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 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.


Cassie Tweed Designs Osprey Packs

Meet Real Chick Cassie Tweed, the Director of Design for Osprey Packs

We thought we’d sit down with Cassie Tweed, Director of Design for Osprey Packs, to chat with her about just what goes into making women’s specific packs and share that with you. With her leading role at Osprey, we also thought it would be interesting to learn what makes Cassie tick to be such a productive, inspiring leader in the industry. This short video is a great start to gain some insight into her work:

Cassie, Osprey has been a leader in pack design for decades and has put a lot of effort into creating women’s specific packs.  Can you tell us a few key concepts or things that go into making a women’s specific fit that may not be obvious? 
It’s all about the shape of the harness and hipbelt in addition to the different torso lengths available, which is a bit more obvious.  The shape of the harness and hipbelt is more subtle.  The hipbelt is curved to create a conical shape which women’s tend to have and the harness is a contoured to fit the curves of a woman’s chest.  The better the fit, the better the load transfers, and the more comfortable the pack ☺

Are there other aspects of design that you put into women’s specific packs that have put Osprey in the lead with such a wide range of offerings that are women specific? 
Other than fit, aesthetics is another high priority.  This means colors and some subtle patterning changes for a softer, less aggressive look where appropriate.  The function and performance of the bag is exactly the same as men’s.  These details are designed for the activity which is not a gender specific issue.

How long have you been with Osprey and what do you love about your work there? 
I’ve been with Osprey since 2010.  I love that I get to design packs and then go use them.  Hiking and traveling the world is part of the job!  I love that designing packs means designing for experiences.  A successful pack means you don’t notice it on your back.  You notice the beauty of the mountain range in front of you.  I love  that I get to work great people in Vietnam and live a wild expat life ☺

Who are your role models, heroines or heroes, and why?
I’ve never really had specific role models or idols.  I am however inspired by all the women before me and around me, fueling an energy that’s a part of me and greater than me.

What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not working? 
Living in Vietnam is a bit different than if I was at home in California.  At home, you could find me on the beach or walking through the local wilderness everyday with weekend trips to the mountains, backpacking, camping or snowboarding.  In Vietnam, I like to take in the culture.  Going on various motorbike trips around town, eating the amazing food and taking photos. I try to get out of the city once a month to some of the bordering countries like Cambodia or Thailand.  Travel is so easy in SE Asia!  And generally, I’m pretty good at relaxing and hanging about by the pool with this 100 degree weather every day!

What’s the most interesting thing about you that we wouldn’t find online? 
That’s a hard one… I’m not sure I know what’s online about me! Hah…  Well, I think maybe that I’m not a hardcore outdoors, sports enthusiast.  I think a lot of women in the outdoor industry that are highlighted usually are doing some crazy things like climbing big walls and summiting big peaks.  I’m not sure if I’m grouped into that category, but I feel there’s a bit of stereotyping (and it’s probably a bit telling that that is what I see…).  Anyways, what’s interesting about me maybe is that I am just like so many other women out there.  I love being outside and connecting with nature.  I also love working my body.  And when those 2 things happen together, its spiritual.

How would you describe yourself in one to three words?
Learner of life.

What are the top three factors that you attribute to your success?
Thinking positively (i.e. knowing I will succeed in some form or another), Listening, and treating every failure as a learning opportunity / all pain as an opportunity for growth.

What were you like when you were in high school?
High School was kind of intimidating to me. I was athletic and played sports, but for the most part, kept to myself and got good grades.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Haha I love this question.  I don’t know, but I know I’ll find out when the time comes.  When I was younger I knew indefinitely that I would to be an artist, an architect, or the first professional female baseball player.  It was good to have a goal but I may have limited myself.  Now I know that there is so much more joy in not knowing and not limiting myself.

Can you tell us what particular Osprey Products you are most excited about in the women’s line and anything new we can expect to see in the line that would be of interest to our technically oriented women who like to get after it in the outdoors?
I really love the Aura AG and Tempest packs.  Both are supper comfortable and conform really nicely to all different shapes of bodies.  As for the more technically oriented women, the Kresta and Dyna are a couple of our high performance products that came out recently.  Kresta is a ski and backcountry sports pack and Dyna is a body hugging trail running hydration vest.

As an inspiration and leader in the movement of women’s specific design can you give our readers any words of wisdom that you’ve learned along the way that have made so successful and productive? 
Follow your heart.  And if you don’t know what that is, that’s Ok, I’ve been in this position so many times.  When I’m not sure, I go outside, be quiet and listen.  Trust what you feel deep down and follow it.

Thanks Cassie, we appreciate your time and can’t wait to see what you’ve got in the works for 2018! 
Thank you ☺

**This is the first in a series of Interviews that Chicks Co-Owner Angela Hawse is doing with women behind the Brands that support Chicks.  Osprey Packs has been a long-time supporter of Chicks Climbing and Skiing and we are a huge fan of their products and people. We know first hand that Osprey makes the best women’s specific packs on the market.  Most of you who have attended a Chicks program have had the opportunity to demo a women’s specific Osprey Packs.

Chicks partners with REI Outessa

REI Announces 2017 Outessa Retreats Designed To Connect Women with the Outdoors Through Experiences, Inspiration and Adventures

REI, the outdoor co-op and national specialty retailer, announced its 2017 REI Outessa retreats with three immersive, three-day outdoor adventures designed to connect women with the outdoors in a supportive learning environment. Two of Chicks co-owners, Kitty Calhoun and Elaina Arenz, will be attending all three events to lead the instructional climbing clinics with the support of Petzl, our Gold Level Sponsor, as official REI Outessa Ambassadors.

Now in its second year, the REI Outessa getaways are filled with activities and inspiration, offer access to coveted gear and products, serve up great food and wine, and create the environment for making new friends and lasting memories. Registration is now open at
“Whether you are an experienced outdoors person or someone who’s thinking about trying new activities, Outessa is about getting away from it all and reconnecting with the outdoors,” said Susan Viscon, REI senior vice president of merchandising and board member of Camber Outdoors. “We heard some amazing stories from participants last year and we are expanding the retreats in 2017. This fun environment is designed by – and for – a supportive community of women who like adventure.”

2017 REI Outessa events will be held at three breathtaking mountain playgrounds. Destinations were chosen for their inspirational alpine environments, sweeping views, pristine lake, and adventure-ready terrain with miles of trails for running, hiking and mountain biking. Each offer resort hospitality and proximity to major airports, making travel easy for participants. The dates and locations are:

  • July 14-16: Kirkwood Mountain Resort in Kirkwood, California near South Lake Tahoe
  • August 18-20: Mt. Hood Skibowl in Government Camp, Oregon and 12 miles from the Mt. Hood National Forest
  • September 22-24: Waterville Valley Resort in Waterville, New Hampshire in the White Mountain National Forest

Be sure t0 stay up to date on the latest details through the REI Outessa Facebook Page.

Subaru Adventure Team Alpine Rock Scholarship

Subaru Alpine Scholarship

Chicks is proud to announce our Second Annual Scholarship in partnership with Subaru Adventure Team. One lucky winner will earn a spot in our Teton Alpine Climbing Camp in Jackson, WY. All you need to do is share a photo along with a short essay about why you want to attend the clinic, encourage your friends to vote and share on your social channels.

Subaru Adventure Team will swag you out and cover your tuition cost for the Teton Alpine Climbing Program. Not only that but Petzl will also kit you out with a bunch of sweet new gear you’ll need for the trip too.

Enter by May 25th and we will announce a winner on May 29th.


Slingfin Tents

slingfin tentThere are so many tents on the market, how do you choose?  When I was first introduced to the climbers who work at Slingfin Tents, I knew nothing about them, but was open to testing them at our Chicks Indian Creek clinic in April.

My first impression was the workmanship in these tents.  We had three small tents, each a different size and design:  LFD (our basecamp dining tent), the CrossBow 2 Mesh, 2LiteTrek, and the 2Lite. What all three shared in common was evidence of optimization of strength and minimization of weight, even in the smallest details. For example, the guy lines were the small accessory cord made by a rope company.

I also liked the features such as the two doors on the sides, because they are larger and easier to get out of than doors on the ends.  The shape of the tents allow more room at one end of the tent so you can sit at the end and cook, which is more practical than the center being higher in a small tent.  The set-up was easy and intuitive.

slingfin tentFinally, I was stoked on their customer service. Slingfin went out of their way to get us tents for our event.  There was tight turn-around after their last demo and they sent three tents plus a large dining tent Fed-Ex overnight.  When I asked about the purpose of a few features, like the small rings in the inside corner of the tents, I received an email explaining how that was part of the tensioning system in high winds, left over from their mountaineering heritage.  Its nice to know there are still a few companies in which everyone, including management, are avid climbers and users themselves.

Chick Pick: Patagonia M10 Jacket

Patagonia M10 Jacket

Chick guides Kitty Calhoun and Karen Bockel along with Chicks Alumni Diane Mielcarz love their M10 jackets

The Patagonia M10 is our choice jacket for fast and light objectives or for mixed and ice climbing in wet conditions. The M10 is a 3 layer hardshell jacket made out of Patagonia’s patented H2No fabric. Despite this jacket being a waterproof hardshell, it is by far the most breathable jacket in this category.

Its minimalist design is perfect because it has everything you need and nothing that you don’t. It has an athletic cut that fits well under a harness and stays put due to it’s generous length at the torso. As climbers and guides we appreciate this as it makes racking gear and seeing your feet a much easier task.

They’ve added zippered hand pockets to this seasons version and the sleeves have a hook and loop closure so you can tighten the cuffs around your wrists. The hood on the Patagonia M10 accommodates a helmet with ease and is equipped with a single point adjust toggle located in the back.

Lastly, another of the Patagonia M10’s special features is that the whole jacket zips into the Napolean chest pocket. Inside of this pocket there is a sewn loop that you can use to clip the jacket to the back of your harness when you’re on the move.

Patagonia M10 compact designFor the rock, alpine, ice or snow, you can’t go wrong with the M10 jacket. It’s the one to rule them all.

What we Love:

  • Waterproof & Breathable
  • Minimalist & Compact Design
  • Versatile
  • Great color!

Chicks Gear Review: Sterling’s Chain Reactor

Personal Anchor Systems (PAS) replaced Daisy Chains years ago as superior solutions for anchoring yourself while cleaning anchors at the top of sport routes, setting up TR’s, rappelling, canyoneering, partner rescue and transitioning from up to down on multi-pitch climbs. Sterling’s Chain Reactor is the superior product on the market for a number reasons.

Sterling Rope Chain Reactor
The Chain Reactor and Chain Reactor Pro are rated to 12.7 and 14KN respectively. Each loop is full strength and can hold more of an impact than your body could actually withstand. Because it’s constructed of entirely of nylon as opposed to Dyneema, it has dynamic properties that enable it to handle up to 3 factor 2 falls which although highly unlikely, increases my confidence when using it as a sole attachment point.

When used as a rappel extension, both models have attachment points that help prevent a carabiner from rotating and cross loading. These attachments are also the perfect distance from the harness, enabling you to use your gear loop as opposed to your leg loop for a third hand friction hitch back-up.

The Pro version attachment to the harness is doubled, which for heavy use is the the best choice. The classic Chain Reactor is lighter, which for multi-pitch routes is my go to. Sterling Rope products are all made in the U.S.A. and individually hand checked to maintain Sterling’s high quality. The company is founded and run by a woman who has put together an incredible team to produce and insure that all of their products meet international ISO and EN standards.

Sterling is also a long time supporter of women’s climbing and Chicks’ Official Rope Sponsor.

Chicks Gear Review: Sterling Evolution Velocity


Karen Bockel lovin' the juggin' on Tangerine Trip, El Cap.

Karen Bockel lovin’ the juggin’ on Tangerine Trip, El Cap.

In the fall of 2014, when Kitty Calhoun and I made our gear list for climbing Tangerine Trip, a big-wall aid route on El Cap in Yosemite, it was I who said “I got the lead rope”.  I had been climbing with my 9.8mm Evolution Velocity for a summer and it had proven itself with strength, durability, and handling.  Just what you need when you’re about to head up the biggest piece of rock there is in the lower 48!

The exposure and commitment on Tangerine Trip are mind blowing as the route overhangs more than 100’ over its length.  A solid rope is what connects you to the rock, and the Evolution delivered.  The strength of a rope should be unquestionable, and with Sterling’s track record of having manufactured and tested their ropes in the US for decades, the Evolution series is a top of the line choice.

For long routes, a somewhat thick diameter is desirable for durability, and the size of the Evolution Velocity at 9.8 mm fit the bill.  Anything smaller than that, and jugging the line after the leader fixed it becomes nerve racking.  Peace of mind is priceless when you’re dangling in free space a couple thousand feet off the deck.

Also of great importance is the handling of a rope.  People often refer the stiffness of a rope as a benefit for critical clips, but it also plays into how your lifeline runs through a long aid pitch of tensioned gear placements.  On our wall climb, the Evolution Velocity excelled.  The slippery flat sheath ran smoothly through the gear and the stiffness was perfect for stacking and re-stacking the rope at every of the 18 belay stations.

Climbing a big-wall is a tremendous amount of work and effort.  Having good gear, especially a solid rope, makes all the difference.  Thanks to the Evolution Velocity, rope management was not a problem for us on the Trip.  Oh, and if you’re not convinced yet, take it from Chris Sharma.  I hear this is the rope he sends his projects on…