Chicks with Picks helps women kick axe

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More ladies taking the sharp end of the rope in rock and ice climbing 

chicks with picks

Kim Reynolds is a natural born athlete, putting on her first pair of skies at the age of three and road tripping with her family by station wagon from their lakeside home in Minnesota to the mountains of Colorado throughout the years as she was growing up.

Reynolds studied outdoor leadership at Prescott College and was guiding clients in the outdoors by the time she was 19 years old.  She’s led expeditions to the Himalayas, taught Antarctica survival courses and competed in the X Games and Ouray Ice Festival.

“I knew I was going to live in the mountains,” Reynolds said. “I’m one of the rare cases of someone who knew what she was going to do.”

In 1999 she founded Chicks with Picks – based in Ridgway – with Kellie Day in order to promote women climbing with women for women, in part because ice climbing was just starting to transition from a well-kept secret to a well-known extreme sport.

“The X Games in 1998 brought ice climbing into the living room,” said Reynolds. “At that time there were very few women that ice climbed.”

Reynolds and Day wanted to create a safe, encouraging space for women to learn how to become proficient ice climbers, not only learning how to top-rope to follow behind a lead climber, but also mastering the more technical aspects fo the sport like setting up anchors and leading climbs on the sharp end of the rope.

“We very intentionally created a fun and supportive atmosphere for women, make a seemingly intimidating sport approachable.” Reynolds said.

Despite the fact that many outdoor climbing areas and indoor gyms tend to skew male, Reynolds says women are naturally better climbers.

Where a man can climb up a difficult route using brute force, she said women move better, with grace and deliberation and often employing better footwork because they can’t rely on the upper body strength advantage men have.

Learning from the sport’s best professional women climbers also means that clinic participants learn the very best technigue, Reynolds added.

If your watching the best women climb, you’re going to learn the best technique,” she said.

Six years ago, Chicks with Picks expanded with Chicks Rock, a series of clinics by women for women that teach rock climbing skills.

Set in some of the most classic climbings crags in the country – Indian Creek in Utah for crack climbing, Red Rocks in Nevada for single-and multi-pitch climbing, and Rifle in Colorado for more difficult grades – Chicks Rock pairs participants with professional lady climbers in an intimate learning environment.

“Women learning from other women is inspiring for the fact that we’re women, we have the same challenges that each other has,” Reynolds said. “Women gain more confidence and support from other women.”

Chicks with Picks has graduated more than 1,000 women in their 16 years of operation, starting with 18 women the first year and now averaging between 100 and 150 women between their ice climbing clinics every year.

Many alumni come back year after year for clinics and become leaders in the sport, Reynolds said.

In addition to training multiple generations of women to be superlative and self-sufficient climbers, the organization has also given nearly $200,000 to local organizations including the Tri-County Women’s Resource Center Chicks with Picks is their largest donor to date – and the Ouray Ice Park.

Chicks with Picks hosting two public slideshow and live auctions this winter to raise money for local organizations, on Jan. 26 and 31 at 7 p.m. at the Ouray Conference and Community Center. 

The Watch 

by Mary Slosson

Associate Editor