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Kim Reynolds: What I’ve Learned

55, women's ice-climbing guru, philanthropist; Ridgway, Colorado

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I grew up on Christmas Lake in Minnesota and had plenty of territory to explore. During my grade-school years, we drove the family station wagon to Colorado four times and I decided my fate from the back of that station wagon. I was going to climb mountains, be a ski patroller and live in a log cabin when I grew up.

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I began going on mountaineering  trips at Prescott College in Arizona. Climbing taught me “I can.” That once I made the first move in life, the next would present itself and i would figure out where to go from there.

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I’ve been climbing for over 35 years. I’ve learned how to dig deep, live in discomfort and buck up to the elements—that if I can’t change the conditions outside of myself, I can change my attitude toward them.

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I don’t have a lot of “feathers in my cap” when it comes to climbing. I didn’t make a great mountaineer because the summit was only part of the experience. I have always enjoyed the journey most.

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When I started ice climbing in 1982, few women participated in the sport. As the sport evolved, the gear improved, and the X Games brought ice climbing into the American living room. I noticed more women getting into the sport, but I didn’t see them partaking in the more technical aspects of ice climbing such as leading or setting anchors. I saw an opportunity for women to learn from women and the idea of Chicks with Picks was born.

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The Chicks motto is: Women climbing with women, for women. In 15 years, Chicks has raised $175,000 for the Tri County Women’s Resource Center and $15,000 for the Ouray Ice Park, where we run our women’s ice-climbing clinics.

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I like to think that our early efforts had an influence on the climbing community. I wanted to shift the paradigm of climbing and inspire the community to start to think outside of personal achievements. I went to the outdoor industry to ask for support before it became fashionable to give back to humanitarian organizations.

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The ultimate dilemma many climbers and extreme athletes face once they are unable to participate at the level they were accustomed to is how to deal with change. Aliveness, adrenaline, and essence of life are the true draws of climbing. When we have to give them up, we begin looking for the true meaning of our lives.

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In 1997 I had the idea to climb the West Ridge of Pumori in the Himalaya and raise money for a small safe house in Nepal for girls at risk of being sold into the sex trade. Our expedition raised enough money to keep the safe house from closing. When we didn’t summit, I had an epiphany that the summit was only a selfish endeavor compared to the love and gratitude we received from the girls. At that moment I promised myself that from her on, my life would have an element of giving back. Helping others became more important and meaningful than summits.

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I’ve always pondered the idea, What if we all woke up each day and the first thing we considered was how we can help someone today? I believe the world would be a very different place.

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I feel good about what I have created and what “Chicks” stands for. Along with being a certified life coach and a deeply spiritual person, I now feel I have a lot more to offer the world as a leader and facilitator. I have more to vice than I ever imagined and I’m excited to see how it will manifest in the next phase of my life and career.


This article appeared in Rock and Ice issue 216 (February 2014).


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