How to do an Avalanche Beacon Check in Three Steps

Heading out into the backcountry with friends?  Remember to do your beacon check at the trailhead. There are three things you want to check: Battery life, as well as Transmit and Receive functions of the device.

Follow these three steps to accomplish this quickly and efficiently:

Step 1:
First, pick a leader to run the beacon check.  Have everyone else make a circle around that person.  As each person takes their beacon out of their holster and turns it on, they call out the battery percentage, including the leader. First check done!

Step 2:
Next, everyone in the circle turns their beacon into search mode and holds it in front of them. Only the leader keeps her beacon transmitting.  You’ll hear a lot of beeping as all the searching beacons should pick up a signal.  Now the leader in the center of the circle, approaches one person at a time, bringing her beacon close to the searching beacon.  If everything is working in order, the number displayed on the searching beacon should get really small, and the sound level/frequency should increase.  It’s important to keep a bit of distance between each person as the leader moves around the circle, as well as giving the searching beacon a moment of time to process the signal.

Step 3:
Once this is completed around the circle, everyone except the leader turns their beacon back to send and stows it in their holster or pocket.  The leader now switches her beacon to search, and goes around the circle, pointing her beacon close to where the beacon is stowed, and looking for a signal with a correspondingly small number at each person.  Lastly, the leader turns her beacon back to send, and the group is ready to head out.

Troubleshooting:  What to do if something isn’t working right.

-If a beacon has low battery life or isn’t turning on, install new batteries before heading out.

-If transmit or receiving isn’t working properly, first re-test to eliminate operator error, but a beacon isn’t working, don’t use it.  Check in with a dealer at your local backcountry gear store.

Does this tech tip get you thinking about your beacon skills?
Join us for a Rescue Fundamentals Course to learn about or refresh your companion rescue skills.

Full Body Ice Climbing Workout

Winter is on its way and so is ice climbing season!

Maybe you’re new to ice climbing and you’ve decided to head to Ouray for “The Complete” in January, or possibly more advanced skills in the backcountry are your calling and you are off to Cody or bigger adventures still, Iceland. No matter where you are headed a little extra preparation will make for a vastly better experience.

Normally, I wouldn’t jump into “specific training” for ice climbing or rock climbing unless I knew that the athlete in question already had a good foundation to launch from. All outcome-based training must be laid up a solid foundation.

So let’s check in, ask yourself a few questions:

1) Do I have a well developed cardiovascular system, good resting heart rate, rapid heart rate recovery from high output activities? 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 a 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.

If you can say yes to all of the above, let’s dive in! If not, you will benefit, not only in your climbing but in your health, life and injury prevention, if you manage these pieces of your fitness first.

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, and good leg strength and endurance, especially calves, to hang out on your front points while placing gear or finding the perfect tool placement.

Overhead Strength

Overhead strength requires overhead mobility. Add some specific overhead mobility work into your routine. Here’s a suggestion: I call it the overhead reach.
Overhead Reach
Then:
Add Overhead Triceps Extensions, Pull Overs, and Pull-ups (can be assisted) on 1” dowels or your ice tools to orient hands and forearms into the necessary alignment for ice climbing movements. Five sets of five reps (5 x 5) on all the above movements, making them heavy and hard, after proper warm up.

See videos below:


Core Strength

We talk about core strength for climbers often and I’ve included many good exercises in the training tips along the way. Add in KTE (knees to elbows)(3-4 x 10), heavy Strict Press, although this is considered arm upper body strength movement it’s a test of your “core” strength to stabilize mass overhead (5 x 5), and GHD situps or Anchored Leg Lowers if no GHD.(3 – 4 x 10).
See videos below:




Leg Strength and Calf Endurance

Lastly, a little tune-up for the legs. In order to “learn” to effectively use the hips and legs to stand while climbing or what is affectionately known as “push the bush” and to really work the entire system with “external object control” add in KB Swings and Ball Slams. These are both “hip, glute, leg” driven movements but are oh so much more: grip strength, core strength, and so complex that they become a great challenge for the cardiovascular system. (3 – 5 x 10)

Then those calves, always stretch, daily…if you hike, run, bike, they are tight. Each season the first pitch of difficult ice climbing is always a wake-up call, standing on front points can be a calf burner. There’s not a lot one can do to prepare other than getting out there, however, a few sets of 4x 30 secs work/30 secs holding of calf raises on a step won’t hurt. You can increase the challenge by doing multiple sets of 4x 30/30. Or increase the workload to 6x 30/30 or 8×30/30 and so on.
See videos below:



Let’s throw a workout together

10:00 warm up row, bike, run
2 × 8 shoulder openers
2 x 5 Cuban press
work on mobility
3 × 5 wall squats
3 x 6 goblet squats
Then:
5x Overhead Triceps Extension
10x KTE
10x Ball Slams
5 rounds – rest as necessary.
Then:
5x Pull Up on dowels
10x KB Swing
5x Strict Press
x 5 rounds
Finish with 4x 30/30 calf raise and hold.
Cool Down

This can be broken into two different workouts if the volume of work is too much for the athlete, you can supplement in the other movements I didn’t mention in the workout that is referenced above. Make sure this is in addition to your regular fitness routine and replaces only one or two workouts a week.

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 via email or 970-773-3317

Carolyn Parker
Founder Ripple Effect Training
Gym Jones, Fully Certified Instructor
AMGA Certified Rock Guide

The Journey to IFMGA Certification

Do you sometimes wonder which fork in the road led you down this wild and precious path you’re on?

Karen Bockel IFMGA

When I was a kid, I wanted to become either a Nobel-Prize winning Physicist working at CERN in Geneva or a Certifed Mountain Guide. The latter seemed so far-fetched and impossible – my only connection to the mountains was the countless hours I spent in my hometown library pouring over coffee table books of Reinhold Messner climbing the 8,000m peaks, that I stuck with Physics.

I studied atomic and laser physics and spent most of my graduate school days and nights inside a lab.  The black blinds shut out any stray light, and any sign of life or weather outside.  I spent the daytime hours tuning the lasers and solving page-long differential equations, and the nighttime hours, when everyone else and their perturbations had left the building, running experiments.  Laser cooling of atoms, Rubidium atoms to be precise, was my project, and it required a lot of planning, calculating and designing to eventually create a vacuum system containing a cloud of atoms in the crosshairs of 3 perpendicular laser beams. When everything lined up one fine day, a few weeks after having passed my Master’s thesis, the diode laser measuring the atom cloud’s temperature finally produced the expected signal, and the pale image of my Rubidium atom cloud hovered there, suspended in space, at a temperature of a few microKelvin.

Not long afterwards, I realized that, while I loved the research and academia, I missed the outside more, and something had to change.

After sneaking away for several trips into the mountains, I finally told my advisers that I was headed for the hills for good. I moved to a little mountain town in Southwest Colorado, learned to ski on leather boots and tele gear, worked as a carpenter, and spent most of the next few years either above treeline or on some rock wall, exploring all the beautiful San Juans had to offer.

I started ski patrolling and traveling to ski in far away places. I planned and took part in an expedition to ski Denali with three other women, and through two of my teammates got introduced to expedition guiding. I was intrigued. My neighbors owned Mountain Trip, a company guiding the 7 summits, and I timidly asked if I could hire on as an apprentice.  They took me on, and the next summer I found myself back in Alaska. Under the tutelage of Dave Staeheli, who when I asked him to teach me, basically provided me and the other co-guides (and even all our clients) with an entire alpine course while slowly climbing our way up the West Buttress. We got caught in a major storm at High Camp, leaving us stranded at 17,000’ for 8 days, before we fought our way back down to more livable places. It took perseverance, teamwork, and skill to get the teams down safely. The hard work of expedition guiding felt good.  I was hooked.  I was finally on my path toward this old, nearly forgotten childhood dream of becoming a mountain guide.

Karen Bockel IFMGA

The following fall, Mountain Trip offered a contract AMGA Rock Instructor course to their lead guides taught by Angela Hawse and Vince Anderson, and I, the rookie, somehow got in. I frantically tried to find some climbing partners to get ready for the course, but most my friends were runners and bikers. Nonetheless, I showed up on the first day, eyes wide open. It was great.

I’ll never forget that moment of Angela telling me when I was short pitching, braced behind a small boulder “that rock is not strong enough to hold us if we fall – look for a better solution, keep it real.”  I got that one, not just for right there, but for life!

I also remember that she taught us a ‘munter pop’ maneuver to get two clients safely established on a single rope lower – she might as well have spoken Chinese.  Mostly, though, the guiding instruction and climbing were really informative, fun, and inspiring, and I felt at home on the rock and on the rope. In the evaluations, Vince told me I had mountain sense, the ultimate compliment. I’ve had a chip on my shoulder about that ever since.  Needless to say – I’d found my path with the encouragement from these two extraordinary mountain guides.

Fast forward seven years, many vertical feet, footsteps, rope lengths and a couple knee surgeries later, and I found myself tied to my examiner and a co-candidate, breaking trail up the Quien Sabe Glacier of the Boston Basin in the heart of the North Cascades. We are on our last two days of the alpine exam, my final AMGA program on the path to IFMGA certification. It is only fitting that I finish the alpine track last, the queen discipline that combines the worlds of skiing and climbing, the one with the most tradition, the one I dreamt of as a kid. The moments of sunshine from earlier have given way to dense clouds, crevasses and handrails have disappeared into the mist, and I can see nothing, and yet somehow I see everything.  Years of training, experience and guiding days come together. I find the top of the glacier, lead the rope across the moat and climb onto the ridge above. We keep going into the clouds, in the cold wind, a fresh foot of snow covering the rocks. As we move together, chilled to the core, precariously but perfectly counterbalanced on the ridge, the sentiment I felt on Denali years prior returns: we are at home in the mountains.  For me, the exam finished on a high note in a wild and amazing place. I couldn’t have been more stoked.

It’s been an amazing path, and I have been lucky to share the rope with great friends, co-guides, mentors, and clients.  I have also been lucky to work for a number of great guide services.  I am thankful for every moment (except maybe the many hours on the trail down from the Grand Teton). In particular, I want to thank my Chicks Co-Owners for our partnership and friendship.

  • Angela Hawse for encouraging me at the start and always having my back
  • Bill and Todd at Mountain Trip for opening the door to the guiding world
  • Kitty Calhoun for climbing El Cap and becoming friends along the way
  • Dan Starr for letting me tell him all my guiding reflections and for practicing rope tricks in the garage
  • The Telluride Ski Patrol for the best early morning ski runs and letting me stick my head into the snow
  • Eric Larson for being there for me in spite of telling me not to become a guide
  • Emilie Drinkwater for an amazing climbing trip to the Alps
  • Larry Goldie for turning me loose in the Cascades
  • Thomas Olson at Howard Head Sports Medicine for getting me back onto two legs
  • And for my family who allowed me to take the fork less travelled.

Growth Through Training and Education

Chicks Continuing EducationLife is an adventure and we never know where it will take us.

I was afraid of heights when I was a teenager, but by the time I finished college, all I wanted to do was to learn more about alpine climbing in ranges throughout the world.  I knew that I could only afford to do so by becoming a guide or a sponsored climber.  I never dreamed I could become a sponsored climber so I chose to become a guide and worked for the American Alpine Institute in Alaska, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Nepal.  Along the way, I did some personal climbs that attracted attention and eventually I did become a sponsored climber. As Chicks Co-Owner Karen Bockel states in her story of becoming a Certified IFMGA Guide, we all reach a fork in our path. When I was offered sponsorship opportunities, I chose that path over becoming a certified guide. I was doing what I loved, getting paid to travel the world and climb.

Why is it important to hire a certified guide?

I think Chicks Co-Owner Angela Hawse sums it up best. In this excerpt from her blog she explains why you should seek out certified guides:

AMGA Certified Guides come from many different backgrounds and have a variety of talents and ambitions but one thing unites them all: the desire to rise to their full potential, excel at what they do, and become the best mountain guide they can be. AMGA training allows mountain guides to realize these desires. As a U.S. member of the IFMGA (International Federation of Mountain Guides Association), our certified guides have undergone rigorous training and examination that meets and exceeds international standards.

Building a relationship and getting involved with an AMGA Certified Guide or Accredited Program is a great way to gain mastery of climbing and skiing technical skills or reach the summit of your heart’s desire. AMGA guides bring a unique set of characteristics to the mountains. With a combination of great personality, a focus on maximizing client reward, excellent teaching ability, and emphasis on safety, our guides are sure to improve your mountain experiences.

At Chicks, we believe that certified guides represent the best guide training there is – and that is why we only hire certified guides.  Amongst our ownership team, Angela Hawse and Karen Bockel are both IFMGA Certified, meaning they have passed rigorous exams in Rock, Alpine, and Ski disciplines… they pretty much have a Ph.D. in guiding. Dawn Glanc is Certified in both Rock and Alpine disciplines, and Elaina Arenz is a Certified Rock Guide and Apprentice Alpine Guide. Besides certification, we value education and improving oneself. Personally, I am looking forward to taking pro level avalanche courses this winter.

So here’s to those who dare to follow their dreams.

Here’s to education, training, and experience to enable those dreams. As Albert Schweitzer said, “The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives”. Carry on, Sisters and never stop learning.

Gear Review: Osprey Transporter and Snowkit Organizational Duffels

Osprey TransporterNew in Osprey’s line up this year are the Transporter and Gearkit Duffel Series, with a bomb-proof bunch of options.  I had the chance to test two of them out on a circuitous trip to the Andes last month and I’m stoked on these duffels.  I managed to get my rock climbing kit for two weeks of climbing in New Hampshire and ski gear for a week of heli-skiing in Chile inside two of these bags which both weathered a lot of travel well.

 

I used the Transporter 95 for the brunt of my stuff in a checked bag which seemed to have endless room for everything I needed.  Features I appreciated that make this a go-to bag include:  incredibly durable and highly water-resistant construction, wide grab handles in all the right places, a burly U-zipper and opening flap that is unique and different than most duffels making packing easier and attached shoulder straps that stow out of the way inside the U-flap and are easy to deploy.  Little extras like a window for your business card and flaps to protect the few Fastex buckles from luggage conveyers, mules or whatever your means of schlepping may be are also well designed.  Although this duffel will stow far more than I like to carry on my back, it actually carries well as a backpack which is an added bonus for short hauls.  I chose the Sub Lime color which stood out in airport baggage claims and was a bright and cheery part of my kit.  I received lots of complements on it wherever I went.  MSRP: $160

 

Osprey DuffelThe other bag, which I used for carry-on was Osprey’s new Snowkit Organizational Duffel.  This little beauty is a 45L well thought out bag with creative organizing pockets that are uber practical.  It doubles as a backpack and carries comfortably making it super versatile.  I was skeptical of bells and whistles but everything had a purpose with a clean design and super stealth profile.  I wanted to check the Snowkit out specifically for a ski boot bag, plus some.

 

Now granted, I wear a size 23.5 ski boot which isn’t large, there was ample extra room and they stowed easily (with a lot of socks, transceiver, Delorme device, etc shoved in them).  This boot compartment is accessed on the end with a large burly zipper opening and a sleeve of light material isolating it from the main compartment.  This part of the kit is also ventilated so when you put your steamy boots back in at the end of the day they won’t get everything else wet.  There was plenty of room around the boots to stuff clothing and other to fill up the space for flights.  Amazingly there was ample space left in the main compartment to stow even more.

 

The Snowkit has all the features I like on the Transporter Duffel and then some.  The main flap is heavily padded which makes it comfortable to carry as a backpack and it protects the contents inside.  It has a well padded, scratch proof goggle and sunglasses compartment that easily accommodates both with some room to spare.  The side pocket fits a water bottle which if the zip is left open is easily accessible while boot packing.  There are also webbing straps on the same side stowed in the pocket that you could strap a pair of skis on.  There’s a low profile tuck away helmet carry and a padded side handle that makes it easy to tote around in airports or just huck in the back of a truck.  This is a great duffel and will be my go to boot bag, carry on luggage for many an adventure.  Check out the features on Osprey’s video here. MSRP:  $130

How to Build Strength For Those Ski Legs

Here in northern Colorado the leaves are changing and snow is beginning to blanket the high country. Winter will be upon us in no time, which means…Ski season is upon us! If you are new to the Chicks Training Tips take a few minutes to read the previous newsletters, there’s a lot of great information in there. This is training tip #25 which includes focusing on building strength in your ski legs! It’s incredibly beneficial for “the Chicks” to be introduced to new movements and concepts for training.

Maybe you’re stoked to get into backcountry skiing this season so you’ve registered for one of our many new Intro to Backcountry Skiing courses or Avalanche Rescue Courses with Chicks and the Silverton Avalanche School. Or perhaps you’re a more advanced skier it’s off to La Grave to ski the steeps of the French Alps.

Whatever the case may be, we need to build a good base of aerobic stamina and ski leg power into the mix for uphill travel, carving turns, dropping in for epic fluffy pillowy powder for days and 5,000 vertical days, so here we go! If backcountry is your game you’ll need uphill stamina and enough strength left for the downhill you earned.

Uphill is dramatically different that just going on a run around the neighborhood. If you live in an area where hills are available let’s log some vertical outside. If not, get on a step mill or find a tall building with a stairwell, run or speed hike up that stairwell. We’ve got 8 weeks to prep, then we’ll want to start fine tuning your skills on the slopes in December. Whoop!

Week 1- 4:
2 days a week set a goal of a minimum of 60min uphill effort, whether outside or inside, use that iPhone, Suunto GPS, or whatever the machine you’re using tells you is the vertical you are accomplishing. Numbers are fantastic motivators. For 4 weeks build a base and try to push yourself to accomplish a little more each week. For example, week one in 60min you manage 1000 vert feet gained understanding there is an up and a down element if outside. By week four maybe you’ve improved to 1250 vert.

 

Week 5 – 8:

Let’s push a little now that you have a base. Let’s try one slightly longer session a week 90 -120 minutes of sustained uphill for vertical gain. Maybe this is 2000 vertical feet maybe more. For our second day of the week we’re going to push our threshold a bit, warm up for 10 minutes then go hard for 10 minutes uphill, recover for 5 minutes, repeat this cycle three times and cool down.

Once the snow flies and you are skinning and skiing for days you’ll be so stoked that you took the time to prep your legs and lungs!

Now that we’ve started to fine tune your legs and lungs for the stamina for the uphill we need to build a reserve of strength and power for the down hill. Here are a few example works for gym training, all workouts can be accomplished in an hour, with a few minutes extra for cool down. All the movements in these workouts have been covered in past training tips aside from two movements with videos at the end.

Check out the training section of our YouTube Channel.

 

WO#1 for ski legs
Warm up 10:00 row, run, ski erg.
2 x 8 Shoulder openers
2 x 5 Cuban press
3 x 5 Wall squat
2 x 8 Goblet squat
2 x 5 Squat jumpThen:

Work up to 3RM Front Squat

Then:

3x FS + 8x Box Jump @ 18 – 24”

6 rounds reciting as necessary keep all movements quality. if no box available you can substitute jump with a heavy KB swing.

Then:

60 sec wall sit with a weight in your lap, medicine balls or slam ball work well followed by
30 secs split jumps and
20x Good morning or back extensions.

x 5 rounds

Then:

10x push up
10x leg lower
5 rounds
Cool Down

 

WO#2 for ski legs
Warm up 10:00 row, run, ski erg.
2 x 8 Shoulder openers
2 x 5 Cuban press
3 x 5 Wall squat
2 x 8 Goblet squat

2 x 5 Squat jump

Then:

Dynamic-Isometric Back Squat with 5-sec pause in each position, 4 stops (Hold at top, three stops to bottom, after last hold jump out of bottom of squat, complete six rounds of these efforts. Followed immediately by 8 burpees + rest 60 secs.
5 total rounds.
Use a reasonable weight on your back squat so you can actually jump and you can finish all six reps per round without reduced quality on hold and jump.
Then:
30 sec box jump
30 sec jump on and off a bosu ball on the floor, laterally round side up.
30 secs squat hold
30 secs rest

x 5

Finish with:

10x KTE
5x Pull Up
x 5
Cool Down

 

WO#3 for ski legs
Warm up 10:00 row, run, ski erg.
2 x 8 Shoulder openers
2 x 5 Cuban press
3 x 5 Wall squat
2 x 8 Goblet squat

2 x 5 Squat jump

Then:

10x Headcutter with KB
10x Back extension
10x Split jump
60 secs rest

5 rounds

Then:

1 – 10

Squat Ladder with partner. Begin reps from the bottom of the squat, each partner holds a squat while the other works.

Player one does one squat then holds at the bottom. Player two then does their first squat. Player One then performs two squats while player two is holding. Then player two does two squats while player one holds at the bottom of the squat. Players alternate reps and holds up to 10. Challenge yourself and try to go back down the ladder.

Finish with:
60 secs mtn climbers + 60 secs sit ups + 30 sec ring support or plank if no rings available.
5 rounds

Cool Down

There are videos of all movements in previous Chicks Newsletters on our YouTube Channel, and I’ve added videos of movements that are new in the above workouts:

Headcounters

Back Extensions

As always if you are unsure how to perform any of these movements get professional instruction.

If you need information on building your ski leg strength for a specific trip of any nature you can contact me via email.

Carolyn Parker

The Dawns do Iceland

Many years ago I met another Dawn. Her name is Dawn Rathburn, but she became known as Other Dawn soon after showing up to the first Chicks Rock clinic at Red Rocks in 2009. At this clinic I taught Other Dawn to tie her figure 8 and other rock climbing basics. I then talked Other Dawn into taking a Chicks Ice Clinic in Ouray where I taught her how to ice climb. Over the years Other Dawn has been to many Chicks clinic. I love to climb with Other Dawn. During our Chicks Clinics I always try to have her in my group.


In February 2017 Chicks Climbing and Skiing offered a trip to Bildudalur, Iceland to climb remote and wild backcountry ice climbs. This description was enough for Other Dawn to register for the trip. Seeing her name on the registration, my already high level of excited peaked. I knew we would be in for a great adventure together.

 

Kitty and I landed in Iceland, already fighting off the jetlag. We took a taxi over to the small domestic airport where we met Other Dawn at the only gate there. She had been in Iceland for a few days getting over jet lag with her husband. Other Dawn was alert and stoked, which quickly infected Kitty and I. Soon we were heading to Bildudalur to scout ice climbs and rendezvous with the rest of the Chicks participants.

Once in Iceland The game was on. The other Chicks participants arrived and we broke into 3 smaller groups for 5 days of climbing. Naturally I picked Dawn as my partner. I knew she would have the skill and the attitude needed to push hard and get some climbing done. Other Dawn is as stubborn and tenacious as I am, and this proved to be key to our success each day.

Climbing in Iceland is unique. There are no guide books, trailheads, or maps, just photocopied pictures taken from the road years ago. To figure out what and where you will climb, each  has to go and scout the area. The day before we climb, we drive around looking, scouting, for ice. Once we find something we try to gauge how hard it is and how far away it is. The next morning the team arrives back to the place the ice was last seen. We park on a random spot in the road, and start walking toward the climbing. Finding quickly that we have no sense of scale or how hard things will really be.

One morning we faced our most difficult and challenging approach of our trip. It was steep talus with a shallow dusting of snow. It was hell. At the top of the hill, Dawn and I put down our packs to discuss the climb in front of us. The climb was nothing more than a bunch of pencil sized icicles over wet rock. It was a no go and I was bummed. Even though Other Dawn was challenged by the hike, she never lost her fire. Other Dawn turned to me and said, “If you had told me 8 years ago that I would be here in Iceland  with you I would never have believed it. Look at us!”

In a matter of seconds Other Dawn validated every hardship we had faced that day and every other day on the trip. This statement filled me so much joy, I wanted to cry. Through Chicks she had progressed from zero to sixty, and I was a part of that progression. I was so moved. We then shared a Snickers bar and tackled another heinous approach to a climb in marginal conditions.

Traveling around the world to ice climb is a gamble. It takes an adventurous soul to want to take on an objective like ice climbing. Not every moment traveling or climbing in the mountains is perfect. Typically we only remember and boast about the good times. I will proudly remember all the awful post-holing and vertical talus slopes. I will gladly tell about the overhanging detached ice we climbed. Inside Of me, I will smile with glee because I am proud to have given Other Dawn a few small tools needed to become the climber she is today. This trip was as perfect as can be for me because of the opportunity to climb with my friend, Other Dawn.

Chicks will be offering the Iceland trip again this year. Join us in February of 2018 to climb the wild ice climbs of Iceland. We hope you can join us this February when we return to Bildudalur for Ice Climbing in Iceland Trip.

 

Forging Self-Reliance

One cold, windy day many years ago Jay Smith, Doug Hall, and I eagerly donned our packs and began post-holing up a gully to do a first ascent of an ice route that rarely comes in.  The new snow was not particularly deep, but the gully was steep so we took turns breaking trail.  We were nearing the base of the climb and the wind had begun to howl overhead. My partners had stopped to pull out the 7ml tag line and were looking for an anchor.  “What’s up?” I asked, knowing full well that they were roping up because they were afraid of the avalanche danger and hoped a belay would save their lives should an avalanche drop down on us from above.  “If it’s that bad, I am going down!” I exclaimed.  After a lengthy discussion, Jay and Doug packed up the rope and followed me down the gully.  Because of my taking a stand, we did not make the first ascent.  The slope above never avalanched, but we will never know if the gully would have slid with our weight on it.

Still, I wanted to know more.  Was I being too conservative?  Was my tolerance for risk below those of my partners?  Perhaps the rope and anchor (a scrawny tree) would have held in an avalanche.  I consulted with a local avalanche expert and he stated that if he were in my shoes, he would have expressed the same concerns as I and retreated.  I realized that both Jay and Doug had listened to my arguments intently that day and had not treated me any differently because I had a lower testosterone level.  Any thoughts of personal doubts were ones that I brought on myself.

When Kim Reynolds started Chicks Climbing and Skiing nineteen years ago, she noticed plenty of women, in the Ouray Ice Park, climbing with men.  What bothered her was the fact that they were not leading or setting up anchors. They relied on their more experienced partners. 

Since 1999, Chicks has been working to increase the skill and knowledge base in women in rock, ice, and alpine climbing and most recently – backcountry skiing.  Recently, my four Chicks partners and I were discussing our purpose.  We had to narrow it down to two words.  We settled upon Forging Self-Reliance.  Brilliant!

Iceland Sailboat Skiing

iceland sailboat skiingI’ll never forget the moment I first laid eyes on the Aurora Arktika, Captain’s Siggi’s beautiful, modern but historic merchant Dutch style sailboat, anchored in the harbor of Isafjordur.  It’s two masts swayed gently above the wooden deck and the red and black painted hull.  Two small hatch doors were open to the area under deck and up came Captain Siggi to greet us and load our skis and gear onboard. 

We started by sailing across the waters to the Hornstandir Natural Reserve, a beautiful, remote mountain area where snow covered slopes lead directly to the fjords below.   Yearning to explore, we set anchor in a small fjord, caught a ride in the zodiac to shore and began to skin up perfect spring snow into the mountains.  We headed for a high pass that would connect to the basin on the far side, planning to meet the ship after Siggi would sail around the rugged coast to meet us.  Clouds had formed at that moment, and Siggi called us on the radio to make sure we were up for the adventure.  Of course we were, unable to resist the curiosity of wanting to see the other side of the mountains.  We gained the pass after a couple hours of skinning uphill, climbing over a few rocks near the top, and were greeted with stunning scenery and a long, winding ski run down a large alpine basin, carving turns past waterfalls and cliff bands.  Far below in the fjord, we could see the Aurora anchored.  Siggi picked us up from shore and once back on the sailboat we dug into a big dinner of fresh fish and stew.  Content and happy, we relaxed in the cozy dining area below deck.  The Aurora felt so welcoming and comfortable, that it did not take long to call the boat our home. 

For the next six days, we skied.  We explored anything from big open slopes to enticing couloirs, climbed up to high peaks and passes, and anchored in a different fjord each night.  Even during a couple days of mediocre weather, we were able to get out and enjoy good snow.  We took sea kayaks and paddle boards out on the water to watch seals play, we hunted for mussels, and we sat on deck with a glass of wine enjoying the purple midnight sky of the long Nordic spring days.  We felt like pioneers.  Sailboat skiing in Iceland was an unforgettable experience.

Silverton Avalanche School

Earning backcountry turns at the Red Mountain Pass area of the San Juan Mountains, Colorado. Photo Credit: Louis Arevalo

New Partnership with the Silverton Avalanche Schoolchicks with stix logo

Chicks is delighted to announce our new Partnership with the Silverton Avalanche School. Working with SAS allows us to expand our ski and splitboard offerings closer to home and add avalanche education with certification to our all-women’s backcountry courses.  Since we launched into backcountry ski offerings two years ago we’ve shared turns with many of you on Red Mountain Pass and the Opus Hut area, we’ve heli-skied with Telluride Helitrax and ran our first avalanche course with AAI in Jackson. We’ve gone international to Japan and La Grave, France and now we’re really going to get this party started with the Silverton Avalanche School.  We hope you’ll join us for our first season together. 

The Silverton Avalanche School is a non-profit organization that has been in operation since 1962 and educated over 4000 students from beginners to top-level professionals.  They’ve been industry leaders in avalanche education, teaching folks how to recognize avalanche hazards, determine snow stability, organize and carry out rescue operations and become competent backcountry travelers for 55 years. 

Located in the heart of the San Juan Mountains at 9,318 feet in Silverton, Colorado there is no better classroom to learn about avalanches.  The San Juan Mountains have some of the most accessible, active and well-known avalanche paths anywhere with a snowpack world-famous for it’s dynamic qualities.  SAS courses are taught by nationally recognized members of the American Avalanche Association, AIARE and the Canadian Avalanche Association with instructors widely known for their expertise and passion for snow safety and backcountry fun. 

“We are excited to partner up with Chicks Climbing and Skiing to offer women’s specific avalanche and backcountry ski training. This partnership fills a gap that we have seen in avalanche education.  Chicks Climbing and Skiing brings a wealth of guiding and training experience that goes unmatched.  Empowering women to go into the backcountry and avalanche terrain is close to our heart and we are honored to work with Chicks to make this happen.”
Jim Donovan, Director Silverton Avalanche School

It’s a match made on a mountaintop and we can’t wait to take your backcountry skills to the next level with our new partnership. SAS’s female instructors are some of the most experienced, passionate avalanche educators in the country. Combined with our certified IFMGA / AMGA Ski Guides we have the most qualified women in the industry to make your backcountry experience unique, world-class and unforgettable.  As the first and most successful all-women’s climbing program in the country with an 18-year track record, it’s only natural that we expand our mountain sport offerings to include backcountry skiing with a focus on safety and avalanche education. 

Why choose Chicks and the Silverton Avalanche School?

Because we do women’s programs better than anyone else and partnering with the Silverton Avalanche School and their 55-year track record gives you the confidence to know you’re in the best hands, you’ll get top shelf world-class instruction and it’s definitely going to be fun.

Dates for our winter line up of ski, splitboard and avalanche education events will be announced in the coming weeks.  Stay tuned for more details including dates, course descriptions, pricing, and registration.  Visit www.avyschool.com to check out the Silverton Avalanche School.