In 2008, at 22 years young and just out of college, I accepted a science teacher position in a very small town in Central Texas at an outdoor school. I only knew one other person, experienced major city-to-country culture shock, and really wasn’t sure how things would work out. After spending my first few weeks in a constant feeling of regret, loneliness, and uncertainty about the path I chose, I realized it was then that I had to begin embracing opportunities to meet new people and embark on adventures. Rather than sulk in a never-ending cycle of regret, I made a promise to myself that would change my life forever. From that moment on, I would embrace uncertainty, welcome new adventures, and say “YES!” and sometimes “HECK YES!” to opportunities which would get me out of my comfort zone, teach me to be a better teacher and person, and expand my brain, body, heart, and soul.
Almost five years later and many promises kept, Kim Reynolds, Chicks Climbing, and Eddie Bauer First Ascent entered my life.
Growing up and living in Texas is a beautiful thing, but we miss out on some of the more adventurous sports. Everything is bigger in Texas, except for ice climbing. It was only something I read about on the internet or saw in magazines until I had the chance to attend “The Quickie” clinic with Chicks Climbing in Ouray, Colorado, thanks to Eddie Bauer First Ascent. They sponsored me to participate in the clinic from February 1-3, 2013 AND they even outfitted me with the most comfortable, cute, and functional items of clothing for the trip that kept me warm and toasty all weekend!
We stayed at the Ouray Victorian Inn during the clinic and Jan was so welcoming. The Inn is newly remodeled, luxurious, and a huge sponsor of Chicks with Picks. We settled into the Breakfast Room at the Inn on Friday evening to meet the Girly Guides, get fitted with demo gear from so many great companies and sponsors, and meet our climbing partners for the weekend. Each woman that attended the clinic was not only athletic and adventurous, but a professional in her career. To say that the room was radiating inspiration and exhilaration would be an understatement. We ate, laughed, learned, and prepared for our first day on the ice.
The hike to the Ouray Ice Park was breathtaking and the sound of snow crunching under my feet was glorious music to my “70-degree weather in February in Texas” ears! Once we were suited up and down in the gorge, a sudden fear of falling began to make its way from my feet and up into my head. Dawn Glanc, a professional climber and guide, was our leader for the weekend and she patiently taught us how to swing our axes, dig our crampons into the ice, and practice our form so that we could give it our best and calm our fears on about 8 different routes. We started our journey in Scottish Gullies and ended the weekend in the Schoolroom.
On my 2nd attempt to summit a route, my worst fear occurred about half way up and I lost my footing…and my tools! Swinging from the rope and gliding over the ice like a pendulum, while trying to keep my breakfast and my heart from jumping out of my mouth, wasn’t exactly how I had pictured my first day. My mental toughness and physical abilities were put to the test. The ladies in my group were so encouraging and even though I can’t recall what they were saying, I know they were cheering me to keep on going. For the first time in a long time, my tendency to be stubborn became a strength and I was able to dig into the ice, grab onto my tools, and climb up to the top. When Dawn lowered me to the ground, Kim stood next to me and looked me directly in the eye. She didn’t say a word; she just gave me a high-five and smiled.
It was the most powerful gesture I’ve ever received.
The women in our “Quickie” group were fantastic! We had multiple climbers who reached the ascents of the routes numerous times. They were so graceful and it was truly an art watching them climb and reach the top. My second day of climbing wasn’t as full of summits as I had hoped, but standing more than 20 feet off the ground was a huge accomplishment!
On the ice, there was a moment where nothing else in the world mattered except the area directly in front of me. I was intensely focused on “one pick, two feet” and my head was cleared of all of the daily stress and thoughts that cloud my vision. It was the most liberating and intense moment of my life. Suddenly, within a group of people, I was free to just exist and be in the moment. I will forever be searching for that moment and when it crosses my path again, I will allow myself to immerse in it for as long as I can.
Learning from and climbing with women was a new experience and I can see why so many women are drawn to Chicks with Picks. You are immediately welcomed into a community, bonded together because you have a love for adventure and can share your feelings and fears in a supportive environment. That’s right, you can laugh or cry and there are no negative consequences, just kind hearts. It truly is a beautiful thing to experience adventure with a group of women and I am inspired to gather some girlfriends and hit the trails in Texas to camp, hike, and maybe try rock climbing! Maybe we’ll invite our boyfriends, too! My goal in life is to get more people to go outside, especially more women who look like me. The outdoors is a place for everyone.
Thank you Chicks Climbing, First Ascent, Ivan Levin from Outdoor Nation, and Cassie Cox from Texas Outdoor Family for your support.
This experience has boosted my confidence, self-esteem, and love for adventure and I am forever grateful.
Victoria is a PhD student and elementary science teacher in Texas. She loves spending time with family, her boyfriend, and her two awesome dogs. A lover of the outdoors, she tries to get connected with nature through hiking, camping, and kayaking in North Texas. She is a member of Outdoor Nation and recently won a $2,500 grant to take underserved families camping for their very first time in Texas state parks with her project, North Texas Kids Outside (http://www.ntkidsoutside.org/). She loves to travel, get dirt beneath her fingernails, teach children, and inspire others to get outside.