Thank Grabber for Toe Warmers

Put Grabber Toe Warmers on top of your socks

Place Grabber Toe Warmers on top of your socks, arranged over your toes ©Chicks

Grabber Toe Warmers just got me (and my toes!) through a deep arctic front.

I was teaching an avalanche course for the American Avalanche Institute—a Pro 1 course for ski patrollers at A-Basin and Breckenridge.

A storm had recently left the region. This left room for an arctic air mass to descend onto Colorado, dropping the temps to -17˚F with a -46˚F wind-chill.

Being ski patrollers, we were outside all day, digging holes to assess the snowpack’s structure and stability.

I don’t have very good foot circulation to begin with. So, with -47˚F, I had a major problem.

How was I going to keep my toes from freezing while teaching the course?

Thank Grabber for Toe Warmers!

Seriously!

Grabber’s little packets of chemical heat are amazing.

Every morning, I took a pair of toe warmers out of theirpackage and set them gently on my dashboard while I was driving up to the ski area. Before I put my boots on, I peeled the paper backing off and stuck them over my ski socks. I placed them on top of my toes, right over my socks. Then I slipped my worried little feet into my ski boots.

The toe warmers generated enough heat to get me through the arctic days.

To say that my toes were warm would be an overstatement, but they did not freeze!

My toes and I made it through the coldest week of the year.

Pro tip:

I place the Toe Warmers on top of my toes so I don’t have a weird-layer under my toes.

Stick the adhesive back diagonally across the top of your toes. Line up the rounded edge with the front of your toes, and the back corner over the middle part of your foot. It works like a charm!

Training for Mountaineering | Back to Basics

Carolyn Parker Training for Mountaineering

Carolyn Parker getting Back to the Basics training for Mountaineering with a goblet squat

When training for mountaineering (backcountry skiing, climbing: gym climbing, rock climbing, ice climbing alpine climbing), the most important lesson I’ve learned over the years is to always go back to the basics 

Although I played many sports when I was young, it was not until I was 18 that I started to train in a structured way. It was in college that I got a coach and since then I’ve been paying attention, absorbing, learning, reading, focusing and refocusing.

A simple lesson that comes up over and over is to begin again.

Our brains want to be distracted; they believe that fancier work must be more beneficial. They also believe that if we’ve done something a few times, we must need something new.

You can practice climbing and skiing. You can learn technique and skills from a professional. However, if your physical foundation is not solid, your performance will suffer.

Going back to training basics will help everything—your backcountry skiing and your climbing—gym climbing, rock climbing, alpine climbing, ice climbing.

Following are the links to

The first 4 training tips for Chicks

Together and in succession these programs make up a foundational training progression. These training tips are good for anyone intent on improving their climbing or skiing.

  1. Basic Warm-Up Exercises | Training Tips for Backcountry Skiers and Climbers | Chicks

Why a solid warm up is so important when training for climbing and backcountry skiing?

  1. Stronger not Bigger | Training Tips For Mountaineers | Chicks

The positive effects of strength conditioning and how to get stronger without getting bigger.

  1. Core Movements (Part 1) | Exercises for Mountaineering | Chicks

The specific strength required for climbing that can be gained in the gym environment can enhance any athlete’s performance.

  1. Core Movements (Part 2) | Exercises for Mountaineering | Chicks

The number one cause of injury, aside from a direct trauma, is muscle imbalance and loss of ROM (range of motion).

 

Carolyn Parker
Founder, Instructor, Athlete, Mountain Guide
970-773-3317 work cell
Founder Ripple Effect Training

Doldrums 

Kitty Calhoun navigating the doldrums, skiing at Red Mountain Pass Colorado

Kitty Calhoun, Co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, can’t quit laughing. Chicks Intro to Backcountry Skiing and Spitboarding Hut Trip, Red Mountain Pass, Colorado. ©Kitty Calhoun Collection

For days, I was in the Doldrums

For no particular reason, I felt listless.

Everything was a chore. I had to force myself to stay on task and be productive.

Yoga and the climbing gym helped, a bit, but I had no motivation to work on the computer.

I wasn’t even excited to go skiing with Angela, but I figured I should.

As we drove up the winding road towards Red Mountain Pass, we craned our necks and mused in awe at the large avalanche crowns on either side of the valley.  We imagined the avalanches starting, collecting speed, growing, and then destroying everything in their path.

Naturally occurring slides are most likely within 24 hours of the last storm.

I’ve witnessed enough to know that within minutes there’s calm and stillness again. It’s as if nothing ever happened.

We donned our skis, checked our beacons, and started skinning up a track through the trees.

I became focused on my breathing. Rhythmic, cold, white breaths formed frost on my hair.

It was snowing, and wind built drifts and further caked the heavy tree branches.

I became mesmerized with the cadence of my breath, the crystal beauty. I lost track of time.

Eventually, we arrived at a bench in a cirque near tree line and prepared for our descent.

Skiing down, I felt weightless in the deep, untracked powder.

We swept over rolling hills and snaked our way through large, evergreen trees.

I heard Angela laughing as she disappeared over a mound.

I followed, yelling,  “Yee-Haaa!”

Today, I feel like I can tackle anything, uplifted by of the power of the outdoors, the majesty of the mountains, and the wonder of snow.

I agree with Florence Williams, author of “The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative.”

The best prescription for the doldrums yet—go outside!

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!