Hello, Snow!

Hello, Snow!, Karen Bockel, Chicks Climbing and Skiing co-owner, IFMGA Mountain Guide, selfie in a snowstorm ©Karen Bockel

Hello, Snow! Karen Bockel, Chicks Climbing and Skiing co-owner, IFMGA Mountain Guide, selfie in a snowstorm ©Karen Bockel

After last year’s dry and warm winter, I’ve been worrying about this year’s ski season. All fall, these questions looped through my mind:

Will it snow before Thanksgiving?
Will the Colorado ski areas open on time?
Will Chicks be able to run early season avalanche courses?
Is climate change ending skiing as we know it?

Suddenly, the warm autumn (and my climbing season!) ended. The ski season announced itself with a bang: two sizeable storms hit Colorado in two weeks. Wyoming and Utah aren’t far behind.

Yay for snow! I’m breathing a little easier now.

Of course, I don’t know how the winter will unfold. El-Nino isn’t a surefire ticket to powder snow in the San Jaun Mountains. But at least the backyard of Chicks headquarters has got something to start with. The mountains are wearing a nice white blanket.

Despite the early snow raising my spirits, the tenuous state of winter has me doubling my efforts to protect my favorite season. I’m taking the bus to the ski area, walking to the gym, bringing my own containers and bags to the grocery store and eating less meat.

“Thank you Mother Nature,” I say to myself as I check over my winter gear, put fresh wax on my skis and head out to practice companion rescue skills.

See you in the hills!

Stealth RECCO — Grivel Helmet Review

Grivel's Stealth RECCO in Yellow. It also comes in Titanium, Carbon and White.©Grivel stock photo

Grivel’s Stealth RECCO in Yellow. It also comes in Titanium, Carbon and White.©Grivel stock photo

As Chicks approaches its 20th anniversary, we stand on the shoulders of a giant, a company that has been in the business of making the tools we use to climb for centuries.

 This year Grivel celebrates their 200th anniversary.

 And Grivel just launched the first-ever helmet with a RECCO reflector.

 RECCO reflectors bounce back signals to RECCO detectors. A rescuer with a RECCO detector can follow the signal back to the reflector; in this case the helmet and the climber wearing the helmet.

 The RECCO reflector only adds 3 grams to the already uber-light Stealth and Stealth HS. These unique looking helmets are barely noticeable to the wearer but pack great protection.

 Historically, ice climbers haven’t worn transceivers or carried avalanche rescue equipment.  Although a RECCO does not replace a transceiver, it adds a considerable safety margin for search and rescue.  Ski areas, helicopters and mountain rescue teams are typically equipped with the RECCO system.

 If you backcountry ice climb and/or alpine climb, this new piece of equipment from Grivel could help stack the odds in your favor. It’s a small additional investment for your safety kit.

 Chicks could not be more proud to partner with such a longstanding and innovative company. 

 Our partners at Liberty Mountain are the sole distributors of Grivel in the U.S. Liberty Mountains lists the suggested retail price of the Stealth RECCO as a mere $119. Well worth the investment for this new tech brain bucket.

Petzl’s Passion 

Petzl's Ergonomic, Nomic and Quark ice climbing tools. ©Petzl stock photo

Petzl’s Ergonomic, Nomic and Quark ice climbing tools. ©Petzl stock photo

Since the early 1900’s Petzl’s passion for exploration has led to many innovations transcending from the caving world up into the rock, ice, and ski mountaineering world.

Petzl’s mission is to “continue to invent products and provide solutions that allow sports enthusiasts and professionals to access some of the most inaccessible places, both day and night.”

This summer, Petzl introduced a new tool called the Ergonomic. They also brought out redesigns of the Nomic and the Quark. Exerts from their press release follow:


The Ergonomic functions as well on steep ice as it does on overhanging dry tool and mixed routes. The Ergonomic comes with a redesigned DRY pick, which has more aggressive teeth that taper from 4mm at the top to 3.2mm at the tip. A new over-molded, glass-filled, nylon handle makes the upper grip more durable. The unique lower grip is larger in diameter and it has flat sides. This design creates a higher volume contact area, which gives a more secure grip.


The Nomic has long been the preferred tool for ice climbers. Now, this classic has been redesigned to be more durable and lighter. The Nomic comes with an enhanced PUR’ICE pick, glass-filled nylon, over molded, upper grip and lighter lower grip – shedding 20 grams from its predecessor.  It also has an all-new, wider griprest. This griprest is also over molded with rubber and has a stainless-steel pick at the base.


The Quark is Petzl’s most versatile ice tool—good for ice climbing and technical mountaineering. The lower handle is over molded with high friction rubber, and it’s designed to be flatter on both sides and front for better indexing and grip. At the base of the tool are a single stainless steel pick and a brand new, foldable grip rest.

Swing! Training for Ice Climbing

How to swing a tool? Carolyn Parker, founder Ripple Effect Training, teaching ice climbing in the Ouray Ice Park. ©Carolyn Parker collection 

How to swing a tool? Carolyn Parker, founder Ripple Effect Training, teaching ice climbing in the Ouray Ice Park. ©Carolyn Parker collection

All outcome-based training must be laid on a solid foundation.

So let’s check in first.

Ask yourself:

1) Do I have a well-developed cardio vascular system, good resting heart rate, rapid heart rate recovery? Do I have a regular aerobic fitness program, 4 – 5 days a week 30 – 90+ minutes?

2) Have I addressed my postural and mobility issues? Do my joints have good range of motion? Have I taken steps to correct my posture if necessary through yoga or other stretching routines?

3) Do I have a well-rounded, balanced strength base on which to begin more difficult training to avoid injury? This could come from rock climbing, body weight workouts, or gym strengthening classes, or best yet all of the above.

If you answered NO, you will benefit not only in your climbing but also in your health, life and injury prevention if you build foundational fitness first.

Please reach out to me directly if you are interested in an online coaching plan carolyn@rippleffectraining.com.

If you can say YES to all of the above let’s dive in!

Ice climbing is a unique sport. It requires strength overhead to swing an ice tool, solid core strength to stabilize the body while swinging and while moving upward on single points of contact, good leg strength and muscular endurance, especially calves, to hang out on front points while placing gear or finding the perfect tool placement.

Following are some strength exercises that will help you get fit for ice climbing.

Upper Body:

Overhead Triceps Extensions

Pull Overs

Pull Ups (can be assisted)

Pull Ups on 1” dowels or your ice tools to orient hands and forearms into the necessary alignment for ice climbing movements.

Strict Press, although this is considered an arm/upper body movement, it’s also a test of “core” strength to stabilize mass overhead.

Core Strength:

KTE (knees to elbows) arms locked off if possible, this will also help with grip strength. Do these on dowels as well.

Anchored Leg Lowers, legs weighted with light med ball or ankle weights if appropriate, mimics weight of boots on feet.

Leg Strength and Calf Endurance:

KB Swings and Ball Slams will help you “learn” to effectively use your hips and legs while climbing. Both are “hip, glute, leg” driven movements but also challenge grip strength, core strength, and are so complex that they become a great challenge for the cardio vascular system.

Calf Raises: Perform standard calf raise on a step or platform for 30 seconds. Complete as many reps as you can but don’t go crazy! This gets hard fast. Then hold a static position, feet parallel to floor for 30 seconds. Then go right back to 30 seconds of calf raises for the second set. Don’t rest until all rounds are complete. Begin with a few sets of 30 secs work/30 secs hold. Then increase the challenge by doing more sets. Walk around bit afterward and stretch.

Note: If you hike, run, bike, your calves are tight!

Now for a workout using the above movements:

Ice Climbing Workout

10 minute warm-up: row, bike, run


2 × 8 Shoulder Openers

2 x 5 Cuban Press

3 × 5 Wall Squats

3 x 6 Goblet Squats


5 x Overhead Triceps Extension

10 x KTE

10 x Ball Slams

5 rounds – rest as necessary


5 x Pull Up on dowels

10 x KB Swing

5 x Strict Press

5 rounds – rest as necessary


4 x 30/30 Calf Raise and Hold


Cool Down

This can be broken into two different workouts if the volume of work is too much. You can supplement with the other movements that are referenced above.

And most importantly have fun with this and your ice climbing season!


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



Carolyn Parker

Founder Ripple Effect Training

Gym Jones, Fully Certified Instructor

AMGA Certified Rock Guide

Birthday Backpack Osprey Sirrius 50

Happy Birthday Backpack! Osprey Sirrius 50 in ruska purple. © Roxanne DiSanto

Happy Birthday Backpack, Osprey Sirrius 50 in ruska purple. © Roxanne DiSanto

For my birthday this year my husband gave me an Osprey Women’s Sirrus 50 backpack. This was to replace a beloved pack he had given me 20 years prior.

Initially I was reluctant. I was dubious about the Sirrus 50, especially when trying to determine my size. I’m 5’2” with a short torso. I loved my previous pack because it fit my small frame so well.

After a lengthy time comparing the Women’s Sirrus small & extra small, I finally settled on the XS.

Hands down, the Sirrus is the best fitting pack I’ve ever owned. Not only does it fit my torso perfectly, the internal frame is integrated into the hip suspension, which cups & contours my hips & arcs at my back. These innovative designs are my favorite features. The hip contour helps to distribute & stabilize the load. The arc allows air to flow between my back and the pack, keeping me cooler overall when carrying a load. I also like the pocket upfront. This pocket is specifically designed for a helmet and allows more room for gear in the main compartment.

After a 20-year relationship with my old pack, now my new love is Osprey’s Sirrus 50.

 Natural American

Stars and Stripes! Karen Bockel, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, at her US Citizen Naturalization Ceremony under the Rooselvelt Arch, North Entrance Yellowstone National Park, MT. ©Yoshiko Miyazaki-Back

Stars and Stripes! Karen Bockel, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, at her US Citizen Naturalization Ceremony under the Rooselvelt Arch, North Entrance Yellowstone National Park, MT. ©Yoshiko Miyazaki-Back


Karen Bockel, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, US citizen!

Close friend and AMGA rock guide, Yoshiko Miyazaki-Back, was at the ceremony.

Yoshi reflects on Karen’s accomplishment:

Having witnessed first hand my husband going through the same process, I was reminded of the time and the emotional and financial commitment it takes. There are reams of paperwork, mandatory interviews. You must provide biometric data. There’s a test on US history, culture and political institutions. Candidates must show good character and financial responsibility.

Becoming a naturalized US citizen is a long, hard and committing process. It’s been remarkable watching Karen work her way through the process , all the while travelling for work as a guide, running a successful and inspiring business, and becoming an IFMGA Mountain guide!

All of us at Chicks are so proud and inspired! Go Girl!

Cool Weather Rock Climbing Tips for Staying Toasty

Kitty Calhoun, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing layered up to stay toasty. Indian Creek, UT. ©Kitty Calhoun 

Kitty Calhoun, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing layered up to stay toasty. Indian Creek, UT. ©Kitty Calhoun


Did you know that 32-41°F is the best sending temperature?

Hands and fingers get the best friction near freezing because they don’t sweat; and, climbing shoe rubber is designed to perform best at these temperatures too.

Autumn temperatures can send chills down your spine and make your hands go numb if you’re not ready.

Follow my tips to get psyched and stay toasty during fall sending season.


Take warm/hot drinks. Bring a thermos and/or start with hot water in a regular bottle. Drink the liquid while it’s still warm. Staying hydrated helps keep your strength and body temperature up. You may not think to drink if you’re not sweating and if you’re cold, a cold drink is unappealing.  Get a thermos.


Bring plenty of easily digestible snacks, such as GU Stroop waffles. You need calories to climb well and to stay warm.


Take clothes off while exerting; add clothes when not: hat, down/puffy jacket, windbreaker, socks with the feet cut out to cover your lower leg and belay gloves are a few essentials.

Grabber Hand-Warmers:

Put a hand warmer in your chalk bag, or your sports bra.


Stretch and do air squats before you leave the ground. Cold muscles are stiff and more susceptible to injury. Climb a handful of moderate routes before climbing  more difficult routes.


Now, what are you waiting for?  Get ready and get out and have some fun!

Hollablock Girl  A Shout Out to Sterling’s Hollow Block

Elaina Arenz, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, rappelling with an auto-block tied with a Sterling Hollow Block. ©Elaina Arenz 

Elaina Arenz, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, rappelling with an auto-block tied with a Sterling Hollow Block. ©Elaina Arenz

Dear Hollow Block, or as I prefer to call you, my “Hollablock.

Gwen Stefani made your name synonymous in my mind with being ultra-useful—you’re the one piece of gear I never take off my harness—and all my friction hitches are going to happen like that! Safe and secure.

Your braided aramid fibers are the perfect heat resistant material to make my friction hitch of choice.

For example, when I rappel, the auto-block is my friction hitch go-to. I quickly wrap you around my climbing rope 3 times. Then I clip both of your ends into a small locking carabiner attached to my belay loop. Et Voila, I’m ready to rappel with no fuss and no muss of having to dress you tidy.

You dress yourself, which is why I love you so. I never have to make sure your wraps are nice and smooth. You always lay flat and grip the rope with the perfect amount of friction.

Hollow Block, you save me time and time counts when the sun is setting on the horizon and the shadows of night are chasing me down the wall.

The folks at Sterling thought of everything when they designed you: high melting point; hollow braided construction that allows you to grip the rope like a Chinese finger trap; two lengths: 13.5” and 19”; Oh!, and how strong you are! At 14kn I can use you as a sling and feel totally secure knowing you have my back.

Hollow Block, with you on my harness, “I’m ready to attack, gonna lead the pack.”

Yours truly,

Elaina aka Hollablock Girl

Begin It

Karen Bockel, Co-Owner Chicks Climbing & Skiing, Beginning Les Grand Galets, Cap Trinité, Quebec, Canada. ©Forest McBrian

Karen Bockel, Co-Owner Chicks Climbing & Skiing, Beginning Les Grand Galets, Cap Trinité, Quebec, Canada. ©Forest McBrian

Now at last let me see some deeds!
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Summer is gone.

Cool nights, blue skies and yellow leaves announce another Rocktober—fall climbing season.

I’ve been thinking, “How is this one going to be different?”

Have you set a goal? Have you committed to step into the unknown? Will you push a new grade? 

My plan for this fall is to connect with my environment, take things as they come, and give myself room to try new things in climbing.

I was just on a climbing adventure in Northern Quebec, Canada.

The plan was to climb a little big-wall via canoe access.

At the bay it started to pour. The next day we paddled across, set up our bivy and began to think about fixing the first pitches when it started to rain again.

We sat in our tiny camp below the wall, lost in the sound of the drops pattering on our tarp.

Climbing seemed impossible. Our climbing window was shrinking.

Slowly the sound quieted and we felt a breeze. Stars came out. Wind dried the rock and we awoke to the wall bathed in sunlight.

Even though we knew we didn’t have time to fire for the top, we decided to begin and go as far as we could. We climbed beautiful rock all day, and then we rappelled back down and packed up everything for a pre-dawn paddle back to the bay.

It was a grand adventure, and success wasn’t measured by getting to the top, but by getting out and beginning it. And that’s exactly what I want to do more of!

Rules for Rope Care and Longevity

Karen Bockel Coiling a rope©Angela Hawse

Coiling ©Angela Hawse

Rocktober is upon us. No doubt our ropes have gotten use and withstood abuse with spring, summer and early autumn climbs. Soon we’ll be monitoring backcountry drips for ice and our rope will get a bit of a rest while we sharpen our tools in anticipation of winter.

Take stock of this time to inspect, wash, store and retire your rope properly.


 Your rope is your lifeline. Give it undivided attention and love before you put it away for a while.

Giving your rope undivided attention and love will increase your intimacy with it. You’ll get peace of mind knowing that it’s still a performer. And you’ll catch any problems that could reduce its longevity.

Run the entire length of your rope through both hands two to three times. Run the rope through your hands without gloves so you have sensitivity to any irregularities in the sheath.

Inspect it visually and with a firm grip so you catch imperfections. If the rope feels different from when you purchased it, ie. it’s now limp whereas it was once perky or it’s become a stiffy when it was once supple, it’s probably time to give it a new job. (More below.)

Fuzzy sheaths, picks, flat or unusually stiff sections merit closer inspection. If you find one of these, look at it more closely. Compare it to other sections of the rope. Although you can’t see the rope’s core, you can feel it.  Roll any sections of concern between your thumb and fingers and back and forth between your hands, paying close attention to how it behaves with bends, knots and twists.  Anytime the core of the rope is exposed at all, it is compromised. Cut it shorter to remove this section or retire it.

If your hands are black afterwards, this should reinforce that a good wash is in order.


Ropes like to be clean but they don’t like harsh detergents.

Use a mild detergent or better yet Sterling Wicked Good Rope Wash.

I use a large rubbermaid tub or my bathtub. Fill with just enough warm water to ensure the rope is submerged.

Add the Wicked Good Rope Washor a small amount of detergent (1 tablespoon). Swish it around and then pile your rope in there (flaked rather than coiled) so it’s all submerged.

Let it sit for 30 minutes to absorb the soapy water and dislodge dirt.

Get your hands in there and move the rope around, agitating the water like a gentle cycle on your washer. This will dislodge remaining dirt.

Remove the rope, dump out the water and replace it with clean, cold or warm water. Put the rope back in and give it another gentle cycle and repeat the process until the water is clear.

You can use a top loading washing machine on a gentle cycle, but I prefer to do it manually.

Some folks like to daisy chain the entire length of their rope, but I prefer having it in a pile.

Dry your rope out of direct sunlight. I hang mine over my pull-up bar or a door. You could use a laundry drying rack or flake it out on the floor.

Be sure your rope is fully dry before you store it.


I store my ropes stacked in a rope bag.

Although there is nothing wrong with coiling and hanging or stowing them away, flaking ropes prevents kinks and divits that come from tight coils. Most rope bags have a ground tarp incorporated. If not, get one and use it. A ground tarp at the crag will add considerably to the longevity of your rope by preventing small, sharp crystals of sand and dirt from penetrating it’s sheath. Rope Bags also give you a grab-and-go system for the next time you head to the crag, or you can easily coil it from a rope bag if you’re packing it for a project.

Store your rope in a cool, dry place free from direct sunlight and any chemicals. Acid to ropes is like kryptonite to Superman. Keep them well away.


Well cared for ropes last many years.

There is no hard and fast rule for how long ropes last because there are so many variables: How much do you climb with it? How many significant lead falls has it sustained? Did it cut the mustard of your rigorous inspection?

Here are some general guidelines for rope longevity: If you’re climbing 3-5 days a week, working routes and whipping regularly, your rope may only last a year or less. If you’re a weekend warrior, your lead rope could give you several years. If you climb less frequently you could get four to seven years out of your cord.  Much more than 7 years and it will, like all nylon, lose some of it’s dynamic and desirable properties.

Ropes, like us, can have several life stages if they’re not compromised.

My ropes start as lead ropes. Then my skinny ones go to my neighbor for his rafting trips and my fatter ones retire into the good life of topropes for 3-5 years.

All of my ropes are inspected regularly and retired liberally.

When they reach the end of their lifespan I either send them to Sterling Rope to recycle or give them to friends for art projects, rigging or doormats.

Give your rope the attention it deserves regularly and it’ll serve you well!