Two Scoops –  Favorite Spring Climbing Areas 

Elaina Arenz, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, applying just the right amount of pressure in the amazing and surreal, Joshua Tree, California. ©Greg Epperson

Elaina Arenz, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, applying just the right amount of pressure in the amazing and surreal, Joshua Tree, California. ©Greg Epperson

One of the questions I get asked the most is “What’s your favorite climbing area?”

Honestly, “Where’s your favorite place to climb” is akin to asking, “What’s your favorite ice cream?”

It depends.

When it comes to ice cream, I could be in a mint-chocolate-chip mood, a salted-caramel-gelato mood or a strawberry-cheesecake kind-of-mood.

When it comes to climbing, since right now I’m ready to thaw out after winter, I’m in a warm-sunshine kind-of-mood.

My favorite spring climbing areas are Joshua Tree and Indian Creek.

Both Joshua Tree and Indian creek are sunny desert places!

Joshua Tree has 6000 climbs in an amazing and surreal setting. No cell service, deep orange sunsets, stars, friction and traditional climbing.

Friction climbing means many of the handholds and footholds are invisible. But when you carefully apply just the right amount of pressure, you stick. Friction climbing can be humbling and amazing when you discover what you can hold onto.

Joshua Tree is also a favorite because of its traditional climbing history. You have to place gear and build anchors. Placing gear adds a gratifying technical element. Fixed protection, like bolts, are rare but there are many climbs in the easier grade ranges. New trad climbers can work out the physics as they practice placing gear and building anchors.

Indian Creek is my other favorite sunny-desert, spring climbing area. Indian Creek is also a trad climbing Mecca.

However, gear at Indian Creek is easier to sort out.

Indian Creek is the land of the exalted splitter crack that goes on for an eternity.

Often 8-10 of the same-size cam makes up an Indian Creek rack. Then, the (mostly) parallel-sided crack systems tend to have bolted anchors.

Bolted anchors free your attention to focus on the climbing technique itself.

Crack climbing technique requires jamming skills—stick a body part (usually fingers, hands or feet) into a crack in such a way as to gain purchase.

There is nothing like a bomber hand jam!

So pick your favorite flavor and if you can’t decide, go ahead and order up two scoops;)

Sterling PowerCord Cordelette – light, compact, strong

Sterling Powercord Cordelette set up for a two bold quad anchor.

Atticus approves! Sterling Powercord Cordelette set up for a two-bolt quad anchor. ©Elaina Arenz

Is a skinny 5.9mm cordelette strong enough?

You bet it is!

Since a cordelette is almost always on my harness, my cordelette of choice is the Sterling PowerCord, 5.9mm in the 18ft length—the lightest, most compact cordelette that I can get my hands on.

I use cordelettes primarily for rigging anchors (both single and multi-pitch). Learn more about Building Climbing Anchors and Quad Anchor in our blog. However, cordelettes are also useful for self-rescue.

Sterling PowerCord isn’t just a normal nylon-type of cordage that you can buy for pennies by the foot at most climbing shops.

PowerCord is special. It’s made of Technora, which is twice as strong as your standard nylon cord of the same diameter—this is why PowerCord can be 1-2mm skinnier than other cordelettes. In fact, the 5.9mm Powercord has a minimum breaking strength (MBS) of 4429 lbs or the equivalent of 19.7 Kn. That’s plenty strong for any anchor rigging I’ll be doing with it.

The secret to the PowerCord’s strength lies within its braided Aramid core fibers. Aramid is similar to Kevlar, the material that bulletproof vests are made from. It has 4 characteristics that make it a good cordelete material:

  1. High tensile strength
  2. Low elongation
  3. Low water absorption
  4. High melting point. A high melting point is especially important for use in a rescue scenario.

How do you get your hands on one of these?

You can find it here on the Sterling Rope website, or ask at your favorite local retailer.

 

Inspect Your Rock PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)

Angela Hawse, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, IFMGA mountain guide, climbing Inti Watana. Red Rocks, Nevada ©Garrick  Hart

Angela Hawse, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, IFMGA mountain guide, casting off on Inti Watana. Red Rocks, Nevada ©Garrick  Hart

 

The last thing you want to think about when you’re off the deck is the viability of your equipment.

The beginning of every season marks an important time to check your Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Just as we pump up our push-ups and finger board workouts, preparing for the rock season ahead, so too should we insure our equipment is in good nick.

Rock PPE or climbing protection protects us while climbing.

The life span of some climbing protection is easy to evaluate. With others it’s more challenging.

Climbing gear manufacturer, PETZL, breaks Rock PPE into three categories.

Rock PPE Inspection Guidelines

Category 1

  • Includes climbing protection like eyewear, gloves and rope tarps

Gear in category 1 is easy to inspect. It adds to our safety system, but it isn’t critical.

I include belay glasses here because they help reduce strain in my neck and back particularly when I’m sport climbing.

Category 2

  • Includes helmets

Retire Helmets after 10 years of minimal use and after 3-5 years of frequent use. Sign of UV fatigue, cracks, strap-wear or damage to the foam casing inside the shell means a helmet should be replaced.

Category 3

  • Fall protection

Fall protection is a critical category and gear in this category is the hardest to inspect.

Critical climbing gear includes harnesses, ropes, webbing, slings, PAS, carabiners, belay devices, nuts, cams, ascenders, etc.

Harnesses should be retired immediately if they show any wear, fraying or damage to the belay loops or waist belt. Retire a harness after 7 years; or, retire your harness every year if you’re a regular user.

Slings, cord and webbing should be retired after 10 years even if never used. Anything with excessive wear should be retired immediately. I retire my skinny cords like prusiks and cordelettes every year or two. Their smaller diameter means they wear faster. And, I use them a lot!

For ropes, read my previous article, Rules For Rope Care and Longevity.

Hardware like carabiners, nuts and cams are easier to inspect.

Look for grooves and any signs of hairline cracks.

Look especially closely for hairline cracks at the gate/pin area of your carabiners.

You can replace frayed cam wires yourself.

Frayed nut wires, however, means you need new nuts!

An unattended wire may not be a safety issue initially. But frayed wires will dig into your soft gear, clothing and skin, creating all kinds of problems.

 

Finally, know your equipment’s history and if in doubt, retire it.

Women’s-Specific Alpine Touring Boots | Scarpa Gea

Galibier Mountain Boots and Scarpa Gea Alpine Touring Boots

We’ve come a long way, baby!  Real female empowerment from leather climbing boots through to Scarpa Gea alpine touring boots©Scarpa and Galibier

We’ve come a long way, baby!

I can’t help myself.

I keep thinking of the Virginia Slims cigarette campaign, “You’ve come a long way, baby.”

If it’s not wrong enough that something we now know to be very unhealthy (cigarettes) were used as a symbol of female empowerment, it’s even more wrong because when I think “You’ve come a long way baby!” I think about boots!  In this case, I’m thinking about my ski boots.

My first backcountry ski boots were my much-loved Galibier mountain boots.

These boots were state of the art for climbing and I was very proud of them. All leather with a stiff shank, they were not meant for skiing but I made them work. I attached them with cable bindings to my metal-edged cross-country skis. This was far from a perfect skiing set-up. It was especially bad for skiing downhill through breakable crust with a heavy pack. However, back then I was on skis just to make it to the base of winter alpine climbs. So, as long as it was after the climb, it didn’t matter that each time I fell, I became like an overturned turtle—anchored to the bottomless snow with my backpack.

Eventually, backcountry ski gear improved and I bought a pair of boots and skis just for alpine touring. Then I discovered that alpine touring boots are just as warm as climbing boots, nearly as light and you can fit crampons on them. The tables turned. Whereas before I used climbing boots for skiing, I found I could use ski boots for climbing. One time, while guiding Denali, the lip of my climbing boots wore out and my crampons would not to stay on so I summited in my alpine touring boots instead.

For the next twenty years or so, I skied a in my Scarpa Magic alpine touring boots.

I loved their comfort, warmth, and lightness. I thought I would never need another ski boot. I was sure I wouldn’t find a better one. Eventually though, the little holes that hold the bindings on wore out. I was devastated. I grieved the retirement and loss of my Magics. We had so many bluebird days together, I remembered them dipping in and out of the powder on every turn, a bright grin on my face.

To my extreme relief, Scarpa continues to develop top of the line alpine touring boots and I was able to replace my Magic boots with the also women’s-specific Gea.

An all-round performer, the Gea is Scarpa’s best selling women’s ski boot. It is warm and light and fits like a glove. I have no doubt the Gea are as durable as my Magic boots were. and I look forward to adventures shared with my Gea’s for the next twenty years.

It’s All In the Glutes | Training Tip for Mountaineers

It’s All In the Glutes

This training tip takes us back to basic glute function. All mountaineering-related activities, whether climbing or skiing, require strong and active glute muscles.

Why do so many of my athletes have issues with glute activation or function?

In today’s culture, most of us spend too much time sitting. From the time we are young we sit in desks, cars, and couches.

Even if we move regularly, the act of sitting and slouching turns muscles off. This is especially true for the Gluteus Maximus because you sit on it directly. As the point of contact between the chair and your body, your glute max is pressed upon and stretched, which causes it to lose its normal tension—it turns off.

If we don’t check in and turn our glutes back on, they aren’t going to work properly. This is a problem because our glues are core instigators of power.

The following training tips are designed to get you thinking and focusing on glute function. This awareness will help you properly activate your glutes while training which in turn will help you gain strength.

Once you have the hang of it, pay attention when skiing and climbing. Use your glutes as the primary movers and stabilizers along with your hamstrings and core and suddenly your quads won’t be on fire and your knees won’t hurt as much.

Beginning to strengthen and gain awareness in the gym is a stepping-stone to applying a fully-functional body to any mountaineering-related activity—where the body is challenged even more by the application of skiing or climbing in the variable environment.

Here’s a little something more on this subject (and other alignment issues):http://rippleffectraining.com/2017/03/06/aligning-the-modern-athlete/

Activate Your Glutes

  1. While standing, squeeze your glutes. This is easy for most.
  2. In a plank, try squeezing your glutes. This can be harder for some, but is a basic piece of a solid plank.
  3. Sitting on a bench or chair, with your feet flat on the ground and slight pressure on the heel of the foot, sit upright with good posture and squeeze your glutes. Your body should actually raise up an inch or two from the mass of the flexed glute and hamstring.
  4. While seated as above, squeeze your right glute and release, then squeeze your left glute and release. Doing this drill gives you proprioceptive feedback—feeling the contraction to make sure its happening. It’s easiest to do when seated so you don’t have to worry about balance and other muscles, for now.
  5. Next, try to stand from the bench with no additional weight, focusing on using your glutes to create the upward movement. See: Glute Stand Exercise | Training Tips for Mountaineers | Chicks
  6. Don’t allow your knees to angle in. See: Glute Stand with Poor Form | Training Tips for Mountaineers | Chicks. If your knees angle in you may have glute med/min weakness. Try doing the standing movement with a band around your legs to correct and strengthen. See: Glute Stand with Band | Training Tips for Mountaineers | Chicks.

Other Movements to Activate Your Glutes

  1. Step Up – try this focusing on using the glute with just a single leg working, pressure on the heel of the foot on the box, good posture, stand using the glute. Once again don’t let that knee angle inward. See: Step Up Exercise (good form, poor form, good form) | Training Tips for Mountaineers | Chicks.
  2. Lunge – front leg glute is lifting the body, pressure on the heel, back leg glute is squeezing, isometric contraction for balance, watch knee alignment as mentioned above.
  3. Spilt Squat – same, front leg glute is lifting the body, pressure on the heel, back leg glute is squeezing, isometric contraction for balance, watch knee alignment as mentioned above.
  4. Squat with Weight – lift by activating your glutes versus pulling up with your quads.

Take this focus and awareness into all your movements, even walking ( :

Enjoy the practice!

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

carolyn@rippleffectraining.com

970-773-3317

Carolyn Parker

Founder Ripple Effect Training

Gym Jones, Fully Certified Instructor

AMGA Certified Rock Guide

 

 

How to Choose the Right Ice Climbing Tool

The Grivel factory solar-panel-clad roof in the Italian Alps. Using the sun to power climbing.©Grivel

The Grivel factory solar-panel-clad roof in the Alps. Using the sun to power climbing.©Grivel

I’ve had my hands on a lot of ice axes since climbing on Terrordactylsin the ‘80s.

For me, choosing the right ice tool is hard to describe because it’s about feelings. It is about the emotion of the body, heart and mind.

Body

With the right tools, I feel joyful. I feel invincible. I feel ready and motivated for action. I feel strong and focused and fearless.

The right tools have a balance and swing weight that makes intuitive sense. It is as if the tools become natural extensions of my arms.

Looking for this feeling, in fact coming to expect it when I climb, I always find myself going back to Grivel tools. I swear I could put a blindfold on (with many different tools to chose from) and, guarantee, I’d pick Grivel.

Heart

Deeply seated in my psyche is an undeniable connection that draws me loyally to Grivel.

One of my most influential mentors, George Gardner, climbed on Grivel tools. I’ll always remember the way he so deliberately gripped the narrow shafts of his Mont Blanc’s with his frozen Dachstein mittens. My relationship to this most present and encouraging mentor instilled in me a connection to Grivel tools that is more than an extension of my arms, it is an extension of my heart.

The truth is, the real essence of climbing is about our partners and relationships. George has passed now but when I climb with my Grivel tools, I am reminded of him. I feel as if his inspiring presence whispers through the mountains and I climb with focus and strength to meet the standard that he set for me.

Mind

As I’ve personally become more aware of and committed to reducing my carbon footprint, I love that Grivel makes all of their products in the Alps of Italy. And at the foot of Mount Blanc, Grivel harnesses the power of the sun with solar panels the size of a football field. Every day Grivel saves 1000 barrels of oil and eliminates 1500 lbs of CO2 gases from entering the atmosphere because of their investment in renewable energy and environmental sustainability.

Grivel’s committed action to the environment and addressing climate changematters to me. When I’m climbing with my Grivel tools, I think about this and I know I’m on a team turning our passion into purpose.

In summary, I want to encourage you. When choosing the right ice tools for you, let yourself be swayed by emotion, feeling and intuition.

If the tool feels right, it is.

 

 

Safe Belay Technique for Top Rope Ice Climbing

The Schoolroom, Ouray Ice Park, Colorado. Belaying top rope climbers from the other side of the river--Out of the way of the impact zone. ©Karen Bockel

The Schoolroom, Ouray Ice Park, Colorado. Belaying top rope climbers from the other side of the river–Out of the way of the impact zone. ©Karen Bockel

Chicks’ home venue is the Ouray Ice Park—the best place to learn ice climbing from beginners to experts alike, hands down.

The Uncompahgre Gorge narrows down to the tight Box Canyon, which transforms into a beautiful Mecca of icy walls begging to be climbed.

In the Ice Park, one of the first things we teach is how to belay safely for top rope ice climbing.

Ice climbers swing and kick at the ice to get purchase.

Consequently, we need to consider the high likelihood that chunks of ice will break off and fall down right below the climber. This area (anywhere the ice chunks might fall) is called the impact zone—and it’s a place to be avoided!

In order to avoid the impact zone it’s best to belay from a short distance away—in the clear from falling ice.

However, belaying a horizontal distance away from the base of the climb creates another problem. When your climber loads the rope (either because they fall or they are lowering), you will feel a strong pull towards the base of the climb. This horizontal pull is a big deal!

Here is the physics of this big deal:

The pull you feel is directed right along the rope. The pull is upward towards the anchor at an angle. This angle, or force vector, has both an upward pull and a horizontal pull.

The upward pull is easy to resist. Simply resist it with your body weight by sitting back into your harness.

The horizontal pull, however, is much harder to resist. It can drag you along the ground and slam you into the wall. You could lose control of the rope and possibly drop your climber.

The solution to this big deal is a back anchor.

Clipping into a back anchor will hold you against any horizontal pull towards the wall. You can use trees or established bolts for back anchors. In the Ice Park there are often fixed ropes that extend the back anchors, elsewhere we bring our own ropes.

Setting up a Back Anchor

If you are using a tree, make sure the tree is strong and big. Tie a chunk of rope around the base. Then tie a bight knot into the rope.

If you are using a bolt, clip a bight of rope (or other anchor material) to the bolt. Then tie a bight knot into the other end of the rope.

Using a locking carabiner, clip the bight you created on either your tree anchor or bolt anchor to your belay loop. Clip it underneath and out of the way of your belay set up/device.

Make sure your back-anchor extends just far enough to let you stand comfortably with the rope snug. This allows for no surprises if the climbing rope suddenly gets loaded by your climber.

Back anchors are extremely important when you’re in an area like the Ouray Ice Park’s Schoolroom. There are often many climbers on side-by-side top ropes. Lots of ice chunks go flying through the air. Belayers need to be a large horizontal distance away from the ice in order to belay safely. This puts them on the far side of the river. Getting pulled into the river is a sure way to end your climbing day, cold, wet and possibly much worse.

Use a back anchor!

Anniversaries Call for Reflection

photo of a pair of Original Terrordactyls.©Ashby Robertson c/o VerticalArchaeology.com

The Original Terrordactyls. “With those little clubs in my hands, I felt like a warrior”–Angela Hawse, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, IFMGA Mountain Guide. ©Ashby Robertson c/o VerticalArchaeology.com

This month Chicks is celebrating its 20th and I find myself reminiscing.

I started ice climbing in Ouray’s box canyon, at the north end of the Uncompahgre River Gorge.

It was 1985—a decade before the Ouray Ice Park came to be. At that time there were only a few climbs in the box canyon. These natural ice climbs were steep and intimidating.

I remember it was very cold and the ice was hard.

But 25 years ago, I felt invincible! Despite wool mittens and half-inch webbing that leashed my tools to my wrists and cut off my circulation, I still managed to fight my way to the top using ice axes just like those pictured above.

Two winters later I traveled with my boyfriend to the Highlands of Scotland. There I cut my multi-pitch-climbing teeth up a long gully on Buachaille Etive Mor in Glen Coe. I still vividly remember the aesthetic of that long strip of ice. It filled a deep cleft to the summit of this epic, pyramid-shaped mountain.

Climbing The Buachaille gave me things I had never experienced before: the surreal way the ice glistened, the quiet of winter and the singular reward of focused effort. I endured cold for hours. I suffered multiple bouts of screaming barfies. I banged my knuckles with every whack. But I walked off the summit knowing. Climbing made my heart sing.

When Kim Reynolds started Chicks in 1999, she invited me to guide. It was at Chicks that I found my tribe—strong, motivated and fun women. Together we were a force. I still climbed with my boyfriend but I’d discovered the magic that happens when climbing with other women. I became a Chicks lifer.

I continue to cherish the friendships and partnerships from all the years of Chicks; and, I can’t wait to party with my tribe here in Ouray where it all began for me 25 years ago.

I’d love to see you all here to help us celebrate women, climbing and Chicks.

For details on our big public party go to Chicks 20th Anniversary Celebration.

For the Chicks Alumni Happy Hour at Kitty’s House in Ouray, January 24, 2019 5-6pm. RSVP kittycalhoun007@gmail.com.

Still Kicking Axe,

Angela

Black Diamond Fuel vs Cobra Ice Climbing Tools

Black Diamond Fuel Ice Tool

Black Diamond Fuel Ice Tool

I love my Black Diamond Fuel Ice Tools.

This reflects a change of heart.

Recently, I dumped my Cobra tools and took up with a pair of Fuels.

For years the Cobra and I were in a solid and trusting relationship. They were my favorite ice climbing and technical alpine climbing tools.

I loved the Cobra for its intuitive swing—similar to a tennis serve or throwing a ball. With the Cobra much power and momentum comes with little effort. I also appreciated the Cobra for its exaggerated arc and clearance when climbing over bulges.

However, one day while climbing with my Cobras, I got extremely pumped on a strenuous lead. I lost all the strength to raise my elbow and drop my tool back. I could not execute a “proper” swing.  Instead, I found myself moving with an abbreviated and more downward motion. After this, I started looking for another tool.

What I found is that the proper swing of a Fuel is more abbreviated and downward.

The Fuel’s swing fits perfectly with the only kind of swing I have left when I’m totally gassed.

Since then, the Fuels and I have been tight.

But there is another reason why the Fuel has become my favorite ice climbing tool.

When I climbed with my Cobras, I was afraid to use the upper grip. I found the Cobra easily popped out of the ice if I exerted the least bit of outward pull.

Since, I was scared that my tools would pop, I climbed with an outdated technique. I glued my hands to my ice tools. Meanwhile, the newer, or more evolved ice climbing technique is to freely move ones hands, both between tools and up and down the shaft, as the terrain and climbing moves dictate.

The shape of the Fuel’s upper grip and shaft, on the other hand, are more forgiving of an accidental outward pull.

This means the Fuel has the potential to transform my ice climbing. Using the upper grip on an ice tool is extremely useful for maximizing reach. Also, the upper grip is useful for getting into an extended repertoire of body positions.

Thank You, Black Diamond Fuel, for giving me the confidence to continue to learn and grow my climbing.

Get More Specific Strength for Ice Climbing

Training for Ice Climbing? Time to dial it up!

Icing on the Climbing Cake–more specific strength for ice climbing.

Ice climbing is a different beast. Solid general fitness and specific strength is key to success.

If you’ve been following the Chicks Training tips recently you know about the last two ice-climbing-specific workouts.

Swing! Training for Ice Climbing helps build ice climbing fitness from a solid fitness base.

10 Steps to Muscular Endurance for Ice Climbing gives you some tips for using a climbing gym to build ice climbing fitness. Indoor climbing can help with grip strength and stamina. Climbing indoors with a pack will increase your pump and add core strength and muscular endurance.

Now it’s time to dial in a couple more pieces as well as take things up a notch.

This workout is for those

  1. Who have been training
  2. Have some ice climbing under their belt, and/or
  3. Are preparing for an upcoming Chicks clinic or ice climbing trip.

Train your Arms, Grip and Calves for Ice Climbing.

5:00 min warm up  (jump rope, ski erg, treadmill, cycling)

2 × 8 shoulder openers

2 x 5 cuban press

2 x 5 push ups

2 x 10 (5 x per side) turkish get up with light weight

Then:

Pull ups

The technique you use for this workout will depend on where you are with your pull up strength.

The following three videos show pull-up variations. The final one shows the lock off training sequence.

Do Pull ups on dowels or your ice tools placed over a pull up bar.

Use assistance if necessary. Use a band, small jump, toe on a chair, or a friend holding your feet to help take some weight.

Lock off at the top of the pull up for 1- 3 secs depending on your strength. Lower to 3 more positions from the top. Lock off for up to three secs at each position.

These lock offs should be controlled.

Try not to drop into the shoulder joint at full extension.

Do 3 – 5 reps in a row, depending on your strength.

Rest 5 minutes between sets and repeat 3 – 5 times. Again, reps, rounds and technique variation will depend on fitness.

Weighted Calf Raises

While resting, load up a pack, wear a weight vest or hold something heavy (15 – 30#). Do weighted calf raises, ideally, in your ice climbing or mountain boots. Calf raises can easily be done on a step.

Do 10 calf raises every minute on the minute for 3 minutes. In other words, start the clock or timer for 1 minute. Do 10 reps and rest for the remainder of the minute. When the second minute starts, do 10 reps again and then rest for the remainder of the second minute. Do the same for the third round. Three rounds/minutes will use 3 minutes of your 5-minute rest. Fully rest the remaining 2 minutes.

Then:

Go back to the pull-up-lock-off drill.

Repeat both exercises 3-5 times.

This calf workout in between lock off practice is a great combo for ice climbing.

Bonus

We all know core work is critical.

Here’s a little “Ab-pocalypse” for the end of the session:

30 sec sit up

30 sec V-seat hold

60 sec mtn climber

30 sec flutter kick

60 sec plank one foot off the floor for 30 sec then switch elevated foot.

30 sec KTE – knees to elbows

60 sec rest

3 – 5 rounds

 

Enjoy!

And Happy New Year!!

Carolyn

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

carolyn@rippleffectraining.com

970-773-3317

Carolyn Parker

Founder Ripple Effect Training

Gym Jones, Fully Certified Instructor

AMGA Certified Rock Guide