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.

Sustainability. 

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.

Price. 

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.

Comfort. 

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 https://www.scarpa.com/maestro-mid-eco-wmn

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: https://www.mammut.com/us/en/stories/caro-north-fear-is-my-life-insurance/

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!

Still

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.

XOXO,

Angela

Advanced At-Home Workouts

Click below to find:

Beginner Isolation Workouts – Exercise At Home

Exercise At Home – Intermediate Workouts

Advanced At-Home Workouts

Warmup

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)

Then:

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

30 sec easy jog in place, no additional rest

5 rounds

Then:

10 x sit up 

10 x leg raise/lower 

10 x  windshield wiper (10 per side) 

rest 30 secs

5 rounds

Then: 

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)

Then:

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)

Then:

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.

Isolation Photos and Stories – What Are You Doing?

Karen Bockel Isolation photo of slackening in backyard

Karen Bockel, Co-Owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, isolation photo – slacklining under strict confinement in Chamonix, France. ©Karen Bockel Collection.

Do you have isolation photos and stories?

We’re living in crazy, unprecedented times: told not to climb or backcountry ski, not do anything risky, to take precaution to a whole new level, to stay home while businesses shutter their doors for the unforeseeable future. 

For most of us spring is a season when we’d otherwise be shooting down couloirs in prime conditions or scurrying to the desert as winter turns to summer.

Instead, we’ve canceled or rescheduled our plans with a big, fat TBD.

It’s a tough pill to swallow, especially for those who find respite, calm and mental stillness in our planet’s most wild places.

At Chicks, we’re taking moments to slow down and virtually connect.

Like Angela said in her recent What Inspires You Now? post, “As we self-isolate and social distance from each other, I’m reminded how Chicks serves as a foundation of treasured relationships and shared experiences.”

We’d love to know what you’re doing in this strange time. What are your self-isolation, quarantine and social distancing stories? We’d love to see photos. Are you training? Any good books or games? How do you feel?

To be honest, we’re feeling pretty low. We’re missing connection.

Can we share your photos and stories with our community on Instagram, Facebook and our website?

We’re all in this together. Even though we’re apart, it’s important to know that we’re not alone. And, when all of this is over we’ll be stronger and more psyched than ever.

Please email us at chicksclimbing@gmail.com with isolation photos and post stories for us here!

A huge Thank You in advance from all of us here at Chicks.

GU Roctane Electrolyte Capsules – Little caps of gold

.GU Rocktane Electrolyte Capsules

Despite the fact that being confined has changed my outdoor life and my energy output and intake, I’ve found I still need GU Roctane Electrolyte Capsules.

Normally, this time of year, I spend long days in the mountains. As I traverse from ski hut to ski hut, I’m out for hours and hours at high altitude. Instead, this year, I’m limited to an hour of hiking or running near my house.

Needless to say, the energy I’m spending is very different—balancing on my slackline doesn’t quite burn the same calories as climbing a 14,000-foot peak … In order to balance reduced activity levels, I’ve also had to change my eating habits.

What I’ve found is that when things are so out of the ordinary, it’s hard to keep track of all the changes. For example, I started to notice some leg and foot cramps in the evenings and at night. What was I missing? Thinking about it, I realized that despite lower activity levels, I was short on minerals.

Enter GU Roctane Electrolyte Capsules packed with sodium, magnesium and chloride, as well as vitamin D. These little caps of gold are easily absorbed with a glass of water. Confined or unconfined I find they really help maintain electrolyte balance in my body. I find them especially practical in hot conditions, when I might become dehydrated more quickly. Also, over the years I’ve found the Rocktane Electrolyte caps are a good addition to other GU hydration and nutrition products, like for example, the recovery drink that I use frequently.

Thank you Gu! Rocktane Electrolytes have cleared up my leg and foot cramps. Now it’s time for a run. And then back to the stack of books I finally have the opportunity to read!

Slackline – Build a Homemade Garden Slackline

Karen Bockel practicing on her slackline

“I started walking on my slackline while it was still touching the ground and it was hard enough!” ©Karen Bockel Collection.

How to Build Something from Almost Nothing…

Currently, you can’t go to the gym. There’s no outdoor climbing.

How can you work on your balance?

Add a homemade, garden slackline to your home training/entertainment regime!

Luckily, using less-than-perfect materials for a slackline is ok––just keep it close to the ground. If anything fails, the consequences might be a few bruises but nothing catastrophic.

Now, here is what you need to build a slackline from almost nothing:

Trees

Most important, you’ll need two strong trees at least 12” in diameter. Strong trees are important because you’ll put them under a lot of tension. Also, the trees need to be a reasonable distance apart. For beginners, a shorter distance apart (like 20’) is a good starting place.

Anchors

The best anchor material is 1” webbing, or other flat stock material, like sewn slings. Webbing is better than cord because it has more surface area. More surface area spreads out the force and reduces pressure on the tree bark (to not to kill the poor trees!). Alternatively, you could use an old rope. Wrapping the rope several times around the tree will help spread the pressure and reduce wear on the bark.

Whatever you decide to use, you’ll need two long lengths: one, long enough to wrap around the first tree; another to wrap around the second tree.

Total, you will need four to five, the bigger the better, carabiners. Locking is good, but not required.

Slackline

A static rope is ideal. However, I don’t have a static rope and most likely you don’t either, so you can use a retired climbing rope like I did. Find Rules for Rope Care and Longevity Here.

Block-and-Tackle

For your block-and-tackle tensioning system you’ll need a cordelette/long prusik cord. Or, you could use old rope here too. However, static cord is preferred in this application. In order to get tension out of a rope, you’ll have to pull the stretch out first. Static cord transfers more power.

Other Stuff

You’ll need twine or string to tie the two strands of your slackline together.

A pulley or pulleys are not strictly necessary but can be helpful. Two pulleys are even better, if you have two.

Putting the Slackline Together

Build the Anchors

The first step in building your low-tech, garden slackline is to build single-point anchors on each tree.

Whatever material you chose, make sure to use a double wrap. Then, spread the material out if you’re using webbing or add an extra wrap if you’re using rope or cord. Next, tie an overhand knot with all of the loops together and clip a carabineer through the loops to create an anchor point.

In the photos, I’m using quadruple-length, green slings for my tree anchors. Since these are sewn slings, I did not need to tie a knot. Instead, I wrapped the sling around the tree and clipped into each end instead. You can see that the oval, locking carabineer that creates one of the anchor points (3rd photo down) is slightly cross-loaded because the tree is so fat!single point anchor on a tree

Install the Slackline

In order to make the line, double your old rope by folding it in half.

Next tie a big overhand knot on a bight somewhere close to the folded end. Clip both strands of the resulting overhand-on-a-bight to the anchor of one of the trees.

overhand on a bight clipped to the anchor

Now tie another overhand-on-a-bight in the doubled rope about 6’-8’ from the second tree and clip a spare carabiner through the bight. The remaining 6’-8’ feet will be for your block-and-tackle tensioning system.

Create a Block-and-Tackle Tensioning System

Whatever material you use, cord or rope, tie an overhand knot on one end. Clip the overhand into the anchor on the second tree. Now run the cord back to the unattached end of the slackline and clip it through the attached carabiner. Then run the cord back to the tree anchor. Clip/re-direct it again and then run it back to the slackline again. Here you can add a pulley if you have one. Putting the rope through a pulley here, instead of simply through the carabiner reduces friction. Continue by running the cord back to the tree anchor. Repeat until there are three loops (or six strands) and you are at the tree anchor.

tied off block and tackle

Pull

Now, call all your family members and pull on the end to get as much tension as possible. Since this system has no progress capture, once the line is tight, you’ll need to hold on while you simultaneously tie a munter hitch and clip it to the anchor. If you have one, it’s practical to add a new carabiner here just for the munter. Finally, tie a mule hitch around all the strands and secure it all with an overhand. This should keep your tension system tight. At the same time, you can release it anytime should the need occur.

Final Details

Wrap the twine around the two strands of rope that configure the slackline. This helps keep them together to form a wider platform. After all, you’re going to try to walk on this thing!

twine holding the two rope strands together

Test the tension of your line. If it touches the ground, you’ll need to heave on the block-and-tackle some more. Pull hard!

A line that is just barely off the ground, right in the middle, is a good place to start for beginner slackers like myself. Also, don’t make the line too high. Keep it below crotch height (for obvious reasons).

Not So Pro Tip:

I started walking on my slackline while it was actually still touching the ground and it was hard enough!

Black Diamond Z Poles Changed my World

Jay Smith crossing a steam in Indian using Black Diamond Z poles for balance

Kitty’s husband, Jay, using Kitty’s Black Diamond Z poles to cross a stream in India” ©Kitty Calhoun.

Back in the day,

as a young, pure minimalist climber, I scoffed at mountaineers using trekking poles.

“Why buy poles, much less carry them into the mountains, if I have strong legs?” I thought.

Then, during one particularly shameful trip to the mountains, my attitude towards poles changed quickly.

It all started on the approach

when a swollen stream barred our way to base camp. Rapidly melting snow almost completely submerged all the boulders with raging water. In high alpine terrain above tree-line, there were no tree branches to make into makeshift poles.  Sheepishly, I accepted my partner’s pole when she handed it back to me after crossing.

Later, high on the mountain while breaking trail through unconsolidated snow, I swallowed my pride again and used her pole to push up through each collapsing step.

But, the way down was what tipped me. Loaded with a full pack, my partner used her pole for support and balance to make light work of the tedious, quad-burning descent.

This made me so jealous, I got my own: Black Diamond Z Trekking poles.

Now I take my Z poles with me all the time. I take them on backcountry ice climbs, mountaineering trips, rock climbs with long approaches, long hikes and mountain runs.

My favorite Black Diamond Z poles are the Distance Z Trekking/Running Poles. I love these poles because they break down to fit in my duffle bag. They are light, durable and easily adjustable. They are also the most affordable of the Black Diamond Z poles. Even better, they’ve been upgraded with Slide Lock technology. Slide Lock Technology makes them easy to adjust and increases the strength of the joint support by 30%.

Now I smile at the young minimalists on the trail without poles. And, I wonder what they’ll experience before I see them back on the trail equipped with a new pair of Black Diamond trekking poles.

And, now, although I can’t support my local retail shop, I can still support Black Diamond.  Right now, they are offering free shipping on any order over $50.