Black Diamond Snaggletooth Crampon | Gear We Use

Kitty Calhoun and Rennie Jackson climbing in black diamond snaggletooth crampons in Zanskar, India

Kitty Calhoun, Co-Owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, and partner traversing the Stegosaurus in Black Diamond Snaggletooth crampons, Chilling II, Zanskar, India. ©Jay Smith.

What’s the best all-around crampon?

When it comes to choosing crampons the first question you need to ask yourself is what kind of terrain or climbing objective do I want them for?

  1. Technical ice climbing
  2. Mixed climbing
  3. Alpine climbing
  4. All of the above

If you chose D, or all of the above, then sit tight and keep reading about the Black Diamond Snaggletooth crampon, the best all-around crampon out there.

Typically, for glacier travel, alpine climbing and neve (firm snow), horizontal points feel more stable because they provide more contact beneath your feet. On the other hand, vertically oriented front points are better suited for steep, technical ice climbing,

Why does it matter if the points are horizontal or vertical?

The answer is stability. Stability equals security and security equals confidence.

So if you’re into bagging summits like the North Ridge of Mount Baker, where you have a long, snowy approach, followed by steep neve, a section of technical ice, and a summit ridge, there’s only one crampon that excels in all of these types of terrain. The Black Diamond Snaggletooth blends the best of all worlds.

The genius in the Black Diamond Snaggletooth crampon design is that it features a horizontal mono-point. This horizontal monopoint is unique. And it’s supported by a smaller, secondary horizontal point, hence the name Snaggletooth.

One of the first things you notice when climbing with the Snaggletooth is how secure you feel whether edging on rock or standing on thin ice. The horizontal points provide a stable platform for you to perch upon, no matter what’s underfoot. Made out of stainless steel, the Snaggletooth won’t rust. It resists balling which is a real hazard in heavy snow conditions. It’s strong and lightweight and can handle all terrain and conditions. The Snaggletooth is the best all-around crampon on the market.

Try out Black Diamond Snaggletooth crampon at our Ouray, Colorado | Ice Climbing Clinics.

Cramponing Technique

Lindsay Fixmer using good cramping technique climbing in Newfoundland

Lindsay Fixmer, Chicks Ouray, Colorado | Ice Climbing lead guide demonstrating superb cramping technique while ice climbing in Newfoundland, Canada. ©Alden Pellett

Cramponing technique starts with fundamental ice climbing footwork and is based on two key movements: 

  1. Shin Engagement
  2. Precision 

Shin Engagement

You can practice shin engagement for cramponing technique while standing on the ground or floor of your home in regular shoes or socks … or at the base of an ice flow! 

Simply raise your foot and pull your toes up to engage your shins.

When you pick your foot up, if you don’t engage your shins, your toes will naturally drop down. Boots & crampons weigh the front of your foot down even more.

Kick with a dropped toe and three problems arise:

1. Lack of Surface Area: 

With a dropped toe, the top of your crampon points hit the ice. The problem is the top of your crampon point is too small to appropriately displace your weight. Further weighting the top of your crampon point creates a pressure spot that breaks off in the ice. The ice cannot hold with the small amount of contact and the large amount of pressure. 

2. Pain

With a dropped toe, you will kick your toe into the ice. And if you’ve ever had a bruised toenail…oof.

3. Burn-out: 

If you kick with a dropped toe, you will end up on your toes. As graceful, strong and elegant as Ballerinas are, ice climbers are not ballerinas. Ice climbers need to weight their feet, not stand on their toes. 

Instead of kicking with a dropped toe, engage your shins and kick perpendicularly to the ice. 

A proper ice climbing foot placement meets front and secondary crampon points with the ice: 

 In order to do this, pick up your foot, toes to the sky, and kick!

*Note: If someone tells you to ‘drop your heels,’ you’ve already made contact with the ice incorrectly. Fix that ineffective crampon placement by taking your foot off the ice, engaging your shin muscle, then re-placing your foot.

Precision

On the rock we watch our big toes in order to be precise. 

For cramponing technique your crampon front point(s) are extensions of your big toes. Watch your front points in order to be precise when ice climbing.

Before each foot placement, locate your contact space (What does it look like? Is it a small divot? Is it a ledge?). 

Decide: “Am I kicking or placing my foot?” 

Pick up your foot, pull your toes toward the sky, and watch your foot make contact. 

Making a kicking contact usually only requires one swift, controlled kick. 

Bullet hard ice can require more kicks, but this is rare. Cold, wind-sculpted, or north facing routes with severely cold temperatures can create solid slabs of ice that require kicking. While places like Ouray have softer, more ‘picked out’ ice with ledgy placements. 

In order to work on foot precision, you need to watch your feet make contact. 

To watch your feet make contact, you need to be able to relax on your tools. 

To relax on your tools your pinky fingers should be in the pummel, your arms should be long, your shoulders relaxed, and your hips out away from the ice.

Learn more about ice climbing technique join me on a Chicks Ouray, Colorado | Ice Climbing Clinic.

What is Effective Support?

 

Guide Elaina Arenz giving support and teaching an ice climbing clinic to Chicks Climbing clients in the Ouray Ice Park

Chicks Ouray, Colorado | Ice Climbing participants lend support by watching the climber attentively in the Ouray Ice Park.

What is support?

Arno Ilgner, of  The Warriors Way – Mental Training, once told me,

“Don’t belay as you would have others belay you.  Rather, ask your partner how they like to be belayed.”

I thought about this recently as I watched a young woman struggle to lead an off-fingers crack.

Slowly, but surely, the woman climbed through deceptively difficult sequences until she reached the off-finger section. Then she yelled, “take” and grabbed the gear she had just placed. A few moments later, she continued until the crack widened to tight hands. There she tried to stuff her feet into the finger crack below and when she looked down, she saw her belayer putting on a sweater. At that point, the woman placed two cams, clipped through them and asked to be lowered. On the ground she changed her shoes and walked away without a word.

I imagined that she had hoped to look down and see an attentive belayer giving her the thumbs up and saying, “You’ve got this!”

I wish she had said, “Watch me!” and kept climbing instead.

Why do we need support?

Confident, competent, independent women, shouldn’t need support. Right? We just need to focus on the task at hand…

Wrong.

When I’m pushing my limits, I need to feel safe – both physically and emotionally. It’s hard to feel safe when my partner is apathetic or critical. Meanwhile, a supportive partner helps me get into the “zone.”

Everyone is different. Although, for the record, I don’t think anyone likes shouts of unsolicited beta! Ultimately, listening to a person and giving them personal attention is the best way of supporting, respecting and belaying them.

Further, note to belayers: even a brief hand on the woman’s shoulder from her partner would have made a positive impact.

No one is great in a vacuum. Behind every great person is a great person. Certainly, behind every great climber is a great belayer!

So, belay not as you want but as others would have you!

Osprey Mutant 52 Climbing Pack | Gear We Use

trace metcalfe on the Ripsaw Ridge in the Gore Range, Rocky Mountains, Colorado

Tracee Metcalfe on the Ripsaw Ridge in the Gore Range, Rocky Mountains, Colorado ©Karen Bockel.

My Osprey Mutant 52 saved me from a kind of panic a few weeks ago when I was getting ready for an overnight trip to the Gore Range in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.

The Gore Range is remote!

I needed a pack that could carry overnight gear (tent, sleeping bag, stove) and some climbing gear (harness, helmet, rope) and could do it well. It’s no joke carrying all your things 10 mi into the range before you even start the climbing!

I pulled out my Osprey Mutant 52L and breathed out a sigh of relief.

Got it, the pack that does it all: carries gear like a mule and climbs mountains like a goat.

Here are a couple Osprey Mutant 52 features that you might want to know about:

Removable hip belt: a nice option when you’re trying to go light. For example, after you set up basecamp and leave the heavy stuff behind. While, I didn’t remove the hip belt on this trip, it is a helpful feature when you’re wearing a climbing harness because you can access your gear much more easily.

Gear loops on the hip belt: a handy feature that I actually used on this trip. I brought a couple slings and carabiners and I clipped them right to the hip belt. Easy storage, done!

Removable lid: another weight saving benefit of the Mutant 52. Leave the lid behind, or, as I often do, stick the lid inside the pack for climbing. This makes the pack shorter, and keeps it from hitting the back of your helmet when you look up.

Double ice tool attachments: gotta have ice tool attachments. In case you don’t know, ice climbing is the heart and soul of Chicks. We go ice climbing. While, I didn’t use this feature on the recent trip, I would never get a pack without ice tool attachments.

Compression Straps: useful to cinch your pack down when the camping kit is being used rather than being carried. Also, the place to stick your skis when they are being carried rather than being used… needless to say, compression straps are extremely practical for all things mountain.

The Mutant 52L shines for a few other great features like it’s helmet attachment. But, for me, the features described above: removable hip belt and lid, gear loops, double ice tool attachments and compression straps are the pack’s heaviest hitting features.

Most importantly, however, the Mutant feels great on my hips and shoulders, even when fully loaded!

Thanks, Osprey, for making classy packs!

Uphill Training For Backcountry Skiing | Chicks Skiing – Training Tip

Carolyn Parker skiing uphill in Iceland

Carolyn Parker backcountry ski touring uphill – skinning in Iceland ©Robbie Klimek

 

Are you stoked to get into backcountry skiing this winter?

Maybe you’ve registered for an Avalanche Rescue course and an Intro to Backcountry Skills course with Chicks? Maybe you’re a more advanced skier and it’s off to Hokkaido, Japan in January for you!

Whatever the case may be, for backcountry skiing we need to build a good aerobic base for skinning on the way up. And we need sufficient leg power for the way down.

Ultimately, the goal is to be able to carve epic turns in fluffy, pillowy powder for days on end.

If backcountry skiing is your game, you’ll need both uphill stamina and downhill strength.

Uphill training is dramatically different than going on a run around the neighborhood. If you live in an area where hills are available, it’s time to log some vertical outside. If there are no hills for you, get on a stepmill or treadmill at 10 – 15% grade with a light pack or weight vest or find some stairs (the more the better) and start logging some up hill training time for winter fun. If you can get outside, use ski poles or trekking poles to assist on the uphill and to condition your arms for poling.

We’ve got eight weeks to prep for ski season. Then, in December, we’ll start to fine-tune our skills on the slopes.

This training tip focuses on the aerobic conditioning part. In two weeks, I’ll send out the strength training details. However, if you already strength train, keep it going as outlined in the chart below.

Uphill Training For Backcountry Skiing Calendar:

*For all uphill training go at a comfortable, conversational pace or practice nose breathing.

A slow pace helps build a base and it won’t over work you, you’ll be able to recover and train (or ski) multiple days in a row.

 

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Rest Day Strength Uphill training, 60 min Uphill training, 60 min Rest Day Uphill training, 60 min Uphill training, 60 min
Rest Day Strength Uphill training, 60 min Uphill training, 60 min Rest Day Uphill training, 75 min Uphill training, 75 min
Rest Day Strength Uphill training, 60 min add pack or weight vest 10# Uphill training, 60 min add pack or weight vest 10# Rest Day Uphill training, 75 min add  pack or weight vest 10# Uphill training, 90 min
Recovery Week Strength Uphill training, 60 min Uphill training, 60 min Rest Day Uphill training, 90 min
Rest Day Strength Uphill training, 60 min add pack or weight vest 15# Uphill training, 60 min add pack or weight vest 15# Rest Day Uphill training, 90 min add pack for weight vest 15# Uphill training, 90 min
Rest Day Strength Uphill training, 60 min add pack or weight vest 15# Uphill training, 60 min add pack or weight vest 15# Rest Day Uphill training, 90 min add pack or weight vest 15# Uphill training, 120 min
Rest Day Strength Uphill training, 60 min add pack or weight vest 20# Uphill training, 60 min add pack or weight vest 20# Rest Day Uphill training, 120 min add pack or weight vest 20# Uphill training, 120 min
Recovery Week Strength Uphill training, 60 min Uphill training, 60 min Rest Day Uphill training, 120 min Rest Day

Once the snow flys and you are skinning and skiing for days you’ll be so stoked that you took the time to training properly.

Stay tuned for strength!

All my best,

Carolyn

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

carolyn@rippleffectraining.com

970-773-3317

Carolyn Parker

Founder Ripple Effect Training

AMGA Certified Rock Guide

Zim’s Max Freeze | Gear We Use | Chicks Climbing and Skiing

Kitty Calhoun, co-owner of chicks climbing and skiing applies Zim's max freeze to her sore back

Kitty Calhoun, Co-Owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing applies Zim’s Max Freeze to ease the pain after a hard climbing session. ©Kitty Calhoun.

Oh my Zim’s!

I knew I would pay the price but I kept working the dynamic deadpoint anyway.

And, sure enough, when I awoke the next morning my right-side oblique muscles were very sore.

I had several options: take vitamin I(buprofin), apply cold or reach for my Zim’s Max Freeze.  I chose Zim’s.  Why?

According to Climb Injury Free by Dr Vagy there are ways to deal with inflammation and other ways to deal with pain.

Inflammation occurs when your body tries to repair itself after an injury. There is controversy as to whether, and to what extent, you should try to reduce inflammation. You may want to decrease inflammation because it reduces pain, eliminates cellular waste, and increases circulation.  However, decreasing inflammation prevents the natural healing processes from occurring.

Should you decide to reduce inflammation, there are several methods.  A cold compress and elevation are the most effective for reducing inflammation from acute injuries – with icing times from 10-20 minutes.  A warm bath is most often used for stiffness. You could also take an anti-inflammatory medicine, such as Vitamin I(buprofen), but only for short-term use(less than two weeks).

I prefer to let my body heal naturally. Still, I’ve got to take the edge off the pain. You can reduce pain in two ways: through pain relievers such as Tylenol or through topical analgesics such as Zim’s Max Freeze. Both of these options block the pain cycle by reaching the brain before the slower nerve fibers from your injury.

I reach for my Zim’s.  It comes in roll-on or gel and original strength (3.7% menthol) or pro formula (7% menthol). I feel the effects immediately and find it really works for me.  I especially like the Zim’s formula, as opposed to other topical pain relievers that I have tried, because in addition to menthol, its ingredients include organic ilex, aloe and arnica, as well as vitamin e and tea tree oil – all healing nutrients. What could be better?

22 Years of Avalanche Fatalities | Ice Climbers At Risk

avalanche above camp bird road

Helicopter assisted avalanche mitigation – big release into a gully above one of the many ice climbs on the Camp Bird Road, Ouray, Colorado. ©Angela Hawse

A recent study, 22 Years of Avalanche Fatalities by Activity and Trigger Type in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks, Canada reveals that 43% of avalanche fatalities were ice climbers, 32% were skiers, and 18% were snowshoers. The study also reveals almost a 50/50 split between victims triggering avalanches themselves or getting hit by a natural from overhead.

table showing avalanche fatals by activity in the last 22 years in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay Parks, Canada

Looking at this study, it’s odd that many ice climbers and mountaineers throughout the world do not carry avalanche rescue equipment. This long-standing culture of climbers not carrying avalanche rescue equipment is especially odd considering ice and alpine climbs often involve avalanche terrain i.e. gullies or exposure on the approach or descent.

In contrast, backcountry skiers have always accepted responsibility for avalanche risk. The backcountry skiing code-of-conduct insists that everyone carries avalanche rescue gear.

Avalanche rescue gear is considered fundamental gear for backcountry skiers. Not only do backcountry skiers expect their partners to be properly equipped, they expect them to be adequately skilled in the event of an avalanche.

Although we see a shift towards avalanche awareness in climbing culture, Chicks wants to encourage all ice climbers and mountaineers to adopt the fundamentals of avalanche safety: always climb with avalanche gear and know how to use it. Don’t climb with anyone who doesn’t.

The best way to familiarize yourself with avalanche rescue gear and fundamental skills is to take a 1-day Avalanche Rescue Course.

Avalanche Rescue courses are not only for skiers. They are for everybody (skiers, boarders, climbers, snowshoers, sledders) who gets out in the mountains in the wintertime.

If you can’t afford to buy avalanche rescue gear, it’s easy to rent.

Again, having avalanche rescue gear as well as the ability to properly use avalanche rescue gear is the only chance for survival in the unfortunate event you or one of your partners is involved in an avalanche.

Together with the Silverton Avalanche School , Chicks is hosting three early-season, 1-day Avalanche Rescue Courses. Each course will be held in a different, yet equally fantastic Colorado San Juan Mountains location.

These clinics are offered throughout the country. Check out the American Institute of Avalanche Research and Education’s Upcoming Public Avalanche Training Courses List. Get signed up for one before you set off pursuing your winter ice!

Frequently Asked Questions About Chicks’ Ice Climbing Clinics

ice climbing in Ouray Ice Ice Park

Chicks Ouray Ice Park Ice Climbing Clinic 2019. ©Kitty Calhoun.

Even though the mountains are starting to see their first glimpse of winter across the country. At my home in Las Vegas, NV, the temperature has only just fallen below 90ºF. Finally, the weather is comfortable enough to climb in the shade.

It’s hard to believe that in a few short months I’ll be trading in my rock climbing shoes for boots and crampons but it seems to be true as I’m currently in the process of planning my annual winter trip to Ouray, Colorado.

Every winter, Chicks hosts a series of climbing clinics in Ouray. This winter we’ve got our usual 2-day, 3-day and 4-day Ouray Ice Park Ice Climbing Clinics. We’ve also got a 3-day Ouray Ice Park Mixed Climbing Clinic.

Since, ice climbing in Ouray is always a highlight of my winter, I thought I’d answer a few frequently asked questions about ice climbing and our Chicks Ouray Ice Climbing clinics:

How much climbing experience do I need to try ice climbing?

None. Although, it’s helpful to have the basics (like how to wear a harness, tie-in and belay), it’s definitely not necessary.

When you sign up for one of our clinics we match you in small groups with women who share similar experiences and goals to yours. Climbers of any level, from complete newbie to developing lead climber, can take one of our clinics.

Click on Chicks Ice Climbing Levels to learn more.

What kind of gear and clothing do I need for ice climbing?

All you need are the clothes on your back!

One of the signature attributes of a Chicks clinic is that we can outfit all of our clinic participants from head to toe in the latest and greatest technical gear and clothing. Thanks to the generous sponsorship of all-women programming, you are welcome to try out anything that strikes your fancy from Patagonia, Black Diamond, Grivel and Petzl.

When you sign up for a clinic, we send you a clothing and equipment checklist. Together we’ll help you be sure you’re outfitted properly.

Which program do you recommend?

That depends on how much time you have and when your schedule allows for a trip to Ouray.

The more time you have for climbing the better of course! Each Chicks clinic accommodates all levels.

However, here are some additional things to consider:

Register now for all of our winter ice programs. Spots are filling up fast.

If you need further help deciding which program is best for you, please don’t hesitate to drop us an email or give us a call.

Practice

Karen Bockel guiding in the Alps, Summer 2019. ©Karen Bockel Collection.

Karen Bockel guiding in the Alps, Summer 2019. ©Karen Bockel Collection.

Everyone has to practice. There is no free lunch. Although, I often think there should be, as in, “When am I finally going to get a break? I’ve been working so hard!”

The reality is all things take work.

I just got back from a long summer of alpine climbing in the Alps. This means I spent lots of time in big boots, navigating on glaciers, and sleeping in huts.

Great days!  After all my favorite type of climbing is alpine climbing. However, big boots and glaciers don’t really help my rock climbing game.

Now, all of a sudden, I’ll be in the vertical and managing two ropes while I guide two climbers.

Systems in vertical rock climbing are different than in alpine climbing.

So, today, I spent a few hours practicing rock-climbing systems in the garage.

I pulled out two ropes and put two imaginary climbers on belay. I refreshed my memory as to how to make efficient multi-pitch transitions. I reminded myself of many little things like how to orient the carabiners, in which order to securethe team at the belay, and where to re-stack the ropes.

I went through all the small steps that together make the difference between smooth operating and struggle, between fun and frustration.

And maybe most importantly, my practice might make the difference between being confidant and safe verses making a potential mistake.

Yes, it felt like work to get my ropes out and to put my harness on in the garage. However, I know practice pays off. And, truth be told, this bit of practice was not even that painful, once I got started…

See you on the rock,

Karen

Patagonia Sunshade Hoody | Gear We Use | Rock Climbing

patagonia sunshade hoody

Posing in Patagonia Sunshade Hoodies during Chicks Red Rock Clinic

I love my Patagonia Sunshade Hoody.

If you spend as much time outdoors in the sun as I do and you have a fair complexion like I do, it’s critical to minimize sun damage to your face and neck.

Call me vain, but the last thing I want is to look like a leather handbag with sunspots and wrinkles prematurely.

When the laugh lines on my cheeks developed their own tan lines, I knew it was time to duck for cover underneath my favorite article of clothing, the Patagonia Sunshade Hoody.

I live and guide full time in Red Rock, Nevada, just outside of Las Vegas and I spend a lot of time out in the sunshine.

Sunscreen alone doesn’t do the trick and it’s inconvenient to have to reapply it at the crag. So my go-to sun protection and “climbing uniform” is my Patagonia Sunshade Hoody, oversized sunglasses, and a visor hat that fits underneath my helmet. The sunshade hoody is SPF 50+ after all.

I love how the scuba-like hood doesn’t blow off in a breeze like other sun hoodies tend to do, and it fits overtop my helmet without pulling on my neck. Also, the high cowl neck covers my décolletage, and the thumb loops keep the back of my hands covered.

Not only does it keep the sun’s rays off my face, neck, and upper body, it dries quickly, breathes well, and smells acceptably fresh between washings. I’ve collected every color over the past few years and if you open my closet you’ll see every color under the sun.

I’ve tried other SPF clothing options out there and the Patagonia Sunshade Hoody continues to be my perennial favorite.

No matter if I’m guiding our desert programs like Red Rock and Joshua Tree, or the higher elevation crags like Rifle and Maple, you’ll find me underneath my own personal sunshade.