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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 Alumna Interview: Piper Musmanno

We recently had the chance to catch up with an Alumna who many of you have met over the many years she has been involved with Chicks, Piper Musmanno.
PiperWhat was your first clinic with Chicks?
My first year with Chicks was the 2008/2009 ice season in Ouray. First event was the Inaugural (I believe) “Betty Ice Ball”. My first clinic was with guide, Sarah Hueniken, it was a footwork clinic. The remaining clinics I attended that weekend were with Dawn Glanc – it was her first season as a Chicks instructor.
Why Chicks?
I had ice climbed once the winter before and was instantly hooked.  I bought tools before the next winter, so when winter did come around the following year, I was ready and excited to go.  I don’t actually remember how I found out about Chicks, but I do remember being interested in it and mentioning it to some girl friends at the Boulder Rock Club.  At which point, one of them said, “I have another friend who is going for her first time. I will introduce you.”  And this is how I met Jenn Fields who became my roomie for the trip and would become my partner in crime and climbing while I chased bolts up walls for the next few summers to come.  I was also introduced to Erika Napoletano to carpool down and she became a good friend as well.
How many clinics have you attended?
I attended Chicks clinics for my first two years of ice climbing and have been volunteering ever since.
Not sure how many actual clinics I took within those events, but know they ranged from “Footwork” (my first), to “Speed and Efficiency” to “Mixed Climbing” (any chance that there was a mixed clinic, I took it.  Thanks Dawn for the introduction!!!) , “Anchors” (Angela Hawse) and more  I’m forgetting.
And then ever since I have tried to volunteer to help with clinics whenever I have been in town at the same time.
What kept you coming back?
The Chicks. 🙂  Both the participants and the instructors. The opportunity to learn from some of the best female climbers in the world is not to be passed up, but also, they were always a lot of fun.  That the Chicks’ instructors and amazingly talented, is a given, but they are also incredibly relatable and are great at understanding how to communicate their knowledge so the ladies in their clinic come away feeling empowered and inspired.  They take time to understand the ladies’ fears or limitations, and look for attainable goals so everyone feels like they progressed during the course.
And the chicks in the clinics are a blast.  No matter what their level.  Their excitement is contagious and rekindles my own excitement for my sport.
What have you been doing since last Chicks clinic?
Hiking, climbing rock and ice and unfortunately recovering from a few surgeries.  My last surgery to finally fix my hip with a total replacement was in spring of 2014 and I’ve been enjoying my sports fairly pain free since then.  Also, I’ve been spending time fixing my new old house in Ouray and hope to be able to spend more time there all year around each year.
What was your most memorable moment at Chicks?
Does it have to be climbing?  Because I think it was probably the dance party at the first Betty Ball, where I met a lot of the ladies who have since been my climbing partners and friends in the years since.  I believe there is still a video out there of some of us dancing on tables…that night was so much fun and sparked some great friendships. Some of us have gone different directions in the years following, some are still very close friends, but they were there at the beginning of my love of the sport and were a part of the memories that keep me coming back.

Chicks Alumna Interview: Amy Jurries

We love catching up with Chicks Alumna and getting inspired by their adventures – we hope you do too.  Recently we caught up with Amy Jurries.

AmyJFaceShotWhen was your first Chicks clinic?

My first Chicks was January 2008. I came to the Complete as a total beginner.

Why Chicks?

I wanted to learn how to climb vertical ice in order to tackle harder alpine climbs. I liked the idea of learning how to ice climb from women, with women as I learn better and push myself more in a supportive rather than competitive environment. Ouray is a great place to learn how to ice climb as you have the ice park a short walk from town and can run laps all day.

How many clinics do you have under your belt?

I returned to Chicks every year for the next 4-5 years, taking the Complete and eventually the Graduate program.

Why do you keep coming back?

The world class guides, the other women in the program, and the opportunity to keep progressing my skills year after year.

AmyJClimbingWhat have you been doing since your last Chicks clinic?

By my last Chicks clinic, I acquired enough skills to start heading out on my own (with a climbing partner of course). I continue to climb every year, traveling to places like Canada, Colorado, Montana, and even France in search of ice! We don’t get much ice here in San Francisco…. I still climb with many of the women I met at Chicks and consider them among my dearest friends.

Now you are thinking of attending another Chicks event.  What is the draw?

I am heading to Iceland with Chicks this February–can’t wait! The chance to discover and climb in parts of the country or even the world where I might not go on my own was one reason to come back for more Chicks. Plus the opportunity to learn even more from the great guides in a “wild ice” environment. There is always more to learn.