Isolation Photos and Stories – What Are You Doing?

Karen Bockel Isolation photo of slackening in backyard

Karen Bockel, Co-Owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, isolation photo – slacklining under strict confinement in Chamonix, France. ©Karen Bockel Collection.

Do you have isolation photos and stories?

We’re living in crazy, unprecedented times: told not to climb or backcountry ski, not do anything risky, to take precaution to a whole new level, to stay home while businesses shutter their doors for the unforeseeable future. 

For most of us spring is a season when we’d otherwise be shooting down couloirs in prime conditions or scurrying to the desert as winter turns to summer.

Instead, we’ve canceled or rescheduled our plans with a big, fat TBD.

It’s a tough pill to swallow, especially for those who find respite, calm and mental stillness in our planet’s most wild places.

At Chicks, we’re taking moments to slow down and virtually connect.

Like Angela said in her recent What Inspires You Now? post, “As we self-isolate and social distance from each other, I’m reminded how Chicks serves as a foundation of treasured relationships and shared experiences.”

We’d love to know what you’re doing in this strange time. What are your self-isolation, quarantine and social distancing stories? We’d love to see photos. Are you training? Any good books or games? How do you feel?

To be honest, we’re feeling pretty low. We’re missing connection.

Can we share your photos and stories with our community on Instagram, Facebook and our website?

We’re all in this together. Even though we’re apart, it’s important to know that we’re not alone. And, when all of this is over we’ll be stronger and more psyched than ever.

Please email us at with isolation photos and post stories for us here!

A huge Thank You in advance from all of us here at Chicks.

Lani Chapko | Guide – Chicks Climbing

Alana Chapko alpine climbing in the North Cascades, Washington

Lani Chapko alpine climbing in the North Cascades, Washington.

“The mountains don’t care who you are or what you look like, only that you give them every ounce of your strength.”

Alana Chapko, preferably called Lani, grew up in Seattle, Washington with the North Cascades as a backdrop, then moved to California to pursue an engineering degree at Harvey Mudd College. Between classes and through weekend excursions she fostered a love for climbing and adventure. Upon graduation, Lani decided to pursue a career of guiding and hasn’t looked back since.

Lani has traveled all across the western US, Nepal, and South America, to pursue dream lines and big adventures. One of her most memorable adventures came as she accomplished a goal partially funded by the Live Your Dream Grant from the American Alpine Club.

“We were on day two approaching a climb in the Northern Picket Range. Most of the day it felt like we were in a snow globe, when all of a sudden the clouds cleared and the most terrifyingly beautiful buttress appeared before us.”

Adventures like the one in the Northern Picket Range are the reason Lani returns to the mountains time and again. Lani is a true lover of type II fun. Whether that’s navigating storm conditions or trying hard up ice lines,

“What better way to achieve [type II fun] than climbing hard in the mega cold?”


Beyond the joy of trying hard in trying conditions, Alana Chapko (Lani!) loves the camaraderie of mountain environments.

“Nothing brings people together like shared experiences in the mountains. Some of my most memorable experiences guiding haven’t been on the summit, but seeing participants push themselves beyond what they thought possible.”

The idea of possibility isn’t always reaching the summit–sometimes it’s mastering a new skill or climbing higher than expected. Lani thrives when she’s helping others realize they can push beyond their constructed possibility.

“Pushing myself and learning from it is something I enjoy about climbing. It’s something I love helping students realize as well.”

Lani is relatable, which is why so many folks enjoy working with her. She grew up with a fear of heights that prevented her from even jumping off the diving board, but now she loves spending nights in a portaledge 1,000 feet off the ground.

“Climbing is a constant battle with fear, and some days I overcome it, other days I don’t. It’s an aspect of climbing I love, and it keeps me trying harder because of it.” 

Lani also has a built-out van that she travels around in. She always brings tea on her expeditions. She is planning a bucket-list trip to Chile and Patagonia. And, she is still learning how to enjoy a proper rest day!

When we asked Lani why she was excited to guide all-women’s clinics she told us one of the most important things she’s realized in mountain environments is gaining respect from your partners, whether they’re male or female.

“I think the best way to gain respect from your partners is to first fully believe in your own abilities and knowledge.

All-women’s clinics provide a great space to build confidence in your own abilities and bring that confidence to your adventures and life.”

The Journey to IFMGA Certification

Do you sometimes wonder which fork in the road led you down this wild and precious path you’re on?

Karen Bockel IFMGA

When I was a kid, I wanted to become either a Nobel-Prize winning Physicist working at CERN in Geneva or a Certifed Mountain Guide. The latter seemed so far-fetched and impossible – my only connection to the mountains was the countless hours I spent in my hometown library pouring over coffee table books of Reinhold Messner climbing the 8,000m peaks, that I stuck with Physics.

I studied atomic and laser physics and spent most of my graduate school days and nights inside a lab.  The black blinds shut out any stray light, and any sign of life or weather outside.  I spent the daytime hours tuning the lasers and solving page-long differential equations, and the nighttime hours, when everyone else and their perturbations had left the building, running experiments.  Laser cooling of atoms, Rubidium atoms to be precise, was my project, and it required a lot of planning, calculating and designing to eventually create a vacuum system containing a cloud of atoms in the crosshairs of 3 perpendicular laser beams. When everything lined up one fine day, a few weeks after having passed my Master’s thesis, the diode laser measuring the atom cloud’s temperature finally produced the expected signal, and the pale image of my Rubidium atom cloud hovered there, suspended in space, at a temperature of a few microKelvin.

Not long afterwards, I realized that, while I loved the research and academia, I missed the outside more, and something had to change.

After sneaking away for several trips into the mountains, I finally told my advisers that I was headed for the hills for good. I moved to a little mountain town in Southwest Colorado, learned to ski on leather boots and tele gear, worked as a carpenter, and spent most of the next few years either above treeline or on some rock wall, exploring all the beautiful San Juans had to offer.

I started ski patrolling and traveling to ski in far away places. I planned and took part in an expedition to ski Denali with three other women, and through two of my teammates got introduced to expedition guiding. I was intrigued. My neighbors owned Mountain Trip, a company guiding the 7 summits, and I timidly asked if I could hire on as an apprentice.  They took me on, and the next summer I found myself back in Alaska. Under the tutelage of Dave Staeheli, who when I asked him to teach me, basically provided me and the other co-guides (and even all our clients) with an entire alpine course while slowly climbing our way up the West Buttress. We got caught in a major storm at High Camp, leaving us stranded at 17,000’ for 8 days, before we fought our way back down to more livable places. It took perseverance, teamwork, and skill to get the teams down safely. The hard work of expedition guiding felt good.  I was hooked.  I was finally on my path toward this old, nearly forgotten childhood dream of becoming a mountain guide.

Karen Bockel IFMGA

The following fall, Mountain Trip offered a contract AMGA Rock Instructor course to their lead guides taught by Angela Hawse and Vince Anderson, and I, the rookie, somehow got in. I frantically tried to find some climbing partners to get ready for the course, but most my friends were runners and bikers. Nonetheless, I showed up on the first day, eyes wide open. It was great.

I’ll never forget that moment of Angela telling me when I was short pitching, braced behind a small boulder “that rock is not strong enough to hold us if we fall – look for a better solution, keep it real.”  I got that one, not just for right there, but for life!

I also remember that she taught us a ‘munter pop’ maneuver to get two clients safely established on a single rope lower – she might as well have spoken Chinese.  Mostly, though, the guiding instruction and climbing were really informative, fun, and inspiring, and I felt at home on the rock and on the rope. In the evaluations, Vince told me I had mountain sense, the ultimate compliment. I’ve had a chip on my shoulder about that ever since.  Needless to say – I’d found my path with the encouragement from these two extraordinary mountain guides.

Fast forward seven years, many vertical feet, footsteps, rope lengths and a couple knee surgeries later, and I found myself tied to my examiner and a co-candidate, breaking trail up the Quien Sabe Glacier of the Boston Basin in the heart of the North Cascades. We are on our last two days of the alpine exam, my final AMGA program on the path to IFMGA certification. It is only fitting that I finish the alpine track last, the queen discipline that combines the worlds of skiing and climbing, the one with the most tradition, the one I dreamt of as a kid. The moments of sunshine from earlier have given way to dense clouds, crevasses and handrails have disappeared into the mist, and I can see nothing, and yet somehow I see everything.  Years of training, experience and guiding days come together. I find the top of the glacier, lead the rope across the moat and climb onto the ridge above. We keep going into the clouds, in the cold wind, a fresh foot of snow covering the rocks. As we move together, chilled to the core, precariously but perfectly counterbalanced on the ridge, the sentiment I felt on Denali years prior returns: we are at home in the mountains.  For me, the exam finished on a high note in a wild and amazing place. I couldn’t have been more stoked.

It’s been an amazing path, and I have been lucky to share the rope with great friends, co-guides, mentors, and clients.  I have also been lucky to work for a number of great guide services.  I am thankful for every moment (except maybe the many hours on the trail down from the Grand Teton). In particular, I want to thank my Chicks Co-Owners for our partnership and friendship.

  • Angela Hawse for encouraging me at the start and always having my back
  • Bill and Todd at Mountain Trip for opening the door to the guiding world
  • Kitty Calhoun for climbing El Cap and becoming friends along the way
  • Dan Starr for letting me tell him all my guiding reflections and for practicing rope tricks in the garage
  • The Telluride Ski Patrol for the best early morning ski runs and letting me stick my head into the snow
  • Eric Larson for being there for me in spite of telling me not to become a guide
  • Emilie Drinkwater for an amazing climbing trip to the Alps
  • Larry Goldie for turning me loose in the Cascades
  • Thomas Olson at Howard Head Sports Medicine for getting me back onto two legs
  • And for my family who allowed me to take the fork less travelled.

What it takes to be an IFMGA Mountain Guide

mountain guideMeet IFMGA Mountain Guide & Chicks Co-Owner Angela Hawse

Outside Magazine recently interviewed Angela Hawse about her path towards becoming the sixth American Woman to become a IFMGA Certified Mountain Guide. This is a huge accomplishment and it doesn’t come easily.

Aspirants spend years honing their skills in the mountains and must past a series of grueling courses and exams in three mountain disciplines: Rock, Alpine & Ski. To hold a certification in all three disciplines like Angela has, is the equivalent of having your PHD in Guiding.

She is in the small circle of elite few who can call themselves an American Mountain Guide. We are so proud of Chicks Co-Owner Angela Hawse and the folks at Outside Magazine were pretty impressed with her too. Read more


Chicks Review: Ouray Victorian Inn

Ouray Victorian InnToday I caught up with Jan Lisk, the owner of the Ouray Victorian Inn, or “the Vic”, our favorite local lodging establishment.

Jan and her husband Brian Lisk have owned the Vic since December 2008.  They have two kids, two cats, and two dogs, and they are a big part of the Ouray community.  Jan told me that summer is busy season and winter is fun season.  They love having the ice climbers around, and of course the ice climbers love staying at the Vic.  Chicks with Picks clinics have stayed there since the early beginnings in 1999 when Bill Witt ran the place.

Now, newly remodeled rooms await the visitors, along with a big daily breakfast, and the best hot tub in town.  The views from the hot tub are amazing, with the Inn being located right at the lower entrance to the Ouray Ice Park and the mountains towering above.  More good news:  You can bring your pets when you’re staying at the Vic.   So, plan to rest your weary body at the Vic next time you come climbing in Ouray!

Ouray Victorian Inn

It’s a Takeover! @LadyLockoff Controls Chicks Instagram

This week (Sept 19-23), we’re launching a week-long takeover on Instagram by the one and only Irene Yee aka @ladylockoff. Irene is a Las Vegas based photographer who has a keen eye for composition and the ability to capture the essence of a moment. Irene’s takeover collection will feature women Red Rock, NV and her images will be sure to inspire you.

Step 1: Start by following Chicks on Instagram  so that you don’t miss anything.

Step 2: Post your own photo of your climbing adventures. Be sure to tag it #chicksclimbing and one lucky winner will walk away with one of our new Chicks Chalkbags.


We recently caught up with Irene and had a few questions for her:

How did you get your start in climbing?

I was always curious, but thought it wasn’t for me because of my perception of the culture around it. Finally I decided I needed to be myself get up the confidence and take the plunge. So I went to a MeetUp group here in Vegas at a local gym. I met a fun community of people who encouraged and taught me how to climb.

How have your climbing experiences shaped you?

It has taught me so much about myself. I have learned that most of your doubts come from within, and it is a rebellious and courageous thing to say “it’s not that I can’t do it, I just haven’t figured it out yet”. It is persistence in the face of what I may think is impossible, and the joy of finding out that, using nothing but my own body and mind, I can overcome any challenge.

What do you love most about climbing?

Getting outside! You get no better views of this earth then when you are 800ft. up on a rock face.

What advice would you give to others who are just getting started?

Never feel defeated. There is nothing wrong in stopping, taking a breath, and gathering yourself. You are trying something new that is difficult and hard, do not let anyone tell you, especially yourself, that you cannot do it. Never feel that you can’t get back on and try again.

What inspires your photography?

#chicksclimbing Women are so much fun to photograph. There is always a beautiful array of emotions and such passion that can emanate from them. There is nothing like seeing a woman push herself to her limits and push past what she thought she could never accomplish. My photography inspires me to climb, and my climbing inspires my photography.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what 3 items would you want to have with you?

1. Cake, layered, butter cream icing 
2. Harry Potter book series (am I allowed the whole series???) 
3. Satellite phone to get home

Asolo Scholarship Sets Stage for Strong Female Climbers

Written by: Kristen Kelliher

Thanks to Asolo’s generous support, two weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a Chicks With Picks 3-day ice climbing clinic in Ouray, Colorado. Going into it, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had just been given the all clear by my orthopedist after having knee surgery in August and it was the first time on ice this season so I was a bit nervous. But, despite my reservations, I was stoked to get after it! On the first morning the psyche was high as we ate breakfast, distributed the ropes, and organized into teams. Giddy chatter easily carried us the twenty minutes to the park, before we split into groups based on skill level.

Kristen-@-Schoolroom-1I was fortunate to have a small group of three plus our guide, Kitty. This guide-to-client ratio is almost unprecedented in guided clinics, which allowed us to maximize our time on the ice and get specific, helpful feedback. Not only did she provide individual pointers, but also we got to see her in action! As a visual learner, it was extremely beneficial for me to watch how she would fluidly move up the ice so that I could attempt to emulate her body positioning or footwork. Not only did I experience this inspiring mentorship from someone as accomplished as Kitty, but because of the size and baseline knowledge of our group, the next two days we were tasked with helping set up the top ropes. This transition from mentorship to partnership was extremely gratifying and humbling at the same time.

Working as a team with the set up and climbing fostered a supportive and encouraging environment that enabled me to climb harder and with more confidence. Normally my climbing partners at home are almost exclusively male, which isn’t a bad thing; it’s just different. But climbing with these women over the three-day course was refreshing. Our camaraderie was based on support, not competition or trying to “out-do” each other. Regardless of how quickly we reached the top, or struggled through a crux, there was nothing but words of encouragement, compelling me to climb smarter and stronger. I firmly believe that this supportive network of women that Chicks fosters allowed me to tackle harder terrain and challenge myself mentally and physically.

The next two days allowed me to climb ice that’s much harder than I’ve done before – from pillars to rock to vertical faces that made my calves and forearms burn and shake. Belaying, spectating, and climbing with these women and Kitty was absolutely inspiring. It was an incredible whirlwind of a weekend that ended much too soon. I’m so thankful to Asolo for getting me out there and providing equipment and to Chicks for setting an example of what strong female climbers can accomplish.

Chicks tribute to Holly Mauro

Holly's snow angel, Stony Kill Falls. First snow of the winter, December 2010. Photo by Carolyn Riccardi

It is always hard to hear news of a Chick passing; we become so connected so quickly with the life-long friends and climbing partners met at clinics that it affects all of our alumnae in one way or another when we say goodbye. On Tuesday evening, 32-year-old Chicks alumna Holly Mauro passed away after a week-long hospitalization. She was an East Coast chick that impacted so many of our alumnae’s lives, especially Carolyn Riccardi, who wrote about Holly’s spirit and zest for life and adventure. Thank you for sharing it with us Carolyn, so we can pay tribute to this amazing Chick.

I first met Holly at a wilderness first aid class at the Mohonk Preserve. I told everyone in the room I was new to the area and wanted climbing partners especially for ice. Holly became my first ice partner. An alumna of Chicks with Picks she strongly encouraged me to go to a clinic. I remember Holly telling me about the very cool pink softshell jackets the girly guides had and how much she wanted one. During my weekend at Chicks I was introduced to many of you and also the White Mountains.

Though an accomplished climber, Holly always encouraged me to take the sharp end and go for it. She always wanted to see women succeed and connect with other women climbers. Holly was a firecracker on Wall Street and an accomplished musician. She loved crappy chick flicks and was an exceptional cook. And she loved to climb – especially in Yosemite National Park. Her new home. Holly introduced me to many wonderful people across the U.S. and in Europe. I am lucky to have met you all and call you friends.

Holly at Bridal Veil Falls. Photo by Carolyn Riccardi.

Last time I saw her was on a busy Saturday night at the Brauhaus. She was dining with her mom and trying to get a table. It was during the holidays and I was all grungy from a day of guiding. She asked me how work and life was in the Gunks but the noise and the crowds made it hard to have a real conversation. Holly had a great smile and we hugged before I left.

Holly’s family is holding a memorial in California this weekend. A small gathering of her friends are getting together this saturday night in the Gunks. Details of the NY event are to be announced.

Life is terribly short. I hope you all are well. Please take good care. Sending you love and support.

We will provide an update with the details of the NY event in remembrance of Holly when we get them.

A Life Ascending

The DVD to A Life Ascending was recently released and we want to tell you all about it! The film chronicles the life of acclaimed ski mountaineer and mountain guide Ruedi Beglinger. The film follows his family’s unique life in the mountains and their journey in the years following a massive avalanche that killed seven people. Check out the trailer to the film below along with a letter from director Stephen Grynberg on how he was inspired to make this project.

A Life Ascending [Official Trailer] from Ptarmigan Films on Vimeo.

Six years ago I had the idea of making a documentary about Ruedi Beglinger. I was living in Santa Monica, far from the snow-covered majesty of the Selkirk Mountains where I had first climbed with Ruedi ten years earlier and I was curious. I wanted to know how this renowned mountaineer was coping three years after a tragic avalanche killed a number of his guests.

I am interested in stories about people, about what makes them tick, about how they come to terms with the hurdles in life, and about how they transcend life’s challenges. It was that interest that brought me to Banff to meet with Ruedi and his wife, Nicoline, to talk about making a film. On a long hike we discussed my desire to capture the beauty of a life lived in pristine yet unforgiving mountains and the difficult process of opening one’s life to a camera. I don’t think they knew exactly why they agreed to do it but we trusted each other enough to get started three weeks later.

At that point, I didn’t know Ruedi very well. I had witnessed his incredible drive and his gifts as a mountain man, but I could only sense what lay buried beneath his sun-drenched skin. I wanted to better understand his connection to mountains, his relationship to fear and his dedication to the simple yet physical life that he lived. And I knew that I was also looking for answers to some deep questions I had about my own life.

Mountains have always held a paramount place for me. Growing up in Denver, mountains framed everything. From every rooftop or vantage point, the Rockies called out to be explored. At six, my father carted me up the hills of Winter Park for the first time and pushed me down. That was the start of a life long affair with mountains.

A Life Ascending honors that part of my life, and explores the complexities of that relationship. But to say this film is just about mountains would be missing the heart of it.

My father is a holocaust survivor who lost much of his family in World War II. That legacy was passed silently down to me and as a result, loss is in almost everything I write and create. A Life Ascending is no exception. The exploration of how a family comes to terms with heartbreaking loss was captivating and cathartic for me. That process was also profoundly elevating, as I was able to witness the power and grace of the human spirit as it transcends hardship and grief.

The journey of this film has been incredibly fun, challenging and rewarding and I am grateful to the talented and courageous people who were part of its creation. I sincerely hope that you will enjoy it and that it might just inspire you or touch you in some meaningful way.

“A Life Ascending” is now available on DVD, we highly recommend you check it out!

“Caption that Photo!” contest

It just wouldn’t feel like the holiday season if we at Chicks didn’t have something to give away – and we do thanks to our sponsors at Marmot! The best part is, this contest is a good “old fashioned” one that we are hosting on the Chicks blog, so EVERYONE can enter!

Starting today and running through Dec. 29 we are hosting a “Caption that Photo!” contest for a chance to win a Marmot Zelus 25 pack. But since we had such a hard time even picking a single photo to caption from our 2011 Chicks with Picks clinic albums, Marmot generously agreed to give away THREE Zelus 25 packs (in black!). That’s right, there are THREE chances for you to win so let’s talk about you might go about doing so.

To enter:
(1) You must leave a “caption” in the comment box at the bottom of the post.
(2) The caption should in some way refer to the photo. You can leave as many captions (entries) as you’d like but please do not use any derogatory or demeaning language – let’s keep it classy! (Captions we find to be offensive will be removed by us and the entry will be deemed invalid.)
(3) When you leave your caption please make sure you sign-in to the comment box by leaving your e-mail address so we have a way to contact you in the event you are selected as a winner.

At the end of the contest period on Dec. 29 we will choose one winning caption for each of the three photos. We will announce the winners in a blog post here at Chicks on Dec. 30 and then contact the three winners for their shipping information, which we will pass on to Marmot, who will send the prize directly to you.

Here are the links to the photos we are looking to caption!
Photo No. 1 (Taken at the Chicks with Picks “Complete”)
Photo No. 2 (Taken at the Chicks with Picks “Graduate”)
Photo No. 3 (Taken at the Chicks with Picks “Sampler”)

Remember, the more captions you enter the better your chances are at coming up with the winning caption! If the SAME caption is entered by more than one individual, the winner will be the first entrant in the queue. Any questions? Let us know! Otherwise, let’s get to it! 🙂