape gloves. I felt like I was going to slice my wrist open so Kitty helped me out which was maybe scarier? Here she is sawing away with what felt like an exact-o blade over my wrist. Of course I came out unscathed and psyched for more climbing!

Tobie on "Power Play"

Day two we went to “The Fin” wall and started out on “No Beggin’” before chasing the shade over to “Walkin’ Talkin’ Bob” which had quite a bit of face moves actually (my nemesis!) but was a totally fun route. While we were climbing Julie showed up with a backpack full of cookies, gummy worms and COLD fizzy water which she had oh so casually hiked all the way up to us. That’s how she totally won MVP of the trip! Anyways, since we’d only really climbed hand cracks thus far, Dawn offered to put up another hand line, or to move up to a fingers route. We voted fingers and went off to climb “The Piano” which was just flat-out fun. In fact, I’m not sure if it was more fun to climb it, or to cheer on the other Chicks sending and coming down with smiles that could light a million bulbs.

My best climb was this "unnamed" gorgeous line.

On the third day we went to the Power Wall where we started out on an absolutely gorgeous unnamed splitter hand crack before moving on to “Batteries Not Included.” On this day we actually kind of got to see Kitty’s girls climbing, which was really fun as they tackled a line called “Flower Power” which included a very crux-y move from one crack to another using just your fingers! We finished the day on the finger crack “Power Play” which was again so much fun – I really think part of it is because it’s such a challenge and workout that the joy of sending overwhelms! However, for those with Kitty-sized hands (.75?) you could totally hand jam that line.

Dawn belaying on the South Six Shooter

All the ladies in the clinic had opted for the multi-pitch day so Kitty took her ladies to Castleton Tower where I’m sure they had a blast, while Dawn & Danika Gilbert took the rest of us to the South Six Shooter. The approach was, well let’s just say we missed our path so we got the scenic (and previously untouched by man) route. We also got lessons in spotting pups climbing chimneys! The weather was actually looking a bit sketch during the approach but at the base was steadily improving. Climbing with Tori & Dawn we took a left-facing crack up the first pitch instead of the standard route, which we linked up with on pitches two and three. Topping out was just amazing – the view was absolutely incredible! There was quite a bit of wind which meant Dawn carefully held our line on rappel to make sure we didn’t end up blowing to the opposite face (which *felt* like it could happen it was blowing so hard!).

Tori & I at the top of the South Six Shooter. North Six Shooter is behind us.

Although I have no idea what Kitty’s girls were climbing for most of the trip since they were always *just* around the corner from our group, they definitely sat around the campfire at night with perma-grins like the rest of us, dirty, happy and shredded after climbing, so I feel confident in saying they had a great time too.

I really find it hard to express just how much fun I had on this clinic – not only was the climbing just out of this world fun, but the ladies I had the pleasure of climbing with in Dawn’s group kept us bursting with laughter (Tobie & Tori!) for the whole trip. I also fell madly in love with the desert. Camping out was such a treat in the dead silent, crisp night. I could tell how late in the night it was based on the moon shadows in my tent and I love that. In fact, I’m already obsessively trying to figure out how to get back to the Creek this fall, with some fellow Chicks, of course! Next spring I will definitely be at Indian Creek again with Chicks, it was such a fun trip I can’t recommend it enough – from the bike to the bathroom to the ever-awesome Julie (who always has chocolate available) this was definitely a trip to remember!

P.S. I wish I had more pictures of the other girls but I don’t…yet! When we get them all together I will post an album on the Chicks Facebook page 🙂

P.P.S. The next Chicks Rock! event is at Devil’s Lake, Wisc. July 27-30. There are special discounts available for those who sign up by May 31 – details here! We also have a clinic scheduled for the New River Gorge Sept. 21-23 and one in the Adirondacks (Keene Valley) Oct. 5-8 and will be announcing our fall Red Rock clinic dates soon!

Maijaliisa Burkert is the Marketing & Social Media Chick for Chicks Climbing. Learn more about her work at High Altitude Media here.

Still high from the ‘crack’ at Indian Creek!

Here on the Chicks Climbing Gossip Report you can catch up on all of the great gossip (articles, videos, and other assorted cool stuff) we talked about over the past week at Chicks Climbing. Since we were (blissfully) unaware of any real-life happenings while getting high on the cracks in the Creek, the gossip report is a bit smaller and slightly more dated this week with news over the course of the past two weeks. You know we are getting right back on track for you now, though!

Last week, we announced two ways to save for our NEXT Chicks Rock! clinic, which is in Devil’s Lake, Wisc. July 27-30. If you sign up by May 31 as an individual, you can save $75 on the cost of the clinic. If you sign up by May 31 with a buddy, you will EACH save $100 on the cost of the clinic. If you can’t commit until June that’s no problem – you can sign up with a buddy by June 30 and still save $50 on the cost of the clinic. Check out all the details in our blog post here.

While we were gone we announced our official partnership with Ashenzi, a manufacturer of climbing apparel for women, which you can buy through Chicks for a special savings! Check out all the details of our new affiliate program here.

Have you checked out our “Chicks Chat” section of the website yet? It’s a new discussion forum we have set up and we want you to get in on it!

Also, don’t forget to check us out on Pinterest, where we are archiving many of the cool articles we link to. But be warned, it’s a total time suck! If you are on it too, hit us up with your link so we can follow all of our fellow climber Chicks! You can find us here:

Did we miss any cool stuff this week? It’s highly likely considering we were off-line for a good 7+ days! 😉  Let us know if you’ve got a link to some climbing-related goodies so we can share with everyone else!

– The talented (and jet-lagged) Sasha DiGiulian (@SashaDigiulian) sends the 5.14d “Era Bella” in Spain:
– In her own words, Sasha DiGiulian on her Era Bella 9a send:
– Cool primer from Mark Synnott for those looking to get started in big-wall climbing
– Two months of bouldering at Bishop in less than 9 minutes. Check out Regan Kennedy & Josh Muller of Outdoor Research (@ORGEAR):
–  Great coverage of Sterling team member Silvia Vidal’s Solo Epic Patagonia big-wall climb
–  Highlights from sport climbing comp won by Sasha DiGiulian & Alex “Socks” Johnson
– Slovenian crusher Mina Markovic wins the world cup at home in Log-Dragomer. News, video, pics, etc.:
– BD athlete Kyle Dempster reports on his ice climbing trip to the Canadian Rockies in a warmer-than-normal year:
– Stay alive while climbing: good list of reminders
– Great Rock & Ice (@RockandIce) TNB on “Scar Wars”  What climbing scars do you have?
– Last year I attended the AAC (@americanalpine) International Climbers’ Meet at Yosemite last year & highly recommend it! Applications due July 1:
– Hey, Chicks Girly Guide Jen Olson is working a really neat under-25 climbing camp in Canmore this July for MEC with Sonnie Trotter:
– What’s your feeling on getting spray beta while climbing? New from Splitter Choss (@splitterchoss):
– Since fall climbing plans are starting to be made, Eileen has put up the JTree Tweetup 4 wiki page!

– Extremely dangerous conditions on Everest prompt Russell Brice to pull plug on commercial expedition:

Training & Nutrition
– Climbing training tip No. 5 from Alli Rainey: Getting Stronger by Resting Enough
– New podcast from Gif of Rock Climber Life on why you should cross train for climbing:

Trip Reports
– Great trip report from Sarah (@cdnrockiesgirl) on her recent trip out to Red Rock!
– Climbers with kiddos, some tips from @climbwithkids: Climbing in Red Rock Canyon, Best Crags for Kids
– Have you had a trip like this? The Darker Side of an Expedition

– Erica (@Cragmama) shares her biggest lessons learned from breaking her talus bone:
– We look forward to what else Tali of @cupcakemafia will be doing now as she says goodbye in her final post at Cupcake Mafia:

If you have a blog entry that you think would be of interest to the women of Chicks Climbing please let us know! We love getting contributed content from other women – anything from trip reports, nutrition and training tips, to videos. We want to share your resources with the community – much like we do with the Gossip Report and are more than happy to re-publish and share links on behalf of the women’s climbing community!

Kitty Calhoun’s Iceland trip report

This past February, Chicks Girly Guides Kitty Calhoun and Dawn Glanc took a trip to Iceland with their husbands, and as a team of four collectively put up 12 new ice lines in seven days! Kitty wrote a trip report that has been published on Patagonia’s blog “The Cleanest Line”. 

Kitty and Dawn on Captain Calhoun. Photo courtesy of Kitty Calhoun.

Kitty and Dawn on Captain Calhoun. Photo courtesy of Kitty Calhoun.

Iceland is frozen in time. Arriving there in February 2012, it was exactly as I remembered from 1998 when I was there to climb with Jay Smith and the late Guy Lacelle – grey, windy, and remote. It is the largest land mass along a mountain ridge that begins under the ocean, where the North Atlantic and Eurasian tectonic plates are pulling apart. The soil is poor, so most food is imported or grown in greenhouses. The horses, sheep and cattle are 1,000-year-old purebreds, brought over by the Vikings. The quiet is only disrupted by the sounds of millions of birds born in the undisturbed sea cliffs. My mission, along with Dawn Glanc, Pat Ormand, and Jay Smith, was to do as many first ice climbing ascents as possible in two weeks. Prospects looked good, since Iceland’s coast is barely eroded and most of the snow on the plateau above tends to melt and refreeze. Rapid changes in temperature produce wild features on frozen waterfalls such as tunnels, hanging umbrella-like roofs, and daggers that freeze horizontally.

Read the rest of Kitty’s trip report here on The Cleanest Line.

Congratulations on your successful trip, ladies!

Do you have a trip report you’d like to share? Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be putting up first ascents – we just love to see how our Chicks use their skills outside of our clinics. Please let us know if you’ve got one to share!

Jess’ Chicks transformation

I don’t look like a climber.

I don’t have strong, beautiful muscles bulging out of my arms and back. I am terrified of heights. I’ve never been able to do a pull up. I am 6’ tall and weigh 180 pounds (oh my god, I just admitted to that. *Breathe*). So believe me when I say that signing up for my first Chick’s clinic was a huge and scary step for me.

Before my first clinic, I had been climbing on and off for a couple of years. I climbed with people I knew and was very comfortable with, and I still felt incredibly self-conscious every time we would go out. I was certain that people were looking at me, the fat lady trying to climb and wondering why the hell I even bothered. Since most climbers are shaped a little differently than I am, even the gear provided challenges. I felt like I was the only one ever doing the “butt wiggle” trying to stuff my ass into my harness. I had to get a size medium so that I could snug the waist up enough to be tight, but it’s ridiculously tight going over my butt. And the adorable brightly colored bras by Verve that everyone around here is wearing? Yeah, forget about it. Approximately half of one of my breasts actually shoves in to a size large. But I kept going.

I went to crags and climbing gyms whenever I could. I wanted more of those few minutes on the rock or ice where my mind is focused only on my next move and my breath. I craved the feeling of power in my legs as I stand up on a tiny hold. I was fueled by the shift in my energy when I was at home in my own body and feeling the strength it possessed. So with massive trepidation, I went to my first Chicks clinic. I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that I hardly slept the night before. I envisioned a group of strong, badass women – thin with beautiful muscle definition, who would all be gracefully prancing up the rocks scoffing at me as I tried to haul myself up. I was afraid that I would be paying to go to a clinic only to be hurt and embarrassed. I could not have been any more wrong…

Sure, there were absolutely beautiful, strong, badass women there; women who easily climbed routes that I found to be challenging. But there was no scoffing, no judgment, and no hurt (other than some bruised knees!). I found myself in a new mini-family of women who were all just putting themselves out there, doing the best they could and supporting one another no matter what ‘level’ they were at.

I was both humbled and inspired by the Girly Guides. What an amazing feeling to be coached by the legendary Kitty Calhoun or ass-kicking Dawn Glanc! And even though both of those ladies could run up the routes I was climbing, they still genuinely celebrated MY successes. They cheered the times when I’d feel exhausted and frustrated and on the brink of tears pull out one more move than I thought I could. It didn’t matter that we were climbing 5.9 and these women don’t even sink that low to warm up…they were supporting me the whole way.

Yesterday I wrapped up my third Chicks clinic. This time we were on the ice at the Ouray Ice Park. As it always seems to, the hurtful voice inside my head was screaming loudly as we started to climb. “You’re too fat. Why are you here? You can’t do this. Go home.” But with each swing of my tools, kick of my feet and bit of encouragement from Kitty or the girls in my group, that voice started to take a back seat. There’s no room for such judgment and self-hate when you’re surrounded by such amazing CHICKS!

It’s my hope that more people will discover Chicks. Especially those girls like me who most people would never expect to actually be rock or ice divas at heart. Feeling (even briefly) at home in your own body and being wholly supported by fierce women you barely even know is a fantastic blessing. I am so thankful for the opportunity to climb with these ladies, and I know I’ll keep putting myself out there. Again and again and again. At some point the voices telling me that I’m not good enough or too fat to do this WILL be replaced by the amazing Kitty Calhoun telling me that I am special. Because if she believes that, who am I to disagree? 🙂

My heartfelt thanks to the Head Chick, Girly Guides and amazing sponsors like Marmot, ColumbiaPatagoniaOsprey, Rock and Ice, First Ascent and The Victorian Inn who make these clinics possible. It’s not just about the climbing. You’re all changing lives.

First ice climb of the season: Direct North Face

Just returned from a short road trip doing a little climbing and put the new Columbia Sportswear goods to the test!

Gary and I decided we needed a little sun and warmth before the winter really sets in so we headed off to the desert.  Before leaving our sweet home in the San Juan Mountains, Gary decided we had to get out on the early season ice at least once.  Reluctantly I agreed and we started out our adventure in South Mineral Creek, just outside Silverton, CO.  As we left the truck for the shaded Direct North Face of 12,579 peak, the nagging feeling of dread of being cold and miserable lingered in my mind.  “Why do I like this ice climbing stuff again?” I pondered aloud to Gary.  Fearful of being chilled, I left the truck with all the layers on – starting with the Women’s Baselayer Midweight Stripe top and bottoms, then the “Windefend” ½ zip and the “Reach the Peak” Hybrid Down Jacket, topped off with the “Key Three” softshell jacket.  Needless to say, I didn’t have to go but 40 meters and I was starting to shed layers.  Down to the “Windefend layer” we tip-toed across the barely frozen creek and trudged through the snow up to the base of our ~300m climb.

As we approached, it appeared the first pitches were going to be pretty straightforward, whew!  Tucked in next to the wall at the base of the first vertical ice, I threw the Hybrid down jacket back on as I strapped on my crampons, and sorted gear.  Nice and toasty warm and ready to climb, I packed the “downie” away, put the softshell back on and tied the rope on my back to solo the first few pitches of WI3 ice.  As I climbed and warmed up, I unzipped the neck and sides vents on the shell to regulate.  To my surprise, that was enough to keep me from overheating.  Added bonus – they overlapped just enough to prevent snow getting in as I scratched around for ice underneath the foot of powder snow covering the scary, thin, top-outs.  Once the initial ice steps were past, we stacked the ropes out for the “real pitches”.  As we transitioned, I kept warm by zipping back up the ½ zip and the shell vents and throwing the hood over my helmet.  While not designed to fit over a helmet, the hood did stay put and kept me comfy.

I won the toss for the first pitch.  With excitement and trepidation, I stepped around onto the pillar and started the dance.  Part way up the first pitch, that question was arising again “why do I like ice climbing?”  I fumbled for the zipper-pulls with my gloved hands as sweat started to build underneath and the burn in my hands intensified.  As usual, first climb of the season I was over-gripping the tools and working much harder than necessary.  With a bit more effort, I topped out the pillar, quickly placed a nice long ice screw for an anchor and shouted “off-belay” to Gary.  Zippers and hood back up to keep the precious warmth in, I quickly built a solid anchor and drew the rope in to bring Gary up.

He made fast work of the pitch that seemed to take me forever and was off on his own adventure on the lead.  While he tapped and tip-toed up the delicate ice above the chill started to set in again.  With that, the dreaded feeling of being cold started to occupy my mind.  Remembering my advice to clients to “keep moving”, I started shrugging my shoulders and tapping my feet.  Quickly the “Omni-heat – Make Your Own Heat” layer started its magic.  Cold staved off and mind relaxed I started up behind Gary.  As I danced around the delicate ice I remembered why I love ice climbing – it’s one of the few times I feel graceful in this world.  As warmth grew across my smiling cheeks, I noticed a few flakes of the silver inner liner – the “Omni-Shield” – had rubbed off while putting the shirt on that morning.  I was wearing glitter with out even trying!  An even wider smile grew across my checks and I was back in the flow of the season.

Danika Gilbert has made the San Juan’s her home since 2002 and is passionate about sharing her love of the outdoors with others, whatever the activity. She has traveled around the world both as a scientist and climber.  She makes her living as a full-time guide now, leading people on adventures from rock and ice climbing to mountain biking and skiing. Danika lives above Ridgway, CO with her sweet dog Avellana who is a constant companion on runs, bike rides and ski adventures in the San Juan Mountains.