While daydreaming of snowy weather I noticed a Facebook post for the Chicks with Picks scholarship. I know I should be thankful for the constant sunny and 75-degree weather of San Diego, but the grass sure looked…icy on the other side.
Several weeks later I received a call the congratulatory call from Kim Reynolds, Head Chick. I was beyond excited. There was ice in my future, and the next month was a blur of planning and packing.
The first order of business was ordering the $1000 worth of Eddie Bauer gear that was included with the scholarship. Thanks to Eddie Bauer I was warm and stylish in my MicroTherm Down Jacket. It is great to wear alone, like when we watched the opening slideshow, or in conjunction with my Frontpoint 2.0 jacket while climbing (see pics on the Facebook album). I also received Rainier Storm Shell Pants, the Igniter 0° Synthetic Insulation Sleeping Bag, and a Rolling Commuter Duffel. I was ready for travel and prepared to stay warm and dry!
Opening night I was able to meet all the women as well as our world-class guides, Dawn Glanc and Kitty Calhoun. We watched a slideshow that outlined the last 15 years of Chicks with Picks, and there were plenty of great climbing photos to heighten the anticipation of the next day’s climb.
The next morning we headed out and broke trail through all the fresh snow that had fallen the day and night before. Well, Dawn broke trail and we followed in her footsteps! Once we made it to where Kitty was set up, she informed us that the river had flooded and we had to rappel in. So we geared up and rapped down into one of the most beautiful canyons I have ever seen.
I was in Dawn’s group and she went over climbing basics, how to use the tools and what positions our bodies should be in. She even drew helpful pictures in the snow. On my first climb I tried to keep all of Dawn’s instructions in my head, but once I sunk my axe into the ice I forgot just about everything, so she helpfully yelled instructions while I was on the wall. About halfway up I thought, “Wow, this is taking some serious calf strength,” and then I kept going. It was slow, but I had made it through my first ice climb.
I did four more routes that day and by the end of the day I was hooked. It was challenging and fun and we were in a beautiful place surrounded by awesome people.
That night we listened to Kitty speak about the mental side of climbing. It was something I struggled with when I first started rock climbing. Having been an athlete for most of my life I kind of just expected to be good at it, when I wasn’t I thought maybe it wasn’t for me. Then I realized I was looking at it all wrong, and thought that is a great reason to give it another try. Not only was there a lot of room for improvement, but also climbing helped me pinpoint and work on both my mental and physical weaknesses. During her talk, Kitty mentioned that working on our weaknesses is one of the best ways to become a better climber fast. She also talked about pushing your limits. One of the women asked her how climbers decide when to give up on reaching the top. She responded that a climber always tries to find a way to send the route, even if they are tired or feel like they might not make it. They always focus on the next move, and if they can make that one, then they can surely make the one after that too.
Later that evening we had a delicious home cooked dinner at The Secret Garden and we were able to eat and enjoy each other’s company. Terri, Nanette, Gwen, Mary, Ginny, and Marsha were a diverse group of women who made for great climbing partners and many interesting conversations.
The following day we headed out again and once I made it part way up the first route I started to notice that climbing was getting a little easier than it was the day before. Dawn’s instructions swere slowly sinking in and the movements were becoming less calculated and more natural.
My roommate at the Victorian Inn, Mary, had been sick the day before, but was able to join us for the Sunday climbs. She was a total natural and even after being a little woozy from the day before she sent three routes! To make her story even more incredible I should also mention that she has a grandson who is getting ready to start college. What a badass.
There were a lot of mixed routes in the area and Dawn taught me a little about how climbing with crampons and axes on rock works. She was even able to do a demo so we could see a pro in action. I can’t stress enough how incredible Dawn and Kitty were as instructors. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life to learn from the best the world has to offer in the sport. They were helpful, encouraging, and a wealth of knowledge.
On my last climb of the day I decided to go up a different side of the wall than most people had taken. It looked a little trickier because there wasn’t a clear path and right near the top one of my feet slipped out from under me. Dawn yelled up, “Kat, you can do it! Just shake out your arms and try again.” So I did, even though I thought about giving up. Right when I made it to the top I fell again, but I had kept going and that was a great way to end my final climbing day.
As we hiked out all I could think about was how I was probably the luckiest girl in the world for having the opportunity to take part in this clinic. All the women there were inspiring, and although we all have very different lives it was incredible to be able to come together through a shared passion. At the beginning of the clinic Kim asked us what we wanted to get out of the trip. We all had different reasons for being there, but in the end and among other things, we all took home a great experience and lasting memories.
Written by: Kat Carney
See all of Kat’s photos in our Facebook photo album