Osprey – A Company You Can Feel Great About – Gear We Use

Approaching Camp on Mount Baker with loaded up Osprey Packs, Chicks Mount Baker Program 2019. ©Kitty Calhoun

Approaching Camp on Mount Baker with loaded up Osprey Packs, Chicks Mount Baker Program 2019. ©Kitty Calhoun


Osprey Packs has been a long-time supporter of Chicks and if you’ve ever attended one of our programs, you’ve no doubt had the opportunity to use one of their packs for a day out on the rock, ice or snow.

Not only do they make great day packs, crag packs, travel luggage and hydration packs to fuel your adventures, they are also a company you can feel great about supporting.

Osprey is based in Cortez, CO in the four corners area of Colorado.

Up until 2000, a team of women sewers from the Navajo Nation did all of the production. Today that team is the workforce behind Osprey’s “All Mighty Guarantee”, a lifetime warranty on all of their packs. Osprey is committed to repairing any damage to their packs free of charge, no matter the age of the pack. 

At the onset of the covid pandemic, Osprey was one of the first outdoor brands to shift their in-house production to making face coverings. It’s this dedication to community and health that makes us love Osprey all the more.

Osprey partners with many non-profit organizations who are aligned with their five core values:

  1. Environmental Stewardship. Our planet is important to protect.
  2. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Everyone has a right to enjoy the outdoors without fear.
  3. Health and Recreation. Increasing opportunities for folks to lead healthier lifestyles.
  4. Building Communities. Engaging the communities they work and play in.
  5. Outdoor Education. Teaching our future generations the importance of stewardship.

They support organizations like Chicks because we also stand by behind these values and we stand up for companies like Osprey who are doing their part to make the world a better place, one pack at a time.

If you’re in the market for a new pack, you should consider an Osprey, and feel good about knowing you’re also helping them give back in so many ways.

Eyes of a Child

Larissa, Simone, Olga, and Yuliya climbing in the Grimsel region of Switzerland. ©Karen Bockel.

Larissa, Simone, Olga, and Yuliya climbing in the Grimsel region of Switzerland. ©Karen Bockel.

When I am out in the mountains climbing with my Chicks, my friends or my colleagues, I often think about how lucky I am to get to go to places like these, to call the mountains home.

What stirs these thoughts are often just the tiny glimpses of what makes this world so special, so different.

This past weekend, for example, I was out in a beautiful, remote region of Switzerland. I was with four women, mostly new to the mountains. We had a long trek to our mountain hut where we going to spend the night. The trek followed a narrow footpath above and around cliffs and gorges, adorned with steel cables and ladders along the way.

Not five minutes would go by before one of the four would stop to take a picture, or three, again, and again. I started getting impatient and urged the group to keep up the pace. I wanted them to concentrate on moving along.

Then I caught myself. This was their first foray into the wild and beautiful alpine world. Everything was new and they had to take it all in. The view of a giant glacier above a granite-walled gorge, the sound of the melt-water rushing down the narrows, the wildflowers along the rocky steps, the stones piled into cairns guiding the way through fields of talus, the brilliant blue sky above. The mountains were so new and so fascinating. It was as if they saw it all with the eyes of a child.

Views I had seen many times, steps I had taken without a second thought, evoked their curiosity and wonder. “Just amazing!” they said.

The next morning we started up a glacier in the pre-dawn to find yet more unexpected, previously unimaginable experiences. Navigating with headlamps, the women heard the first crunch of their crampons on the old, hardened snow and ice. And so they kept going, finding new horizons as they went.

At the end of the trip, their legs were beyond tired, their backs were bruised from their packs and their skin burned from the sun, but their eyes shone so brightly, and they could not stop recounting what they had just lived. My heart was full.

Working it – Marry Your Hips to the Wall

hips married to wall

This position is correct. My hips are “married” to the wall.

The key to working routes is as much about developing movement skills as it is about memorizing sequences of holds.


You would think I’m a broken record but I just sent a long-time climbing project and I was again reminded of a key climbing-movement concept:

Your hips are your power center. The foundation of all climbing movement comes first from your hips!

I know you have heard this from me before. But listen.

I’ve been going to this same climb over and over and I’ve never been able to climb it without falling or hanging—until recently.

Whenever I don’t have a climbing partner I slip off to this route which is on a cliff where I can approach from the top. At the top, I throw a rope over a warm-up then climb the warm-up, using a mini traction for a self-belay. From the top of the warm-up I can traverse over to set up a harder route. This route is an overhanging arête with tiny holds and it has been my nemesis for years.

The problem was all about balance. I had to stay over my feet.

But what does balance and staying over your feet mean when the route is overhanging?

I found when I hung my hips too far away from the wall, I’d over-grip, get pumped and fall off.

But, when I pushed my hips up and into the wall, contracting all of my leg and butt muscles, I could relax my grip. I could also take some deep breaths in this position.

It is easy to see this position when you watch good climbers in a gym.

They bring their hips out, but only to move their feet up because it’s easier to watch their feet go precisely on the chosen hold from this position.

All the rest of the time, their hips are “married” to the wall. They are using their leg and butt muscles to hold themselves in.

But, don’t just listen to me.

Try to visualize this movement of hanging your hips out to bring your feet up and then marrying your hips to the wall. Now go out and try it for yourself.  I bet you’ll send!

hips hanging out too much

This position is wrong. My hips are hanging out too much.


Christina Lujan, who is Cheyenne/Arapaho/Taos Pueblo, climbing in Utah. ©Kitty Calhoun Collection. Afterward, Christina wrote, “What happens when your friend is Kitty Calhoun? 
Have you ever had a moment where you didn’t know you didn’t know something until you knew it? 
For example, did you know you truly are the only thing stopping you from going further?
I have an incredible amount of power and control in my life, I just never believed it until I was hanging off the side of a cliff and I realized the only thing stopping me from going up was me. 
Like I said…..what happens when your friend is Kitty Calhoun?” 


“That’s not the story I had in mind,” I said in disappointment.  

“Can’t you tell me about the bravest warriors? Those who were brought back from the dead? Didn’t they train during the day and feast at night as they prepared for the battle of Ragnarok?” I asked.

“No. They were just men who killed and got drunk,” the storyteller said. “I will tell a story about Freya, the goddess of love.”

Kim Reynolds and I were meeting with a Norwegian storyteller named Heidi.

We’d just climbed a difficult ice climb in Norway and cameras were rolling to record the exchange for an Outside TV segment.

I had read that Vikings drew courage and inspiration from Norse Mythology and I hoped to hear the storyteller tell a Norse Myth that paralleled our experience. 

Instead, Heidi insisted on telling the story of Freya. 

“Freya wanted to enter Asgard––the heaven made by the gods. But, when she approached Asgard in the nude, it scared the gods because they’d never seen anything like her before. Afraid, the Gods tried to kill her, but in vain. Finally, they accepted Freya and she taught them determination, courage and wisdom.

I was distraught. Freya was not the story I wanted to hear.

I called my storytelling coach for advice.

“Well,” he said. “It might not be the story you want to hear, but it’s the story you need to hear. The story of Freya is about the journey. It’s about acceptance and how we treat each other and the environment while on our summit quests. Love always wins over conquering, using and abusing.”

Twenty years later, I reflect on this story, thinking about how to make positive change through climbing. I believe it starts with making connections and a commitment to sharing resources and listening to how others see the world.  

Meanwhile, the Chicks Scholarship for Women of Color was conceived when Chicks Alumna Jennifer Reikenberg generously pledged her cancelled Mt Baker course-fee to a woman of color to take a Chicks course. Details to be announced soon.

The AMGA, as well as many of our sponsors, also have lists of ways that you can Pass It On!

Grivel Trend Harness – Gear We Use

Grivel Athlete Angelika Rainer sporting the Abstract model of the Trend Harness.

Grivel Athlete, Angelika Rainer, sporting the Abstract model of the Trend Harness. ©Grivel.

Grivel Trend Harness – Comfort, Fun and Fashion

We love our Italian friends at Grivel who’ve been in the climbing-equipment game longer than anyone. 

After two centuries of building high-performance gear, Grivel adds some flare to their line with this uber-fashionable harness. 

This little number comes in four flashy styles: Leopard (my favorite), Abstract, Python and Black (with a subtle leopard print).

The Trend is not only adorable, it’s light and thoughtfully designed. For example, for sport climbing, the Trend has extra padding, making popping and hanging more comfortable. 

All the while, the Trend makes a fashion statement in whatever flavor suits your style. 

Kudos, Grivel, for making climbing more fun and fashionable!

Grivel Trend Harness colors

Grivel’s Trend Harness 2020 (L to R) Abstract, Black, Leopard and Python. ©Grivel.

Good Story, But It Didn’t Happen That Way

Kitty Calhoun, expedition leader, on the first female ascent of Makalu, the world’s fifth highest mountain. 1990. Nepal Himalaya. ©Kitty Calhoun Collection.

Kitty Calhoun, expedition leader, on the first female ascent of Makalu, the world’s fifth highest mountain. 1990. Nepal Himalaya. ©Kitty Calhoun Collection.

Revelation came to me while relaxing with friends. It was after giving a slide show at a climbing festival.

“Good story, Kitty, but it didn’t happen that way,” John, my Makalu Expedition teammate, said with a smile.

“Yeah?” I asked.

Then he went on to describe the events of our climb totally differently than I had experienced them. According to him, the weather had been horrendous with high winds and numerous large storms. I remember feeling blessed with clear skies and sunshine! Hearing him tell the story, I could not believe we had been on the same expedition. And, it occurred to me that we saw the same things but interpreted those things differently, through lenses shaped by our individual pasts.  

In a recent sermon addressing racial injustice,

Pastor Scott Fine built upon my concept of lens when he said that no one sees everything and no one sees perfectly. Everyone is of infinite value and we are all connected. Build bridges of understanding; lift others up through caring.

Meanwhile, Zahan Billimoria, a black Patagonia ski ambassador, exhorted a group of us to act driven by love and compassion, not by guilt. When he said this, I felt tension rise in my gut. Z doesn’t know my history. 

He doesn’t know that I spent every weekend skiing or playing tennis with my dad. My dad, who modelled minimalism for me, was also a proud Southern attorney. His great, great grand uncle, John C. Calhoun, led the state’s rights movement and was vice president of the confederate states. When the colleges decided to rename buildings that were named in honor of John C Calhoun, or tore down statues of him, I thought about dad and the stories he had told.

Dad had explained our past like this,”It was a socio-economic system where black people were treated like family and all their needs were provided for in exchange for work. Some white people mistreated black people, but those were bad apples. And, the bad-apple-stories were the ones that got told.” That was my father’s lens, and it was also what I chose to believe.

However, because of Z––what he said and how he said it––I am looking at history through a different lens. I can see systemic racism and discrimination rather than merely a few bad apples. All my life, I’ve heard stories told about black people, but now I am hearing black people speak for themselves. 

So what now?

The next steps can not be a performative act, but must have depth to carry lasting change. They will be motivated by a genuine desire to lift others up and in recognition of our intrinsic interconnectedness and equal worth rather than a sense of guilt or obligation. I, and my partners at Chicks, look forward to creating change, and to reporting more in the next newsletter.

Patagonia Caliza Rock Pants | Gear We Use

Patagonia Caliza Rock Pants in action.

Patagonia Caliza Rock Pants in action.

I am lovin’ the Patagonia Caliza Rock Pants!

If you know me, you know that I am loyal to a fault, and can be slow to change. 

But I have to admit I am, slowly, changing. 

My new, favorite rock pants are no longer the RPS pants but the Caliza.  

The Caliza are my latest, greatest for several reasons, but the main reasons is that they move with me. In fact, the Caliza move so much that I don’t really realize I have pants on! With so much stretch, they are a slim fit but not restrictive. An organic cotton/spandex blend with 4-way stretch and articulated joints make the Caliza feel like nothing. 

The Caliza Rock Pants waistband is knit and contoured so it doesn’t rub under your harness or pack. 

Additionally, they are light, yet durable.

The biggest problem I’ve had with my Caliza Pants so far is deciding which color to get!


Bethany Lebewitz and Genevive Walker practicing AMGA Single Pitch Instructor (SPI) Skills. Red Rock, NV. ©Irene Yee

Foundational to Chicks’ ethos and mission is gender equality in the outdoors, specifically in climbing and skiing. We stand for human rights and oppose violence and systemic racism. We do our best to be an ally to women who wish to improve their climbing skills.

A few years ago, in partnership with the AMGA, The American Alpine Club, Flash Foxy, and Brown Girls Climb (BGC)*, I taught an all women’s Single Pitch Instructor Course to a group composed almost exclusively to women of color.

This pilot program aimed to help bring diversity to climbing instructors by teaching women of color the skills they need to become certified Single Pitch Instructors.

The first course was a huge milestone: in addition to being an all-female course, it was the first time an all-female instructor team had been assembled to teach. Along with my co-instructors and fellow Chicks Guide, Tracy Martin, and Erica Engle, we spent long days in the field teaching the curriculum building technical skills, answering questions, sharing laughs, wiping away tears, and passing on our experience and knowledge to a new generation of climbing instructors.

Women of color in leadership roles will serve as role models for generations yet to come. It’s a bit of a ripple effect. If black and brown girls see women in these leadership roles, it will have a huge impact on them and maybe even inspire them to become a climbing guide one day. Climbing is an excellent vehicle for affirming the message that you can do hard things, you are strong, independent, and confident. 

Since that first course, we’ve held a total of three courses and one assessment. As a result, we’ve added four women of color to the ranks of Certified Single Pitch Instructors. Even though this is only a small step towards bringing diversity into outdoor spaces, it’s a step in the right direction. But there is so much more work to be done and we need your help.

How can you help out? Be an ally in the Black Lives Movement.

Join us in the common goal of bringing diversity to our world. There are many levels of engagement and BGC has put together a great resource guide on how you can be an ally in the Black Lives Matter movement. Visit the Ally Resource Guide on the BGC website. You can choose one that works for you:

  • Register to Vote
  • Make a Donation
  • Sign a Petition
  • Contact Representatives and Officials
  • Listen, Watch or Read Anti-Racism Resources

*Brown Girls Climb is a Women of Color owned and operated company with the mission to promote and increase the visibility of diversity in climbing by establishing a community of climbers of color, encouraging leadership opportunities for self-identified women climbers of color, and by creating inclusive opportunities to climb and explore for underrepresented communities.

Sterling Quest 9.6mm Rope | Gear We Use


Stock image of Sterling Quest rock climbing rope

Sterling Quest 9.6mm Rope

Have you heard about the Sterling Quest 9.6 millimeter rope?

The Quest is perfect if you’ve been hemming and hawing about what kind of rope to get. It might just be the one-quiver, single, dynamic rope that you’ve been looking for. 

When purchasing a rope it’s always been hard to decide between a rope that is well-suited for lots of toproping like the Sterling Velocity or a lightweight, lead rope like the Sterling Nano.

Well, the good news is that you don’t have to make that choice anymore. Now, there is the Sterling Quest: a one-quiver rope that’s both durable and fairly lightweight. 

The Quest is a great rope whether you’re going sport-climbing, trad-climbing, heading out in your backyard or looking for new adventures.

At a diameter of 9.6 mm and a weight of 61 g/m, the Quest has a really nice balance between weight and durability. You can still carry it to the crag without breaking your back, and it’ll feel fine hanging off your waist for that send you’re working on. 

The Quest’s new core construction gives it some serious mileage potential so it won’t be shredded after one season.

The Quest also has a good handle. It’s made with a smooth sheath, which reduces drag against gear and helps let it slide smoothly through your belay device.

With an impact force of 9.1 kN*, which is only very slightly higher than the Velocity, and with 29% dynamic elongation, the Quest provides a soft catch with good belaying skills.

Sterling makes this rope in a variety of choices. You can choose from bare-bones 60m, single-color ropes (which still come with a middle mark) to top-notch, bi-color, dry-treated versions. Sterling’s Quest 9.6mm comes in several different lengths between 40m and 80m.

The Quest has lots of important attributes united into one rope. So, go ahead and fret no more… Sterling’s Quest 9.6mm rope will make a good companion no matter what your climbing goals are!

*This is an international testing standard, not the actual force on a falling climber!