How to Pack for a Mountaineering Trip – Light-is-Right

Learning how to pack for a mountaineering trip is important because a lighter pack is easier to carry.Going mountaineering. Wildflowers line the trail on the approach to Mt Baker.

Going mountaineering. Wildflowers line the trail on the approach to Mt Baker. ©Kitty Calhoun

The main tenant when it comes to how to pack for a mountaineering trip is that light is right! 

Light is right for many reasons not least of which is that light is much easier and more enjoyable to carry.

However, light-is-right is especially important to me because I go to the mountains to get away from stuffGetting down to basics allows me to focus simply on what I need and to be more appreciative of what I have. I find freedom in knowing what I can do without.  

With light-is-right in mind, here are my top weight-saving tips for how to pack for a mountaineering trip:


The most important thing when packing mountaineering gear is don’t bring more than you need and know how to use it all!

Knowing what you’ll need is often a process of trial-and-error as you gain experience. And knowing how to use all your gear takes a willingness to practice. For example, set up your tent in your living room a few times before you leave. Or, take a wilderness first-aid course. 


Limit yourself to a 45L pack lined with a trash bag (if it’s going to rain).


Share a light, 3-season tent such as the Slingfin 2Lite.  


Down compresses more, but if it’s going to be wet, it will not hold up. Synthetic is a better choice for rainy weather and wet conditions.

Sleeping Bag

Use a 30° bag and wear clothes to sleep or tuck in with a hot water bottle if it’s colder. 


Use a small Therm-a-Rest, such as the NeoAir.


Food is heavy, yet proper nutrition is important for long mountaineering days.

  • Add hydration tabs to your water bottle for increased electrolytes.
  • Use an Energy Drink mix with Roctane to get more branch-chain amino acids.
  • Always drink a recovery drink when you get to camp.  
  • Eat easily digestible, complex carbs when you’re moving. 
  • Eat protein and fat at camp when you’re resting and can digest better.  
  • Choose nutrient rich, calorie dense food.  


  • Use collapsible water bottles.
  • I treat my water with iodine tabs because they are so light!


Don’t bring any more clothes than you can wear at one time. For summer mountaineering approaches I’ll bring runners, synthetic shorts and a t-shirt. 

However, for most mountaineering trips I only bring– 

Upper Body:

  1. Next-to-Skin layer
  2. Insulating layer 
  3. Shell (for rain) 
  4. Belay Jacket (for cold)

Lower Body:

  1. Next-to-skin layer 
  2. soft shell 
  3. hard shell (rain) layer

Other Mountaineering Essentials

  • Small repair kit
  • Small first aid kit
  • Communications device such as SPOT or Delorme 
  • Map and compass
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses 
  • Toothbrush (toiletries)
  • Phone/camera

We cover How to Pack for a Mountaineering Trip in detail before we begin all our mountaineering courses. Go to All Chicks Mountaineering Courses to learn more.

You can also refer to for more information.

Black Diamond Reactor – Gear We Use | Ice Climbing

black diamond reactor

Black Diamond Reactor Ice Tool | Gear We Use ©Black Diamond.

Sold Out!

Black Diamond has done it again!

Their latest and greatest Reactor Ice Tool could be the best ice climbing tool on the market.

Over two years BD’s R&D team developed and refined this axe with their athletes. The end result… sold out!  Our inside scoop let us know the Reactor will be available again soon. But it just goes to show they’ve come up with another winner.

Key Nuggets that Set the Black Diamond Reactor Apart:


The Reactor climbs steep, mixed and moderate waterfall ice well and converts to an alpine machine simply by swapping out the head for BD’s alpine adze or hammer.

Swing and Weight 

A steel head & aluminum shaft combo gives the Reactor a well-balanced swing with good driving power.


Generously bent for clearance over bulges.


Refined and innovative. An adjustable insert makes the grip more comfortable for different hand sizes. An upper grip is versatile for mixed climbing and ice climbing.


A new design makes it like “a needle going in and out of the ice,” explains BD’s Colin Powick in this quick video (along with some good ice climbing footage from Austria). 

Basically, like-a-needle means BD shortened and thinned their classic ice pick to create a more precise and penetrating Reactor pick.

If you’ve climbed on and like BD Fuels or Cobras you’ll love Reactors. 

We do!  And, we’re stoked to get them into the hands of Chicks for all our upcoming ice and mixed climbing clinics.

Lock-Off Training for Mixed Climbing

Carolyn Parker lock off training for mixed climbing.

Carolyn Parker lock-off training for mixed climbing. Begin with tools (dowels) at the same height.  © Carolyn Parker.

Winter is ice and mixed climbing season in Colorado.

If you haven’t tried it, mixed climbing is a blast!

Tools that you’d normally apply by swinging and kicking into ice are now placed carefully onto rock. Then you balance on front points and move around your placement in an entirely new way.

Mixed climbing requires a new set of abilities and one that’s particularly helpful is lock-off ability.

Learn more about mixed climbing here.

However, all climbing requires strong, stable shoulders, not just mixed climbing. So, before you train lock-off strength, make sure your shoulders are strong. Find out more about Shoulder Strength.

Now, if you’re all set with strong shoulders, we’re going to add in some lock-off practice. 

Remember, we always want to take as much load as possible with our feet, legs and core. For more about lock-off technique and another great lock-off strength training exercise called The Hover, go to my previous post Lock-Off Strength.

But sometimes we need to hold our body with a single arm (plus the aforementioned) for a few moments while we find just the right crack or edge to set our tool securely.  In which case we may need to “lock-off” at different angles while in a pulling position.

Lock-Off Training for Mixed Climbing

Ideally use ice climbing tools. However, dowels (or something similar) that allow you to hang with your hand, wrist and grip in a position that mimics holding an ice climbing tool also works. (If using tools, prep them by wrapping the pick in cardboard and tape so it doesn’t chew up your gym’s pull-up bar, rings or climbing holds.)

Warm Up First:

Do a few minutes of light aerobic work to get your blood flowing.

Then follow my Strong Shoulders workout for a perfect warm-up before lock-off training for mixed climbing. 

Add a few push ups and pull ups (can be assisted) 3 sets of 5 of each.

Lock-Off Drills:

Begin with tools (dowels) at the same height. (See above.)

Carolyn Parker lock off training for mixed climbing in position one

Pull up and hold for three seconds at the top of the pull up.

Then lower to 45 degrees and hold for three seconds.

Carolyn Parker lock off training for mixed climbing in position three

Lower to 90 degrees and hold for three seconds.

Lower to 120 degrees and hold for three seconds.

Lower almost all the way (back to first photo position at top) but keep a slight bend in your elbows and your shoulder blades stable with back muscles engaged. Hold for three seconds. 

Rest for 60 seconds and then repeat 2 more times for 3 total reps.

Now try the same thing with your arms offset. 

Place one tool higher than the other.

Now do the same drill: three reps of three lock-off positions with right tool higher, three reps with left tool higher. The lower arm will take the most load in the offset position.

Total rep count for the entire series is only nine but this is difficult.

Have no fear. If you cannot do pull-ups, you can try all of this with a band for some assistance. 

Over time you can add reps or sets as your body adapts.


Carolyn Parker

Founder, Instructor, Athlete, Mountain Guide

970-773-3317 work cell

Founder Ripple Effect Training

Coach for Uphill Athlete

AMGA Certified Rock Guide

Gym Jones, Fully Certified Instructor

Slaying Dragons with my Six-Year-Old

Grady Grissom age 6, ice climbing with his mom, Kitty Calhoun

Slaying dragons with my six-year-old. Kitty Calhoun, Co-Owner Chics Climbing and Skiing ice climbing with her son Grady.©Calhoun.

“Look, Mommy, this is re-credible!” my six year old son exclaimed as he hit the ice with his ice hammer as if slaying dragons.

The concepts of precision and balance, using the tool as a point under which to center his feet, were uninteresting to him. What was interesting was the fantasy-land of ice.

Slaying dragons with my six-year-old I realized I too have a dragon to slay, but it’s the beast within – the beast that always wants to be more – perfect mom, stronger climber, lovelier wife, astuter business partner.

I battle with this beast until I remember that Super Woman is a misguided ideal and that it’s not within my power to protect my son from challenge.

What is within my power is to guide him with wisdom gained from my experiences.

I know that adventure, reflection, play, creativity and deep learning take time. 

It’s so easy to get caught up with instant gratification and convenience. 

Even though going to the climbing gym regularly helps protect my sanity, it’s not enough.  I need to get outside, to push myself and have an adventure.

There’s more to me than what I can learn inside the four walls of a building.

Sometimes, when I find it hard to jump off the treadmill of an endless ticklist, I’ll wonder where the time went. Then I’ll think back on my life, marked by expeditions and slaying dragons with my six-year-old: open doors to adventure, summits, people, and dreams come true.  

“Yes, climbing is re-credible!”

 Join us for a re-credible start to 2020. 

We only have three spots left in our 4-Day Ice Climbing Clinic.

and two spots left in our 3-Day Mixed Climbing Clinic.

And our rock climbing programs are filling fast!

Training Partners

Carolyn Parker and training partner working on pull up together

Carolyn Parker and training partner working on some ring pull ups.

Hey Chicks,

Today we’re going to chat about the benefit of training partners. Training partners can be your ticket to motivation and success, not to mention safety.

We spend so much effort self-motivating. Sometimes it helps to know someone is ready to meet you. Just past the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, motivation can be tough.

Reach out to your girlfriends. I’ll bet they’d love to join in on some training and a bit of social catch-up time. It seems that life doesn’t afford us enough quality time with our friends .

Training Partner Benefits

1) Accountability

6 am. The alarm goes off. You really want to go back to bed. You don’t want to get up in the dark, go to the gym, go on that run, throw on a weighted pack and walk on a treadmill, but you do. Why? Because, someone is there waiting for you and you’re not going to be that person and bail.

2) Safety

A spot when you’re strength training is never a bad idea.It is also good to have someone watching for form.

3) Assistance

While you’re trying to do your first pull up, your partner can help.

4) Partnership

You can do work/rest sets or throw a medicine ball back and forth for core work.

5) Cheers!

It is a definite benefit to have someone to cheer you on! Everyone likes a little encouragement now and again. And it makes training a lot more fun.

Happy Solstice, winter, skiing, ice climbing and all your fun outdoor adventures!!


You might also be interested in

Swing! Training For Ice Climbing

Train Muscular Endurance For Ice Climbing

If you need training information for a specific climb or trip of any nature you can contact me at:

Carolyn Parker
Carolyn Parker
Founder, Instructor, Athlete, Mountain Guide
970-773-3317 work cell
Founder Ripple Effect Training

Osprey Transporter Wheeled Carryon | Gear We Use

Osprey Transporter Wheeled Carryon ready for a long weekend.

Osprey Transporter Wheeled Carryon ready for a long weekend.d. ©Elaina Arenz.

Osprey’s Transporter Wheeled Carryon is perfect.

I’m a frequent flier so it’s very important for me to have a roller carryon that floats easily through security and airport throngs. 

Carryon compatible with most domestic airlines, the measurements are sewn into a tab on the side as living proof for any overly scrutinizing gate attendant.

At 38 liters the Transporter Wheeled Carryon is big enough for a long weekend away from home. I can cram all my stuff into it so I don’t have to check a bag. 

Made from a very durable, weather-resistant, TPU coated fabric, this wheeled carryon glides along super smoothly even when it’s stuffed! Yet, fully loaded it’s still super stable standing on its bottom.

Osprey Transporter Wheeled Carryon Features I love:

  • RIFD security pouch for wallet and passport 
  • Mesh compartment dividers make organization a breeze
  • Dedicated toiletry pocket up top to quickly pull out liquids and gels for TSA inspection
  • Padded laptop sleeve fits a 15” screen
  • Open flat design makes packing easy 
  • Compression straps keep it all in place. 

Lastly, Osprey’s Wheeled Carryon weighs only 5 pounds, so if I do decide to check it, most of the weight is my stuff and not the bag itself.

Thanks Osprey for making such a sweet roller bag! My travels are much smoother with you in my life.

You might also be interested in Angela Hawse’s review of

Osprey Transporter 95 & Snowkit Organization Duffel


Climbing Partner – Who Can you Trust?

Kitty Calhoun belayed by climbing partner, Cheryl Wallace

Kitty Calhoun and climbing partner, Cheryl Wallace, on The Bone, Colorado. ©Jay Smith.

My climbing partner sniffed out the seldom-formed ice pillar like a hounddog on a scent. It was a 100-foot, WI 5+, slender column of loosely associated icicles, aptly called The Bone

 The trick to climbing sustained ice pillars is to avoid panic. Take the time to find balance, to climb efficiently. I could tell the hardest move would be at the top, pulling over the bulge while pumped.  

Jay, who believes in saving-strength-by-running-it-out-rather-than-placing-screws, racked up with all the screws he had. Then, he methodically worked his way up the pillar. Pulling over the crux bulge he disappeared from view but I heard a shout of joy. 

I followed the pitch, thinking “I would never lead this.”  

At the top Jay said, “You should lead this and I’ll take pictures!” 

Suddenly, my only thought was, “Who would be my partner?”  

I’d walked out of “never” and into “Ok” in an instant. Still, what if I panicked? What if I ran out of strength? What if I backed off the first screw? 

Who could I trust? 

I need a climbing partner who knows what to say and when to be quiet. 

Regular climbing partners synch like clockwork–no need for discussion. Efficiency in small things while approaching and preparing for a climb breeds confidence.

 I called my partner Cheryl who happens to be a Chicks alumna. Cheryl is always game, which is a great trait in a partner, but more importantly, I trust her.

As Cheryl flaked the rope out at the base of The Bone she said, “Kitty, what are you going to focus on?”  

I laughed. I’d asked her that question many times. 

I’d forgotten my own advice:

Focus on movement

  • to help you climb more precisely
  • & create a positive path for emotional stress.  

I said,  “OK. I’m gonna keep a relaxed grip and keep breathing.”

Within minutes I was in the zone with no sense of time or distance. My only sense was breathe, swing, kick, kick

I paused to place a screw at the crux. “Keep breathing,” Cheryl called.  

“Breathe, swing.” I took a deep inhale.

Suddenly, I was at the top. I almost couldn’t believe it. 

Belaying Cheryl up, I thought about all of our shared adventures together and about how grateful I was for her.

As we say farewell to 2019, I want to thank the Chicks community, my friends and climbing partners. Y’all are what I value most!

Here’s to strong and intense partnerships in the new year.

Mammut Barryvox S Transceiver – Gear We Use

mammut barrivo s transceiver

Get stoked for winter with a new Mammut Barryvox S Transceiver.

Pop Quiz

  1. Should you face your transceiver towards your body, or away from your body?
  2. Why should you wear your avalanche transceiver under at least one layer of clothing?
  3. How far away from your transceiver should you carry any metals or electronics? (i.e cell phones, insulin pumps, go-pros).
  4. How full should your batteries be? 

Watch Kitty to get answers:

Avalanche Skills Checklist

backcountry skiers make a skin track used to emphasis avalanche skills checklist

How do you know if you know enough to recreate in a winter snowpack without a guide?  

There is no cut and dry answer but this Avalanche Skills checklist is a good start.

It can be risky business going out with confident friends. Choose your backcountry friends carefully!  This is a critical decision. Don’t be cavalier. Who will you leave the trailhead with? This goes for skiing, riding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and ice climbing.

Bottom line – consequences are high.  Decisions in the backcountry can be the most important ones you may ever make.  The mountains don’t care.

To quote Jeremy Jones,

Some days the mountains are screaming “get out of here,” and some days the mountains are going, “come on in, it’s time to party.”  

You and your group need to be able to discern the difference. It is never black and white.

Here’s a baseline list of skill sets I consider crucial for any recreational backcountry enthusiast, friends and partners included:

Avalanche Skills Checklist

  • __I own and know how to use avalanche safety equipment: transceiver, shovel and probe.
    • __I understand and I practice all my avalanche transceiver functions.
    • __I know how far away from my transceiver I have to carry my other electronic devices.
    • __I can check my partner’s transceiver at the trailhead and not miss any steps.
    • __I know how to probe and I practice probing.
    • __I know how to shovel and I practice shoveling.
  • __I do two or three companion-rescue drills every winter.
    • __I can find a buried transceiver in less than 5 minutes.
  • __I can identify avalanche terrain on small and large slopes.
    • __I carry an inclinometer and know how to check slope angle.
    • __I know the correct answer to the following true/false questions*:
      • __Avalanches can occur on slopes less than 30 degrees.
      • __Most avalanches occur on slope angles of 36 to 38 degrees.
      • __Lower-angled slopes can be connected to steeper slopes that pose risk.
      • __Slab avalanches are the most dangerous type of avalanche.
      • __Wind can increase avalanche danger.
      • __9 out of 10 avalanches are triggered by someone in the party.
      • __An avalanche-burial victim has 15 minutes before odds for survival decrease dramatically.
  • __ I have bookmarked my local weather and avalanche forecasts and I read them.
  • __ I’m unafraid to ask:
    • __Do you have avalanche training?
    • __Have you taken an avalanche rescue course?
    • __What’s the plan?
    • __What won’t we ski?
    • __Can we agree to evaluate a slope before anyone skis it, even if we’ve skied it before?
    • __If anyone feels uncomfortable with any slope, can we agree that we won’t ski it?
    • __What’s in your pack?
    • __Who has a first aid kit?
    • __Do you have a working communication device, repair kit and tarp or emergency blanket?
    • __Is your avalanche airbag functioning and is the handle ready to deploy?
  • __I have visited Know Before You and watched the 15-Minute General Audience Avalanche Awareness video.
  1. Get the Gear
  2. Get the Training
  3. Get the Forecast
  4. Get the Picture
  5. Get Out of Harm’s Way

*(All answers are true.)

Click on the following links for more information:

Chicks | Avalanche – Silverton Avalanche School Courses

Mammut Barryvox S Transceiver – Stoked For Winter Pop Quiz | Gear We Use

22 Years of Avalanche Fatalities | Ice Climbers At Risk

Snow Safety Epiphany

group of women ski touring as it relates to my snow safety epiphany

It was my second season backcountry skiing that I had a snow-safety epiphany. 

Until then, I’d been privileged with a strong group of experienced skiing partners, both male and female, to follow around.

On the day of my snow-safety epiphany, I happened to be backcountry skiing with a group of seven men. I was the only female. All day, I asked questions, “Why are we going this way? What are you thinking?” I had no idea. But nobody answered me. Instead, suddenly, one of the guys would take off, and the rest would fall behind him… “What?” Wait! I’d follow along, wondering what the heck?

But the kicker for me was that the guys had also invited a friend who had limited skiing experience. I had limited backcountry experience, but I’d been skiing my whole life. Our goal that day was a committing, 4000-foot, ski mountaineering objective. Not only was our friend a novice skier, he was hung-over, had limited water and no food. 

I stressed about our friend all day, meanwhile the guys laughed. I thought, “Great. If he breaks his leg, then what? He doesn’t even have enough water. What if he bonks?”

Later, the sun suddenly fell behind the ridge as I stood below and watched him face-plant. A humid wind pushed down the slope and met me in the face. And, I promised myself, from then on, that I’d gain the skills and knowledge to answer my own questions.

The next day I signed up for a weekend avalanche course at Brighton, Utah. And I talked to my friend and skiing partner, Julie. Together we committed to take a 3-Day Avalanche course in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Click on the following links for more information:

Chicks | Avalanche – Silverton Avalanche School courses

Angela’s Avalanche Skills Checklist

‘Tis the Season for Avalanche Training