Hangry?

Kitty's favourite GU flavours

Kitty’s favourite GU flavours

My most difficult ski tours have been approaches to winter alpine objectives—breaking trail for miles through deep snow toward majestic peaks that beckon with the satisfaction of a challenging route.

When I was younger, I commonly packed nothing but peanut butter sandwiches and chocolate chip cookies for these long days out in the mountains. As a result, my energy levels spiked and crashed according to my Chips Ahoy intake, each cookie giving me decreasing returns.

Over the years, I learned that in terms of success and safety, proper nutrition in the backcountry is just as important as proper gear.

I’ve lived the truth in renowned climbing trainer and author, Erik Horst’s statement that “Most climbers can realize a 10-20% improvement in performance, recovery, concentration, and energy through thoughtful diet.”

Most significantly, I know that when I’m tired and low on energy I’m more likely to make judgment errors, which I can’t afford, especially if I’m navigating in avalanche terrain. My brain needs calories to process the information it’s taking in.

I need to stay focused and calm. I can’t be hangry.

This is why I take planned fuel breaks.

One of the ways I plan my breaks is with nature’s cues. For example, when the sun sets and the temperature drops, I stop, pull on another layer, rip open a GU and start to sip some hydration mix.

I’ve been using GU instead of chocolate chip cookies for about 20 years now. Actually, truth alert, I still eat chocolate chip cookies but not nearly as many. And, I supplement the cookies with timely gel intake and hydration mix. This makes all the difference. My energy levels stay even. I stay focused. And, I feel way better the next day, ready to do it all again.
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Are You Avalanche Aware?

Avalanche ClassHappy 2018 everybody! I’m so excited. It’s snowing.

As I watch the flakes come down, I feel a wave of joy. I want to run and shout, build a snowman, throw a covert snowball, and GO SKIING!

When I was a kid I dreamed of being a downhill ski racer, flying down mountain slopes. I was fearless and strong. Gravity was my best friend.

I chased my ski-racing dreams from North Carolina to the University of Vermont, home of many ski Olympians. But after a few years of over-crowded ski areas, I escaped to the backcountry where I found ice and alpine climbing. That’s when I discovered the pure joys of winter, where I feel the most at home in this world. I finished university six months early (so I could get on to what was really important!), moved into “Camp Subaru” and headed West.

A few weeks later I found myself with my newfound mentor, Lyle Dean.

Lyle and I were on skis approaching Liberty Ridge on Mt. Rainer when a thick fog rolled in and Lyle said, “We need to stop.”

I said, “Why?” We weren’t near our intended camp.

“It’s dangerous to travel in a whiteout.”

Suddenly, there was a loud BOOM—and I was falling.

Everything went white and silent.

I remembered from the avalanche class I’d taken from Rob Newcomb, that I should

SWIM. And, once the snow started to settle I should
MAKE A SPACE FOR YOUR FACE, and
RAISE YOUR OTHER ARM so it might stick out of the snow.

I kicked my skis off, let go of my poles, and swam hard.

Finally, everything stopped. Both Lyle and I ended up OK and on top of the cement-hard snow.

It turns out that we’d been standing on a cornice. The cornice gave way under our weight, and the force of us hitting the slope below started an avalanche.

They say that failure offers an enormous opportunity for learning and that good judgment comes from surviving mistakes. While that may be true (as long as you get back in one piece!), I’ve learned many things from mentors, partners and the courses and classes I’ve taken over the years.

So, I want you to do two things:

1) Click the link (Know Before You Go), watch the video, and share with all your backcountry partners
2) Take an avalanche course

Take a Chicks Avalanche course!

Chicks and the Silverton Avalanche School have partnered to create all-women’s avalanche courses taught by the most bad-ass, knowledgeable and expert women in the industry.

In December, despite no snow, the partnership launched with three super successful one-day Avalanche Rescue Courses. Check out Angela’s trip report to find out how in the heck you practice Avalanche Rescue with NO SNOW?

Also, Chicks is offering Avalanche Rescue and Safety for Ice Climbers and an AIARE Recreational Level 1 course.  If you want to spend a day learning backcountry ski skills or making the transition from downhill to backcountry, join us on our Intro to Backcountry Skills course; If you want to combine turns with avalanche education while staying in a ski hut (so much fun!), we would love to have you on our Intro to Backcountry Skiing and Riding Hut Clinic; And, if you’ve got the experience and mojo for black runs in the backcountry, join us in La Grave, France for Intro to Ski Mountaineering with 7,000′ couloirs and epic fondue!

Lastly, don’t miss the opportunity to sign up for the Subaru Chicks Jiffy Ice Climbing Scholarship, Feb 2-4, 2018.  Check the guidelines for deadline http://www.subaruadventureteam.com/home/womens-ice-climbing-clinic-contest

Hope to see you soon—and look out for snowballs!

Kitty Calhoun

Inspiring Women Meet the first person to ski the seven summits

Kit DeslauriersKit Deslauriers is the first person to ski the seven summits, a The North Face athlete, and amazing ski mountaineer. I caught up with her the other day and here is what she had to say.
1) Tell us a bit about yourself: Where you’ve been, what you’ve done, what life is like now, what’s important to you?
I’m a skier, and really a mountain lover of all sorts, with a deep love for backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. I’ve been a member of The North Face athlete team since 2005 (?!) and lived in Teton Village, WY since 2000.  In 2006 I skied off the top of Mt. Everest which was the last mountain in my project to be the first person to ski the Seven Summits but I’ve also skied from some much more obscure peaks, like Mt. Aspiring in New Zealand and Mt. Belukha in Siberia which was where I met my husband, Rob.  Now we [sic] are raising our two daughters to have a profound (we hope!) appreciation for the natural world while also letting them be their own unique selves.  It’s important to me that kids these days have a sense of feeling comfortable and welcome in the outdoor world, this should always feel like their home.
2) It’s November, and there is already a couple feet of snow on the ground in the Tetons.  After so many winters and summers of skiing, do you still get excited for skiing when the snow starts to fly?
I LOVE TO SKI!  Although I will say that my approach to early season skiing was tempered many years ago by snapping a ski pole on a buried tree in the steep woods above my former home in Ophir, CO which made me realize that it just as easily could have been my tib/fib at no fault of my own.  So in the early month or so of late autumn skiing, I tend to focus on ski fitness, elk hunting, and even a family trip to the beach where I keep up on my beginning intermediate surf skills. Then I hit the skiing with passion around the 1st of December and I’m reminded how much I love skiing more than anything else!  I keep this feeling straight through mid-June as I love climbing and skiing the high peaks in spring conditions as much as I love powder skiing.
3) How do you prepare for the ski season? Do you use a gear checklist for your first outings?
A physical checklist for my first ski outings of the season would be a good idea, but these days I just have it in my head. My habit of packing the night before does help though. I never go out without a first aid kit and part of my every other year preparation is to recertify my Wilderness First Responder in October or November so I did that about a month ago.  It’s my strong belief that we should all be able to step up in the case of an emergency.  I also practice with my beacon and even if I didn’t ski during the first storms of the season, I was diligently studying the snowpack and making observations that I’ll be able to recall throughout the year.
4) What are your strategies for skiing early season?
My strategies for early season skiing revolve around safety and conservative decision making. It honestly takes me a bit to get re-familiarized with my comfort level in the risk assessment process of backcountry skiing so I will head out for low hanging fruit first to get my systems back in place. Also, I don’t hold back on training just because it’s ski season.  Since I’m cautious early on, I’m usually not throwing myself into long days so I need to keep upping my fitness level until I get into that full on winter mode when it largely takes care of itself.  Core fitness is my personal love lately, as I’ve been learning to go uphill from my glutes and abs which takes fatigue off from quads and hip flexors.  Some of these tricks we have to figure out as we get older!
5) How do you stay sharp and make good decisions in avalanche terrain?
I literally make notes to myself in my calendar to study my snow science since otherwise I wouldn’t do it. One of the things I love most about making decisions in avalanche terrain is how it puts me in touch with honest, open communication and reminds me of my humility. I get scared of wind, for instance, as I’ve had a bad experience with how it can quickly form a slab avalanche so I pay careful attention to the recent direction of wind, amount of wind, and am comfortable backing away from that hazard when I see it. Last spring I was up and out the door at 3 am many mornings, but we didn’t have great freezing temps overnight in the Tetons so the snowpack didn’t have the stability I wanted and I often just went back to bed. It’s important to know your comfort level and then have metrics to gauge it against.  Of course, it’s also important not to give in to the ‘monkey mind’ if it’s not a realistic concern. That translates to going for big objectives whenever they line up!
 
6) What advise do you have for women skiers and riders new to the backcountry?
Get training and experience and then be compassionate with yourself as it’s a process.  If you really love it like I do, then the backcountry is a lifelong friend and you should treat it as such.  Sometimes you and that friend will go on a really long expedition together, but more often than not it’s a quick lunch date or coffee break and those moments nurture your relationship, too.  We all have the ability to become really good at the things we love.

Opening Up

Funny how the Thanksgiving season is followed by Christmas. During Thanksgiving we are to take notice of all that we are to be thankful for and one of the greatest gifts we have is each other.  So on Christmas, we demonstrate that appreciation and love with gifts.  This is a reaffirming occasion since much of the time we can become focused on protecting ourselves.  In our busy lives we tend to concentrate on what we need to do to make sure we get done what we need to do by a certain time.  Others either help us or they hinder us. The ego gets fed and the journey is forgotten.  At least that’s what happens to me, as I wrote in my blog for Subaru, “Dropping the Ego

Arno Ilgner, in his book, The Warriors Way, discusses how ego gets in the way of the climbing experience.  “For most of us, when it comes to meeting challenges, our own worst enemy is ourselves.  Our self-image and our self-worth are far too wrapped up in achievements.  Ego controls much of our behavior.  We constantly act out of fear and avoidance, rather than out of the love of challenge or of climbing itself.  Our mental habits raise unnecessary barriers and often, unconsciously, drain the vitality from our performances.”

At Chicks, we recognize the importance of awareness in climbing and skiing and believe that our women’s environment is a place that is supportive, yet asks each participant to push their comfort zones rather than protect the ego.  I think one of the greatest gifts that climbing continuously gives me is the humbling experience that it often is – and at the same time I gain confidence.  Sharing this with my belayer or teammate, where I have to open up and let down my guard, or ego, is an experience that I rarely get in my every day life.

Shuttle to Ouray with Western Slope Rides

Thinking of ice climbing with us in the Ice Park this winter but concerned about driving on snowy roads? Don’t stress, Western Slope Rides is the answer. They’ll pick you up from the Montrose airport and deliver you to your accommodations in Ouray and just about anywhere in between.
Ouray is a small town with no traffic lights. The main street is considered a highway, but the traffic is minimal. Most days you can cross the main street diagonally with no worry.  There are a few other roads in town which are paved; the rest are hard packed dirt roads. If you are coming from the city, you will welcome the change of pace.
When flying into Montrose airport, there is no need to rent a car to get to Ouray. Andy and his crew at Western Slope Rides (WSR) will pick you up from the airport and drop you off at your destination. The Shuttle service staff are always friendly and reliable. They serve as a perfect welcome wagon for our community.
If you plan and utilise the online shopping option at The South Townsend City Market, WSR will stop for you to pick up your grocery order. *This only applies to online orders. This courtesy does not allow you to get out and shop.
WSR has even shuttled Chicks to the County Road 361 trailhead. The driver took away a significant stress of the day by dropping me off at the trailhead. Parking was never an issue for our group. The driver picked us up in a warm vehichle and delivered us right to our doorstep.
I have personally used WSR for an airport shuttle. Andy shuttled a group of us into a remote trailhead, eliminating the need for a car shuttle. I don’t know how we ever got by without the shuttle service before.

Quick Weight Loss Program

The New Year typically comes with resolutions to hit the gym and start a diet. Resolutions are empty plans including goals of losing weight. I am here today to help. I am going to give you tips to shed ounces and maybe even pounds. My approach will help you shed weight quickly and easily. This weight loss will require no diet, no exercise, and no change in your lifestyle choices. What is the secret?

Follow these two easy steps
1. Look at your climbing harness. See all of the stuff you have hanging on there?
2. Remove all those items from the gear loops so that you are left with a naked harness.

This includes all carabiners, additional belay devices, knives, cord bundles, tape rolls, chalk bags, nut tools, belay cards, slings and personal anchor systems.

It’s that simple! I bet you will instantly feel lighter and freer to move around. I know for some people this blank harness can be terrifying. Illusions of safety are just that. I advise you to remember that extra items can clog the harness and make it messy when we are in the business. I ask if the emergency kit of knives and prussics are genuinely needed in the gym?

It is up to you to stay slim and trim. Start each climbing day with a naked harness. Then, build your tool belt with only what is needed for the climb. After climbing, strip the harness and store gear on a sling. The clean harness will help pack as a smaller bundle in our backpacks. Chalk bags should also be worn on a belt.
Here is Dawn before the weight loss program, and after. She looks much lighter and happier on the climb.
climbers weight loss
Good luck everyone.

5 Tips for Better Footwork on Ice

After a day of climbing, are your toes black and blue? Are your knees throbbing in pain? Most ice climbers find this to be true. Often, a few simple tweaks can alleviate the pain.

 

1. Be sure you have the right crampon for the job.
Choose a crampon designed for vertical ice climbing. A strap-on crampon designed for snow/glacier travel will work for water ice climbing. However, the front and secondary points typically will not be appropriately positioned and will eliminate the ability to stand on vertical ice. Having the right tool for the job will make everything easier.

 

2. Look at your feet.
If you look at your feet when placing them on the rock or ice, precision will follow. If you look at your feet each time you move them, you will be less likely to bash your knee or kick your leg.

 

 Ice climbing footwork
3. Hinge from the knee.
There is no need to get a full body wind up. Hinging at the knee will give you the natural momentum needed to sink the crampon. The ergonomic action will make placing the crampon easier.

 

ice climbing footwork
4. Flex your toes toward your shin before kicking the crampon into the ice.
Like kicking a soccer ball. The flex of your muscles will position your foot and your front points to hit the ice. If you find your toes are sore after climbing, be sure to overemphasize this motion so that your crampon lands squarely in the ice.

 

5. Trust your feet.
If you are not satisfied with the placement, kick your foot again. Take your time to be sure your feet are stable.  Footwork will be the key to success on any climb.
Ice climbing footwork

Advanced Workout for Ski Training

Winter is officially here December 21st!  The pacific northwest and the Alps have been hogging all the snow and honestly, I’m a little jealous here in Colorado where it’s dry and sunny…although that hasn’t hurt my extended rock climbing season. But enough of that – the snow will fly, it always does, and when it does, the stoke will be high for making turns, powder shots, and back-country fun.  So let’s talk more ski training.

Chicks is running fabulous must do programs for all beginner to advanced backcountry skiers. Avalanche safety and rescue, AIARE avalanche courses, backcountry skills and travel, plus rad ski trip to La Grave France.

Now let’s get you ready from your next ski adventure!

Last year, I touched on some basics of ski training for the “first time” training in the gym for ski season athlete, a few months ago I discussed an eight week “uphill” program to get your legs ready for your first backcountry days, plus more strength programs.

So, what more can we do? Let’s turn up the volume just a bit for those serious go getters! Remember, just like the last training tip where I touched on more advanced training for ice climbers, this ski training work must be laid on a solid foundation. Hopefully you’ve been able to follow the programs from previous training tips. Now on to the good stuff.

Try adding a few more threshold workout to increase your cardio vascular output as well as some slightly tougher leg workouts, and there’s always core and upper body thrown in ladies. All mountain sports use the entire body.

Threshold:

IWT – Interval Weight Training
Power endurance

 

Advanced Ski Training WO #1

10 MINUTE WARM UP

2 × 8 shoulder openers
2 x 5 cuban press
work on mobility
3×5 wall squats
2 x 5 goblet squat
3 x 5 squat jumps

WORKOUT

10x KB Swing
2:00 minute row/ski or Airdyne. Go hard – set a goal from pace maintain pace for all three rounds.
2:00 minute rest – you should have gone hard enough that you want this entire rest.
Three Rounds
Rest

THEN

10x Front Squat or Front Rack Squat (with two Kbs which ever is most appropriate for athlete and level of upper body mobility)
2:00 minute row/ski or Airdyne + go hard – set a goal from pace maintain pace for all three rounds.
2:00 minute rest
Three rounds

THEN

30 sec ring support + 30 sec OH Hold (plate, double Kbs or Barbell)+ 30 sec mtn climber + 30 sec rest
x Four rounds
Cool Down

 

Advanced Ski Training WO #2
Power Endurance

10 MINUTE WARM UP

2 × 8 shoulder openers
2 x 5 cuban press
work on mobility
3×5 wall squats

WORKOUT

5x RMM (Renegade Man-Maker) +
2:00 min row/ski or airdyne go hard – keep track of pace, maintain pace for all three rounds
2:00 rest between rounds

3 rounds

THEN

10x Back Squat +
2:00 min row/ski or airdyne go hard – keep track of pace, maintain pace for all three rounds
2:00 rest

THEN

5x Push up + 10sec rest x 10 rounds
Cool Down

 

Advanced Ski Training WO#3
More advanced Power work:

10 MINUTE WARM UP

2×8 shoulder openers
2 x 5 cuban press
work on mobility
3×5 wall squats
3 x 6 goblet squats

WORKOUT

Box Jump Series
Jump on a 20/24” box, off forward, on a 20/24” box, off forward, over an 12 – 16” box or another object then on to a Bosu, and off to one side back on the Bosu off to the other side, back on. Step off Bosu forward, turn around repeat progression back to where you started. This is one round.

5  – 7 rounds

THEN

8x Accelerating back squat 45# bar + one set of chains, three secs hold and the bottom + 6x Burpee
x 5 rounds minimal rest

THEN

5 x 5 Chest Press with KB or DBs on the Bosu or Bench
Cool Down, mobility work and foam roller for legs.

Have so much fun with these workouts and all your ski adventures, stay safe out there my friends and stay tuned for more training tips!

If you need information for a specific climb or trip of any nature you can contact me via email or 970-773-3317

Skiing the Andes

It’s early September and I’m heading to Chile in South America to ski the Andes, direct from rock climbing in New Hampshire and I couldn’t be more stoked.  I arrive a few hours after my guests, who are waiting at our lodge at the head of the Maipo Valley for 6 days of big mountain skiing. 

Within an hour of my taxi ride out of the Santiago airport, I come across an accident on the road that looks bad. I see someone laying prone, vehicles stopped and lots of people standing around.  I jump out to see if I can help.  An elderly lady, Señora Rosa, is on her back not moving with blood oozing out of her forehead. There’s easily a half a liter already pooled on the pavement.  I fire through my duffel to find a first aid kit and apply heavy dressings and direct pressure to stop the bleeding.  Although I get by in Spanish generally, the entire scene was chaos.  I asked someone to call 911, hold pressure on the bleed and I checked out Señora Rosa from head to toe but hesitated to move her until the ambulance showed up 30 minutes later.  By that time she was still coherent but deteriorating and I realized I probably saved this woman’s life by stopping her bleed and being a trained first responder. Training matters. After helping lift her into the gurney, I left the scene in a daze, jet-lagged and sad that I’d probably never know the outcome of Señora Rosa. I think of her often. What a crazy start to the trip! Continuing up the Maipo Valley was sobering but my mood changed significantly when I took in the stunning scenery of huge snow-covered peaks rising to the sky and a raging river full of whitewater enthusiasts enjoying themselves.  A lone condor circled low and I knew this was going to be an amazing trip.

I arrive at our world-class lodge at the head of the Maipo Valley and enjoy a hearty welcome for my first visit. This trip has been on my bucket list for years and I’ve got four of my favorite people who have adventured the world with me for a week of heli-skiing in the Andes.  Powder South Heliski Guides is owned by a long time friend and guide who has been trying to get me down here for years. I can hardly wait to get out and experience their terrain and wonder what the heck I was waiting for.  It looks much like the San Juan Mountains on steroids, times three.

After moving into my spacious room I meet the other guide from France, the Operations Director from Mexico and our pilot from Santiago.  I’m the first woman guide they’ve ever had at Powder South and am greeted with nothing but respect, professionalism and very little ego. We talk, laugh at our language hiccups and I sense it’s going to be a fun week working with these guys.  Communication is a crucial aspect of heli-skiing. Prior concerns I had about language challenges were immediately put to ease.

My guests are thrilled with the luxury accommodations and hospitality of the lodge.  I’ve got two gals from my hometown of Ridgway in tow and a lovely couple from Jackson that I’ve skied within Antarctica over the past 3 seasons.  At a 4:1 ratio, it’s pretty unusual to only have one dude along with 4 women, especially for heli-skiing!  It’s a semi-private week with only one other group, composed more typically of all men.  They’re pretty stoked to see how much fun we are about to have as my group doesn’t hold back at all in that regard.

We are treated to an incredible week of seemingly endless vertical feet of skiing down open bowls and stunning couloirs.  Day one we muster over 25,000 feet of turns for our first day of the season.  Legs quivering and cheeks numb from smiling all day, we revel in one of the most spectacular places any of us have ever skied.  The terrain is too big for pictures to capture with most runs ranging from 4000 to 6500 vertical feet.  With early September rivaling spring in the Northern Hemisphere, we enjoy conditions ranging from corn on north aspects to boot top powder on the southerlies. We couldn’t be more stoked to make our first turns of the season together in such a remarkable part of the world.

I’ll be back next year for my first turns of the season in the Southern Hemisphere.  If there are any Chicks out there keen to do the same, let us know and we can put together a Chicks trip to make it happen.

Patagonia DAS Parka Review

Let me tell you about one of my favorite pieces of outdoor clothing: The DAS parka made by Patagonia. There is no better jacket made for cold winter days! It keeps you warm, whether you’re hanging at the belay on a climb or tagging a summit on a big ski day. I got my first version of this garment when I started guiding on Denali some ten years ago. Before that, I had for years insisted on flimsy down jackets to see me through the Colorado winters, although usually with quite a few shivers and cold hands and feet to go with it. That barely worked, and it wasn’t always comfortable. 

When Alaska called, however, I needed something warm for North America’s highest mountain.  Still, in the days of overstuffed 8,000’ down parkas, which fit the Michelin Man and his wallet a lot better than me, I was looking for more reasonable options that could withstand the rigors of the arctic environment. Enter the DAS Parka.  It was the required piece of equipment on the summit ridge of Denali at 20,000’ and kept me warm on 25 days of expedition life, but the super alpine is not it’s the only playground.  Since my DAS parka was red, it matched my ski patrol uniform, and on extra cold mornings I’d cozy up in it, riding the ski lift to work.  Often, the clear mornings after a snowstorm would reach record low temperatures, and we would be standing on a ridge high above treeline, throwing bombs to make avalanches before the runs would open.  It was so cold that your skis wouldn’t even slide on the snow.  I’d have my DAS parka on and my hood synched tight around my goggles – my only chance to stay warm. 

Nowadays, I have a new version, it’s blue (my favorite color), and I don’t leave home without it, come November.  Call me soft in my old age, but I like being warm! It stays in the car during the day when only the early mornings and late evenings are cold in early winter, but it’s there when I need it.  It travels with me when I cross over Togwotee Pass on the way to climbing ice in Cody – it hasn’t happened to me yet, but what if my car stalled out at the bottom of Togwotee Pass where cool air sinks into the valley and commonly creates Temperatures of -25F. 

Insulation technology is so great these days: this jacket features 120g/m2 Primaloft insulation (think more warmth, less bulk).  For long multi-pitch ice routes, I can easily fit the DAS in my climbing pack to pull out during cold belays, or when descending in icy wind at the end of the day. 

The cut is generous, fitting over a harness full of gear or extra layers.  The pockets are big, allowing for insulated storage of crucial items such as your spare gloves for the next pitch.  I have even stuck my thermos into the inside jacket pocket to keep a hot drink handy.  The hood fits over my helmet and keeps the wind and spindrift off my neck.

The DAS also works great for skiing, fitting over my lighter jackets that I wear on the ascent.  It’s lightweight, water-resistant and windproof nylon shell keeps the elements out. I have used the DAS on the ski area as well as in the backcountry.  I pull it out of my pack when taking a break and revel in its coziness.  It has me covered getting off the Jackson Hole tram in blizzard conditions.  Don’t think that it’s only appropriate for epic days, though – it works great for walking to the post office, too.  And all the mail fits in its pockets.