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Sterling’s Fusion Nano IX – Gear We Use | Alpine Climbing

The Fusion Nano IX dual color in action. Chicks alumna, Kristy Lamore, 2nd Flatiron, Boulder, Colorado. May snowstrom. ©Karen Bockel

The Fusion Nano IX dual color in action. Chicks alumna, Kristy Lamore, 2nd Flatiron, Boulder, Colorado. May snowstorm. ©Karen Bockel

Sterling’s Fusion Nano IX, 60m, 9mm rope is my most commonly used rope.

 

because I mostly go Alpine Climbing.

Pre-dawn starts, big- heavy packs, hiking, pitches, and pitches of climbing, ridges, and multiple rappels are in order. For alpine climbing efficiency is key.

The Sterling Fusion Nano IX is efficient because it’s really light and small for a climbing rope—a scant 52 g/m (grams per meter) and a 9.0 mm diameter makes all the difference when I’m out for 10-12 hours a day.

When it comes to strength, the Fusion Nano is strong enough for the job! Since I plan to lead climb, I need ropes that are single rated.

And, the Fusion Nano IX is Sterling’s lightest single-rated rope.

And, in fact, it is single, half, and twin compatible, making it a coveted triple-rated rope!

The Sterling Fusion Nano is not too stretchy and not too stiff. Its stretch lies right in the middle of commonly used lead ropes. At 26% dynamic stretch and 7% static stretch, it doesn’t drop you too far, yet still allows for a soft catch.

The Fusion Nano comes with DryXP Treatment. Alpine climbing usually involves snow and ice, in addition to rock. Snow and ice can be very wet! A dry treated rope is a huge weight-saver compared to a water-logged beast coiled around my shoulders.

Most often, the descent, particularly if there are any rappels, determines the length of rope needed for a climb. I’ve found that in most North American alpine terrain, a 60m rope works really well.

I use a 60 meter Sterling Fusion Nano IX bi-color.

CAUTION:

-Use of the Fusion Nano IX rope requires belaying and rappelling experience.

–Due to the small diameter, it is not recommended for top-roping or working routes.

 

It just goes to show, ya gotta have the right tool for the job!

The Journey to IFMGA Certification

Do you sometimes wonder which fork in the road led you down this wild and precious path you’re on?

Karen Bockel IFMGA

When I was a kid, I wanted to become either a Nobel-Prize winning Physicist working at CERN in Geneva or a Certifed Mountain Guide. The latter seemed so far-fetched and impossible – my only connection to the mountains was the countless hours I spent in my hometown library pouring over coffee table books of Reinhold Messner climbing the 8,000m peaks, that I stuck with Physics.

I studied atomic and laser physics and spent most of my graduate school days and nights inside a lab.  The black blinds shut out any stray light, and any sign of life or weather outside.  I spent the daytime hours tuning the lasers and solving page-long differential equations, and the nighttime hours, when everyone else and their perturbations had left the building, running experiments.  Laser cooling of atoms, Rubidium atoms to be precise, was my project, and it required a lot of planning, calculating and designing to eventually create a vacuum system containing a cloud of atoms in the crosshairs of 3 perpendicular laser beams. When everything lined up one fine day, a few weeks after having passed my Master’s thesis, the diode laser measuring the atom cloud’s temperature finally produced the expected signal, and the pale image of my Rubidium atom cloud hovered there, suspended in space, at a temperature of a few microKelvin.

Not long afterwards, I realized that, while I loved the research and academia, I missed the outside more, and something had to change.

After sneaking away for several trips into the mountains, I finally told my advisers that I was headed for the hills for good. I moved to a little mountain town in Southwest Colorado, learned to ski on leather boots and tele gear, worked as a carpenter, and spent most of the next few years either above treeline or on some rock wall, exploring all the beautiful San Juans had to offer.

I started ski patrolling and traveling to ski in far away places. I planned and took part in an expedition to ski Denali with three other women, and through two of my teammates got introduced to expedition guiding. I was intrigued. My neighbors owned Mountain Trip, a company guiding the 7 summits, and I timidly asked if I could hire on as an apprentice.  They took me on, and the next summer I found myself back in Alaska. Under the tutelage of Dave Staeheli, who when I asked him to teach me, basically provided me and the other co-guides (and even all our clients) with an entire alpine course while slowly climbing our way up the West Buttress. We got caught in a major storm at High Camp, leaving us stranded at 17,000’ for 8 days, before we fought our way back down to more livable places. It took perseverance, teamwork, and skill to get the teams down safely. The hard work of expedition guiding felt good.  I was hooked.  I was finally on my path toward this old, nearly forgotten childhood dream of becoming a mountain guide.

Karen Bockel IFMGA

The following fall, Mountain Trip offered a contract AMGA Rock Instructor course to their lead guides taught by Angela Hawse and Vince Anderson, and I, the rookie, somehow got in. I frantically tried to find some climbing partners to get ready for the course, but most my friends were runners and bikers. Nonetheless, I showed up on the first day, eyes wide open. It was great.

I’ll never forget that moment of Angela telling me when I was short pitching, braced behind a small boulder “that rock is not strong enough to hold us if we fall – look for a better solution, keep it real.”  I got that one, not just for right there, but for life!

I also remember that she taught us a ‘munter pop’ maneuver to get two clients safely established on a single rope lower – she might as well have spoken Chinese.  Mostly, though, the guiding instruction and climbing were really informative, fun, and inspiring, and I felt at home on the rock and on the rope. In the evaluations, Vince told me I had mountain sense, the ultimate compliment. I’ve had a chip on my shoulder about that ever since.  Needless to say – I’d found my path with the encouragement from these two extraordinary mountain guides.

Fast forward seven years, many vertical feet, footsteps, rope lengths and a couple knee surgeries later, and I found myself tied to my examiner and a co-candidate, breaking trail up the Quien Sabe Glacier of the Boston Basin in the heart of the North Cascades. We are on our last two days of the alpine exam, my final AMGA program on the path to IFMGA certification. It is only fitting that I finish the alpine track last, the queen discipline that combines the worlds of skiing and climbing, the one with the most tradition, the one I dreamt of as a kid. The moments of sunshine from earlier have given way to dense clouds, crevasses and handrails have disappeared into the mist, and I can see nothing, and yet somehow I see everything.  Years of training, experience and guiding days come together. I find the top of the glacier, lead the rope across the moat and climb onto the ridge above. We keep going into the clouds, in the cold wind, a fresh foot of snow covering the rocks. As we move together, chilled to the core, precariously but perfectly counterbalanced on the ridge, the sentiment I felt on Denali years prior returns: we are at home in the mountains.  For me, the exam finished on a high note in a wild and amazing place. I couldn’t have been more stoked.

It’s been an amazing path, and I have been lucky to share the rope with great friends, co-guides, mentors, and clients.  I have also been lucky to work for a number of great guide services.  I am thankful for every moment (except maybe the many hours on the trail down from the Grand Teton). In particular, I want to thank my Chicks Co-Owners for our partnership and friendship.

  • Angela Hawse for encouraging me at the start and always having my back
  • Bill and Todd at Mountain Trip for opening the door to the guiding world
  • Kitty Calhoun for climbing El Cap and becoming friends along the way
  • Dan Starr for letting me tell him all my guiding reflections and for practicing rope tricks in the garage
  • The Telluride Ski Patrol for the best early morning ski runs and letting me stick my head into the snow
  • Eric Larson for being there for me in spite of telling me not to become a guide
  • Emilie Drinkwater for an amazing climbing trip to the Alps
  • Larry Goldie for turning me loose in the Cascades
  • Thomas Olson at Howard Head Sports Medicine for getting me back onto two legs
  • And for my family who allowed me to take the fork less travelled.

Backcountry Basics: Climbing Skins

Welcome to our very first Backcountry Basics, a helpful series of short instructional videos and tech tips to get you going for your backcountry skiing adventures! This month we will be focusing on climbing skins.

Climbing skins are the tools of the trade for backcountry skiing.  They are strips of material that stick to the underside of your skis or splitboard and give you traction for walking uphill.  Watch the short video to learn how to put skins onto your skis for backcountry skiing.

puttingonskin

A few details to note:  The wired loop should be sized to fit over your ski tip.  The width of the skins should be just narrow enough to show your metal edges.  Work from the top down along the length of the ski.  You can always pull the strip up a foot or two and correct your alignment if necessary.  Wet skins don’t stick:  Keep them out of the snow!

tip attachment

Tip attachment

Backcountry ski tail clip

Tail Clip

Our next video shows how to remove your skins when you are ready to ski downhill.

Removing backcountry ski skins

 

 

A few more tips:

Line your skins up carefully, so you don’t expose the glued side to dirt or other things in your pack.  You can use a small stuff sack to carry your skins.  If you store your skins for a longer time, use a mesh protector to keep the glue of your skins fresh.

long term storage backcountry ski skins

storing backcountry ski skins

Long term storage of skins

If you questions, please comment on our website!  And stay tuned for more backcountry skiing tech tips in our next newsletter.

Chicks Gear Review: Marmot Freerider Ski Pants

Writers note: Last year, I rocked the Marmot Freerider pant and loved them, this year Marmot slightly updated the design and is now calling these pants the Slopestar.

Marmot Freerider pant

Photo by: Norie Kizaki

Last year, Angela Hawse gave me a pair of bright blue insulated Marmot ski pants, when I came to stay with her for a couple weeks during the Chicks ice season.  How awesome was that, right?  “No need to pay rent, but here is a present!”

Well, that pair of Marmot Freerider pants (now Slopestar as noted above) became my regular companion on ski outings all winter.  I had never been a fan of insulated ski pants before, but these pants changed my mind in a hurry.  Having the extra warmth in a lightweight package was a really nice and comfortable way to stay warm riding lifts.  I remember standing in line at the Jackson Hole Tram, which is a cold and windy spot, let me tell you, and feeling pretty toasty warm.  Once at the top of the Mountain, it was warm and sunny due to the common mid-winter inversion that Jackson is famous for.  I could easily adjust my temperature with the zippered vents on the thighs and enjoy ripping turns down Rendezvous Bowl.

Marmot Freerider Pant

Photo by: Jillian Martin

The Freerider pants are water-proof.  This feature is key in the mountains.  Powder skiing in Hokkaido, Japan with the Chicks In Deep program definitely required waterproof clothing, and these pants delivered.  I even used them during our ski tours on cold days.  All the Freerider zippers are waterproof and the reinforced cuffs shed the snow.  Along with that, the built-in snow gaiters make a good seal on your ski boots, keeping you warm and dry.

Comfort is key when you’re out skiing long days, and the Marmot Freerider pants are soft, supple, and enjoyable to wear.  The low-bulk insulation is never in the way whether you’re making turns or sitting on a chairlift.  Oh, and I love the color!  I can’t wait for ski season!  The Freerider pants will be part of my outfit again, once the snow flies.

Tired, Hungry, Happy: Alpine Chicks

Teton Alpine Camp – Trip Report

Alpine climbing with Chicks

Chicks Alpine Alum! Photo by: Angela Hawse

Our first flock of mountain climbers has returned to the valley after our inaugural Chicks alpine clinic, and when everyone got together for a celebration dinner, they all showed the true signs of alpine climbing:  Tired, hungry, and happy faces.  Nowhere else does success come as hard earned as in the alpine, and nowhere else is the reward as great.

Taking place in the famed Grand Teton National Park, the first ever Chicks alpine clinic was completed just a couple weeks ago with three Chicks guides and nine Chicks climbers.  At the helm was lead guide Angela Hawse, an IFMGA Mountain Guide with extensive alpine climbing history and a longtime career in guiding on the Grand Teton for Exum Mountain Guides.  The group of Chicks climbers encompassed seasoned climbers from the Cascades, strong young guns from California, a Texan turned Coloradoan who fell in love with mountaineering at age 64, and few veteran ice and rock climber Chicks.  A fine team, and that was of importance:  Teamwork is a large part of alpine climbing, and this team showed it’s true colors of camaraderie, trust, and friendship up in the high country.  When the going got hard, the steps got steep, anchors had to be built, and climbers belayed, these women were there for each other.

The clinic began and ended at the American Alpine Club’s Climber’s Ranch in the national park, a home in the mountains that is both comfortable and rustic.  We started the opening meeting with a good introduction to what was to come, and everyone got outfitted with demo gear and boots, before fueling up on a big homemade dinner.   During the first day spent at the Hidden falls training area accessed by boat across Jenny Lake, the group got to ready themselves with the tools of the trade for alpine climbing:  They practiced movement skills in their approach shoes, worked on rope management, completed multi-pitch climbing, learned to belay each other with alpine techniques, performed overhanging rappels, and refined their down-climbing skills.  The evening was spent back at the Climber’s Ranch with another home-cooked dinner and prep-work for the next morning’s departure into the mountains.

Chicks Alpine Tetons

Getting Alpine Skills. Photo by: Angela Hawse

Now came the real deal, as the group climbed 7 miles and 5,000’ to the Exum Hut on the Lower Saddle, a beautiful flat perch below the Grand Teton, towering above at 13,784’.  It was a long day, complete with gentle to ever steepening trails, snowfields, and stormy clouds.  It was a great accomplishment when the group was assembled at the hut and cozied up inside with hot drinks and dinner made on the propane stoves as the sun set bathing the mountains in a purple glow.

The next morning dawned beautifully, and no time was wasted getting to work on full day of snow climbing.  The guides used the Glacier route on the Middle Teton as their venue and the group split into climbing teams, practicing self-arrest, ice axe and crampon use, snow anchor building and belaying.

Chicks in Tetons

The Real Deal. Photo by: Angela Hawse

Another night was spent at the hut, followed by a pre-dawn start for part of the group to put their skills to use on a climb up to the West Summit of the Grand Teton, also known as the Enclosure.   Then came the long descent of the whole group back to the valley floor, where the climbing teams had to use their freshly honed snow skills to belay each other down the steep headwall before reaching the steep, rocky trail through boulders and around waterfalls that finally gave way to a hiking trail in the timbers below.  Sun, blisters and tired legs were the companions on the descent, but so were the feelings of accomplishment and pride.

Alpine climbing does not come easy, and the whole group deserves a big hats-off for their hard work and fine performance in completing this first ever Chicks alpine clinic.  From all of us at Chicks, we can say this:  We are so proud of what you all accomplished during these 4 days!

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…

 

We Are Officially City Chicks

Written by: Chicks co-owner and guide, Karen Bockel

Cityclimb2webWe are back from the City of Rocks!  The Chicks clinic was a smashing success with lots of good climbing, beautiful camping in the aspen groves, good food made on the camp stoves, and most importantly a great group of women.  From 14 to 60 years young, coming from far away places like Florida and Minnesota, this flock of Chicks climbed together, pushed each other, and made the program so special with all they brought to this clinic.  The guides for this program, Angela Hawse and Aimee Barnes, had nothing but progress, smiles and stoke to report.  Everyone got to practice a number of climbing techniques, work on climbing skills, and perform a rappel using an auto-block back-up.  The guides’ extensive guiding experience and knowledge of the City of Rocks climbing area and history added much depth to the bigger picture of climbing in this world-class destination.

Over the three days of climbing, the group visited a number of different climbing areas, sampling some of the City’s finest pitches.  One day was spent at the neighboring Castle Rocks State Park where ground-up climbing technique was practiced under the supervision of Angela and Aimee, and all the climbers completed a lead climb. Three Chicks stayed for the multi-pitch climb on day 4, and together they summited the Lost Arrow Spire with guide Aimee.

After all this fun we had, we can’t wait to go back to the City!  With its endless climbing potential of routes at every grade, there is so much to do for any Chick. Stay tuned for the next opportunity to climb with us at the City.

CityGroupWeb

Chicks Gear Review: ASOLO Jumla

 

Asolo Jumla

Climbing the Grand Teton is, in its true sense, a grand adventure.  The valley floor lies 7,000’ below its lofty summit of 13,776’.  A long, rocky trail winds its way steeply up the North Fork of Garnett Canyon before disappearing into a field of granite boulders. Above sit the sheer rock walls, guarding the summit.  Perseverance, courage, and nimbleness are required for this undertaking, not just of the human and her mind, but also, of her footwear.

The Asolo Jumla holds such qualities.  A precisely engineered women’s last connects the hiker’s foot to the mountain.  The sturdy Vibram sole sticks to the rock with confidence and can kick a fine step into the snow.  The suede uppers resist water, dust, and scree.  Extended lacing molds the boot snugly around the climber’s foot.  A micro-porous midsole and anti-shock heel insert brake the impact of her determined mountaineer’s stride.   The silver-lilac colors add a soft touch.  A fine companion on any grand adventure, the Jumla matches you step after step.

Written by: Karen Bockel, Chicks Co-Owner and Guide, who spends a lot of her summers on the Grand Teton

Chicks Gear Review: Skhoop Skirts Rock!

Written By: Karen Bockel, Chicks Co-owner & guide

SkhoopLet me introduce my favorite piece of clothing: the Skhoop Down Skirt. It’s the original insulated skirt, brought to you fromSkhoop’s home of Sweden, but well-established in the US now, via Anchorage, AK.  These skirts are fun, smart cold-climate wear for active women.  Oh, you think it’s not technical wear?  Stand corrected, this piece accompanies me into the ice park, onto the ski lift, and to the rock walls.  Along with my puffy, this skirt comes out of my pack as soon as I finish a climb and the temps drop.  For such a relatively small and lightweight piece of clothing, it does wonders in keeping my core temperature up.

Here’s the beta: The skirt has one complete side zip, allowing you to easily put it on over your layers, for example your climbing pants and even your harness.  The opposite side-zip opens partially, so you can keep the bottom edge of your skirt loose enough to be comfortable skiing, walking for making some outdoor yoga moves.  The front edge is scooped for a flattering look.  The short version of the down skirt stops just above the knees, keeping my bum and my upper legs toasty warm. This skirt is so much fun to wear and it makes me feel cozy.  If I haven’t convinced you yet, you might just have to Skhoop one up and try it!

Find out more at www.skhoop.us