One-Handed Clove Hitch

Attach to the anchor with a clove hitch

Attaching to the anchor with a one-handed clove hitch. ©Aimee Barnes

Attaching to the anchor with a one-handed clove hitch is beneficial for a number of reasons.

  1. You are hardwiring into the anchor and you need no other tether.
  2. A clove hitch is easily adjustable.

twist the rope towards yourself and clip it into the anchor

With anchor at head  or chest height, raise rope and intentionally back clip the carabiner twisting the rope towards yourself.

one-handed clove hitch step 2

Pick up the rope that is coming from the back.

one handed clove hitch step 3

Twist toward yourself again and clip it. Creating a clove hitch.

finished clove hitch

Clove Hitch!

Sterling’s Fusion Nano IX – Gear We Use | Alpine Climbing

The Fusion Nano IX dual color in action. Chicks alumna, Kristy Lamore, 2nd Flatiron, Boulder, Colorado. May snowstrom. ©Karen Bockel

The Fusion Nano IX dual color in action. Chicks alumna, Kristy Lamore, 2nd Flatiron, Boulder, Colorado. May snowstorm. ©Karen Bockel

Sterling’s Fusion Nano IX, 60m, 9mm rope is my most commonly used rope.

 

because I mostly go Alpine Climbing.

Pre-dawn starts, big- heavy packs, hiking, pitches, and pitches of climbing, ridges, and multiple rappels are in order. For alpine climbing efficiency is key.

The Sterling Fusion Nano IX is efficient because it’s really light and small for a climbing rope—a scant 52 g/m (grams per meter) and a 9.0 mm diameter makes all the difference when I’m out for 10-12 hours a day.

When it comes to strength, the Fusion Nano is strong enough for the job! Since I plan to lead climb, I need ropes that are single rated.

And, the Fusion Nano IX is Sterling’s lightest single-rated rope.

And, in fact, it is single, half, and twin compatible, making it a coveted triple-rated rope!

The Sterling Fusion Nano is not too stretchy and not too stiff. Its stretch lies right in the middle of commonly used lead ropes. At 26% dynamic stretch and 7% static stretch, it doesn’t drop you too far, yet still allows for a soft catch.

The Fusion Nano comes with DryXP Treatment. Alpine climbing usually involves snow and ice, in addition to rock. Snow and ice can be very wet! A dry treated rope is a huge weight-saver compared to a water-logged beast coiled around my shoulders.

Most often, the descent, particularly if there are any rappels, determines the length of rope needed for a climb. I’ve found that in most North American alpine terrain, a 60m rope works really well.

I use a 60 meter Sterling Fusion Nano IX bi-color.

CAUTION:

-Use of the Fusion Nano IX rope requires belaying and rappelling experience.

–Due to the small diameter, it is not recommended for top-roping or working routes.

 

It just goes to show, ya gotta have the right tool for the job!

Find More Climbing Partners – The Art of Being Solid

Find more climbing partners at a Chicks Climbing clinic. 4 Chicks participants lined up to show off their Chicks chalk bags

Find more climbing partners at a Chicks Climbing clinic. Chicks participants line up to show off their Chicks chalk bags!

One of the most commonly asked questions I get is, “How do I find more climbing partners?”

My answer, “You don’t have to be a super sender to find climbing partners, you just have to be solid.”

In order to be solid, I have some advice for you:

Be honest, be reliable, be skilled, and, most importantly, be fun.

Find More Climbing Partners

 

Be Honest

We all want to put our best effort forward, but rarely do we climb at our top level.

For example, even though I’ve climbed a 5.13a (once… over 5 years ago!), I don’t tell a prospective climbing partner “I’m a 5.13 climber!” Instead, I say, “I’m comfortable leading 5.12 sport, but I really love to climb 5.11.”

Be Reliable

No one likes it when their climbing partner cancels. Consider that they probably rearranged their life to go climbing with you and are counting on you to do what you said you would do. Be on time, ready to go. Don’t bail.

Be Skilled

Know how to take care of yourself. Know your technical skills forwards and backwards. If you lead, great. If not, be a solid second: learn to remove gear efficiently, climb quickly, belay attentively, give soft catches, clean anchors, pull the rope and stack it. The day will pass smoothly and safely if you are skilled.  As a result, you’ll get more climbing in.

Need skills? Chicks teaches technical skills at all of our clinics. We’ll get you up to speed and confident in no time.

Be Fun

When it comes right down to it, climbing is fun and the most solid climbing partners are the most fun.

Solid Climbing partners say interesting things and they make me laugh. It doesn’t matter how hard they climb. What matters is that they’re positive, funny, and willing to share interesting stories.

Solid partners don’t complain or make excuses. They leave the drama at home and don’t melt down, scream, or throw wobblers.

Lastly, you will find more climbing partners if you make decisions!

Solid partners decide and they don’t say sorry endlessly. Unless, of course an apology is in order, then they own it and get on with it.

Learn more about being solid at How to be The World’s Greatest Climbing Partner.

And for an amusing take on climbing partners in general read Your First 7 Climbing Partners.

Alpine Climbing Fitness – Training For Alpine Climbing

Carolyn Parker, training for alpine climbing by wearing a pack on an inclined treadmill

Carolyn Parker, building alpine climbing fitness wearing a pack on an inclined treadmill.

Alpine climbing fitness will help you expand your alpine climbing knowledge and journey further into the backcountry.

Alpine climbing asks many things of climbers, not least of which is fitness.

Fitness for alpine climbing involves three factors:

  1. A good aerobic base
  2. An ability to tolerate the load of a heavier-than-usual pack
  3. A body that is trained for long days – maybe even a few in a row!

However, training for alpine climbing can look very different depending on the style of the climb, its technical nature, the altitude, and your experience level,

Let’s say you’re planning on climbing Mt Baker this summer.

Mt Baker is a fantastic alpine endeavor.

For those who want to do more mountaineering in their life, Mount Baker is a perfect place to learn steep snow climbing and glacier travel skills.

Your guides can help you learn all the skills necessary for your climb. But your guides can’t help you arrive with a good base of fitness.

Often, fitness is the most difficult piece for those who want to be prepared for alpine climbing. The fitter you are the better for the long approaches, big summit days, and carrying heavy loads. Not to mention enjoying the experience!

How to train for long, back-to-back days?

Weekends are usually the best time for gals to get out and train for more than an hour. But, if you have time during the week for more than an additional hour in the morning, then excellent!

Week One:

Week days

2-3 x a week (indoors or outdoors) shoot for 60 min on a treadmill at 10 – 15% grade, or go for a hike with as many hills as you can find. Carry a pack with the weight of your normal, day hiking pack.

Weekend – Start by increasing time from weekday hikes. Try 90min on Saturday and Sunday, again, with a standard day pack. Try and find as much uphill terrain as you can, if you live where it’s flat, consider doing one more day indoors on a treadmill (10-15% grade) or step mill—not exciting but it will begin to condition your legs to the uphill.

Week Two:

Week days

2-3 x hour-long hikes. If all went well on week one, add five more pounds to your pack from last week—carrying extra water is a great way to do this weight addition.

Weekend

Stick with your standard daypack, but increase the time you are out to two hours both Saturday and Sunday

Week Three:

Weekday:

Increase load in pack by 5 # for 2-3 x 60 min treadmill sessions or outdoor hikes.

Weekend:

Increase load by 5 #, keep time the same 2:00 hours each day.

Week Four: 

Weekday:

Increase load in pack by 5 # for 2-3 x 60 min treadmill session

Weekend:

Keep load the same as last week, however increase the hike time to 2.5 hours both Saturday and Sunday.

Long-Term Alpine Climbing Fitness Goals:

Shoot for the weight you’ll be hiking in to base camp with. 40-45# is a good target weight. Increase load slowly and consistently over time.

And, increase weekend hikes to 8-9 hours over combined days. You can do one longer day (say 6 hours) and one shorter day (3 hours) if that is easier with your life schedule.

The key is to begin. Then slowly increase weight. Avoid injury by not over doing it too quickly.

There are so many specifics to alpine climbing: day-long adventures, two-week trips, high altitude, trekking in, back packing, using huts. The idea is to understand your body’s needs. Be prepared for the longer days and the energy spent.

If you need more information for a specific climb or trip of any nature you can contact me at:

carolyn@rippleffectraining.com

Carolyn Parker

Founder Ripple Effect Training

Gym Jones, Fully Certified Instructor

AMGA Certified Rock Guide

 

Small Steps

Emilie Drinkwater taking small steps on the approach to Dent du Geant, Mont Blanc

Emilie Drinkwater takes small steps on the approach to Dent du Géant, Mont Blanc, European Alps, Summer, 2017. ©Karen Bockel

Small steps can turn big challenges into something quite manageable.

“Kleine Schritte, Kleine Schritte!”

“Small steps.” In German, I heard someone repeat, “small steps” to the group of Swiss climbers in front of us just as pre-dawn light touched the peaks.

My partner, Mary, and I had been climbing by headlamp.

Roped together, we’d steadily gained ground up the steepening glacier.

Surrounded by quiet, all I could hear was the sound of our breaths and the crunch of hard snow under our boots and crampons.

A snow couloir would eventually give us access to the rock ridge and then the summit. But, first, we had to climb over a bergschrund and some rock steps.

In the faint light, the massive abyss below the bergschrund looked dark. The exposure felt like a cold breeze.

I held the coiled rope tightly in my hand and felt Mary behind me through the tension.

Then, I turned to her and said, “kleine Schritte, kleine Schritte!”

In careful unison, we tiptoed around the icy void and then over the rock ledges.

Step-by-small-step, it didn’t take long before we’d reached the couloir and were back to steady upward progress again.

Thinking back,

I’m sure that crossing over the bergshrund would have been harder and potentially more dangerous if we had tried to force our way through or fight the terrain, using big steps. I’m convinced that taking big steps makes climbing harder and less safe.

Taking smaller steps, on the other hand, can turn what looks like a big challenge into something quite manageable.

So, try “small steps” next time you face a seemingly impossible challenge.

And, if you don’t feel confident in your skills and abilities, join me on one of these upcoming Chicks trips: Chicks Alpine Climbing – Chamonix or Chicks Rock Climbing – City of Rocks.

I’ll help you gain climbing experience and get quicker and more dialed with your climbing.

Instinct VS Rock Climbing Shoe for Women by SCARPA

stock photo of SCARPA Instinct VS Rock Climbing Shoe

SCARPA Instinct VS Rock Climbing Shoe in black aqua.

Thank you SCARPA for refining the tried-and-true Instinct VS rock shoe into a women’s-specific model that comes with a lovely, fresh new color to boot.

The original orange Instinct VS has been my go-to shoe for the past 5 seasons. They have served me well on everything from steep, overhanging sport routes to multi-pitch crack climbs.

The women’s-specific Instinct VS

has all the same performance features as the original Instinct. But, even better, the women’s specific model has a curved, asymmetrical female last. They’re also built to be a tad softer, which means they’re slightly more sensitive. Being softer and more sensitive also makes them more comfortable, more like a slipper.

Although the Instinct VS is aggressive and it will get down right gritty with you, it’s also a great all-day shoe for every style of climbing. For all-day, I just size them one size up from my approach shoes. Anyway, I hate tight shoes, always have. I’ve even got a pair that I can wear with socks for cooler weather or easy long routes.

Although, just like most new shoes, the Instinct VS’s are pain machines out of the box, they stretch and mold to your feet within just a couple of days out.

The Vibram XS Edge rubber is as good as any “stickier” resole rubber I’ve used. New, they should last you for a couple of seasons. Then the burly Italian construction will further last you through multiple resoles. With years of use, the Instinct VS’s are sure to become your trusted companions.

To get the best fit, go to your local SCARPA dealer to try these bad girls on. Just make sure you don’t let them talk you into a pair that’s too tight!

Buy local, think global.

MSRP $185

You may also like to read my love letter to SCARPA’s Gecko approach Shoes.

Flat Overhand Bend | Climbing Knots

Two ropes tied together with a flat overhand bend and set up for a rappel

A flat overhand bend used to tie two ropes together for rappelling.

Use A Flat Overhand Bend To Tie Two Ropes Together For A Double-Rope Rappel

When I got into climbing longer routes during my college years, I started to also encounter lots of long rappels.

The endless question of how to tie the ropes together never got a simple answer at that time. I saw people use anything from a double fisherman’s to a reverse-threaded figure eight with back up knots. These knots were cumbersome and often got stuck in cracks or under overhangs. Everyone seemed to have a different solution, and none of them were all that practical. I remember being frustrated and unsure.

Enter the flat overhand bend (also known as the offset overhand bend). This is a simple but plenty strong enough knot for joining two ropes together when you need to do a double rope rappel.

The most important part of a flat overhand bend is to leave plenty of tail, at least 12 inches. Also, make sure you dress flat overhand knots very tidily, avoiding any twists. Lastly, make sure to pre-tension flat overhands by pulling all 4 rope threads snugly.

A flat overhand bend

holds a lot of weight (6kN or the equivalent of about 10 climbers hanging with their full bodyweight) before it might fail by rolling—that’s why long tails are important. Long tails will keep your ropes connected even if the knot did start to roll.

It is also worth noting that the flat overhand bend had a bad reputation in the past. But fear not, there was mislabeling and misapplication that caused this “bad” reputation.For example, some people called this knot the European Death Knot or EDK. Meanwhile others used that same name for tying two ropes together using a figure eight instead of an overhand.

(People often think that a figure eight knot is stronger than an overhand knot but in this case, because the running ends are being pulled apart, the opposite is actually true. A few accidents may have resulted from the use of the figure eight in that application, but even that is not entirely proven…)

Use the flat overhand specifically to tie ropes together for rappelling.

If your knot is well-dressed and pre-tensioned with long tails, you are good to go.

You might also be interested in:

Use the Rope to Connect to the Anchor | Chicks Climbing

Sterling Powercord Cordalette | Chicks Climbing

 

Muscle Memories | Building A Strong Climbing Base

Angela Hawse, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, building muscle memories on Cathedral Peak, Tuolumne CA 1986

Angela Hawse, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, having fun with her sister and building muscle memories on Cathedral Peak, Tuolumne CA 1986. ©Angela Hawse Collection

 

Why A Strong Climbing Base Is So Important 

Going into my 37thseason of rock climbing I’ve learned that I can count on my muscle memories to know what to do and how to do it.

All the easy and moderate climbing I did for years built up an invaluable base that’s supported me through many challenging climbs all over the world and back again.

Building a strong climbing base takes time, mileage and training. There’s no quick fix.

Not long ago, rock climbing was considered practice for mountaineering and you had to find a mentor to learn to climb. Experienced climbers mentored less experienced climbers to deepen their pool of potential partners.

Now, sport climbing is its own “sport” and people learn to climb in climbing gyms. But the 10,000-hour rule, Malcolm Gladwell explains in his book, Outliers, still applies. In order to achieve mastery you have to put in the time. There’s no way around it.

If you want to climb harder, steeper, or bigger, if you want to clip bolts, place cams, or breathe thin air, you have to put in the time to build a base.

Like a solidly built foundation supports a house, your base will support you for the rest of your climbing life.

How do you build a climbing base?

You build a climbing base by doing lots of climbing, especially on routes well below your limit.

Lots of mileage on easy and moderate routes teaches you good technique and efficient skills, and it builds your bank of muscle-memories. These muscle memories are called engrams.

Not only can you rely on these engrams forever. Engrams will serve you well as you push your limits.

Seriously, advance your climbing grade by climbing lots of “easy” routes first!

Sounds backwards?

Climbing lots of easy routes lets you build a bank of engrained skills. These engrams allow you to move in balance and without so much as thinking when you are pushing your limits.

And, finally and most awesome is that base building is fun!

We all start somewhere and have to endure the frustration of over-thinking, overcompensating and dealing with our inner voice challenging our every move.

Repetition, steadfast determination and putting the time in are what it takes to get good at anything and rock climbing is no exception.

Alex Lowe said it perfectly, “The best climber is the one having the most fun.”

Don’t miss out on all the fun you can have moving up the grades.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also be interested to read:

Mentors | The Climbing Fast Track | Chicks Climbing

Fun | “It Doesn’t Have to Be Fun to Be Fun.” | Chicks Climbing

Mentors | The Climbing Fast Track

Elaina Arenz, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, mentors aspiring female climbers

Elaina Arenz, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, mentors aspiring female climbers.

Which is more important, what, how or why?

I was lucky to have a mentor when I started climbing. His name was Seiji (Say-Gee) and he was a co-worker when I was in college. Seiji took pity on me for not having a life. I worked, I went to school and I partied. Work, study, drink, repeat, is not a life.

Under Seiji’s wing, I learned how to top rope and lead climb my first day out on the rock.

Yes, you read that right.

I led a route the first time I climbed—Meet the Flinstones 5.9, Barton Creek Greenbelt, Austin, TX.

I was on the fast track and I didn’t know it.

Not knowing what I didn’t know, I’m lucky I survived. There were some close calls and poor decisions, but I lived and I learned and I was fortunate that I had Seiji’s mentorship along the way.

In the mid-90’s this type of mentorship, or informal instruction, was the norm. This is how people got into climbing. More experienced climbers took less experienced climbers out and showed them the ropes. In those days it was easier to find someone who knew more and was willing to teach. They did this so they’d have more climbing partners.

Times have changed. Today there are over 450 climbing gyms across the U.S. Each year, more people are being introduced to climbing and falling in love with it. Consequently, the general experience level in climbing has tipped towards less experienced and beginner. New climbers outnumber experienced climbers. And, in most cases, more “experienced” climbers are only slightly more experienced than total beginners.

So, how do you learn in the absence of experienced mentors?

  • Take a Chicks Clinic
  • Read books. Two of my favorites are Rock Climbing, Mastering Basic Skills and Climbing Anchors, both by Craig Luebben, published by Mountaineers Books.
  • Watch how-to-climb Youtube videos.

But reading books and watching videos will only teach you what and how; and, what and how are only part of the solution. You need to learn Why.

Knowing Why informs your decisions. Knowing Why allows you to be responsible for your own safety as well as the others in your climbing party.

Combine the WHAT and the HOW with WHY and you’ll be the most marketable climbing partner.

To learn the Why of climbing, you need time under a mentor’s watchful eye. That’s where Chicks comes in.

Focus On Your Strengths

Focus on your strengths when you are having a hard time. Kitty Calhoun crying into her blood-stained hands

Focus on your strengths when you are having a hard time. ©Krysiek Rychlik

“Focus on your strengths.” I write these words with a heavy heart.

There have been several deaths in our community this year due to avalanche fatalities – most recently with the passing of my friend’s son, Jess Roskelley, along with his climbing partners, David Lama and Hansjörg Auer.

The shock of this monumental loss weighs heavily on me. And, I find myself so tired of our tendency to judge and to pick each other apart.

It makes me wonder, can we change our paradigm to focus on our strengths instead of our weaknesses?

The following story is an example of what I mean:

It was around 5 am on an early June morning.

I was near the end of one of the last pitches of the Salathe on El Capitan. There was just enough pre-dawn light to see without a headlamp; my partner was belaying me from her sleeping bag.

Even if her eyes were open, she couldn’t see me, much less hear me. I was out of sight, near the end of the rope when the aid placements ran out. My only choice was to bust a series of free moves onto a run-out slab.

I started trembling. But, what could I do?  Falling would be a big whip. How?  Focus. Focus. Right!

“I have God and sticky rubber,” I said, suddenly knowing with conviction that they’d get me up.

Not only on El Cap, but on many other climbs and instances in my life, I’ve found it helpful to focus on my strengths when I am having a hard time.  It’s my strengths, not my weaknesses that get me through.

However, recently, I’ve noticed that when I am teaching climbing skills or trying to improve my own skills, I tend to focus on weaknesses. I am very critical.

I wonder why, when I’m learning or teaching, my go-to is to be critical?

We improve the quickest when we work on our greatest weakness!

But is that true?

Is it true that we improve the quickest by focusing on our weakness?

Sure, we need to be aware of short-comings, but I wonder what would happen if our go-to attitude was one of recognizing strengths, appreciation, and support rather than “constructive feedback.”

I used to read the AAC Accidents of North American Mountaineering, believing that I could learn to avoid mistakes.

The problem is that hindsight is 20/20 but foresight is blurry.

The problem is also that when it comes to loss and broken hearts we can’t explain accidents. There is more at play, something much bigger than we can understand intellectually.

At any rate, I feel like we should be quicker to encourage than to criticize. Those who helped me see my strengths over the years were the most impactful to my life and my climbing.

With gratitude.