Grabber Toe Warmers – Gear We Use

Early season on the Mer de Glace with Grabber Toe Warmers in our boots. Chamonix, France. ©Karen Bockel.

Early season on the Mer de Glace with Grabber Toe Warmers in our boots. Chamonix, France. ©Karen Bockel.

 

It’s early winter and my body hasn’t adjusted to the cold yet.

I have to convince myself to get out and do things like ice climbing when my body still remembers warm, sunny rock. So, I grumble and pack lots of layers.

But, layers won’t suffice for my feet!

I always struggle to keep my feet warm whether I’m climbing or skiing.

Over the years, I’ve tried heated insoles and boot-warmers but neither seemed to work.

Thus, to keep my feet warm, my fallback has become Grabber’s Toe Warmers.

Grabber’s toe warmers are simple. They’re easy to apply, they last all day and they’re affordable. Even more important, they can’t break like some electrical contraption.

Grabber Toe Warmers are consistent and reliable.

Specially designed to function in low-space, low-oxygen environments like inside boots, they are ultra thin so they don’t affect toe space.  Stick the adhesive side of the D-shaped package to your socks and they’ll stay in place, warming your toes for over 6 hours. Of course, they’re not like toasty mukluks! But that’s not the point. The point is that they keep my feet from getting numb and damaged from the cold.

 

3 Pro Tips To Using Grabber Toe Warmers Effectively:

  1. Install the packets before leaving the house!
  2. Open the package and let some warm air on the packets before applying!
  3. Stick the packets on top of your toes rather than underneath!

 

How Rock Climbing Relates To Ice Climbing

Chicks ice climbing clinic participant demonstrates how rock climbing relates to ice climbing by hanging on a straight arm

Amy, Chicks Ouray, Ice Climbing participant climbing with her shoulders down and her arm straight. Ouray Ice Park, Ouray, Colorado. ©Kitty Calhoun.

Rock climbing relates to ice climbing in many different ways.

The following 4 tips will get you into the swing of things – from rock climbing to ice climbing.

Rock Climbing Relates to Ice Climbing when you Relax Your Grip

Rock climbing relates to ice climbing in that you don’t want to over grip. In ice climbing, just like rock climbing, over-gripping wastes energy. Worse, over-gripping when ice climbing squeezes the blood out of your fingers (making for cold hands). And over-gripping stiffens your wrists so your tools won’t roll off your hands properly when you swing.

Keep Shoulders Down and Arms Straight

Keeping your shoulders down and your arms straight helps you conserve energy on both ice and rock. When your shoulders are down and your arms are straight, you use your skeletal system for support instead of using precious muscle energy. Don’t hold on with bent arms! Straighten your elbows and hang off your shoulders so that your shoulder blades are pinned down your back.

Keep Your Elbows In

You don’t want chicken wings on rock or ice. Chicken-wings happen when your elbows aren’t in line with the front of your shoulder. When your elbows are out of line (maybe up by your ears!), your shadow will look like a strange cactus. Whether you’re on rock or ice, keep your elbows close to your center and not chicken winging out. Keep your elbows in when you’re ice climbing and you’ll get more powerful swings and better sticks.

And Rock Climbing Relates to Ice Climbing When You Make Eye Contact

Your attention goes wherever your eyes go when you’re rock climbing or ice climbing. Don’t take your eyes off the sweet spot when you place your foot or swing. And don’t squint. If you look away, or squint, you’re more likely to miss your mark. Keep your eyes on the prize when you’re ice climbing and you’ll be able to see if your tool’s teeth have engaged after you’ve struck the ice, or not!

Happy Swinging!

For more ice climbing specific technique and training beta check out:

Cramponing Technique, by Ice Climbing Guru and Lead Chicks Ice Climbing guide, Lindsay Fixmar.

Swing! Training For Ice Climbing, by AMGA Rock Guide and Founder Ripple Effect Training, Carolyn Parker

It Takes 20 Hours To Learn A New Skill

It takes 20 hours of practice to become skilled enough to enjoy a new activity

Chicks Ouray, Ice Climbing 3-Day clinic participant progressing on steep ice in the Ouray Ice Park, Ouray, Colorado. ©Angela Hawse.

It takes 20 hours, not 10,000 hours to learn a skill.

Last week I stood on the beach in Kauai and jealously watched kids catch small waves on their surfboards.

Even as they fell off their boards they laughed. But, I hesitated.

Why start now?” I asked. Surfing has a slow learning curve and requires regular practice. I only get to do this once a year.

My friends beckoned from the waves and called, “The conditions are perfect!”

“Okay,” I thought, “I have to work up to this. I can’t be afraid.”  I had no illusions that I’d figure out how to catch and ride a wave in the hour before sunset.

Kneeling on my board, I let a few waves pass under me. Then I paddled as hard as I could, my friends yelling, “Paddle! Paddle! Paddle!”

“Holy S—!” I rode the wave into shore like a big kid.

Musing over my surfing misgivings, I came across an interesting interview, Josh Kaufmen: It Takes 20 hours, Not 10,000 Hours To Learn a Skill, by Dan Schawbel.

Most of us are deeply disturbed at the prospect of being horrible at something, even temporarily. When you try something new, you’re usually very bad, and you know it. The easiest way to eliminate that feeling of angst is to quit practicing and go do something else, so that’s what most of us do.

The early hours of trying something new are always challenging, but a little persistence can result in huge increases in skill. The human brain is optimized to pick up new skills extremely quickly.”

It turns out it takes 10,000 hours to reach the top of competitive fields. However, for most of us, the aim is not the top of a field but to be skilled enough or proficient enough to enjoy an activity.

Kaufmen’s research suggests people can usually reach a level where they can have fun in just 20 hours of “deliberate practice.” Deliberate practice is marked by targeting performance levels, breaking skills down into smaller parts and practicing the most important, or “base” skills first.

At Chicks, our gold standard is the 3-day (24 hours of climbing) course.

Learn where you are in your progression of skills on our Ice Climbing Levels page.

Sterling – Sustainable Rope | Gear We Use – Chicks Climbing and Skiing

Sterling Sustainable Rope is about Sterling's rope recycling program

I am proud to shout out about Sterling’s Sustainable Rope Recycling Program.

Over 95% of the raw fiber Sterling purchases to make ropes goes into the final product. Everything else gets repurposed or recycled.

In 2018 Sterling used 1,110,832 lbs. of fiber to make ropes. That produced 73,649 lbs. of scrap, flat fiber and twisted fiber.  Sterling sold 100% of the scrap fiber to other manufacturers to use as was, or to melt down into pellets.

A partner company recycled 1,800 lbs. of used or damaged rope into their product line. And, Sterling sold 10,000 lbs. of prime shorts. Prime shorts are shorter-length, first-quality ropes–left over after regular inventory ropes are cut to length. Prime short lengths traditionally go to waste.

In total, Sterling recycled or sold 90,249 lbs. of potential waste into prime shorts, rope ends, used rope and recycled fiber.

Over 10 years ago, Sterling started their Rope Recycling Program. They take back any used dynamic rope, from any manufacturer and either up-cycle or recycle it. Some of this goes into art, dog leashes, hand bags and non-life-safety products. What isn’t upcycled is sent to a recycling company that chops the rope up, then sends the fibers to manufacturers making products like carpeting, action figures, key chains and skateboards to name a few.

Retired climbing ropes make great gifts for friends who are boaters, make art or have other non-safety utility needs. Don’t let your used climbing rope end up in the landfill. Send it back to Sterling Rope and give it a second life or insure it’ll be recycled as it should be.

Sterling Rope Sustainability Link:  https://sterlingrope.com/sustainability

Strength Training For Backcountry Skiing

strength Training for backcountry skiing helps Angela Hawse make perfect turns in Iceland

Strength Training For Backcountry Skiing helps Angela Hawse, Co-Owner Chicks Skiing make perfect turns. Iceland, 2019

Hey Skiing Chicks!

I hope you enjoyed last month’s training tip: Uphill Training for Backcountry Skiing workout because now it’s time to add in strength for the downhill skiing part.

After a month of building uphill stamina in your legs and lungs, we need to build a reserve of strength and power for the downhill.

All the exercises in this Downhill Training for Backcountry Skiing workout link to videos of the movements. The full workout takes just over an hour with a few minutes extra for cool down. As always, if you’re unsure about a movement, hire a professional coach. A coach can help you train properly and stay injury free.

Ideally, plan strength workouts after rest days and one or two times a week, depending on your time and your fitness.

Commit to this workout 1-2 days a week for 4-6 weeks and enjoy the benefits come December! (Or whenever ski season begins for you.)

Strength Training For Backcountry Skiing Workout:

Warm up:

10:00 mins row, run, ski erg etc.

2 x 8 Shoulder openers

2 x 5 Cuban press

3 x 5 Wall squat 

2 x 5 Squat jump

Then:

Find your weight and box of appropriate height.

5x

5 Goblet Squat + 8 Box Jump @ 12 – 24” (If no box available you can substitute jump with a KB swing.)

Then:

5x

60 sec wall sit with a weight in your lap (medicine ball or slam ball work well)

30 secs split jumps

Rest 60 secs

Then:

3x

10x Push up

10x Leg lower

Cool down with light aerobic work and mobility:

15 Minutes of Mobility | Mobility Exercises For Performance and Injury Prevention

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, Instructor, Athlete, Mountain Guide

Founder Ripple Effect Training

AMGA Certified Rock Guide

Coach for Uphill Athlete
Gym Jones, Fully Certified Instructor

Bring It! – Ski Season

Karen bockel and friends during 2019 ski season on the Zermatt to Chamonix haute route

Karen Bockel, Co-Owner Chicks Skiing with Chicks enjoying 2019 ski season on Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route. ©Karen Bockel Collection.

It’s November and the ski season is chasing us down in big steps—

The high mountains glow with their white slopes. I’ve had to scrape my windshield a couple times. And I drove through a snowstorm coming back from my last climbing trip in the desert Southwest. Some ski areas have announced early openings.

Bring it!

I feel like a kid (almost!) at the beginning of every new winter, barely able to contain my excitement. And, why not, it is FUN to be excited!

Time to go into the basement, dig out the ski gear, give my boards a fresh coat of wax, put new batteries in my beacon, fill the backpack with shovel, probe and extra layers.

Then, I’ll have to wait some more. Because it isn’t actually time to go skiing yet, at least not out-of-bounds or in the backcountry.

I don’t go into the backcountry much in early season conditions because I find it too dangerous. Thinly hidden obstacles like rocks and roots could end my ski season in a hurry. So I wait patiently until there’s a bit of a base on the ground. I might take a few laps on a groomer at the ski area just to hold me over until the backcountry games begin. And when they do, backcountry skiing is about the best thing on earth.

So, be patient. And then, have fun!

If you need a little help with the fun part, come join us for an early-season Avalanche Rescue Course. 1-day Avalanche Rescue Courses are essential for backcountry newbies and as refreshers for experienced backcountry travelers. They’re a fantastic way to kick-start the ski season.

If you are just starting out in the backcountry, Chicks has a 1-day Intro to Backcountry Skills in January and a Backcountry Hut Trip in February.

If you’ve got some backcountry experience and are looking for a mind-blowing, powder-skiing extravaganza, come join us in Hokkaido, Japan.

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!