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!

YETI Daytrip Lunch Box | Gear We Use

YETI Daytrip Lunch Box packed with food for the day. ©Elaina Arenz.

YETI Daytrip Lunch Box packed with food for the day. ©Elaina Arenz.

The YETI Daytrip Lunch Box is the answer to all of my high-angle lunch needs.

Since COVID-19 shut down climbing, I’ve been fortunate enough to use my skills for rope access work.

Rope access is a way to get to a high, work location and then do whatever job needs to be done. I’ve been working 10–12 hour shifts, dangling from the high, steel rafters of what will be the new Las Vegas Raiders stadium.

Years ago I picked up an insulated lunch bag from TJ Maxx. I used this lunch bag for years. Even though it wasn’t quite big enough and my food didn’t stay cold long enough, the price was right.

Temperatures in Vegas are already hitting the mid-90’s and working  long days up high, myTJ Maxx lunch bag wasn’t cutting it anymore. 

I must admit I had sticker shock when I saw the $79 price tag but after using it for the last few weeks, I’m sold. 

Here are the highlights of my YETI Daytrip Lunch Box:

  1. The Daytrip Lunch Box is easy to clean. Its waterproof exterior wipes down easily with  a damp sponge.
  2. The semi-rigid construction holds its shape, protecting my food. My apricots don’t get squished.
  3. With a small ice pack (sold separately) the insulation keeps my food cold.
  4. Even with a small ice pack, the Lunch Box is large enough to fit a well-rounded meal.
  5. A zipper closure and magnetic-lid system flips open to create a good-size eating surface, easily balanced on my lap for an improvised table.
  6. Durable construction will last me for years and years to come.

Thanks YETI!

YETI Daytrip Lunch Box

Wild Risk

Peace and inspiration. High above Chamonix, in the alpine, for the first time in 2 months. ©Karen Bockel.

Sometimes I like to live wild and dangerously . . .

Hello from Chamonix, France, the alpine-climbing capitol of the world.

Since early March, I’ve been confined the French way but it hasn’t been all baguettes and cheese.

Regulations here were very strict. We were locked down for two months. Everyone kept to his or her houses with minimal interaction. Police enforced the rules and allowed only short trips for necessities. In the end, infection rates here stayed low.

Now we are in a slow de-confinement progression. As of recently, we can go trail running and mountain biking. We can go rock climbing and we can go high up into the alpine world to go mountaineering.

Hotels, restaurants and bars are still closed, as are the borders. We wash our hands frequently and keep hand sanitizer close by. We are careful with shared climbing gear. Most importantly, we keep to small groups and only go out with the same few climbing partners.

The other day, however, I’ll admit it. I took some risk.

I rode the Téléphérique de l’Aiguille du Midi with 30 strangers.

Why would I risk a ride in an enclosed cable car with 30 others?

I risked it because I couldn’t contain the fire inside me. My need to go into the mountains burned. I had to be high above the valley, where there is nothing but rock, ice and snow. I hadn’t been to my place of inspiration and peace for two months and it felt like a lifetime!

The tram only ran for a few days over the holiday weekend. On the last day, I decided. I got up early and packed everything, including plastic gloves, glasses and a facemask. At the base, quite a few mountain addicts were already in line. We stood 1-meter apart, wearing masks. Each of us had to pass a temperature sensor to enter the bin. Markers indicated where to stand. The tram holds 90 but they only took 30.

The top of L’Aiguille du Midi is almost 4,000 meters (just over 12,000 feet). Fresh, overnight snow gave everything an extra brilliance. I went for a glacier tour and came back smiling, my heart full.

At home, I washed everything: my hands, face, body and clothes. I did my best to minimize my exposure to the virus. But, I couldn’t eliminate the risk that came with stepping into that tram.

We often choose some level of risk to do the things we love.

In alpine climbing and mountaineering, especially, we have to deal with risk. There are so many objective hazards and conditions change very quickly. Climbers constantly think about risk and decide what to do. Go? No go? Maybe, go around?

I thought about the risk to take the tram and I decided to go. Meanwhile, I’m still careful about who I interact with. I disinfect my gear and I wear my mask in public.

SCARPA Maestro Mid ECO Women’s Rock Climbing Shoes

SCARPA Maestro Mid ECO Women's Rock Climbing Shoes

SCARPA Maestro Mid ECO Women’s rock climbing shoe ©SCARPA.

SCARPA’s Maestro Mid ECO Women’s rock climbing shoes are my go-to, all-day-long trad (traditional) climbing shoes. They are burly and last many seasons and resoles, only getting better with time.

I got my first pair of rock shoes in 1983––hand-me-down EB Super Grattons, which after a couple of seasons became threadbare. So I invested in the new Boreal Firé (pronounced “Fee-Ray”). The Firés had sticker rubber, more flexible soles and they looked super fly. The increased technical performance inspired my confidence and my rock climbing ability soared.

I don’t know how many rock climbing shoes I’ve owned over the past three decades, but one thing is certain: shoes are the most important tool for my rock climbing game. 

Advice for Choosing Rock Climbing Shoes 

Chose carefully. 

Go into retail stores and try on many different models and brands to find the perfect fit.  

I’ve found that SCARPA fits my foot the best. So SCARPA has been my brand since the Firés.  

Choose a model. 

Think, “What’s the job this shoe needs to do for me? What type of rock climbs will we adventure on together? Do I need to be in these shoes all day for longer routes? Or, will I be pulling them on and off at the base of sport climbs? Do I want a lace up, velcro closure or a slip-on shoe? Will I be edging on small holds, smearing on slabs or jamming my feet into cracks? Does an asymmetrical last suit my foot, or is more of a symmetrical toe box ideal?

Chose the size. 

Unlike many, I prioritize comfort in my climbing shoes.

Instead, many of my climbing partners prefer super tight shoes for the performance. I find I need to focus on my footwork more than I need to focus on how much my feet hurt. So, I size all my rock climbing shoes (except for my high-performance, sport climbing shoes!) up a full size from my approach shoes. 

Sizing a full size up from my approach shoes works great for me. This also allows me to wear a thin pair of socks if it’s cold. And, if my feet swell due to heat, the additional space is a savior.

When it comes to size, find the formula that fits for you.

Maestro Mid ECOs come in both women’s and men’s versions which can also help get the best fit.


SCARPA is one of the few if not the only company that employs sustainable tanning and dying for their leather uppers. They use a more enviro-friendly method, whereas most shoe companies use toxic chemicals on their leathers.


Yes, SCARPA Maestro Mid Eco Women’s rock shoe is a mouthful. It is also one of the most expensive rock shoes on the market. But with that comes durability, attention to detail and Italian craftsmanship that can’t be beat.


Out of the box, the Maestro Mid Eco shoe is extremely comfortable, helped by a well-padded tongue that stays in place. The lace system also helps add durability and insure less lace wasting after seasons of jamming into cracks. The entire shoe feels like a safe haven. With it’s burly leather and generous rubber rand, the SCARPA Maestro Mid ECO is less like a high performance Ferrari, especially on thin cracks and dime edges, and more like a Land Rover for all-day adventures. 

And they look great to boot!

Check em’ out at

Mammut Athlete Caro North

Mammut Athlete and Mountain Guide, Caro North, in front of the Eiger. ©Karen Bockel.

Mammut Athlete and Mountain Guide, Caro North, in front of the Eiger. ©Karen Bockel.

“Do what you can’t. Be what you can.”

Mammut’s motto is no small order, but Mammut takes it to heart.

So does my good friend Caro North. Caro, who is from Switizerland, is a Mammut Athlete and Mountain Guide.

Having been on expeditions to all the corners of the world: from the North Faces of her homeland, to Alaska, India, South America and beyond . . . Caro puts her gear and clothing to the test more than anyone I know. She is the toughest! Her expeditions are often in remote, wild, mountain ranges where the team is completely self-reliant. They do everything from hauling gear, building basecamp, bivouacking en-route and climbing snow, rock and ice all at once.

Anything Caro takes along on her adventures near and far has to do what it can’t. And, what Caro brings back from her expeditions are a test to the durability and quality of Mammut’s clothing and equipment.

You can see that Caro’s kit is still going strong in the photo above.

One detail Caro particularly loves is the drop seat in her Gore-Tex pants. She helped develop Mammut’s drop-seat design with product managers and designers by testing different options. But most importantly, she fought for it. “To be able to go pee in the mountains while wearing a harness is a super important detail. This is something girls definitely need!” says Caro.

Learn more about Caro in this interview about how she manages fear:

Climate Change on Dhaulagiri

High camp on Dhaulagiri at 25,000 feet

Kitty Calhoun, Co-Owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing,  at high camp on Dhaulagiri. Circa 1987. ©Calhoun Collection.

When telling stories, I often choose to focus on climate change and sustainability.

During a recent Instagram Live session, Brad Wertnz, of Boulders Rock Gym asked me to tell some stories for younger climbers who might not have the depth of experience to process the current times – both in terms of perspective and lessons learned.

Just like Covid-19, climate change sneaks up on us. We don’t recognize the significance until it’s well under way.

I first ran into the effects of climate change in 1987 when I tried to make the second ascent of the East Face of Dhaulagiri.

After months of dreaming, planning, traveling and climbing through icefall, we finally saw the East Face. But, where the ice should have been was only running water. I was devastated.  After much discussion, we decided to acclimatize by climbing the standard Northeast Ridge, and maybe the face would freeze in the meanwhile.

We had to get permission from the Japanese who had the permit for the Northeast Ridge.  They readily agreed if only we would help them break trail.

We were clipped into their fixed rope, pushing through deep snow when we stepped onto a wind slab. The wind slab broke and started to slide down the North Face, pulling us with it. One by one, the top seven anchors ripped until finally the last one held.

We fell nearly 400 feet.

Just like an expedition, Covid-19 teaches us that if we act together, we can overcome challenging problems.

After a re-group, we made it to the summit of Dhaulagiri a few days later. In the end, we were not able to climb the East Face. No one has since, and I believe it has seen its last ascent.

Today, stripped of accustomed luxuries due to the stay-at-home order, I’m reminded that my favorite expedition lesson is about voluntary simplicity. I really enjoy knowing what I can do without. Doing with less makes me feel free and renews my gratitude for what I do have.

On expeditions, we willingly go without. We put ourselves in discomfort, suffering hunger, cold and fear! But it’s a good trade because the things we get back are much greater­­––gratitude, humility and compassion.

Coincidentally, I believe the lessons of voluntary simplicity and the feelings of gratitude, humility and compassion are what our environment needs to recover from our short-term thinking, abuse and neglect.

One of the unexpected gifts that the Corona virus leaves in its wake for me is an increased desire to listen and to spend time with others. I feel power in being inextricably connected and how, together, we can overcome critical challenges.

As with the virus, the science says we can’t allow climatic conditions to get past the tipping point.  Get informed, and get ready to vote!


Angela Hawse makes a heart silhouette

With love from Angela Hawse, Co-Owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing. ©Ace Kvale.

Rarely do things slow down enough for me to take time to just be. 

I’m usually well into the rock climbing season by mid-April. 

Now, I’m confined to climbing inside, on my own walls––I’ve got a home climbing wall, a hangboard and a pull up bar.  

With gyms closed and crags shut down, I’ve had to rely on other resources like creativity to keep my stoke and fitness high. I do this because I want to be ready for my beloved sport of climbing when I can get back on the rock.

Although I know that fitness is extremely crucial for pushing my climbing limits, the mental aspect of climbing is equally as important. Almost imperceptibly and unknowingly I’ve noticed that all the forced stillness is improving my presence. So, I started paying attention and getting back into mental fitness with a dedicated mindfulness / meditation practice.

As I take advantage of this time to practice quieting my mind, I know this will translate tenfold to when I get back on the rock. Think about it–– when you’re climbing well your mind is nowhere else but in the present moment.

While meditation provides me with a solid foundation to quiet my mind chatter, these days I also look for every opportunity to practice. I’m taking my mental fitness a step further, practicing mindfulness with whatever I’m doing and whoever I’m with. 

Not only will this mental training and fitness benefit my climbing, but the quality of my life benefits immensely and I’ve come to need stillness as much as I need fitness.



Advanced At-Home Workouts

Click below to find:

Beginner Isolation Workouts – Exercise At Home

Exercise At Home – Intermediate Workouts

Advanced At-Home Workouts


10 min of walking, light jog, heavy house work like vacuuming, wrestling with kids, zumba video! You get the idea! Get your heart rate up and get warm.

2 x 8 shoulder opener, with belt, ski pole, yoga strap, jump rope, towel.

2 x 5 push up, counter top, knees or toes.

3 x 5 air squats or sit to stands – imagine that wall is in front of you.

Advanced At-Home Workout 1

Warm-up (see above)


60 sec jog in place, lifting your knees as high as you can

30 sec easy jog in place, no additional rest

5 rounds


10 x sit up 

10 x leg raise/lower 

10 x  windshield wiper (10 per side) 

rest 30 secs

5 rounds


10 x burpee

10 x body rows (a tree branch or playground equipment will also work for this) or Bent Over Row (If you are stuck indoors, fill a backpack with weight, or two water bottles/gallon jugs.)

10 x split jump

minimal rest

5 rounds

Cool Down with some light mobility

Advanced At-Home Workout 2

Warm-up (see above)


For time:

20 x jumping jack

20 sec plank

20 x air squat

20 sec plank

20 x mountain climber per leg

20 sec plank

20 x lunges in place – 10 per leg

20 sec plank

20 x side plank with a hip lower and lift (count 10 per side)

20 sec plank

20 x squat jumps

20 sec plank

20 x burpees

3:00 min rest

4 rounds

Cool Down with some light mobility

Advanced At-Home Workout 3

Warm-up (see above)


6 x 30 sec push ups / 30 sec plank (6 min total)

2:00 rest

6 x 30 sec air squat / 30 sec hold in the bottom of the squat (6 min total)

2:00 rest

6 x 30 sec sit ups / 30 sec hold straight legs elevated 6” off the floor (6 min total)

2:00 rest

6 x 30 sec windshield wiper / 30 sec flutter kick (6 min total)

2:00 rest

6 x 30 sec lunges in place / 30 sec “rest” jog in place (6 min total)

2:00 rest

6 x 30 sec bicycles / 30 sec mountain climbers (6 min total)

Cool Down with some light mobility


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

Now, It’s Like This

Now, its like this. Remembering the view from tent on Mt Baker

“View from my tent looking up towards the North Ridge of Mt Baker. Note my toes are blue from nail polish, not from the pounding they received.” ©Elaina Arenz Collection.

Right now, it’s like this. I’m spring cleaning. As I clean, I think about the time I climbed the North Ridge of Mt Baker and what I learned.

On the descent,

the sun cast filtered patterns in front of me. It tricked my eyes as I plodded along. Placing one foot in front of the other, I lost count of my steps and started counting over, again. One, inhale. Two, exhale. Three, inhale. Four, exhale. And on, and on.

My feet were barking, like angry dogs. My toes were especially pissed, they were cramping and it felt like my toes were trying to flee into separate corners of my boots. I’d have given anything to stop and take my boots off––to let my toes be free. 

But stopping wasn’t an option. A glacier is no place to stop and take your boots off and I still had a lot of ground to cover. Before too long the sun would plunge, leaving me in the shadows of the Cascade Mountain range spread out all around me. It was a long way down to our high camp, and longer still to the trailhead. 

My only option was to keep calm, breathe and march on.

I turned my mind back to my breath, focusing on in and out. As a Warrior’s Way Trainer, I knew that I needed to keep my attention in the moment, on the task. The task was to put one foot in front of the other and focus on the quality of my breath. 

In moments of stress, my mind tries to escape from the discomfort. I start wishing, hoping and willing for the situation to be different. But I know, rationally, that wishing and hoping is a waste of energy. I know there’s no escaping the present moment. I kept on, marching down from the summit of Mt Baker.

Now, in the midst of the pandemic,

I know that I have no choice but to take things one day––one step––at a time. Worrying about the future is like succumbing to barking, angry feet and stopping on the glacier. Wishing the current situation was different won’t change anything. All I can do is deal with it the best way I know. I know I need to stay focused on the task and breathe. Right now the task is spring cleaning. You wouldn’t believe how organized my gear room and my closets are!

To reward myself for my spring cleaning efforts, I’m teaching myself how to play the acoustic guitar. My mind commands my fingers to contort themselves into different shapes to play the chords. I strum the strings. My forearm cramps. The guitar twangs sharply––it’s barking at me. I take a deep breath and slowly let it out. I place my fingers on the frets and strum, again. Again and again, until I get it right.

Right now, it’s like this.