Patagonia Vengas: Kitty’s new favorite pants

Kitty in her rolled-up Vengas on Dead Men Tell No Tales, 5.12, Kauai. ©Jay Smith

 

Why I love my Vengas

My son, who suddenly became a fashion expert upon entering Middle School, remarked that I did not fit in with other moms. He then told me that you have to look good to feel good.  If you feel good you will climb well. I told him that in fact, I set the standards since I am a Patagonia Ambassador.  He laughed and rolled his eyes.

 

I was just teasing him, knowing full well that I am slow to adopt new clothing trends because I become loyal to a product that performs well, even after it is discontinued.  For example, my favorite pants were the Patagonia Serenity tights because they were supple enough to wear while running, climbing, and doing yoga.  When the knees wore out, I made them into shorts.  When the seam wore out in the butt, I sewed it back.  When they stopped making them in any color except black, I decided I needed to try something else.

 

Enter the Venga climbing pants.  Now my son no longer pretends that I am someone else’s mom.  These pants are stylish and comfortable enough to wear at the airport as well as the crags.  They are made of lightweight organic cotton/polyester so they feel soft and stretch as well. They have a DWR finish to shed moisture – and they are more durable than my old Serenity tights.

 

The real test for the Vengas came when I went to Kauai and was encouraged to send in photos while climbing in long pants. I normally climb in shorts in the summer because I thought pants were too hot and constricting when I am sweating already.  But I was surprised to find that I forgot all about the pants when I got on my climbing project and sent it.  Indeed, maybe it was all due to the Vengas.

A Love Letter to My SCARPA Gecko Approach Shoes

Angela Hawse dances up the approach trail in her Scarpa Geckos

Angela Hawse dances up the approach trail in her Scarpa Geckos

Dear Geckos,

Over the past three decades, I’ve worn through many an approach shoe relationship. None come close to making me as happy as you.

You are my fun-times go-to.

Your fine edge complements my rough edges. I look so good with you on my feet.

Whenever I feel insecure, you help me get a grip.

Your turquoise body and coral-toned trim is beautiful. Your sole is so stable and inspiring—true to your purpose. I believe there’s #noplacetoofar. Wearing a shoe of your stature, I always take one step further.

But what amazes me most is the quality of your full-leather body. You take all the abuse approach shoes get without a peep.

Geckos you’re burly and you’re sassy and girly. You’re a rare shoe that shines in the mountains and on the dance floor to boot.

You are my one and only.

Angela

Thin Skin Thick Skin

Zim's Crack Creme is fingertip bliss

Fingertip Bliss!

I just got back from my first rock-climbing trip of the year.

It was great to feel the warm, dry rock, even though it was ROUGH on my skin.

This is normal. The first climbing outing of the year always feels particularly hard. It takes some climbing time for my skin to toughen up, for the pads of my fingertips to get thicker, and for calluses to form in high-wear spots.

But, this year I had an advantage.

This year I used Zim’s Crack Crème.

Here is what I found:

  1. Zim’s helped my skin last longer on the first days out climbing
  2. Zim’s helped my skin heal and repair itself faster.

I started applying Zim’s Crack Crème before I headed out to climb.

This allowed my skin to absorb the crème before my fingertips touched the rock and got covered in chalk.

I was able to stay out all day. Even on the sharp limestone of Lander, Wyoming, I never thought, “Ouch, I don’t wanna touch the rock anymore.”

After climbing, I washed the irritating chalk, aluminum residue from the climbing equipment and fine-ground dirt, off my hands.

And, I applied another generous layer of Zim’s.

The rich formula soothed my skin, but did not leave me with sticky fingers. I can’t stand sticky fingers!

The all-natural ingredients include Anrica flower extract and Myrcia oil, which are great homeopathic remedies for their anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties.

I noticed that small, damaged areas of skin around my knuckles and fingernails started healing before cracks developed.

High-wear areas such as the crease between my thumb and index finger stayed soft, yet durable.

Zim’s crack cream allowed me to climb for a few days in a row right after a long winter of skiing.

Yeah, my fingers, hands, and shoulders are sore, but my skin remained tough – Thanks, Zim’s!

A Love Letter to My Patagonia Micro Puff

Kitty Calhoun out testing Patagonia's new Micro Puff Jacket on a recent ski tour in Colorado's San Juan Mountains.

Kitty Calhoun out testing Patagonia’s new Micro Puff Jacket on a recent ski tour in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains.

I never thought when I was learning to ski at age 6 where my skis would take me.

How many memories my gear and clothes would hold?

I remember my Dad helping me into a garage-sale jacket and putting mittens on my tiny, frozen hands.

There’s the short, tailored sweater with yellow and blue stripes that I wore as a teenager—a tool to attract boys.

When I started winter climbing, I gave up fashion for the function of baggy wool: a brown, plaid button-down, army trousers, and Dachstein mitts.

Back then we all wore wool because it kept us insulated from the cold even when it was wet.

Kitty Calhoun skiing the East Face of Teewinot , Grand Teton National Park, 1982, in her fashion backwards Army Surplus wool knickers and sweater.

Kitty Calhoun skiing the East Face of Teewinot , Grand Teton National Park, 1982, in her fashion backwards Army Surplus wool knickers and sweater.

The problem was the smell of sweaty, wet wool is distinctive. And, inevitably, before the end of a long day, an ice storm would blow in and I’d be caked—further insulated with a thick layer of snow and ice!

After college new fabrics became available. To save money, I made my own waterproof anorak but splurged on a Patagonia fleece.

Living out of my Subaru, I didn’t have many clothes. I wore this fleece day and night for eight years. I loved it because it didn’t stink when it got wet. It was also softer, and dried faster than wool.

Kitty Calhoun at 14, 158 feet on the Summit of Mt Sneffles, Co, 1982, wearing her homemade anorak and wool gloves.

Kitty Calhoun at 14, 158 feet on the Summit of Mt Sneffles, Co, 1982, wearing her homemade anorak and wool gloves.

Over the years I have tested many different insulating jackets.

Always, the challenge is to find a material that insulates by trapping heat but also breathes. A material that “breathes” means that it allows moisture vapor to move away from your body and your next-to-skin, wicking, base layer.

REJOICE

For a decade, Patagonia worked to answer the problem that when down gets wet it looses its heat-trapping loft, but synthetics are never as warm and compressible.

The Micro Puff is the answer. It’s a synthetic jacket made with a unique patterning construction that works to prevent down-like filaments from shifting.

The result is the best warmth to weight ration of any jacket Patagonia has ever created. That is saying a lot!

BEWARE

The Micro Puff is not a belay jacket.

The Micro Puff is designed to be part of a layering system, which Patagonia developed in the 1970’s:

  1. Next-to-skin wicking layer
  2. Insulating layer
  3. Wind, water resistant/proof shell

COMPANY BACKGROUND

 We couldn’t be more proud to have Patagonia as the title sponsor for Chicks Climbing and Skiing.

We look forward to new adventures in jackets of higher performing materials partnered with a company whose mission includes “using business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

Try out Patagonia’s revolutionary layering system at our clinics.

200 Years of Climbing Evolution

Grivel’s Tech Machine and North Machine ice climbing tools

Awesome Sponsor Gear Review

by Angela Hawse, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, IFMGA

 

In 1818, the Grivel family of Blacksmiths began to create technical tools for alpinism. These “technical” climbing tools evolved from agricultural tools like pick axes. Despite widespread skepticism these innovations established Grivel as the leader in equipping alpinists to climb more challenging routes in the Alps—and, later, throughout the world.

For 200 years, Grivel has stayed at the forefront of climbing evolution through innovation and, recently, a commitment to sustainable manufacturing. Today, all Grivel products are produced with power generated from 100% solar energy at their small, family-run plant in Coermayeur, Italy.

For over seven generations, Grivel has taken clean climbing to an entirely new standard with their foresight and regard for cultural responsibility.

In 1986, Grivel’s Super Courmayer system introduced interchangeable picks, hammers and shovels (what we call adzes) which maintained Grivel as the technical, ice-climbing tool leader. In 1996, The Machine further revolutionized the design of ice climbing tools by setting the modern curved-shaft standard. Every other manufacturer soon followed suit.

I climb exclusively on Grivel tools and I can say, as a woman with small hands, that there is no tool on the market that works better for me.

Grivel tools are light, which matters for swing after swing.

Grivel tools are well suited for both ice and alpine objectives: One stop shopping!

GRIVEL TOOLS

New for 2018, the re-crafted North Machine Carbon and Tech Machine Carbon both feature aerospace composite shafts: thin aluminum inside and carbon fiber outside with the option of hammers or adzes and blade (what we call pick) of choice (see below). The grip remains small and easy to handle with a perfectly balanced swing weight.

North Machine

  • My personal favorite
  • Lightweight technical tool designed for ice climbing and alpinism
  • Excels on high north faces where mixed terrain is common
  • Tech rated, carbon fiber shaft with small grip and spike for alpine ascents and all around climbing.
  • MSRP $289.95

Tech Machine

  • Designed primarily for ice climbing and dry tooling where vertical to overhanging challenges are more characteristic.
  • Radically bent shaft easily clears bulges and cauliflowers with a stable for shape hooking both ice and rock.
  • MSRP $329.95.

GRIVEL PICKS (BLADES)

Grivel makes four different, interchangeable, picks for their Machine tools.

Hot Forged, Chromoly Steel Blades:

Ice

  • This 3mm pick is perfectly suited for all types of ice

Mix

  • This beefy 4.2mm pick is designed for the abuses of mixed climbing.

*New for 2018 Laser Cut Steel Blades:

Cascade Plus

  • Specifically for ice
  • Very narrow shape easily pierces ice, but also cleans easier

Dry Plus

  • Specifically for dry tooling
  • wider and more burly than any other Grivel pick
  • Downturned tip makes it easier to hook rock

Chicks is proud to have Grivel as a Silver Level Sponsor. Chicks clinic participants have the opportunity to experience Grivel’s high quality products during any one of our ice climbing programs.

Get a New Attitude

Kitty Calhoun climbing the Ice pillar, "The Bone" near Telluride, co

Red rock, a pillar of virgin ice, Cobras and my pink jacket… And some people ask, “Why?!”

Black Diamond Equipment was originally founded as Chouinard Equipment by Yvon Chouinard. Chouinard was a visionary big wall, ice and alpine climber who also happened to be an ironworker.  In his classic book, Climbing Ice, Yvon states,

In 1967 Tom Frost and I not only designed a new ‘alpine hammer’ with a drooping pick, but also brought out an adjustable, rigid crampon…Armed with these new tools, American climbers began approaching steep ice with a new attitude.”

To this day, Black Diamond continues the tradition of supporting a new attitude towards climbing through advances in materials and design of technical ice tools.

Here’s the “skinny” on the 3 BD ice tools that I use (although, there’s a new ground-breaking one reportedly in the works).

Black Diamond Ice Tools: Fuel Hammer, Cobra, Viper

Black Diamond Ice Tools: Fuel Hammer, Cobra, Viper

Black Diamond Ice Tools: Fuel Hammer, Cobra, Viper

*Fuel Hammer – is a high performance tool for steep ice and overhanging rock. Because of its offset grip, the swing is slightly shortened and downward, which for some is more “natural.”

The offset grip also makes it better for hooking on rock and steep ice.

Although the Fuel Hammer is slightly heavier then the regular Fuel, I prefer it on ice because I can bang my palm up against the hammer to loosen a stuck pick. A hammer is also necessary to place and remove pitons in the mountains.

*Cobra – is made from carbon-fiber (as opposed to the aluminum Fuel and Viper), which makes it stronger and more rigid for its weight.  Although it costs $150 more than the Fuel, the carbon fiber material translates into a tool that vibrates less upon impact, is slightly lighter (1 oz), and is warmer on the hands.

The Cobra has a traditional grip, meaning that the swinging motion is more like throwing a ball, and some claim that is more “natural” for them. It has the most clearance of any tool, which makes it better for clearing mushrooms and bulges.

The Cobra is a good tool for moderate mixed, ice, and alpine.  It’s my tool of choice for most of my ice and alpine climbs.

*Viper – is an all-around tool for ice and alpine. It is aluminum, so costs less than the Cobra, but otherwise climbs quite similarly. The pinky rest can be removed for better spike placement on a steep snow slope, and the secondary grip can be moved up and down the shaft, or removed for alpine climbing as well. It is perfect for someone who wants a good, technical tool but usually climbs less than vertical rock and ice.

Black Diamond also has four picks – the Mixed, Ice, Ice Plus and Alpine.

The Mixed pick is thicker for increased strength and durability with aggressive front teeth for hooking.

The Ice pick has a thin nose and low volume tip for minimal ice displacement.

The Ice Plus pick is 2 degrees less steep (more open pick angle) for a more open swing on pure ice.

The Alpine pick is a more burly for mixed alpine terrain.

I asked physics professor, BD athlete, ice and alpine climbing maestro and all-round great guy, Raphael Slawinski, how he would compare the Fuel with the Cobra.  He said,

“It’s a tossup between the Cobra and the Fuel. The Cobra has a more intuitive swing, but once you get used to the Fuel, it swings really well too (especially with the Ice+ pick, which has a more relaxed angle. And I find the Fuel grip more restful to hang from. As a result, I do almost all my pure ice climbing with a pair of Fuels. The only place I use the Cobras these days is in the alpine, where I’m going to be swinging into hard 60-degree ice fields. The Cobras do better on that kind of lower-angle terrain.”

Ultimately, my advice is to take advantage of demo opportunities to decide what works for you, keep a good attitude and keep on swinging.

Kitty

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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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.

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.

Petzl Sirocco Helmet

petzl sirocco helmetThe Petzl Sirocco Helmet has been updated and is better than ever. It features top, side and rear impact zone protection which makes it the go to helmet for rock, alpine and general mountaineering.

It covers more of your head, has a lower profile than it’s predecessor and weighs 170 grams, which is slightly more than the weight of your smartphone. In fact it’s so light you may forget that you are wearing a helmet at all.

Read more about why this is going to be your new go to helmet for all your mountain adventures.