How to choose a rope

by Kitty Calhoun

The first thing to decide is how you will most often be using the rope.  Do you need a dry rope? Will you be mostly top-roping? Will you be doing multi-pitch routes or long approaches in the mountains?  Each of these factors affects your decision as to diameter, length and dry treatment of your rope.  So let’s look at your choices:

  • Single ropes (9.4mm – 11mm). The larger the diameter, generally, the longer the rope will last. The larger diameter ropes are harder to feed through belay devices and are, of course, heavier.  Conversely, the smaller diameter ropes are lighter, but do not last as long.  I would choose a 10.2mm for top-roping and on big walls where I have to do a lot of jumaring. I would use a 9.4mm for alpine routes, and a 9.9mm for most of my climbing.
  • Half ropes (8mm – 9mm). These are two ropes used together in such a way that you clip one line of pro with one rope and another line of pro with the other to reduce rope drag, or simply alternate clips. If you clip both strands into the same piece of pro, the impact force goes up on the pro and on you (not good).  The advantage of this system is that it reduces rope drag on wandering routes and you have two ropes in case one gets chopped. Also, you have two ropes to rappel. The disadvantage is that it takes extra time and is more awkward to manage the ropes while belaying on a hanging or semi-hanging belay.
  • Twin ropes (7mm-9mm). Another two-rope system, but with twins, you have to clip both ropes in each piece of gear so there will be  more rope drag than with half ropes. Like half-ropes, you have two ropes to rappel but have the disadvantage of dealing with the extra time and awkwardness of managing the ropes while belaying on hanging or semi-hanging belays.
  • Other factors. The most common lengths are 60m and 70m.  You can normally get away with a 60m rope (and this saves weight and money) except on some long single pitch routes.  As for dry treated ropes – the water-resistant coatings are often applied to the sheath and to the core fibers as well.  This makes the rope more water-resistant, stonger, and it lasts longer.

Additional things to consider would be fall rating and impact force rating of each rope you’re considering as well as the care instructions for each type of rope. Ropes do have a shelf life and at most, a rope is only good for 4-5 years.  I get a 70m 9.9mm dry rope at the beginning of every ice season and try to make it last a year.  I also carry a 70m 7mm dry cord (static) with me on multi-pitch routes for rappelling.

I have been using PMI ropes for 20 years and would highly recommend them.  Chicks with Picks proudly uses them as well.

Chicks Gear Review of the Black Diamond Cobra Ice Tool

Gear Review of the Black Diamond Cobra Ice Tool
by Kitty Calhoun

Pros: I got a pair of the new Cobras last year and they are now my favorite tools. I never used the earlier versions – always some other BD tool – because I felt the grip was too big for my hand. That changed with the new Cobras. The other thing that is nice about this tool is that it is carbon fiber, which means that there is a dampening effect when you swing, reducing the chance of tendonitis in the elbow joint. Finally, the shaft on the Cobra has the most clearance of any of their tools and keeps the majority of the tool’s weight in the head. Cons (50 words max): There aren’t any that I can see! They are one of the most expensive ice tools on the market, however. Bottom Line (40 words): A great ice tool for steep ice and multi-pitch ice (use with the optional leash). Lightweight, easy swing and offers great hooking potential with the high-clearance shaft.


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Defining adventure

by: Sarah Goldman
My words hung, suspended in air above the table. I could see each member of my fire department duty shift processing what I had just said. “I am resigning, effective immediately. I’ve accepted a contract firefighting position in Iraq.“ The only thing louder than the silence in the room was my heart thumping in my chest and my throat. I watched the words sink in; I could see the judgments forming. It was the same each time I had told someone about my decision and upcoming adventure.

What makes me, a woman on the brink of my 30s with a solid secure job and the freedom to find as many climbing days as the calendar allows, chuck it all and travel 8000 miles away to a seemingly endless, unpopular war with zero opportunity to climb, enjoy a microbrew, or sport a nose piercing? Change? Risk? Adventure? Opportunity? Hope? The pursuit of a wild dream? All of the above?

As I think more about these words and the spirit behind them, I realize these are the reasons so many of us are drawn to climb. As climbers and adventurers, we look at a massive granite spire and think, “what if?” It is in the same spirit that we eye a job opening in Boulder from home in Cincinnati and think “why not now?” I left stability in Virginia and came to Iraq because I was due for an adventure and even more ready for change.

I’ve known it was time to shake things up since my first Chicks With Picks experience nearly 2 years ago. My life, while exceptionally comfortable and one no doubt worthy of envy, had left me feeling cornered, firmly entrenched in a rut and just plain bored. I liked my job as a firefighter, but I knew that it wasn’t going to be my life’s work. I’d spent the past 20 years in Virginia and finally accepted its highest point tops out at barely 5000 feet, so I knew a change of scenery was needed. I suppose I was happy enough, but passionate? Excited? Energized? Not so much.

There are many who don’t understand why I would walk away from what I had, but these often seem to be the same people who don’t understand why we clip bolts, plug gear and stick hard ice. For the most part these same people value, consistency over spontaneity, financial stability over chance, and resorts over road trips. Adventurers are people of courage, people of faith. Faith that things work out, that the universe will provide. They are doers and decision makers. Most often they are not shy and they are not timid. They act when others choose to idle. They choose the risk, when others choose security. Adventure is both a state of being and a state of doing. It is in some, and definitely not in others.

I applied for the position in Iraq and kept expecting for it to somehow not work out. When the doors kept opening and the reality set in that this decision was now going to be up to me, and not the universe to make, I knew, being me, I had to take the chance. Just as any of you cant deny an offer to scope a new crag, or try a new route. I got the call while sitting on a park bench in Calgary, after three amazing weeks in Alberta. My life in Virginia was literally and figuratively thousands of miles away.

I have been in Iraq now for nearly 3 months. The time both crawls and flies depending on my mood. I live in a firehouse on an Army Forward Operating Base with around 25 other firefighters. Each day is the same. Morning meeting, eat, train, eat, work out, eat, call home, dream, repeat. The work is not hard, and I feel fortunate that through my adventure I have the opportunity to support and protect thousands of men and women in the military. Whatever your views on this war, these men and women are sacrificing on our behalf and that cannot be overlooked or underappreciated.

Unlike the members of the military, who do not have an option, I don’t plan to be here long; as I mentioned, being a firefighter is not my life work. I‘ll be here until next summer, or maybe a bit longer. For me, this is a year of transition. It is my first move. Due to responsibilities back home, changing my life couldn’t happen overnight, and I’ll venture to say for anyone over the age of 21 this is probably the case. If it, the adventurist spirit, is in you, which, if you have found your way to this blog it most likely is, and you feel the stink of stagnation into your life, then act. Consider your wildest dreams; consider the life you wish you were having. I don’t know what is next for me, but I take comfort in knowing what is not. I plan to pursue my wildest dream, or dreams as it may turn out to be. As we say in climbing, make the first move, and the next will appear.

Perhaps one of the greatest compliments I have ever been given came from the Head Chick when I told her I had skipped the states and would be working in Iraq. She called me a true adventurer. Thank you Kim, and all of the Chicks touting picks. I didn’t get here alone and Ill enjoy the help finding my way home. Leave the anchors set, I’ll be back soon.

Mental Fortitude, Piper Musmanno

piperPiper Musmanno’s been exploring Colorado’s fourteeners for several years now, and she’s just about summited them all. Piper’s not one to go up the easy way, either. She chooses the exciting routes. Piper recently completed the traverse between the Maroon Bells.  Well known for its extreme beauty as well as its challenging terrain, this route in the Elk range offers a scenic , steep snow climb followed by some tricky route finding up fourth class rock to the first summit. At this point the fun is only part way through. The traverse offers exposure and more route finding followed by continuing to stitch one’s way down through more challenging rocky geometry back down to the finale of a beautiful alpine meadow.

While Piper is a strong mountaineer and climber, she has faced a few of her own challenges to reaching her climbing goals. Last — Piper took a lead fall resulting in a badly broken leg. The injury might’ve delayed her progress, but it did not deter her spirit. As many of us know, the steepest terrain does not always present in the geographical topography, but often, surmounting our own emotional hurdles offers the greatest challenge.” Overcoming the mental aspect has been the hardest part of my recovery. I am slowly gaining confidence back in myself and my body.

Mental fortitude goes a long way in climbing and mountaineering. One must have the ability to stare down her fears as well as retain an unerring belief that her body will see her through the rough spots. Consistent work on technique is also a given, but the ability to believe in one’s own strength can (and will) save the day.  After Piper’s hip gave out, leading to having her hip resurfaced in June 2007, Piper faced a steady, long road to physical recovery. Following this up with a lead fall and subsequent broken leg has forced Piper to be more mindful than ever as she recovers her physical and mental strength. “I can no longer just run all night if I need to get out of bad situations… I’ve gotten much more skilled and better w/ maps, decision making and general mountain skills to keep myself from getting in bad spots.

Knowing what it’s taken for Piper to continue to reach her climbing goals is inspirational. When you meet Piper climbing with Chicks, you’d think she’s just like you- and she is- (with an exceptional amount of mental fortitude) as well as a few extra metal pieces helping to hold her together.

Chicks November Newsletter

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Trinity Right

by Caroline George

This Fall, I set my eyes on a 12a route in Little Cottonwood Canyon: Trinity Right. I had followed it once last year to clean it after Adam had been on it. The route traverses so much that it even goes down a little and I was terrified following it. The potential for pendulum was scared me.
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Girly guide Mattie Sheafor-Hong gets down to business

BOILER PLATE ICE. BUTT COLD.
By Mattie Sheafor-Hong

Conditions yesterday were as hard as they get, barring avalanche. disease, pestience or famine. The ice was boilerplate hard, prone to this specious, wicked fracturing calledl “dinner plating” (every contact strike makes a discolored shape about the size of a turkey platter, which means it has fractured around and under the ice and you trust it at your peril). It means a boat load of work on the sharp end and your belayer is probably going to get shelled unless you’ve been very wise and very thoughtful and luck doesn’t hurt.

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