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Real Life Chick: Kristi Curry #ClimbingMom

Kristi Curry Red RocksSunshine, dogs, heavy packs clanging with gear, dirty hands, sand…

All these things remind me of climbing. I started climbing on a Colorado Outward bound trip in 1992.  I dappled with climbing through college, then really hit the ground running when I met my future climbing partner at a Starbucks where we both worked in Colorado Springs.  From 1997 to 2004 I was climbing every weekend and vacation.  Our little clan camped and played, climbed and ate.  We got stuck in lightening storms 5 pitches off the deck and had to actively ward off heat stroke at Indian Creek in Utah.  These experiences were intense and fully satiated my scorpio/tiger firyintense personality.  We felt like badasses and it felt good.  We were trad climbers who loved moderate routes.  I loved the meditation aspect climbing provided.  As soon as I would ask the question ‘Belay on?’, all the other noise in my head would quiet and I just focused on each move upward.  I had never been so happy…

Then life shifted…

I was about to journey down some very dark alleyways far far away from climbing crags.  My Mom died in 2006 and it was devastating.  Her belief that I if I could dream it, I could achieve it, protected me from the skepticism and loneliness in the world.  Her death left a deep empty hole in my soul, that to this day, hasn’t fully healed.  Soon after, my new husband and I moved to Seattle for work.  This was a new place where we had no connections, it rained and rained (and rained), and they have these things called glaciers which intimidated the hell out of me.The recession hit and I had to sell my climbing rack, all my crampons, and ice axes so that we had money to pay the rent.  I was selling off a part of me, my history, and I was devastated.

Then, I got pregnant and that didn’t go as planned.  I envisioned pregnancy yoga classes and a midwife home birth.  Instead I experienced the opposite.  In this new dark city with no friends to visit, I was put on bed rest for five months.  My days were filled with doctors appointments and no exercise. I hate doctor offices because they make you feel like you are sick, and feeling sick makes you feel depressed.  The lack of exercise reduced my strong body to an empty shell.  I was so weak.  My daughter was born a month early.  While she was in the NICU, I was in the ICU being treated for post pardom preeclampsia (which is extremely high blood pressure) and then a pulmonary embolism.  Everyone around me was afraid I was going to die, but I was more afraid that my soul was going to permanently disappear if I didn’t find a way out of this hospital to have an adventure out in nature.I was so sick of being stuck with needles.

But the darkness continued.

My body was so weak and I was so tired and we had no one around, no community, to help us take care of our daughter so I could get a rest.  I finally went crazy… no I really went crazy.  I was suicidally depressed.  I remember getting into my truck one night and headed to lake Washington so I could drive right off the 520 bridge and plunge into the cold dark lake.  No one was understanding.  No one around me had ever climbed.  They didn’t understand why my soul had died and they didn’t know how to help.  My light was finally extinguished and I was cold and dark inside, but had to suffer through my daily mundane human life.

Then I was finally rescued.  8 years later we pointed our UHaul east to Colorado and didn’t shed a tear as we drove away.  As soon as we landed on Colorado soil, I took off my Washington license plates and drop kicked them into the garbage can.  I was back… to sun, friends, family, and most importantly to my favorite climbing stomping grounds like Eldorado Canyon and the Ouray Ice Park.  And then I met the Chicks…

The Chicks brought me back to life…

they re-ignited my inner fire.  My husband gave me the Jiffy Ice clinic as a Christmas present but that present was so much more.  To meet these women I had read about in books, admired… I felt so lucky to be in there space (and the space of the other participants), climbing, having dinner, sharing stories not just about climbing but about our lives.  I had finally found a group who understood what my inner soul was screaming for back in Seattle.

That ice climbing trip brought me to Chris Noble.  The Chicks wanted to get some new photos and video so they could update their website and our course was the group who got to be ‘the models’.  I didn’t even know who Chris was at the time… just the nicest, calmest, zen like person I had met in a long time.  Then I heard about his book “Women Who Dare”, who brought me back to Elaina and Dawn, which brought me to the Red Rocks climbing clinic, which gave me the sun, sand, dirty hands and rock I had craved for so many years.

kristicurry2Reading his book made my heart explode.  He talks about climbers being a tribe… how we all look the same and seem to look at life the same, noticing stars in the sky and birds singing in the upper parts of cliff walls.  He talked about the personal tight bonds climbers build when we experience, together, all our emotions: fear, exhaustion, happiness, success. Like Dawn said, everyone is always on their cell phone, participating in Facebook relationships (I added that part), but when we go climbing, we shut off our phones and have 100% real human intimate experiences with our climbing partners.  I wanted to SCREAM to everyone in Seattle who just couldn’t understand, “See! I’m not crazy!  I was in mourning because I lost my people, my tribe.”

I was free.

So I want to say to all the climbing women who are part of this amazing Chicks tribe… continue to kick ass!  You are awesome and strong!  Live your life to the fullest.  I loved climbing with my guy friends, but my heart craves the intimacy and honesty you get when you climb and open your heart to other women.  Like Chris said “I believe there are things in this life that are intrinsically beautiful… like the remarkable grace of women who dare.”  I love you all.  Climb On!

Written by: Kristi Curry
#climbingmom

That’s It – We’re New River Chicks

NRG1aChicks Climbing and Skiing held their inaugural New River Gorge rock climbing clinic July 15-17. Erin Larsen and myself were the guides for the weekend. Seven energetic and motivated ladies joined the clinic. Some ladies came with friends and others came solo in hopes to find new partners. We even had a mother and her 13 year-old daughter come to the  clinic. We all came together as strangers, but left as friends and future climbing partners.

This rock climbing clinic was unique in that all seven ladies considered themselves level 3 climbers. This meant that everyone had some climbing experience and wanted to work on skills for leading sport climbs outside. As guides, this made our jobs easy. Our goal was clear – we were to focus on lead climbing skills to ascend and descend single pitch climbs. The information was delivered in a fun and memorable way. Each woman left the clinic with the skills and confidence to go and climb safely on their own.Even though the women had prior knowledge and exposure to rock climbing, the group still experienced some firsts over the weekend. One woman camped and climbed outside for her first time ever. Many women learned the appropriate use of a Grigri. Other women finally learned the importance of body positioning. For the guides, facilitating this growth and providing a comfortable environment for “firsts” is very rewarding.

Overall the clinic was a huge success. The American Alpine Club campground was a perfect base camp. The Fayetteville climbing community welcomed us with open arms and the Chicks felt the local love. The Gorge is a magical place and we will be back again next year to do it all over again.

Tech Tip: Keep Calm & Carry On – Breathing

RRG3_DawnGlanc_webThat saying appears everywhere and while it is super cliché there is something to be learned from this. There are so many seemingly uncontrollable factors at play when you’re climbing. There is one thing that you can control that has a profound effect on your physical and mental status, your breathing.

Breathing is an autonomic bodily function, meaning you just do it without having to think about it. But, the most important thing to be aware of when climbing is your breath.

So the question is, how do you keep calm, cool and collected when climbing? I think you already know the answer…breathe deliberately. Do the following exercise and see if it makes a difference to your mental and physical state:

Choose a route that is easy for you to climb without exerting too much effort. You will climb this route two times.

Lap #1. Set an intention to be aware of your breath. Notice if you’re holding it, breathing evenly, rapidly/slowly, deep/shallow.

Lap #2. Breathe Intentionally. Climb the route a second time, this time making a conscious effort to breathe the whole way from top to bottom.

Compare the two. Did you feel more relaxed and focused on the second lap? Did you feel less scared?

When you’re stressed, most people have tendency to hold their breath. This elevates your heart rate which causes you to breathe more shallowly and rapidly. This in turn makes the mind anxious, so you lose focus and get tunnel vision. Your climbing performance suffers as a result.

Be more aware and set an intention to breathe, ask your belayer to remind you, breathe evenly and deeply and you’ll feel much more focused, relaxed and less anxious when climbing.

If you want to learn more about this technique and many others to help improve your climbing performance, sign up for the Red River Gorge, Red Rock and Rifle clinics. We will share lots more of our secrets of success.


Written by: Chicks co-owner and guide, Elaina Arenz.