How to Pee without Taking Off your Harness

This public service announcement is brought to you by Chicks Co-Owner Dawn Glanc. She’s not afraid to demo this very important skill. Don’t worry, she will give you all the beta you need to execute this delicate maneuver, without revealing anything more than her granny panties.

Nice Climbing Rack

climbing rackYou’re heading out to go climbing and your partner asks you to bring the rack. What exactly do they want you to bring? Here are a few basic guidelines to help you show off your nice climbing rack.

First, to be clear, a rack is whatever you need to climb the objective that day. If you are ice climbing, ice screws are the rack. If you’re going sport climbing, quickdraws would be the rack and for crack climbing you will need a trad rack. The rack will vary from one person to the next depending on your skill and comfort on the terrain.

 

What is a standard rack?


quick drawsThat again depends on what medium you are climbing. Typically the guide book will describe the standard rack in the early pages of the book. Even sport climbs will typically list how many bolts to expect so you know how many quickdraw to carry. For most trad areas, the standard rack may be a single set of cams to a certain size, and a set of nuts. This standard rack is just a starting point. You may find due to your ability level, the difficulty and the size of crack may warrant that you want more or less of a certain size of gear.  Be sure to ask friends, and search for beta on sites like mountain project to find out what you will need on route.

 

Should I rack on a sling or on my harness?

nice rackThis is such a personal preference, there is no right or wrong answer. When you are starting out, try racking both ways to see what you prefer. Each method has its benefits and drawbacks. If you rack on the gear loops of your harness, the weight is carried closer to your center of gravity. If you rack on a gear sling, the weight is higher up on your torso and you can more easily see which pieces you have available. No matter how you choose to carry the gear, have a clean, organized, methodical system that you can replicate. This way you can find the gear you need when you are in the crux.

 

Get familiar with your rack.

size up your rackNo matter what rack you carry, or how you carry it, get familiar with it. Squeeze cam triggers within the optimal range and compare the size to your hands or fingers. This way when you are in the business you will have some idea what piece goes into the tight hand crack. The more familiar you are with the gear, the easier it will be to place when you are stressed.

Finally, don’t over rack. There is no need to bring items you simply do not need. Every extra “just in case” piece adds up quickly. A reasonable rack can quickly grow into something too big to climb with that will weigh you down and make climbing more difficult. At some point you just have to trust that what you have is enough. Again, experience and a little beta can go a long way.

 

At Chicks Climbing our clinics focus on skills to make you an independent climber. Learn how to rack up, place gear and build solid anchors, multi-pitch transition strategies and loads more. Let us help you understand how the gear works and when to use the right tool at the right time.  Our upcoming Red Rocks, NV and our newest program in Joshua Tree, CA are both the perfect places to work on all of these skills and more. We hope you will join us!

How to Tie Ropes together for Rappelling

When tying two ropes together, or two ends of a cordelette, I look for a knot that is low volume and easy to tie. I find a double fisherman’s knot welds the rope together, is time consuming to tie, and is very likely to get jammed. So for years I used a Flat overhand to join two ropes, even if the diameter differed. The Flat overhand is easy to tie and untie, and I could use the flat overhand with ropes of varying diameters. Then my friend Mike Gibbs talked to me about knots “rolling.” After the conversation, I switched to the Gibbs Bend, also known as a Barrel Knot.

Need to see it to get the idea? Check out Chicks Guide Dawn Glanc on the very subject

The Gibbs Bend, is another way to tie two ropes together for rappelling, and the benefit is that it won’t roll. What do we mean by this? When a knot “rolls” it literally flips over on itself when under weight and it can keep rolling until the tail of the knot becomes shorter and shorter. If the tail of the knot becomes too short, the knot literally can “roll” off of the tail ends of the rope. Yikes!

Enter the Gibbs Bend. We were introduced to it by the folks at Rigging for Rescue, a training company that specializes in safety systems and testing. They work with rope rescue teams from across the country like the National Park Service’s Search and Rescue Teams and the Special Forces of the US Military.

Rigging For Rescue’s Mike Gibbs explained the Gibbs Bend to me as follows:

“From a kN standpoint if you compare the Gibbs Bend vs Flat Overhand, the kN ratings are similar. Most ties break at around 2/3 of manufacturer’s rated breaking strength (MRBS). Climbing ropes do not come with published MRBS as they are not tested for that value based on the applicable standards. Regardless of the kN, the same knotted tie principle is in play. The derate of the tie is caused by radius bend of the rope.  Since both ties have the same radius bend, their respective strengths will be similar. In both cases, plenty strong.

Personally, I would de-emphasize kN of breaking strength when comparing the two ties. Breaking strength is not the issue. The issue is security and the propensity for one tie to capsize/roll under certain conditions and the other tie to remain secure.  The Flat Overhand Bend gets its infamous moniker, The Euro Death Knot,  from the fact that it can capsize and have the tails sleeve through the tie. When the tie is suspended in free-space with adequate tails, it appears to be a non-issue. Or I am not aware of it being a risk and I think there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of successful rappels with the Flat Overhand Bend supporting that supposition.  

If, however, the tie can bump up against an object – like a rock edge, for example- in just the right place (due to tie positioning and/or rope stretch, etc) then it may capsize and roll. By passing the tails of the flat overhand bend once more around, the capsizing issue is negated. That is a very secure tie, albeit bulkier than a Flat Overhand Bend.

I have been rappelling with the Gibbs Bend for 15+ years and never once jammed the tie while pulling the lines on a retrievable rappel.  I highly recommend the tie and personally refuse to rap off of an Flat Overhand Bend, which all my climbing partners know and accept. “

— Mike Gibbs, Owner of Rigging For Rescue.

Efficiency is something I strive for in my climbing systems. I like to keep things simple and elegant so that I avoid chaos in stressful situations. Clean systems produce easy to use anchors and thoughtful solutions to complex problems. Along with efficiency, I like to use the best tool for the job. The Gibbs Bend fits the bill when it comes to tying two ropes together for rappelling.

To Summarize why the Gibbs Bend is a good choice for tying two ropes together for rappelling because:

  1. Quick and easy to tie, easy to double check.
  2. Lays flat over the rock surface so it is less likely to get snagged when retireving your rappel.
  3. Won’t roll.
  4. Good for using with ropes of varying diameters.

To learn how to tie the Gibbs Bend, watch this video by Chicks Guide and Co-owner Dawn Glanc. I think you will see that passing the tails through a second time takes no effort and is well worth the extra security.

 

 

How to Build your Multi-Pitch Climbing Kit

Are you asking yourself, what in the world is multi-pitch climbing? The answer is pretty simple but the process of multi-pitch climbing can seem daunting at first. Let’s start our with the basics. First of all, a single pitch climb is a route that you can climb without any intermediate belays. That is to say that you climb up to an anchor and you descend by either lowering or rappelling back down to the ground where you started. Therefore, multi-pitch climbing is very simply a bunch of single pitch climbs stacked on top of each other.

multi-pitch climbing

To have a fun and rewarding multi-pitch experience, you’ll need to prepare and put together a slightly modified gear list from what you would typically use for a day of single pitch climbing. Our friends at Petzl have but together a great article on How to Build Your Multi-Pitch Kit. Petzl breaks it down into a gear list and some things to consider when putting it all together from choosing personal equipment, rope selection, what the second should bring, and the best rack for the job.

Still a little apprehensive about the whole idea of climbing hundreds of feet off the ground? Not to worry! Chicks is road tripping to Red Rock, NV just outside of Las Vegas on October 5-9, 2017. Red Rocks is one of the best places to be introduced to multi-pitch climbing because there are literally over a thousand options for multi-pitch climbing, for all grades and abilities. It’s the perfect place to gain experience with multi-pitch climbing and see what it feels like to climb hundreds of feet off of the ground and take in the beautiful desert wilderness of Red Rock National Conservation Area.

multi pitch climbing in red rock

Your Chicks Guide will literally show you the ropes and teach you what you need to know to get off the deck on a multi-pitch climb. Skills you’ll learn along the way are: lead belaying, how to follow and “second” a multi-pitch climb, rappelling, anchor building and lots of rope management strategies.

We hope you will join us at one of our favorite climbing destinations in the United States, and experience multi-pitch climbing with Chicks in sunny and beautiful Red Rock, NV.

 

How To Lead Belay With A Gri Gri

Lead belaying with a Gri Gri  is one of the most requested things that we get asked during our Chicks rock clinics. Lead belaying with a Gri Gri (or brake assist device) can be a little tricky at first, but with a little practice you will quickly become proficient at using this valuable tool for all belaying scenarios, both top rope and lead belaying.

There are a couple of key points to keep in mind:

1. The GriGri must be loaded properly in order to function correctly. Thankfully there are diagrams on the unit for you to refer to when you load up the climbers rope. Read the literature that comes with the device.

2. Hold the Gri Gri so you don’t defeat the camming mechanism.
3. Maintain at least 3 fingers on the brake strand at all times. Just because it is brake assisting device does NOT mean it’s a hands free device.
4. Always close the system by tying a stopper knot on the brake hand side of the rope to avoid accidentally lowering your climber off the end of the rope.

Petzl’s website is a great resource for instructional videos and downloads of the owners manual.

Petzl’s Gri Gri Short Video

Petzl gri gri

Need more?  Check out Petzl’s long video for belaying with a Gri Gri.
petzl gri gri

6 Tips For Climbing Steep

How to rock climb steep routes

Elaina Arenz climbing “Mister Fantasy” 11c at the “Endless Wall,” New River Gorge. Photo: Chris Noble.

Overhanging climbs and climbing steep can be intimidating at first, but what I love about them is how I have to adapt my body to move efficiently through steep terrain and get creative with my climbing movement. What I also love about steep sport climbing is that all of the lead falls are clean (well mostly anyway). If you pop off you’ll find yourself cushioned by the air below you if your belayer is giving you a nice soft catch.

You may be asking yourself, what is an overhanging climb? It’s any climb that the angle is greater than 90 degrees vertical and it takes a specific skill set to be able to navigate your way through steeper terrain. Classic climbing areas like the Red River Gorge, Rifle and Maple Canyon are well known for this style of climbing. Follow a few of these pointers below and you will be able to save a little energy and move more quickly through steeper climbs.

1. Climb Fast(er)

The pump clock is ticking when you’re on an overhanging route so you want to move as quickly as possible. There’s no time to dilly dally because you only have so much fuel in the tank to burn. You’ll want to move quickly and efficiently so you can economize your energy. This is going to require some work on your part to get that route dialed so you aren’t doing any unnecessary or extra moves.

2. Conserve Energy

Plan out your route while standing on the ground. Identify the crux sections (the hardest part of the climb) and visualize the beta that you have worked out for that section. Do this for the whole entire climb and have a rough plan before you even leave the ground. Great ways to conserve energy are:
-Hang on straight arms. This will help you use your skeletal system to support you and not your muscles.
-Breathe. The deeper and more audible the better. Your muscles and brain need oxygen to function properly when they are in use.

-Relax your grip. Don’t hold on or squeeze the holds any harder than necessary. Over gripping is a waste of energy.

3. High Feet and Turn Hips In

This is a great way to put more weight onto your feet and allows you to stand up high and maximize your reach on the steeps. Place your big toe on a foothold and turn your hips into the wall by pivoting on that toe into a drop knee or flag. If you are reaching up with your right hand, turn that right hip in. If reaching with your left hand, turn left hip in. This will help you get instantly taller because you will be able to extend your reach by a couple of inches at least. Try this tip at home and you will see what I mean:
-Stand facing the wall with your hips square.
-Lift your right arm over your head and see how far your fingertips touch on the wall.

-Now turn your right hip into the wall and note how much further you can extend that reach. This is a huge advantage on steep climbs.

4. Maximize Rests

Break the climb down into manageable pieces by identifying possible rest stances. Keep in mind that the rest could be a quick spot to get a few shakes before continuing your blast to clipping the anchors. When you’re at a rest get creative:
– Look for knee bar, hand jam or heel hook.
-Relax your grip, lower your heels, alternate shaking out each hand (with your arms straight!)

-Breathe deep. Inhale through your nose and push the air out through pursed lips. Your belayer should hear you exhale. This will help lower your heart rate so you can stay relaxed in the mind and the body.

5. Perfect Practice Makes Perfect

Rehearse the moves. This will help you to learn which holds to use and which to avoid. Experiment with the movement and pull out every trick in the book and get the whole route dialed.
-Have friend take a video or draw a beta map of your route. Note the sequence of both your hands and feet (RH1, LH2, RF2, RF2 etc…)

-Climb the route at least 3 times per session and refine your beta with each attempt. Be sure your rest 20-30 minutes between attempts to stay productive.

6. Proper Footwear

The best shoe for this type of climbing is one that is downturned in the toe area. Think of it like a talon or hook on your foot that will allow you to pull with your toes as you often need to do on overhanging climbs. My go to shoe for this type of climbing is the La Sportiva Women’s Solution, the profile is radical downturned which gives me more power to pull on my big toe. A flat profile shoe just doesn’t put your foot in as strong of a position, which means you will have to use more energy from the lower half of your body to do the work. You’ve gotta have the right tool for the job. While you can pound a tent stake into the ground with a rock, but a hammer does the job much more efficiently because that’s what it’s designed to do.

4-Minute Tape Glove – Step By Step Guide

Sometimes you need hardy a tape glove that last day after day jammed in cracks, but sometimes you arrive at the crag and a crack route just calls to you. No sweat, bust out that roll of tape that’s been bumping around in your pack for the last few months and create this quick and easy tape glove for sending success.

Think it’s impossible?  Think again!

1) Lay vertical tape strips across the back of your hand

2) Create a finger cuff for your pointer and your ring finger

3) Secure the finger cuffs with 2-3 wraps around the palm

4) Secure the bottom of the vertical tape strips with 3-4 wrist wraps

Watch Dawn do it in less than 4 minutes in our latest video.

climbing tape glove

Choosing The Perfect Climbing Shoe

choosing climbing shoeFirst, let’s talk features because that affects the fit of the shoe so much.  Shoes can be divided up into three categories:

Specialized Performance Shoes: These shoes tend to be more for extreme sport climbing.

Performance Shoes: These tend to be for sport climbing as well as technical face climbing.
All-Day Performance Shoes: These are for multi-pitch climbs as well as for crack climbing.

The major features you need to think about are:

  • Rand
  • Stiffness
  • Symmetry
  • Heel-to-toe Profile
The rand is the tensioning system in a shoe, so in a high-performing shoe, like an extreme sport shoe, the rand is going to pull from the forefoot to the heel in such a way that it distributes the power throughout the entire foot.  In a performance shoe, its going to tend to focus the power over the big toe. In the all-day performance shoe, there is little active randing.The stiffness  varies according to personal preference, though you tend to choose a stiffer shoe for technical face climbing.Symmetry has to do with how curved the shoe is.  It is either asymmetrical, symmetric or somewhere in between. So the more asymmetrical it is, the more that shoe is an extreme sport climbing shoe verses the symmetrical shoe, which is the all-day performance shoe and crack climbing shoe.Heel-to-toe profile generally comes in hooked, curved, or flat.  So again the hooked shoe is the most aggressive sport climbing shoe; the flat is the all day performance and crack climbing shoe.

Now let’s talk fit.  A lot of these shoes have a toe box and that is so you can fit the shoe really tight and your toes are crammed up in there.  For crack climbing, you want a thin toe profile so that your toes aren’t jammed up in there.  You can’t always just look at a shoe and tell if it has a thin toe profile or not.  A lot of times you have to try it on ad see if there is a toe box with extra material up there where your toes would be bunched up.The thinner the toe profile the thinner the crack you can jam your foot in to.  This allows you to climb a wider variety of cracks – what you would do is turn your pinky toe down, dig your foot at deep in the crack as you can, and bring your knee up over the toe so that it cams your foot in the crack.
Happy shoe hunting!

Chick Beta: Quad Anchor

The Quad Anchor is a versatile method to equalize any anchor, but in this tech tip, we will focus on how to apply in a 2 point anchor scenario. You will most commonly use this when you have a 2 bolt anchor and the advantages to using a Quad Anchor are many:

  • It’s redundant
  • Self equalizes
  • Quick to tie
  • Easy to double check

What you will need to build a quad anchor:

  • 1 Cordelette (6mm Sterling Power Cord or 7mm nylon cord, at least 15 foot in length). Join the two ends with double fishermans or other knot of your choice.
  • 4 locking carabiners. I recommend 2 smaller locking carabiners like the Petzl Spirit Locking carabiner, and 2 pear shaped shaped locking carabiners like the Petzl Attache.

Sterling Cord

 

Steps:

  1. Double your cordelette over so you have 4 even strands of the cordelette. Position the knot that joins the two ends at one side of your loops. 

Quad anchor2. Tie an overhand knot on either end of the cordelette.  You should now be looking at 4 strands in the middle and two loops on either end. Keep them a little loose so you and slide the closer together or further apart depending on how much lateral movement you are going for. 

quad anchor

 

quad anchor
3. Clip your SMALL locking carabiners to the loops on either end of the cordelette. You will clip this to each of the two bolts.

quad anchor 2-point
4. Clip your LARGE locking carabiners to 3 out of the 4 strands in the middle. For best practice, make sure you opposite and oppose them. The reason why you clip only 3 out of 4 strands is because if one bolt fails, the carabiners will be trapped inside the 4 strands and not fall of the end. Another option is to clip one larger locker to 2 of the strands in the middle, and your other large locking carabiner to the other 2 strands.

quad anchor

 

quad anchor5. Voila, you now have a perfectly constructed self equalizing quad anchor rig that you can set up your top rope with.

Want more?

Check our Angela Hawse’s recent blog post on Building Climbing Anchors (video included)

 

Chicks Tech Tip: Personal Anchoring Systems

One thing you’ll notice between recreational and professional climbers at the crag or on multi-pitch routes is the pro’s Personal Anchoring Systems (PAS) is nowhere to be seen on their harness. It’s in their pack, used solely for the descent. Recreational climbers have adopted many techniques guides use, such as direct anchor belays and rope management strategies, but the way we use PAS’s has been slow to gain foothold. Instead, many recreational climbers keep their PAS girth hitched to their tie-in’s or belay loop and tucked between their legs or off to the side.

Why don’t professionals do this? Because, the rope is the strongest part of the entire system. Why would we use anything else to attach ourselves to the anchor when we are already tied into the rope when climbing? Arguments in opposition often suggest that the rope attachment isn’t adjustable. Look at how any professional anchors themselves with the rope and you will almost exclusively see the clove hitch, which is undeniably appropriate and fantastically adjustable.

Countless tests and videos have demonstrated the risk of using a PAS as a direct attachment to the anchor. It’s common knowledge that any small fall directly on an anchor with a PAS or sling generates forces significant enough to result in sling failure. In 2007, a climber on the Grand Capucin in Chamonix, France fell less than two feet onto a Dyneema sling attaching him to the anchor. It failed and he fell to his death.

How might this relate to us? Shifting around on an anchor and taking a small slip while pulling ropes, a foothold breaks, making a move that’s a stretch to thread the rap rings or just not paying attention and falling off a small ledge. Shit happens but accidents can be prevented. By keeping the PAS or sling tether fully loaded you have eliminated the risk.

Other reasons pro’s don’t keep their PAS tethered to their harness include; 1) increased wear overtime decreases its integrity when attached to the same points on the harness all the time, 2) it gets in the way of gear and adds clutter to the harness and 3) bottom line, it’s only a tool for transitions and descents.

PAS vs. Slings? Often I use a 48” nylon sling as a tether for descents on long multi-pitch routes because it’s multi-purpose and lightweight. I keep it on my harness and use it for anchors or sling extensions. Why is this okay here and not for a personal tether? Because, while climbing the rope is always part of the system and adds dynamic properties that absorb energy. When I’m not concerned with weight or I have to do many rappels, my Sterling Chain Reactor is always in my pack. It’s more elegant than a nylon sling tether and its full strength loops provide excellent adjustability to prevent me from allowing slack into the system, reducing the risk addressed above.

No mention of Daisy Chains? They have no place here because they are only intended for aid climbing, not personal anchoring systems.