Chicks with Picks
Women empowering women through climbing and skiing
By Ninah Hunter, senior editor
[Ouray Colo. | January 2020 | San Juan Silver Stage | By Ninah Hunter]
ARE YOU A WOMAN in search of a new outdoor experience? Do you enjoy being challenged, learning new skills, and making new friends? Then why not head over to Ouray this winter and try your hand at ice climbing with Chicks with Picks?
Chicks was founded in 1999 by Kim Reynolds, who had been ice climbing since 1982. Her goal was to have women teach and empower women to be self-reliant on the ice in a safe, fun, and non-competitive environment. Since its founding, Chicks has expanded their programs to include rock climbing, alpine climbing, backcountry skiing and snowboarding, and avalanche training. At that time, they rebranded the organization’s name to Chicks Climbing and Skiing.
Chicks is distinguished by its highly skilled and experienced instructors. Many of these women have reached legendary fame in the climbing world, such as co-owner, Kitty Calhoun, described by Chicks’ co-owner and fellow instructor, Angela Hawse, as a “certified badass.”
Hawse could certainly be describing herself. She has guided full-time for over 30 years and has been guiding for Chicks since 2000. Her passion for teaching and climbing with women was apparent during our recent conversation.
“The reason I got into it,” Hawse explained, “is that it’s a lifelong sport. Nature is out there and accessible to everyone. It’s not just for shredders. When I go to all these different ski and climbing areas, I see people still participating when they’re 80.”
Hawse stressed that anyone with a moderate level of physical condition and at any age can participate. The oldest climber they ever had on many of their ice and rock climbing clinics is Kris Machnik, who turns 81 this January. Diane Mielcarz, 64, has taken all of Chicks’ ice, rock, ski, and avalanche programs. Hawse laughed, “She got so hooked that she moved to Ouray!”
One of Chicks’ youngest climbers is Georgia Wichel from Durango. Georgia, who took a clinic with Chicks at age 14, has bloomed as an ice climber; she competed in the 2017 USA Ice/Mixed Climbing North America Championships held in Durango. Ellie Sepulveda, an Olympic hopeful in the new 2020 speed climbing event, took a clinic when she was 13.
Chicks are passionate about promoting safety in both their ice climbing and backcountry skiing classes. “It’s amazing,” Hawse said, “how many people go out there and don’t even carry a transceiver, which is so critical in finding you.”
Whether your goal as a woman is adventure, learning, fun, or to become a certified badass, Chicks will help you achieve those goals.
Above: Diane Mielcarz 64 and Kris Machnik 80, with a Chicks participant and Chicks guide Lindsey Hamm. Left: Kris Machnik, center, with another Chicks participant in 2016 and co-owner and guide Kitty Calhoun on the right. Images, courtesy Angela Hawse.