So with a Rock & Ice magazine deadline looming a half-hour away, Reynolds’ partner Kellie Day, a graphic designer, created one of the most unique and memorable icons in modern sports: the Chicks with Picks girl – a symbol of strength, self-reliance and fun.
Head Chick and Ridgway resident Reynolds, an ice climber since 1982, came up with the idea for the Chicks With Picks women’s climbing clinic in 2000, after noticing the growing number of women in the sport.
“But they weren’t asserting themselves, setting anchors or leading. And I thought, wow, there’s a great opportunity to start something where women are teaching women,” Reynolds said.
The first year, Reynolds and Day offered a clinic with 18 available spots, and they got 18 takers. Now Chicks with Picks teaches around 100 women each winter, with three clinics in Ouray and two in North Conway, N.H. (Day moved on after the first year to a successful career in graphic design, but she remains active in the Chicks community.) All instructors are highly experienced climbing and mountaineering guides, and students come from all over the country, with varying ability levels, backgrounds and ages.
“We had one woman who told us she was 55 when she signed up,” Reynolds said. “She got here and she really took to it, she was phenomenal. She finally told us she was 65. She had been afraid she wouldn’t get into the clinic if she told us her real age.”
The clinics teach women everything from the basics to the advanced techniques of mixed rock-and-ice climbing.
“We really stress helping women to become more self-sufficient and self-reliant so they can do it on their own,” Reynolds said. “It’s a super-supportive environment where women don’t feel so intimidated. It’s an intimidating sport at first glance, with all the sharp stuff.”
An important piece of the Chicks With Picks puzzle is the money they raise to help others.
“We’re women climbing with women for women,” Reynolds said. “The participants really love being a part of an organization that goes beyond climbing to help other women.” To date, the Chicks have raised $117,000 for local women’s shelters through slideshows and auctions.
Reynolds’ goal to foster women’s climbing has been successful by all accounts.
“We talk about ‘Chick Sightings,’ like ‘I saw so-and-so in Bolivia or on top of Mount Rainier,’” she said. “It’s really rewarding for me because over the years I’ve seen women that I’ve taught getting out there at the ice park and climbing together.”
Reynolds discovered her passion for the outdoors on an Outward Bound course when she was 18.
“I saved my money to pay for the course and took a Greyhound to Oregon,” Reynolds said. “The last night of the course I laid there looking up at the stars through the trees with this sense of knowing. I was fortunate to truly have a calling and know it right away.”
She studied natural science at Prescott College in Arizona, and worked as a raft guide in the Grand Canyon and on the Nanana River in Alaska. In 1980, she went to work for Challenge Discovery, an outdoor program based in Crested Butte, where she taught kayaking, rock climbing and backpacking. Then it was full circle back to Outward Bound, where she worked for 24 years.
“I did every position possible with them, on every course, from Nepal to Alaska – everything,” Reynolds said. In the winters she worked on ski patrol in Aspen and spent time in Antarctica as a field safety instructor.
“Any military person or scientist that went into what we called the ‘deep field’ had to go through us. We taught them how to survive if the shit hit the fan,” she said.
Her sixth day on the ice, a helicopter hit the ground. “We’d just put the pilots through training. They lived; the passengers died,” she said. “My mantra that summer was: ‘This has never happened to me before, and this will never happen to me again.’”
Though Chicks With Picks is Reynolds’ claim to fame, her true love is her other organization, Mind Over Mountains, an adventure retreat program that gives women a chance to “shake up their world a little bit.”
“It’s the best of all the worlds that I know: yoga, climbing, hiking, life coaching. They are truly life-changing experiences for women.” She even includes a spa day. “I’ve learned that not everyone wants to spend the night on the ground,” Reynolds said.
As a certified Life Coach, Reynolds focuses on helping women make sustained changes in their lives.
“The missing link in other programs I’ve worked for was that you’d create this significant life experience for people and then you’d send them back home,” she said. “If you don’t keep the fire burning it goes back out. So I started the life-coaching piece to keep the conversation going. I get to ask all the questions I’ve wanted to ask all my OB students for 24 years.”
For more information, visit mindovermountains.com.
The first Chicks With Picks clinic of the year, Totally Chick, takes place this week in Ouray, Jan. 14-18. Two more Ouray clinics follow: The Complete Chicks, Jan. 29-Feb. 2; and The Chicks Sampler, Feb. 3-6. For skiers, there’s a new course called Chicks on Sticks, and for the aspiring rock climber there’s Chicks on Crack (sandstone cracks, that is). Learn more at chickswithpicks.net or call Reynolds at 970/626-4424.