Bozeman Ice Fest

Kim Reynolds leads a clinic during the Bozeman Ice Climbing Festival in Hyalite Canyon Friday morning.

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A trio of women climbed alongside one another in Hyalite Canyon on Friday morning, each scaling a section of frozen waterfall by slinging axes into the ice above their heads, pulling up, and taking steps by kicking in the spikes of their crampons.

“I’m an adrenaline junkie,” said Millie Carson as she got ready to climb. “It’s an addiction.”

Carson was one of dozens of women from across the country who took part in the Bozeman Ice Climbing Festival’s women-only clinics Friday. Carson and nine other women participated in a clinic dubbed “Vertical Runway,” which focused on “flawless style.”

“It is no secret the most important thing in leading ice is looking good,” the clinic description said.

But for these ladies, looking good means more than a cute outfit. It involves casting axes into ice and balancing on crampons – spiked plates worn on boots – they kick into the frozen walls.

Kim Reynolds, who instructed the clinic, taught the women how to climb efficiently and with the best technique possible.

Reynolds started ice climbing in 1982, and at that time she said very few women were involved with the sport.

“It was sort of a well-kept secret then,” she said.

Eventually, as gear changed and the X Games and climbing magazines brought attention to the sport, more and more people – including women – started getting out. Reynolds noticed, though, that the women “weren’t taking control of the situation.”

They weren’t setting up anchors or leading, and instead were relying on male partners or more experienced female partners.

“I saw this opportunity to teach women to be self-sufficient and more competent,” Reynolds said.

So she started teaching ice climbing clinics for women, and called the program “Chicks with Picks.” The program grew steadily over the years and now includes a rock-climbing component called “Chicks Rock.”

She said she loves sharing the sport with others because it’s “a vehicle for so much learning.”

“It’s way more than ice climbing,” she said. “It’s about facing your fears and gaining confidence…It’s also an aesthetically beautiful sport that takes you to places like this.”

Reynolds and the women in her clinic were gathered at Hyalite’s Mummy II climbs. Bluish ice covered the rock walls, and snowy peaks illuminated by sunlight rose in the background.

Carol Kucel, a participant from Washington, said she was enjoying Hyalite and explained why she ice climbs.

“There’s something remarkably primal about it that supersedes the animal joy I get out of rock climbing,” she said. “It’s something about the joy of being in the outdoors and the power tool mystique.”

“Girls with tools!” Carson, who stood nearby, said with a smile. “(Ice climbing is) a real mood elevator. You get a sense of accomplishment and a real joy at the end of the day.”

The Bozeman Ice Climbing Festival continues through Sunday.

Carly Flandro may be reached at 582-2638 or

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