Our Chicks ROCK!

Our long-time friend Kim Reynolds of Chicks Climbing – “Head Chick” of the popular Chicks With Picks women’s ice-climbing programs in Ouray and North Conway – decided last year to branch out into women’s rock climbing courses. Naturally we had to help, especially since she was bringing one of these events to our home crag, Devil’s Lake. Last year, we here at PEMBA sponsored a contest that brought blogger Talissa Koziol (@cupcakemafia on Twitter) here to the midwest. This year, we sent two of our own team to attend the event. While we’ve already shared the pictures, here’s their full story, in three parts:

The Book of Ruth (Ruth Naputi, wife of Peter Naputi, PEMBA’s Office Manager): “Wow! What an experience I had at the Chicks Rock event! When I first arrived I thought I was getting a little course on rock climbing. Instead, what I received was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

The World According to Janice (Janice Ellefson, Brand Manager here at PEMBA): “Lately – with the baby and all – I’d been looking for something different. Sure, running and biking have places in my heart, but climbing is this invigorating, physically and mentally challenging activity that is a passion of not only my coworkers but their friends and families. I wanted to see what this is all about. I need to do it, if for nothing else, to be IT…”

A Peep From The Head Chick, Kim Reynolds: “These two amazing women both got ‘more than rock climbing’ from the experience – that piece that applies to every other aspect of life. And, for me, this is what’s most satisfying to see.”

These are compelling stories, worthy of some extra space, so pull up a chair, pour yourself some coffee, and enjoy…

The Book of Ruth: Wow! What an experience I had at the Chicks Rock event! When I first arrived I thought I was getting a little course on rock climbing. Instead, what I received was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Kitty Calhoun, my instructor, is an amazing woman. She taught and showed me things I couldn’t even imagine.

We began our mornings with breakfast, and after putting together our lunch we hiked up this beautiful mountain to amazing sights to behold and rocks to climb. Little did anyone know the fear I have of heights, something I wanted to overcome while on my trip. On my first climb I was afraid and excited all at once. Kitty helped me to focus on those fears and use them to my advantage. Once I was at the top, the amazing views from way up top was so exhilarating.

After a full day of climbing we all hiked back down the mountain to our camp for a time of relaxation by the fire and getting to know each other. And then off to bed to get a good nights sleep so we could do it all again the next morning. I just remember thinking “Wow! We get to do this again tomorrow!!!!”

Being out at Devil’s Lake with these amazing, strong women was just awesome. What I found out about myself is that I am also a person with my own accomplishments and desires. At first I did this for my children and my husband, but in the end I really did it for myself and that was such a fulfillment of my own desires. I still have fear of heights put learning to focus help me to forget about those fears if only for a little bit to make it up that rock.

On our last day I didn’t want it to end, the time seemed to pass by way to fast. And I need to say at our closing ceremony I did cry, because I met some amazing women and took away some of the best experiences I will ever have. I wish that all women could take a trip like this, one that they would never forget and an experience of a lifetime!

The World According to Janice: Packing has never been easy for me, and after having a little girl 10 months ago it seemed to get harder! Needless to say I was lost as to what to bring to the Chicks Rock climbing Intensive clinic at Devil’s Lake. I had emails and emails with packing lists, but still! What would I forget?! It had been awhile since I’d “roughed it” and I was embarking on a adventure that was completely new to me.

Rock Climbing? Yeah I’d thought about it – A LOT. Brad and Vera and Boulders are just a stone’s throw away. Steve, my coworker here at PEMBA, is OBSESSED. Between these three, I have climbing power-houses all around me and yet I had not taken the plunge. I had never climbed before, except for a few stints at Boulders. Well, suddenly an opportunity came my way that I couldn’t pass up!

Brad’s wife Vera picked me up and drove me with Ruth (PEMBA’s Office Manager Peter’s wife) towards Devil’s Lake. As we rolled out of my condo complex en route to Chicks Rock, I had no idea what to expect. I have spent a lot of time TALKING about climbing, with little to nothing to show for it.

Lately – with the baby and all – I’d been looking for something different. Sure, running and biking have places in my heart, but climbing is this invigorating, physically and mentally challenging activity that is a passion of not only my coworkers but their friends and families. I wanted to see what this is all about. I need to do it, if for nothing else, to be IT: A new interest; a new activity that I can beg Bryan to stay home with Hayden for that will allow me to escape (and don’t get me wrong, I’ve been told many times Babies are welcome at Boulders, and Hayden is seriously a peach.) In addition to a new interest I was hoping to learn a little bit more about climbing and the equipment involved. After all, Pemba Serves does rep PETZL in the Midwest!

So we rolled into BEAUTIFUL Devil’s Lake (if you haven’t been there, GO!!) late afternoon and found our site. Devil’s Lake is a true gem. Not only do you feel “off the radar” but I literally was, with little to no cell service. I have been in the “industry” (that’s the Outdoor Industry, or #OIBIZ, for those of you who aren’t) for only about 4 years but have loved being outside for as long as I can remember. I did a lot of camping when I was younger and through high school, and it had been some time since I had “roughed it!” After we assembled our new (prototype, even!) Mountain Hardwear 6 Corners Tent (nicknamed the “Taj” at the campsite because of its size – hey I am FINE with camping in comfort), Chicks was officially rolling. Vera left in the van, and Ruth and I just gave each other a “here we go” stare.

The first night was the most sitting we did, as the group got settled in camp and met around the picnic bench for dinner. After a slightly awkward get-to-know-you dinner, we lit the campfire and talked Chicks Rock. We took turns around the fire and explained how we all got there and what we hoped to get out of the next few days, and then signed our lives away on some waivers. Ruth and I were a little freaked out about the “paralysis and death” part of the waiver, but signed any way knowing it was just a formality. Even though it’s not THAT funny we had a good (albeit nervous) laugh about that the first night.

Before I go on I should introduce you to the group: I had the opportunity to camp out with four other “Chicks” and the instructors led by none other than Kim Reynolds. “Head Chick” and life coach are just two of the titles that Kim has so humbly earned. Her goal was for us to have a positive experience no matter what, so something we worked on doing was to look at the positive in each situation. The other part of the team consisted of renowned alpinist Kitty Calhoun, who’s adorable low-pitched cackle earned her the nickname of “Evil Kitty” on this trip. While that name is the exact opposite of who Kitty is, it made us laugh a few times to joke about. Kitty is not only an introspective devoted teacher, she is a stand-up mom, “extreme” sledder and baker extraordinaire (the things you learn while sitting around at camp!) Her patience and attention to detail made us all feel important and cared for! And last but not least, there was our assistant guide Annie Hughes. What can I say? I call her “coach” sometimes and that’s exactly what she is: Patient, encouraging and – did I mention? – an AMAZING climber herself?

The other participants in our group consisted of two novice climbers who knew each other from Houston where they did triathlons together (both have done 3-4 Ironman competitions!) While Dara lives in New York City now the two have remained dear friends and enjoy taking adventurous trips together. Dara and Ange are a fantastic duo with a lot of positive energy and some good experience to add to the group. The other woman in the group, Chris, drove all of the way from Montana to join the group! I learned that she has a friend in Baraboo she came to see as well, but what a drive! Chris was a beginner with Ruth and I, so we worked together for the time we were there.

Rolling out of bed at 7am the next morning I knew that Day 1 was ON. Kim had already revealed the lunch spread, and sat patiently waiting for us to assemble sandwhiches and grab baggies of gorp for the day. I walked directly over to the coffee table to get my morning fix. Then, timely as we learned to be (Kim keeps a wonderfully tight schedule) we headed directly up the CCC trail to our site for the day. What a perfect 20 minute stair-stepping hike! From there it was stretching led by Kitty and then some hands-free bouldering up a nearby slab. This activitiy showed us BALANCE and reminded those of us who didn’t have any! Then we worked on the details: Belaying, knots, harness fit, and finally CLIMBING! We always said what our goal was for the climb before we took off and were asked to debrief after the climb. I personally worked a lot on my focus and on trusting my leg strength!

After a long but exciting day of climbing we trudged back down the path to our campsite, sore and happy. That second night we made our way into the cute little neighboring town of Baraboo and had dinner at the fantastic Little Village Cafe. Afterwards it was off to bed to rest up for the next day. The next night it was an amazing catered dinner down by the Lake and a campfire.

The next couple of days had similar outline and brought with them completely new experiences. We watched Kitty demo techniques on using your leg strength and shifting your hips/weight over your feet for stability. The learning curve between day 1 and day 3 was insanely high. We could not believe how far we’d come. We were able to revisit some of the activities we did the first day, including that “slab” and a route we couldn’t finish to see how we’d improved. One of my favorite climbs we did was up a chimney – so fun!

The last day we ended a little early to have a closing ceremony down by the lake. We received our certificates and got a chance to state what we got out of the clinic. Some were brought to tears of joy and there was a lot of laughing. I never knew how emotional this could be! Kitty also kept a journal for each of us describing our progression over the last few days – down to what we did right or needed to work on each climb. I don’t know how she did that! What special notes to have from a professional!

I am in denial that it’s over. I am bruised and a little sore, but these are just testament to the fun I had at Devil’s Lake Chicks Rock this past week. I left feeling renewed, focused, and strong. I made plans to go to Boulders Climbing Gym at least once a week with Ruth. I miss those cool nights filled with small animal banter in the woods and those damp, quiet mornings. I miss every thing about the exhilaration of climbing with those girls. Mostly, I can’t wait for another Chicks event some time in the future!

A Peep From The Head Chick, Kim Reynolds: What an absolute delight Janice and Ruth were to have on the 2010 Devil’s Lake three day women’s intensive course!

Janice is a bright light – she is very determined to push herself and reach her goals. She does however, understand what a “reasonable goal” is and was content with performance/effort versus getting to the top of a climb. I appreciated her humor and positive spin she puts on life and I would imagine that this is her nature/approach to most anything. For me, she was an absolute joy to have on this clinic and added so much to our group.

Ruth came with a lot of humility and an open mind for an experience that was far beyond anything she has ever done on her own. It took a lot of courage for her to step away and do something completely for “herself”. The climbing was challenging and fun for her, but more profound, was the act of venturing out on her own, for herself. It was lovely to see her tears of joy at the end of the program – tears that marked her personal strength and transformation during the program.

These two amazing women both got “more than rock climbing” from the experience – that piece that applies to every other aspect of life. And, for me, this is what’s most satisfying to see.

4 responses to “Our Chicks ROCK!

  1. I really enjoyed following both Ruth and Janice through this experience, so amazing! The Chicks Rock clinics sound like a blast. I found a recent all-female climbing team experience to be one of the most rewarding of my (short) outdoor career, and I’m so glad to see such success and camaraderie developed here too. Nice job, ladies!

  2. Wow! Reading this post made my eyes well up a bit. The climbing training I received last year has served me well but the greater take away was the experience with such incredible women. I always think of my time in Devil’s Lake as one of the most authentic experiences in my life and I am so thrilled that the tradition continues and more lives are being touched.

    Way to go Chicks!!!

  3. This post just made me smile remembering what fun I had at Chicks Rock last year. I even had some of the same reactions to an all female environment, it had been a long time since I’d climbed with only women and I had forgotten how much fun it could be.

  4. Great post Ruth and Janice and glad you had such a great experience! Welcome to the Chicks family!