Today, I am invincible

The following post was written by Connie Sciolino, the 2013 Karen McNeill scholarship award recipient.

Today, I am invincible.

And excited, and empowered, and I stand a little taller.

I spend a lot of my time coaching and encouraging and pushing athletes at my gym, the Alpine Training Center. This past weekend I had the opportunity to be coached and encouraged and pushed in a new sport for me, ice climbing. I had two reasons for wanting to learn. First, I have several ice climbers that train at my gym and I thought maybe I could do a better job of training and coaching them if I knew more about the sport and the skills and strengths it requires. Secondly, as an athlete it is always good to try new things. Be it a new sport or activity or whatever, just something different where you are pushed or tested in some way. This was the perfect opportunity. I have been rock climbing for many years but was not an ice climber. I have many friends that ice climb and rave about what fun it is and how much I would enjoy it. I decided it was time to try.

Connie at “The Quickie”

The choice of where and with whom I would learn was obvious, Chicks with Picks. At least half of the female ice climbers in my gym have been to at least one of their clinics and some have done several. However, with a new business, finances were just too tight for me to steal away for the weekend, take time from work and pay for someone to replace me. I had all but given up hope when as a follower of the Chicks Facebook page I saw they were offering a scholarship for a woman to come to the clinic. This was my chance. All I had to do was convince the Chicks that I should be there. Not sure what put them over the edge but I won the Karen McNeill scholarship which is awarded to one woman each year to attend “The Quickie” Clinic. Karen McNeill’s reputation as a climber, a mentor and a woman who gave more of herself than takes seemed daunting to live up to but hopefully in the days and years to come I can use her as an example and give more to the women in my life.

The clinic starts with an evening of introductions and schedules and plans. It’s almost a little overwhelming. Then you realize who your guides will be. The Girlie Guides are not only the best female guides in the world, but the best climbers. I was surrounded by greatest, which is inspiring and a little scary.

I was lucky enough to be paired with Kitty Calhoun. At first I wasn’t all too confident that we were a good match. Kitty is no nonsense. She is straight up tough, holds everyone to a high standard and pushes every step of the way. I was hoping for a little hand-holding on this little expedition of mine. But as the hours and climbs rolled on, I realized who she reminded me of – myself. I hold my athletes to a high standard, expect hard work every day and push, push, push. They don’t always like it in the moment, but some day they will thank me because I have given them the tools and skills and confidence they need to do whatever they want. And as much as I thought I wanted the hand-holding, I didn’t. I wanted to be pushed and challenged and be held to a higher standard. And in that respect, Kitty was perfect. From beginning to end, Kitty ensured that I had the skills to succeed and with a not-so-gentle nudge sent me on my way. I started a beginner and ended an ice climber.

Chicks with Picks drills

When I think of my experience with Chicks, I think of the tools and skills they sent me home with and it’s not how to swing a tool or kick crampons into the ice, it’s that given the opportunity I can do whatever I set my mind to. I can hold myself to a higher standard and be better in my life and my job. It’s not always easy and there are and will always be struggles along the way. There might be some fighting and kicking and work to get through those struggles but the success on the other end is so worth it.

So thank you Chicks, for today I am invincible and I hope that you continue to encourage, excite and empower many more women.

Connie, one of our newest Chicks alumna, is all smiles!

Thank you so much Connie for this wonderful testimonial! We are thrilled to hear that it was a great experience for you, and I’m sure all of your ice climbers at the ATC will be psyched to try any different or new training exercises you come up with!

You can read more about Karen McNeill and the scholarship in her name here.

If you are interested in sponsoring a Chicks with Picks or Chicks Rock! scholarship, please contact us at info(at) and check out this page for all the details! 

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