Grabber’s All Weather Blanket is a Jewel

Grabher's All Weather Blanket cut to the size of my sleeping pad and then all rolled up together. Looks like a jelly roll.

Grabher’s All Weather Blanket cut to the size of my sleeping pad and then all rolled up together. Looks like a jelly roll.

Grabber, who we love for their little nuggets of BTUs packaged as hand and toe warmers, also makes an excellent emergency, all-weather blanket called All Weather Blanket. Originally developed for the NASA space program, this lesser-known jewel has been a part of my kit for decades.

Although many folks shun “emergency blankets” as hokey, guides always carry some sort of shelter in their packs.

In the winter, this might be as much as a rescue sled that doubles as a shelter. Mostly, though, guides carry at least a bivy sack or tarp in their packs.

A bivouac or “bivy” sack or tarp can be useful, even life saving, in many situations. Think of a sudden summer thunderstorm or an unexpected early season snow combined with an unfortunately twisted ankle.

Grabber’s All Weather Blanket stands out for its durability and versatility. I use mine for a ground tarp when I sleep out under the stars and I sort my rack and flake my rope on it too.

But here’s my all time best trick for a Grabher All Weather Blanket:

I use one in my winter and more minimalist kit, cut up to custom fit and protect my Neo Air Thermarest. Using an All Weather Blanket like this also provides additional insulation from the cold ground. But, if you’ve got a super light mattress, you know how vulnerable they feel even protected by your tent floor.

So, grab a Grabber All Weather Blanket. Fit it to your mattress and you’ll have a multi-purpose tarp that’ll extend the life of your pad and help ensure a good night’s sleep when you need it most.


New Ski Touring Gear from Black Diamond

Black Diamond Helio Bindings from left to right--Helio 110, Helio 145, Helio 180 and Helio 200 ©Black Diamond stock photos

Black Diamond Helio Bindings from left to right–Helio 110, Helio 145, Helio 180 and Helio 200 ©Black Diamond stock photos

Black Diamond Introduces Helio Bindings and Helio Skis

Black Diamond’s Helio Collection is gear for alpinists and mountaineers who like to go fast and carry less.

And just in time to catch the fresh snow in the mountains, Black Diamond has added lightweight bindings and ski mountaineering skis to their line.

Helio Bindings

The Helio Bindings are a tech-like, ski touring binding made with durable metal parts.

There are 4 different Helio models with the numbers corresponding to the weight of the binding.

Helio 110—the lightest, made for skimo (when people race around the mountains, usually wearing lycra, on or with skis)

Helio 145—light enough for racing but will handle spicy descents better than the 110.

Helio 180—from lift access to side-country to back country, this ski is for high-volume, all-mountain skiing—from chutes to powder

Helio 200—the beefiest, top performance backcountry ski

Helio Skis

The Helio Skis are ultra light, carbon ski mountaineering skis. The Helio Skis pair nicely with the Helio Bindings and you can match your ski and binding choice to your preferred skiing terrain.

There are 5 different Helio Ski designs with the numbers corresponding to the size of the ski underfoot—in other words, the ski’s waist.

Helio 76—for skimo aficionados and high altitude descents

Helio 88—for high altitude skiing and long tours

Helio 95—the daily driver that can bridge between hard and soft snow

Helio 105—the master ofboth technical precision and soft snow performance

Helio 116—for Alaskan powder, in other words, for the steep and deep

Look for Black Diamond gear at our Chicks clinics, and expect solid performance from Black Diamond all winter long.

Stealth RECCO — Grivel Helmet Review

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

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

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

 This year Grivel celebrates their 200th anniversary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Petzl’s Passion 

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

Birthday Backpack Osprey Sirrius 50

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hollablock Girl  A Shout Out to Sterling’s Hollow Block

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours truly,

Elaina aka Hollablock Girl

The Amazon of Climbing Ropes Sterling’s Nano IX

There’s nothing better than a rope that invokes a legendary race of female warriors when you’re going for it. Karen Bockel on the ultra-classic Corrugation Corner (5.7) Lover's Leap, CA. ©Angela Hawse

There’s nothing better than a rope that invokes a legendary race of female warriors when you’re going for it. Karen Bockel on the ultra-classic Corrugation Corner (5.7) Lover’s Leap, CA. ©Angela Hawse

I just got back from a climbing trip to the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains where I spent most of my days climbing at Lover’s Leap, Lake Tahoe.

The rock climbing at The Leap is characterized by long cracks up vertical, smooth, granite walls, intersected with a plethora of horizontal dikes. Together the cracks and dikes make the coolest climbing features.

Luckily for me I had 2 brand new, 60 m, Sterling Nano IX ropes along for the ride.

Deep purple. Bright orange.

Strong and light. The Nano IX is the best, skinny (9.0mm), lead climbing rope!

On long pitches, the weight of a climbing rope gets more noticeable. The higher you go, the more the rope pulls against you. This weight gets increasingly unwieldy and cumbersome making it harder to pull up and balance.

Pitches at The Leap often exceed 150 feet!

Yet, with the Nano IX, I didn’t spend a single moment worrying about the rope. In fact, I barely felt the rope at all. This super charged the climbing fun factor for me. Not feeling the rope, I balanced and pulled myself up tenuous moves, confidently pushing myself on higher grades.

It also helps that the Nano IX has a tight sheath. Friction between a running rope and gear causes “rope drag.” The Nano IX’s tight sheath allows it to run extra smoothly thru intermediate protection.

Lastly, I find most skinny ropes feel too slippery and don’t handle well for belaying. Not the Nano IX! It’s subtle hand has just the right balance between a tight, smooth sheath and a secure grip.

Thank you Sterling!

Important Tips for Climbing with Skinny Ropes:

Take extra care on sharp edges and/or protruding features. The small rope diameter increases the force concentration at points of contact. Manage this by extending protection with shoulder-length slings and placing gear in places that strategically directs the rope to run where desired.

Also, it’s important to take good care of your rope.

Lightweight ropes are a bit less durable than their thicker counterparts due to a reduction in material. Keep your rope away from mud and dirt. Use a rope bag at the base of climbs. Store ropes in a cool, dry place out of the sun, and avoid placing them near chemicals.

Most of all, though, enjoy the feeling!

There’s nothing better than having a strong, yet barely noticeable rope, when you’re going for it!

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.

An Ode to Ultralight Cams: Best Diet Ever

Dear Black Diamond,


When I was a teenager growing up in Ohio, I thought I was fat. I wasn’t, but thanks to social pressures and teen angst, I tsure thought so. I tried every fad diet that I found to lose weight. I used every ounce of willpower I had for dieting before the age of 18.


Now in my adult life, I can accept who I am.  Fad diets are no longer of interest to me. However, I still like to lose weight where I can. Thanks to the new Black Diamond Ultralight Cams, I have been able to shed ounces and pounds off of my climbing rack. Today I am lighter but necessarily faster.


The New Black Diamond Ultralight Camalots have been a game changer for me. I used to be weighed down by my old rack of Camalots. I had the power to carry the extra weight, but I wanted to save my guns for the climbing moves themselves. I would use this big bulky rack as one of my excuses for not sending.


The new BD Ultralights helped me shed pounds quickly and efficiently, with no additional exercise or restrictive dieting. Now I carry a double rack of Ultralights, and it feels like an old single set. Projects are going down like never before.  Thanks, Black Diamond, for making the best gear out there!



Dawn Glanc

Lindsay R placing a .75 BD ultralight cam at Indian Creek
@K. Calhoun

Wheels and Wings, My Favorite Things!

Karen Bockel, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, packs her rope-axe-picket-boots-rock shoes—everything any woman could possibly need! ©Karen Bockel

Karen Bockel, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, packs her rope-axe-picket-boots-rock shoes—everything any woman could possibly need! ©Karen Bockel


The Osprey Shuttle 130L is my favorite travel companion for overseas trips.

The Osprey Shuttle is the perfect wheeled luggage for mountain climbers and backcountry skiers.


A couple weeks ago, I was returning from a sailing and skiing trip to Iceland.

Lindsey and I were at the Reykjavik airport frantically packing several pairs of skis, skins, ropes, crampons and ice axes.

Three pairs of skis went into my ski bag.

All the group gear and my personal gear went into the Shuttle.

Without complaint, the Shuttle’s straight-jacket like compression straps contained the monstrous pile.

I picked up the ski bag, grabbed the Shuttle by the handle and wheeled it up to the counter, smiling like it and the ski bag were light… the result: no weighing of the bags and no charges!

Seriously, the Shuttle is the duffel of choice for me when I travel to faraway places.

It is quite lightweight in spite of the wheels (9.13 lbs), allowing me to max out the large volume with climbing and skiing gear.

There are a few different compartments, allowing discrete storage of important items: my passport and wallet fit neatly in the small zippered pocket at the top, the computer goes into the inside sleeve in the main compartment, and my washbag is at the ready in another zippered outside pocket.

The handle extends just a few inches beyond the duffel edges, but can be compressed and stowed away.

The wheels are of the 4-wheel drive variety, making gravel paths (and even stairs!) passable.

The duffel is well-constructed and true to Osprey’s legacy: padded sidewalls and external bumpers keep my gear safe inside bombproof ballistic nylon.

When I travel for skiing, I can strap my ski bag on top of the Shuttle and drag the whole enchilada behind me, leaving a hand free to carry other important things, like a cup of coffee.

So, whether you’re trying to sneak through the oversized gear check or simply transporting your gear to another continent, the Shuttle is highly recommended!