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The Power of Chicks

 

Why is female empowerment still a thing? How are we not yet past the necessity to highlight this concept?

Is it because last week our nation swore in the first ever Madam Vice President?

Is it because last week I attended a guides meeting where I was the only woman?

Is it because female guides are still challenged on our abilities, our prowess, our strength, our confidence, and our intelligence?

Or are we past those antiquated concepts but still locked in a cycle of girls and young women need strong female role models? Shouldn’t men and boys be guided by women in the mountains? Don’t all human populations need strong female role models?

It is with these questions in mind, I know what sets Chicks apart.

 

Because this is what we are. We are a female collective of experienced and talented climbers and skiers, trained and certified guides, incredible role models, and excellent educators with a passion to share our knowledge and skill set.

Because this is what we believe. We believe women build communities through inspiring people to support one another and to realize our potential. We believe by empowering those we are around creates a stronger whole.

Because this is what we offer. We offer a supportive community invested in everyone’s success. We offer an unparalleled outdoor educational experience through camaraderie and friendships that last a lifetime.

 

I have loved Chicks since working my first program in Cody, WY. I’ve witnessed the transformation of a budding top rope climber into a self-sufficient leader. I have seen firsthand the impact of a remote trip to the massive fjords of Iceland to climb “who-knows-what-this-is/ has-it-been-climbed?”

When Chicks was dissolved over the summer, an overwhelming outpouring of love and affection arose from the Chicks community and the same adoration when she was reinstated a couple months ago. This isn’t just another company. Chicks is a force.

 

 

Much has changed in the climbing community since 1999 when Kim looked out over a sea of ice climbers and saw almost no women. Thanks to companies like Chicks, women are now everywhere in the back-country. But we still have a long way to go. Chicks remains invested in the belief of women-led programming. What will always be etched in my mind, what outlines the future of our all female guide collective, is the Notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s famous quote: “when there are nine.”

-Lindsay Fixmer, Chicks Director

Navigating Impermanence

As 2020 closes, a year filled with a different reality for us all (and an abundance of craziness), it leaves us reflecting on how our existence and interaction with the world has transformed.

As any ice climber could attest to, these drastically changing, inconsistent times are analogous to ice climbing.

Walking into the east fork of Hyalite Canyon outside Bozeman, MT with a climbing partner the other day, we were discussing the unique differences between the ice and rock realms. What one medium can offer climbers that the other cannot.

I said that ice is an incredibly aesthetic medium due to its ever-changing conditional formations: every second something has morphed.

Such is the wind-sculpted ice found in Newfoundland.

Or just look at the differences in massive waterfalls offering bulges, fans and mushrooms or simply a thin shell of a veneer to tiptoe over.

The most engaging lines offer us a quest throughout. Gavin nodded in agreement, adding it’s “navigating impermanence.”

To which I responded, “Yes; that’s my newsletter topic!”

If anything sums up ice climbing and a pandemic, it is how we all have to find a path through the ephemeral landscape of life.

And while this maze is intimidating, at times stressful, and occasionally the desire to bail is real/ often warranted, what keeps us engaged, mindfully active and desiring more is navigating the impermanence of it all.

And who doesn’t love a good forearm pump?

Happy New Year to all!

Lindsay Fixmer; Chicks Director

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 chicksclimbing@gmail.com 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.

ladylockoff-takeover

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.