Your oven has a heart (plus recipe for gluten free walnut, caramel & thyme tart!)

It’s no secret that I love food… I’m pretty sure that it’s a given, at this point.  Even so, I don’t exactly feed myself very well.  Let me explain, I eat healthy… it’s just that I don’t eat often.  Breakfast is always important to me because it’s (usually) the one meal that I make solely for myself, eat myself and find the most important.  If I drank as much coffee as I do on an empty stomach, I would be sick.  Trust me, some mornings, when I’m running late, I try to do that, and I’m all shaky and sick in like 40 minutes.

Working as a cook, and a busy one at that, it’s sometimes hard to feed yourself when you are concerned about getting food out on time.  We (meaning the kitchen I work in) are all over driven, neurotic (that’s really just me), workaholics, who would rather finish a task than sit down and have lunch.

It’s drives my boyfriend, father, mother and probably sister, nuts that I don’t eat very much.  I try, I swear!

The fact that I am gluten-free, doesn’t help.  It makes snacking very difficult unless I have planned ahead and brought my own snacks to work/school/what-have-you.  That’s why the weekends are golden for me.  I get to go to my parents house (I don’t have an oven in my studio, but could use the front house if  wanted to) and spend the morning/afternoon/evening, making whatever I want in their kitchen, that I have always loved.  The kitchen has four large windows that look out onto my childhood street, and even in the winter, the sun warms it up.  Throw in the smell of (insert recipe here)…. and it’s a perfect day.

My mom usually hangs out too, which always makes me happy (I’m really close to my family, in case you haven’t figured that out).  Unless she is trying to tell me how to cook something… I hate that :)

When I was growing up, and learning how to cook with my mom and grandma, I never liked baking.  I’m sure I have mentioned this many times, but it is true.  There was always so many better things I could have been making.  Stews, roasted chicken, pasta (pre-gluten free days), etc. Who wanted to bake?! At the end of the day, I always knew that there was a dessert that could be bought, and would taste much better than if I had made it.  Now… that is not the case.

Have you tried some gluten-free desserts?  They suck!!  Just because I’m gluten-free, does not mean that I will settle for a crappy, half-assed dessert that you didn’t put your heart into.  Want to know why I am suddenly a good baker, gluten-free that is?  It’s because I LOVE baking…. because it challenges me to think.  Cooking, I could do half dead, I still love it, but it’s easier for me than baking.  Especially now that I have to bake without “normal” flour.

The inspiration for my baking comes from recipes that I used to love to eat but now can’t.  I still really want to try to make almond croissants (my all time favorite coffee + sweet combo) but have not entered that venture yet.  There are a handful of food blogs that I love and secretly wish were my own… this one especially.  Ashley is adorable, beautiful, an amazing cook and seemingly an amazing friend/wife/mother.  If I end up to be half as awesome as she is someday, I’ll be happy.

The recipe below, and so far, the best dessert I have ever made is below….

Original recipe seen here:

Gluten Free Walnut, Caramel & Thyme Tart:


-1/4 c. powdered sugar

-1/2 c. melted butter

-pinch of salt

-1 tsp. vanilla extract

-1 c. gluten-free all-purpose flour


-1 c. sugar

-1 T lemon juice

-1/4 c. water

-1/4 c. butter, cut into pieces

-1/4 c. heavy cream

-1 T sour cream/creme freche 

-1.5 c. walnuts, chopped

-1/2 tsp. fresh thyme 

First, make the crust.  I used the smallest spring form pan I had but use whatever size you deem appropriate… it’s enough dough for a 9″ or 10″ tart.  In a bowl, combine the powdered sugar, salt, vanilla and butter.  Mix together and then add in the flour.  Done!  Press that into your pan, make sure you make a thin bottom and push the sides up so that you have a high crust.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  I always rotate my dishes half-way through cooking so that they are evenly cooked.  But that’s just me…. After it’s golden brown and smells amazing, take it out and let cool on the counter while you do the next part.  

In a LARGE (that is important) sauce pan, combine your sugar, water and lemon juice.  Stir to combine, place on high heat and let it cook for 7-10 minutes, or until it looks like amber.  Make sure you have wiped the sides of the pan down so that there are not any stray sugar crystals.  They will cook at a different temperature and could possibly mess up your caramel.  You are making caramel, so do not stir it!!!! I know it’s hard, I like to set a timer, turn my back on it, and get the other ingredients ready, just so I am not tempted.  After 7-10 minutes, take it off the heat, and stir in the heavy cream and sour cream.  It will bubble up at this point which is why I said to use a large saucepan.  Add in the butter, walnuts and thyme… let it thicken slightly before pouring it into the crust.  

You can eat this after letting it cool, roughly 3 hours, but I let mine cool in the fridge, covered over night.  The caramel totally sets up and it is just delicious.

Seriously?! The best dessert I have made yet!

Lauren Azevedo-Henderson is a climber and foodie with a degree in Art History. Lauren has been cooking all her life and has been seriously climbing for just over 2 years. While living in her ex-boyfriend’s van (only for long weekends or a week at a time) she started cooking what you would call “gourmet” food on a camp stone in the van. She now spends most of her time in Red Rock, NV and started writing her food/climbing blog “The Climbing Chef” just last year.

Zion Women’s Climbing Trip

Hey ladies, we recently got word of a really cool climbing festival coming up that we wanted to share with you! The Zion Women’s Climbing Trip is scheduled to take place March 30-April 11 at Zion National Park. There is no charge for people to attend, other than the cost of the campground fee which is $3/night. This event – even though it’s called a women’s climbing trip, is open to guys too. The goal of the event is to foster an exchange of experience between climbers from different countries and show support within the international rock climbing community.

From the trip organizer Sergey Dremin:
“This trip follows a lineage of other similar trips around the world by a group of Russian women rock climber and mountaineers. We want to meet other American and international climbers while at Zion. All levels of climbing experinces are welcome, as long as you have enough brains not to get hurt. Check out our Facebook page for more information at:”

Here’s the lowdown:

The participants:
25 Russian rock climbers and mountaineers, and you. About 15 women, with multiple women-only climbing teams. More info from past events:

The plan:
March 30: Meet up and settle down at the group campsite E5 at Watchman Campground, 20 spots available between March 30-April 7 at $3 per person, per night.
March 31-April 1: Try out shorter routes in a common location. (Sport climbing, short trad routes.)
April 1: Meet-up at a venue (Majestic View Lodge) for afternoon festivities.
April 2-6: Climb longer multi-pitch routes. Please remember to let somebody know where you are going for safety. Multi-day routes are discouraged, you will need additional permits from Zion NP for those. (Trad climbing)
April 6: Party at the campsite in the evening, get some interesting outdoor schwag.
April 7-11: More climbing. Watcham group campground E5 is ONLY reserved until the 6th.

Interested in learning more? The main contact in the U.S. is: Sergey Dremin, in Denver, CO, who you can reach at 970-214-7653,

Happy climbing! :-)

Jam-packed rock & ice news in this week’s Gossip Report!

Here on the Chicks Climbing Gossip Report you can catch up on all of the great gossip (articles, videos, and other assorted cool stuff) we talked about over the past week at Chicks Climbing. Are you still climbing ice or are you getting on the rock already in this crazy winter? I’m headed up to climb some sweet Canadian ice this week, so there will NOT be a Gossip Report next Monday – sorry!

We are getting psyched for some rock climbing and will kick off the season with a return to our regular stomping ground of Red Rock, Nevada for a 3-day intensive clinic March 22 – 25, with an optional multi-pitch day: March 26th. Then, we have a VERY special treat for our Chicks alumnae – an Indian Creek Alumnae Invitational which includes three days of intensive crack climbing clinics April 27-30, with an optional multi-pitch day May 1. Hurry to sign up for this one though, space is very limited!

Last week on the blog I wrote a piece on what I learned at Chicks this year – largely it’s about managing expectations and how my progression with climbing is ALL in the attitude. If you missed it, you can check it out here.

We also posted a gear review of the Columbia Sportswear long sleeved mid-weight striped base layer that Jenn Carter wrote after testing it at Chicks. Find out what she thought of the piece here.

Finally, we had a new blog from the Climbing Chef who confessed her true feelings about Yosemite climbing, along with a plan of attack so she can overcome some of those obstacles. It was a great post that you can check out here.

We are also launching a new “Chicks Chat” section to the website – for climbing ladies to connect and talk all things climbing – you can check it out here!

Last week was busy, because we also set up our Chicks Climbing boards on Pinterest! Are you on it too? Hit us up with your link so we can follow all of our fellow climber Chicks! You can find us here:

Did we miss any cool stuff this week?  Let us know if you’ve got a link to some climbing-related goodies so we can share with everyone else!

– Rad! Dalia Ojeda redpoints the 5.14c Mind Control in Oliana:
– This is AWESOME. Ines Papert gives her first-hand account of her recent ascent of Illuminati M11+, WI6
– Girly Guide Dawn Glanc was No. 1 for the ladies in the mixed climbing comp at the 2012 Teva winter games! – Wise words from Sasha DiGiulian (@sashadigiulian) on managing expectations in climbing:
– Do guides get scared? Why are women’s climbing programs important? Great interview with Sarah Hueniken thanks to Katie at Adventure Inspired:
– Why do you think there aren’t more females making first ascents?
–  GREAT video of Sterling Rope (@SterlingRope) athlete Monique Forestier on the “Tom et je Ris” (8b+/5.14a):
–  Majka Burhardt (@majkaburhardt) on what it means to climb:
– Spray ice climbing – how interested are you in giving it a shot? Report from Raph Salwinski at Helmcken Falls:
Come for Chicks (March 22-26), stay for the Red Rock Rendezvous!
– Naked Ice Climber Warned Not to Do It Again:
– Katie bouldering on Leatherface! Horseshoe Canyon Ranch, Jasper, AR
– Burly! Jesse Mattner nabs the second ascent of Silver Surfer, an M9 near Redstone, Co.
– Lots of bouldering going on in Hueco – see what’s going down thanks to the Climbing Narc (@climbingnarc): Busy Times In Hueco
– Great angles, makes you feel like you’re climbing along at the Teva Winter Mountain Games:
– Nice post from a new climber. “The 3 Questions That Hold Me Back”:
– Some great selections in the Splitter Choss (@splitterchoss) Friday Five:
–  We’re feeling the psych for Climb on Sister (@ClimbOnSister) who sent her project, Spittin’ Venom (V9) today! Video from trying it last year.
– What has Ouray Ice Fest winner Emily Harrington been up to since then? Check it out:

– Take Climbing’s 5-minute cover study and help your favorite climbing org earn a $500 donation:
– Dawn Glanc in the AAI (@AlpineInstitute) weekly news roundup among lots of other stories:
– Climber Injured in 50-foot Fall in Joshua Tree:

Training & Nutrition
– Train smart – core training for climbers – new at Climb Strong:
– Although she admits to a love-hate relationship with training, here’s Climb On Sister’s (@ClimbOnSister) tips for training for climbing:
– Tips for avoiding finger injuries for folks new to climbing from Gif (@rockclimberlife):

– How to Sharpen and Maintain your Ice Screws:
– Gear review of the So iLL (@soillholds) Blister Board from Gif (@rockclimberlife): Trip Reports
– Nice photo essay from AAI (@AlpineInstitute) of a SW Colorado classic ice climb: Ames Ice Hose:
– Some pretty sweet looking sport climbing in Thailand, or at least that’s how it looks in Whitney’s (@Whitneyio) video:
– Soloing “The Prow”

– Channeling fear & frustration into focus
– Check out these gorgeous ice shots from– how can you not be psyched to ice climb after seeing these?!?!
– Highlights from Sara’s hut trip & a reminder that work is love, from Brendan (@semi_rad):
– Really touching post on remembering a loved one, lost to cancer:
– Tiny girl in Aleya’s rock climbing class just fist jammed the 37 ft hand crack on the slab wall – how cool!

Fun Stuff
– Wow, Marmot (@marmotpro) gave Chicks a sweet spot on their homepage! Check out the bottom right-hand corner!
– So it looks like there’s a Men of Routesetting beefcake calendar out there:

If you have a blog entry that you think would be of interest to the women of Chicks Climbing please let us know! We love getting contributed content from other women – anything from trip reports, nutrition and training tips, to videos. We want to share your resources with the community – much like we do with the Gossip Report and are more than happy to re-publish and share links on behalf of the women’s climbing community! This week’s Gossip Report is brought to you by our sponsors at Columbia Sportswear! Thank you, Columbia for your support of our programs!

Climbing Chef Yosemite confessional

Photo by Maijaliisa Burkert

We all knew that this could not last.  The January where rock climbers are beside themselves with joy, but all outdoor sport enthusiasts are able to continue their sport well into January.  Well… maybe not the skiers/snowboarders.  Sorry guys…

It was JANUARY and some of my friends have been climbing in Yosemite and Tuolumne.  For years, I can remember not  being able to go to Tuolumne until after May because the roads were still closed.  How crazy is that?

Without winter, we would be screwed… big time.  But, I was just, finally, able to start climbing again.  I knew that it wouldn’t last all winter, but I was really enjoying it while it did.

A couple of nights ago, I was sitting in bed, looking over my Yosemite SuperTopo.  Kind of preparing myself up for another season of climbing in the Valley, when I decided to make a plan.  Amazingly, I have done more climbing in Red Rock, NV than in Yosemite.  And I live 3 hours from the Valley vs. 13+ hours from Red Rock.  The desert always calls my name….

Truth be told, I don’t really like climbing in Yosemite.  There… I said it!  I know that is basically blaspheme for any climber to say, especially one who is fortunate to live close to the park but…. I’ve just never been a fan.  I prefer the desert, and Red Rock is still my #1 place.  It’s something about the granite that just terrifies me.  It is completely unnerving and I climb at  a WAY  lower grade there than anywhere else.  Yes, I am aware that Yosemite style climbing is different, and rated as such, but still…. I just can’t seem to find the grace there, that I can find in the desert.

I blame it on the fact that my first outdoor climbing experience was on granite.  It terrified me from the moment I put my hand on the rock, and I don’t think I have ever gotten over that.  My hope is that during next season, I can finally get over this fear, by climbing all of the single pitch routes in the Valley, all below 5.9.  Yea… I’m even talking about the 5.0 routes that I could free solo.  I figure that if I am going to ever get over my Yosemite fear, I have to give myself a good base.  There for, the challenge for next season is to climb as many (if not all) of the single pitch “easy” routes.

And then?  Move onto the “easy” multi-pitch climbs…..

I can’t believe I am even saying that, but it is true.  I have only successfully done ONE multi-pitch…. ever!  Man, this post is turning into a confessional of all my climbing secrets.  But it is true, I have the honest to goodness curse of a sport climber.  I like physically challenging, “short”, sport routes.  Mulit-pitch climbs are hard for me.  Usually not physically, because I don’t have the experience to do anything that is too difficult, but mentally… I just hate them.  I don’t like sitting in my harness for 3+ hours and my mind starts to wander and I start to get nervous/scared.  At that point, the climbing isn’t fun for me.  I just want to get down.

On non-climbing related news, I submitted my finished graduate application for my MS in Geology!  I am really excited/nervous about this because I really (really) want to get in.  I think I would be really good at this, and it is obvious that my world already revolves around rocks.  I’d love to do something with my degree that could protect and help all of the areas that I have come to call home for short amounts of time.

Now that I know I will not be going outside to climb this weekend, I have to decide on what I will be cooking.  I need to make some more of my Aztec Chocolate Cookies because they are great, and I am craving them; but I also want to make something different.  Maybe a soup or I’ll work on my Curry recipe…. if you have and suggestions, let me know :)

Lauren Azevedo-Henderson is a climber and foodie with a degree in Art History. Lauren has been cooking all her life and has been seriously climbing for just over 2 years. While living in her ex-boyfriend’s van (only for long weekends or a week at a time) she started cooking what you would call “gourmet” food on a camp stone in the van. She now spends most of her time in Red Rock, NV and started writing her food/climbing blog “The Climbing Chef” just last year.

Columbia’s midweight long sleeved striped top wins again!

A few weeks ago, Chicks participant Jenn tested out a Columbia Sportswear* base layer – sent to us by the company – and sent us the following feedback.

I have never worn anything made by Columbia before. This is no joke. I have not even worn one of those Columbia rain jackets that everyone seems to have which I think is surprising considering I live in the Pacific Northwest and own probably 20 rain jackets. I own more rain jackets than pants, but not one Columbia.

I tested the Columbia midweight long sleeved striped top with the “Omni-Heat” system. I can’t tell if this is a gimmick or not but I liked the shirt, anyway. The “Omni-Heat” system seems to be a bunch of silver, space blanket type dots glued into the inside of the shirt. It looks cool, and made me feel like a futuristic, space aged ice climber.

With the space blanket type dots, one would think that it wouldn’t breath, but It did great! I guess that’s because the silver lining was only in dots. It wicked the sweat and dried really fast, faster than my fancy wool base layer did.

The sleeves and tail were long which meant I could pull the sleeves over my cold hands and the tail stayed tucked even when I was hanging from my ice tools like a monkey.

I wore the shirt for four days in a row which must mean that I really liked it. After four days, the shirt really stank! I mean, it was really stinky! The nice thing about the clever stipe design, though, is that it doesn’t show sweat stains. So presumably, if it didn’t stink so bad, I could have worn it out to dinner without anyone knowing.

Overall, I liked the shirt and may even buy one. I don’t know, though, I own a lot of base layer tops already and I might have to buy a striped rain jacket, to go with it. Does Columbia make those?

*Note: Columbia Sportswear is a sponsor of Chicks Climbing at “The Crux” level. The gear tested in this review was provided to Chicks by Columbia. We put this gear on lots of our Chicks with Picks participants for feedback this winter, along with some longer gear testing runs on several local gals. The review was not influenced by our relationship with Columbia in any way.

Managing expectations – it’s all in the attitude!

This year I came to Chicks without any concrete goals I wanted to achieve while at the “Complete”. I felt a bit silly sitting at dinner the first night as Kitty asked each of us what we were looking to accomplish and learn during the next four days. Jen, Carol and Deb – my group ‘mates’ for the “Complete” – each had specific objectives they wanted to focus work on. I only wanted to remain positive, and not get frustrated with my climbing – as simple as that. In my mind this was the year I wanted to see how climbing really felt and how I felt about climbing. Did I really enjoy doing this? Was my heart really in it? Could I go out and have fun doing it every day? What I needed at Chicks was a check of my head space.

Having fun on a VERY crowded fourth pitch of Dexter Slabs

In the past year I finally learned – or perhaps came to understand – just how detrimental my own negative self talk was in my climbing. I would get mad at myself for having to weight the rope, frustrated that I couldn’t stay calm and find more opportunities for rest where I could take a few deep breaths and shake out. I simply always *expected* myself to climb better than I was – whatever that meant – and when I didn’t have what I deemed to be a “good” climb, I’d come back down to the ground frustrated and angry, which always affected not just my next climb, but also had an impact on the people around me, who would then expend their own time and energy trying to make ME feel better. Looking back, I’m embarrassed at myself because, of course, getting mad about weighting the rope is ridiculous. How else do you ever climb harder routes, or become proficient at climbing on different features on the ice? I’d left Chicks in 2011 with just the beginning of understanding how my negativity was affecting my performance. But it was just an awareness of the effect that was enough to get me moving in the right direction.

At my CrossFit gym I often work out with a woman, Suzie Q, who gets frustrated very easily with her performance. She always expects that she should be able to “do better.” As she gets frustrated everything becomes harder – the pull-ups, the weight she’s lifting, the running, rowing, it doesn’t matter. It was amazing how I could literally SEE her frustration affecting her performance. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was a Suzie Q with my climbing. It was my own attitude that was making the climbing harder than it was! My own mind was holding me back! It was such a revelation because I finally recognized that I had the power to change it on my own. I began to practice it in small doses, and couldn’t believe how effective a change of attitude can be – how much simpler even life’s biggest challenges can be with a positive attitude. So, now that I knew how to apply it in real life the real question remained: could I do it while climbing, the one sport that had in the past brought up the absolute worst in negative self-talk in me?

Putting my new mixed climbing skills to work exiting the rock cave

Kitty asked us to write down our goals before starting out on our first day of climbing. I went back to my room and called my husband, feeling worried that I wasn’t like the others with specific objectives. “What should my goals be?” as if he’d make them for me! Of course, he reminded me what I was out there to do – stay positive, climb hard, and have fun. So I stuck to my intangible goal of assessing my ability to remain positive while climbing, which I hoped would lead me to climb calmly, stay more relaxed, not get pumped, and not come down on myself.

The next day Kitty asked us if we’d written down our goals. Of course I hadn’t, because my single focus didn’t meet her definition of being a tangible goal. So, when she asked what I was going to focus on while I climbed I told her “staying relaxed.” And that’s exactly what I did. I climbed calmly and deliberately, and stopped to “rest” at every good spot I could find – whether I needed it or not. I topped out on every climb without ever being out of breath or feeling the dreaded “pump.” I felt confident in my climbing, solid. But, more importantly, I was having a lot of fun.

Topping out in the Scottish Gullies on yet another fun climb! Photo by Terri Hovarth.

I had a big challenge to face in this attitude makeover during the “Complete”, which I knew would really test my ability to stay positive, and that was a day of mixed climbing. I had a LOT of fun doing it, but boy did I weight the rope that day! However, I weighted the rope with a smile, and took the time to try and figure out the next sequence of moves (thanks Dawn!). I was learning, and that’s what got me to the top of my first mixed climb (twice!). The last day of climbing I was worn out from the strain of the mixed climbing day. My first climb of the day was heinous – lots of time was spent breaking ice off from the overnight spray. My forearms were exhausted. I felt like I could barely grip the tools. I weighted the rope several times. The difference was this time I didn’t come down angry and disappointed at myself. I came down knowing that the next lap I’d send it cleanly. And that’s sure enough what I did.

Working on my pillar skillzzzz! Photo by Dawn Glanc.

I am thankful that Kitty supported my intangible goal during the “Complete,” and kept me focused on climbing relaxed on every lap. As I have experienced every time with Chicks, my guide found exactly what I needed to work on, and kept me focused on doing just that. I have never climbed as strongly or as confidently as I did this year. I’m heading up to Canada next week to take the next step in my climbing, learning how to lead. Thankfully I have finally found the right head space to do just that.

Maijaliisa Burkert is the Marketing & Social Media Chick for Chicks Climbing, and she’s super psyched to climb with Chicks again at Indian Creek this spring!

Your Monday gossip – get ‘er while it’s hot!

Here on the Chicks Climbing Gossip Report you can catch up on all of the great gossip (articles, videos, and other assorted cool stuff) we talked about over the past week at Chicks Climbing. We have officially wrapped up our 2012 Chicks with Picks clinics, which means we are ALREADY getting ready to rock! First up is a return to our regular stomping ground of Red Rock, Nevada for a 3-day intensive clinic March 22 – 25, with an optional multi-pitch day: March 26th. Then we have a VERY special treat for our Chicks alumnae – an Indian Creek alumnae invitational which includes three days of intensive crack climbing clinics April 27-30, with an optional multi-pitch day May 1. More details on the Indian Creek invitational will be coming out VERY soon – in just a few days, actually so stay tuned! Check out everything for our Red Rock spring trip here.

We had a very inspiring blog to share this week from Girly Guide Caroline George, who just *hours* ago welcomed baby Olivia to the world (Congratulations!!!). In her blog, Caroline reflected on her active pregnancy and how she can’t wait to share a life of adventure with her daughter – you can check it out here.

We also published a gear review of some Columbia Sportswear base layers (the midweight long-sleeved striped top and bottom) along with the Hybrid Down Jacket that Piper tested out as part of her ice climbing system at the Ouray Ice Park a few weeks ago. Find out which piece she especially did NOT want to give back in her review here.

Finally, we posted a really heartfelt and inspirational piece from alpinist Nicky Messner who returned to Aconcagua this past December – the site of her first major expedition and summit – where this year she realized she’s truly come full circle. Check it out here, along with details on Nicky’s upcoming expedition to Kilimanjaro (where you can join her!)

Did we miss any cool stuff this week?  Let us know if you’ve got a link to some climbing-related goodies so we can share with everyone else!

P.S. We are just wondering – do you hang out on Google+ ??? We do! Find us here so we can get you in our circle and stay up-to-date on another platform with all the latest and greatest from Chicks.

– Totally badass! Ines Papert & Lisi Steurer nab the FFA of Illuminati – a burly M11+ WI6+
– Girly Guides Dawn Glanc and Kitty Calhoun take a trip to Cody, Wyoming in search of some fresh ice to climb: (part 1)
– Check out Ines Papert climbing ice of a totally different kind in Harbin:
– Alex Johnson Climbs Lethal Design (V12)
– More on Alex Johnson’s send of the V12 Lethal Design – an interview with Climbing Magazine:
– Will Gadd on why we need to stop telling ourselves lies about the risks of mountain sports:
– Kelly Cordes writes a nice piece on the Cerro Torre conflict on the Patagonia “The Cleanest Line” blog:
– Rock and Ice talks with David Lama on his thoughts on freeing the Compressor Route.
– Did you see this WI5 climbed while wearing DOWN BOOTIES?!?! Impressive!
– Splitter Choss on how ice climbing can be a real adventure:
– Good blog from AAI (@AlpineInstitute) on why carrying a knife while climbing can be very handy:
– Another great piece from AAI on using your rope in a climbing anchor:
– Ice climbing in Alaska? How could you not! How cool that a Chicks alumna – Jayme Mack – is an organizer of the upcoming ice fest:
– Really inspiring video – and some impressive crack climbing for a first 5.13!
– Mayan Smith-Gobat climbing the Salathe headwall – awesome video (and no-hands rest at 6:00!):
– Canadian Selena Wong crushing in Bishop:
– Hey AAC (@americanalpine) members, vote on your Board of Directors: (must be logged in to vote).
– Alpine Mentors – A unique opportunity for young alpinists to train under Steve House:
– Want to be a sponsored climber? Trango opens applications to its athlete program:
– Some great tips from Katie (@AdvInspired) on how to make sure you get the most out of your next climbing trip:
– Sarah Garlick and Majka Burhardt ice climbing – or rather mixed climbing – or just rock climbing with crampons…last week in New Hampshire:

– Climbers Trail Clean-Up in Las Vegas:
– Less than a month left to apply for the totally awesome Copp-Dash Inspire Award from the AAC:
– Great news from Red Rock!!!
– A great roundup of this week’s climbing, skiing and general outdoor news from AAI (@AlpineInstitute):
– Genetic screening susses out susceptibility to altitude sickness:

Training & Nutrition
– Some beginner hangboard workout tips from Gif (@rockclimberlife) “My hangboard workout”:
– Steph Davis (@highsteph) explains how endurance comes with more climbing:
– What does training look like for a world champion ice climber? You will be amazed!

– Nice video from Petzl (@Petzl on) how to properly sharpen your ice screws:

Trip Reports
– The AAC Great Lakes Section folks had a great weekend at the Michigan Ice Fest:
– A climbing trip where you can’t climb thanks to the weather – what to do? Hazel Findlay on her trip to Newfoundland:

– A multimedia take on seven of North America’s best adventure destinations from Outdoor Research:

Fun Stuff
– While ice climbing in the Adirondacks, George (@privong) spotted our poster at The Mountaineer in Keene Valley!/PrivonG/status/166377009000357888/photo/1
– Handmade climbing hold earrings, rope bracelets, hemp chalkbags some gift ideas for Valentine’s from Climb on Sister (@ClimbOnSister):
– Ha, these climbing themed valentines from Eastern Mountain Sports (@EASTERNMNTN) are cute!
– The ultimate Valentine’s Day gift for climbers:

If you have a blog entry that you think would be of interest to the women of Chicks Climbing please let us know! We love getting contributed content from other women – anything from trip reports, nutrition and training tips, to videos. We want to share your resources with the community – much like we do with the Gossip Report and are more than happy to re-publish and share links on behalf of the women’s climbing community!

This week’s Gossip Report is brought to you by our sponsors at Columbia Sportswear! Thank you, Columbia for your support of our programs!

Aconcagua; going full circle

Chicks guest blogger Nicky Messner is a high altitude mountaineer with five of the seven summits under her belt, including Mt. Everest. She has recently decided to share her climbing experiences with other women. Her goal is to expand horizons & change lives through alpinism. She successfully led her first all-female team to Kilimanjaro in July of this year and has another trip scheduled for June 2012. Visit her website Be the Exception…not the Rule for more information.

One online dictionary states that ‘If something or someone has come full circle after changing a lot, they are now the same as they were at the beginning’.  You can post my Aconcagua summit photo by that definition; I can’t imagine a better way to describe my recent climb.

Nicky and Bob on Aconcagua summit

When my climbing buddy Bob mentioned that his December Aconcagua expedition had an opening, I jumped at the chance to go back and my visit my old mountain friend.  Aconcagua, The Stone Sentinel, stands 22,841 feet tall in the Andean mountains of Argentina.  My first major mountaineering expedition was to Aconcagua in January of 2003 (I had climbed Cotopaxi in 1997, but that was a one night gig, not a full length trip).  I really had no idea what I was getting into; I just saw a documentary on tv and decided I’d like to give her a try.  We were living in Baku, Azerbaijan at the time, and none of my friends had ever done anything like this.  Nor did I have a local REI that I could pop into for advice.  It was just me, the gym, and my online gear purchases, trying to figure out what the heck we were doing.  That trip changed my life.  I am not sure if the expedition released a ‘me’ that had been hiding within, or if it created a new ‘me’.  Either way, I was not the same person when I came home.  In brief, I came back an expedition junkie.  Hooked.  Addicted.  Needing more.

Aconcagua summit from Camp 2

I’ve since gone on to climb five of the seven summits, including Mount Everest.  I’ve followed the standard progression: a winter seminar on Rainier, a climb of Denali, and a jaunt up Cho Oyu.  I didn’t have Everest on my radar from the beginning, I just enjoyed taking each climb a bit further than the last.  In doing so, I added more skills and altitude to my resume, therefore adding to my confidence level.  And added to my climbing craving, of course.  So when my husband suggested I try Everest (yes, I blame him), my addiction was strong enough, and my confidence just high enough, that I only said no once.  I capitulated the second time he brought it up!

I have always, mistakenly, confused acknowledging my skills with being arrogant.  It took a couple of years for me to openly discuss my Everest summit with people without my feeling like a braggart.  Some of my fellow teammates had written books and been on tv before I admitted to my success.    Just recently however, I came to terms with being an ‘Everest Summiter’, and started to appreciate that I was truly an experienced, and pretty darn good, climber.

The shadow cast by Aconcagua as the sun rises on summit day

This was the climber who returned to Aconcagua, to the scene of the crime, to the place where her life had originally changed forever.  It was a passionate reunion, to say the least.  We started up a different valley this time, and when we joined my 2003 route, I started crying like a baby.  It was a joyful yet teary-eyed confession that I am a climber, and always will be.  That I still love every ounce of pain, filth and oxygen deprivation associated with expedition length high altitude climbing.  It was an admission of, and a resignation to, the fact that mountains and mountaineering now own me.

I knew then, at that very moment where our routes joined, that I had gone full circle with my climbing.  I had certainly changed a lot, gone from novice climber to Everest summiter, and was back at my beginning.  Back in that first space where Aconcagua took hold of me and my love of high altitude expeditions was born.  After all my changes, I am just as enthralled with mountaineering, every bit as enamored with expedition life, as I was the first time I climbed Aconcagua.  Hooked.  Addicted.  Needing more.  Full circle.

For more about Nicky and her upcoming all-female climbs, please visit her website  A Kilimanjaro trip is scheduled for 6/23/12, and Nicky is currently putting together a ‘Hiking & Haciendas’ trip, with climbing add-on, in Ecuador at the end of May. If interested, please send Nicky an email at

Gear Review: Columbia Midweight Base Layers & Hybrid Down Jacket

A few weeks ago, Chicks alumna Piper tested some Columbia Sportswear* gear – sent to us by the company – out on the ice, and sent us the following feedback.

In my testing it was between 30 and 40 degrees in the Ouray Ice Park and I wearing the following:
Bottom – wore only my soft shell pants over the Midweight Stripe Tight bottoms.
Top – Wore the Reach the Peak – Hybrid Down Jacket over the Midweight Long Sleeve Stripe Top  (Occassionally a heavy belay jacket — note to that below.)

Base Layers – Columbia Midweight Long Sleeve Stripe Top and Midweight Stripe Tight bottoms
Loved this base layer. They are surprisingly warm given how thin the fabric is. Love the silky feel and form fit of these pieces. No bunching at the knees or elbows and the rise was perfect — Many times in base layer bottoms the rise is so high I find myself having to roll them over. The flat seams are very comfortable, not to mention the contrast stitching is a cool asthetic detail. And lastly LOVE the stripes.

Columbia Reach the Peak – Hybrid Down Jacket
This was my favorite piece. This type of layer was new for my “normal” system so I first needed to figure out how I would work it in. Basically, this is a fitted light down jacket with stretchy, breathable panels under the arms and the reflective lining. Based on appearance, I had first thought it would be more of a middle layer, under a soft shell. I do think this is probably how I would use it in extremely cold temps, however, I found that for the temperatures I was climbing in, it was a perfect top layer when I only wore the Columbia long sleeve stripe top. At first, I thought I might get over heated in it climbing, but the side panels allowed for plenty of ventilation. Yet it was amazingly warm when not climbing and I only found myself pulling on a heavier belay jacket when standing, inactive for longer periods.

The jacket has enough stretch and length that it had good mobility and didn’t ride up from under my harness. I like that the reflective material was also used to line the pockets.

The fit of this jacket is also very flattering and I got many compliments. Some people who have tried it have thought the forearms were a bit tight, but wearing only the base layer (as I only found necessary) this was not an issue for me. Love the teal color!

Short of this forearm issue, my only suggestion is to the pockets. The zippers are in the correct direction for harness wear (opening up to down), however they are very small zipper pulls to be using with gloves and the openings could be a little bigger, and I would have liked an interior chest pocket.

This was the hardest piece to give back.

I would definitely buy all these for myself and will be looking to see if there are socks with the reflective material, as that did seem to make a big difference in these pieces.

Thanks for the feedback, Piper! We’ve got a few more reviews of other Columbia Omni-Heat pieces that we will be publishing here soon, so stay tuned! :-)

*Note: Columbia Sportswear is a sponsor of Chicks Climbing at “The Crux” level. The gear tested in this review was provided to Chicks by Columbia. We put this gear on lots of our Chicks with Picks participants for feedback this winter, along with some longer gear testing runs on several local gals. The review was not influenced by our relationship with Columbia in any way.

Caroline George on pregnancy, ski touring – perspective

Photo courtesy of Caroline George

Pregnancy has been one of the best journeys of my life. It’s not over, but I am already starting to feel nostalgic about not seeing my belly grow everyday, accompany me on adventures or where ever I go. But I am also excited to meet the person who lives inside of me. I mean, how weird is that? I think I can grasp that there is someone growing in my belly because of the kicks, the undulating waves under my skin, my bulging profile, but maybe you just can’t come to the full realization of what is really happening until the wee one is in your arms. I don’t know that yet. And that’s the magic of it all: not knowing, being accepting to what ever is coming your way and making the best of the adventure you started on.

And what an adventure it’s been! My baby isn’t born yet, but it’s been to the top of many climbs and mountains with me, while I was guiding this summer and later climbing for myself. When climbing stopped feeling good, I switched to biking, hiking and swimming. I wanted this time of my life to be about exposing myself to new things – since my life has been all consumed by climbing and the mountains for most of my life – because it’s what I would like my child’s life to like. So, I traded my climbing shoes for pedal and bike cleats to ride in California and Utah and later, for paddles while Adam and I discovered sea kayaking together in the Bahamas, and eventually for cross country skis with my mom in Finland. But I missed the mountains and when winter hit our home in Chamonix over Christmas, I was all excited to get back on my skis. Hiking downhill was a little painful because my baby pushed down heavily on my pelvis because of the impact of each step I took, so skiing came as a relief!

Photo courtesy of Caroline George

Ski touring is a lot like hiking, only you’re on snow, pushing skis uphill but you get to enjoy the rewards of your hard earned climb, cruising down beautiful untracked powder. Of course, being pregnant, you need to pick what you ski and how you ski it:

– avalanche terrain is not appropriate unless you know that conditions are really stable; this has been a great opportunity for me to explore more mellow tours that I could later come back to and do with clients;

– you need to reel it in, skiing at a slower pace, keeping your eyes doubly peeled for what is coming: rocks, branches, trees, holes, etc. Skiing in a whiteout can also be a concern but I usually send my partner ahead so they can show me the way and give the terrain perspective with their track;

– listen to your body: it’s never easy to turn around, but what matters is to listen to your body and feel good about what you are doing. I know that I can tour a few thousand feet uphill before the baby seems to be stretching in all direction making it uncomfortable to keep going. It feels like the baby is putting its hands out and saying: “ok, that was good, let’s go down now, am over it”.

– find partners to join you on your adventure: when I’m not guiding, I often go ski touring on my own and I love it: you can go at your own pace, listen to an audiobook, go up, go down and be home whenever you want. But really, sharing outdoor adventures with friends is one of the most precious things in life and this has taken a whole new meaning for me during pregnancy. I went out with lots of different friends and they always watched out for me, making sure I was ok, worrying about me and it felt good to be on other side of the fence. Although guiding is my life and I love every minute of it, it also felt really good to be indulging in my passion with friends whom I didn’t have to watch out for and just be enjoying ski touring for what it is, without worrying about pleasing other people or about being out there training for guide courses. It’s been an amazing way to reconnect to what I love to do and why I love being in the mountains so much.

– the best thing has been to take my little bump along on the journey. who’s to say if she enjoyed it like I did, but I get a feeling that she did. Of course, it’s my interpretation of it but have you ever been out with someone when everything is flowing, and seeing how good they feel and how much they love being out is contagious? that’s how I feel when I go out with my bump. So, who’s to say…

Phpto courtesy of Caroline George

The hardest part about my “adventurous ” pregnancy has been people’s judgments on how I chose to live my pregnancy. I’ve had an amazing pregnancy, suffering very little from the symptoms that women usually suffer from. Maybe the main reason for that was that I felt I was doing a good deed by taking my baby out for rides, ski tours, and many other adventures, breathing in fresh air, sharing my love for the outdoors with her. “Happy Mom, Happy Baby” is the saying, right? These have been times of deep connection with my baby-to-be. It was hard at first, because I was guiding a lot and sometimes taking risks that I felt were inappropriate for my baby and knowing that didn’t feel good. Once the guiding season was over, I was able to listen to my body and to what felt ok for both me and the baby. Although I appreciated people’s concerns for both of our health, I also felt that it was really intrusive that people had an opinion on what I should or shouldn’t do. I live in ski resort and the mecca of alpinism, Chamonix, France – and my doctor here deals with more athletic people than probably most ObGyn will ever see. When I asked him if what I was doing was OK, his eyes popped wide open, a smile came to his face and he said: “I only wish I could come along on the tours as well! What you’re doing is great for you and the for the baby. Just don’t go skiing at resorts where there is a risk of people skiing into you. But there is no counter indication to ski touring!”. So, I have seized this opportunity and ran with it. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Photo courtesy of Caroline George

I know that this is only the start of people judging what they perceive parenthood should be like. What has held me back for so long from having children is people always saying how much your life is going to change, how your life is going to end. But I strongly believe that you chose your life – parenthood, pregnancy, work, etc. – and you make it what you want it to be. My mom was cross country skiing the day she went into labor. My parents kept traveling and climbing despite having children and all our shared adventures is what made me who I am today: they opened my eyes to new cultures, to adventures and traveling, to living a life outside the norm and it’s made my life that much richer. I am sure people judged them for their choices, but they stuck to what they thought was best for them and for us and that has inspired me more than anything in life. Taking the path less traveled is not always the easiest solution, but it might just be the richest. I hope I can offer at least as much to my child.

Keep up with IFMGA/UIAGM Guide Caroline George’s alpine adventures on her website Into The Mountains and on the First Ascent blogInto The Mountains is Caroline’s guiding site where she and her husband, Adam George, share their passion for climbing with others by offering guided trips and instruction on rock, ice, and alpine climbing in the European Alps and North America. Check it out!