How Do You Know When You Know Enough?

Kitty Calhoun on the Cassin Ridge, Denali, AK 1985

Kitty Calhoun on the Cassin Ridge, 1985, Denali, AK.©Kitty Calhoun Collection

Many years ago I climbed Denali’s Cassin Ridge. I decided to climb the Cassin even though I had never climbed in Alaska before. And, although my partner had some Alaskan experience—he had climbed Denali’s West Rib— we were generally equal in climbing experience and ability.

Undertaking the Cassin was daunting. Yet, I knew that if I didn’t challenge myself, I would never learn and grow as a climber.

For me, success in climbing is all about strategy. For example, I diligently push myself little by little to build confidence, but I also understand that I’ll never know unless I give it a shot.

However, if you’ve been diligent, pushing boundaries little by little, then you should know enough to commit with confidence within your risk-tolerance level.

So how do you come to know enough?

  1. Start with climbs that are short and easy. Work up to longer, more technical, and more remote routes.
  2. Choose your partner(s) carefully. Even if your partner is more experienced, you must be able to exercise your own judgment. Be an active voice in all decisions. The best partners are team players with similar goals, time, money, and risk tolerance.
  3. Read all accounts of the climb. Study the best season, approach, gear, descent, possible challenges, and alternate routes or peaks. Also, make a plan in case of emergency or the need to evacuate.
  4. Carefully consider your equipment, food, fuel, first-aid kit, repair kit, communications devices, and permits. Poor preparation leads to poor performance.
  5. Be mindful. I’m always thinking, “What’s the worst thing that can happen and what are the chances?” If I’m willing to accept the risk, then I think through what I would do if things went wrong.After I have a plan, then I refocus on the next task at hand.
  6. Enjoy the experience and be open to whatever it has to teach you.

Patagonia Fleur Tank Top – Gear We Use | Rock Climbing

Kitty Calhoun, Co-Owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, in her favorite summer climbing top: Patagonia Fleur tank top. ©Kitty Calhoun Collection

Kitty Calhoun, Co-Owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, in her favorite summer climbing top: A Patagonia Fleur Tank Top. ©Kitty Calhoun Collection

My favorite top for summer climbing is a Patagonia Fleur Tank Top.

For summer climbing, I want something that is light, dries quickly (from sweat or rain), has a feminine cut, and is fun to wear.

Patagonia’s Fleur Tank Top stands out from other synthetic tops because it fits my favorite-summer-climbing-top bill perfectly.

Not only is it technical, functional and fashionable, the Fleur Tank is ultra-soft!  So it’s really fun to wear!


More Stand-Out Fleur Tank Top Facts:


  • The material is 89% recycled polyester made from recycled soda bottles, manufacturing waste, and worn-out clothing. Through Patagonia’s Worn-Wear program you can mail in your used gear for store credit!
  • It is Fair Trade Certified™ Fair Trade Certification helps guarantee health, safety, social, and environmental benefits for workers.
  • BLUESIGN Approved – All chemical processes, materials, and products used in the making of a Fluer Tank Top, have met safe standards for the environment, workers, and customers.

Who would have thought that so much could go into a shirt that is so simple and beautiful?


Climbing Outdoors | Tips for Outdoor Rock Climbing

Climbing Outdoors, Devil's Lake Climbing Clinic participants learning outdoor climbing anchor systems. Devil's Lake State Park, WI.

Devil’s Lake Climbing Clinic participants learning outdoor climbing anchor systems. Devil’s Lake State Park, WI.©Kitty Calhoun

One day I was climbing outdoors with a partner who was less experienced but physically very strong. I climbed first, putting up the draws and figuring out the moves.

Then, when it was my partner’s turn to lead she decided to start further right than I had. Even though the rock was more overhanging, the holds were bigger, so she thought the climbing would be easier.

However, when she got to the crux at the second bolt, she was completely pumped.  As she tried to clip she fell with the rope out. Luckily I was able to run downhill as she fell and take in slack quickly enough to keep her from hitting the ground.

If I had not been familiar with this outdoor climbing technique she could have cratered.

As summer rolls along and you look to outdoor climbing to test the movement skills and fitness that you’ve practiced and gained in the gym, please remember that there are a number of differences between indoor and outdoor climbing.

From Leave No Trace ethics, to reading the rock, to belay and anchor systems, to understanding the limitations of gear, outdoor climbing is not the same as indoor climbing!

We teach outdoor climbing skills and more at climbing Mecca’s across the country like Rifle, CO, Devil’s Lake, WI, Maple Canyon, UT, City of Rocks, ID, Red River Gorge, KY and others!

I encourage you to sign up now. Learn more about the nuances of climbing outdoors.


Climbing Outdoors – Tips for Outdoor Rock Climbing

  • Make sure your rope is long enough – Unlike the consistent height of a gym, natural cliffs are variable. One route can be longer than the next.  Either have the belayer tie into the end of the rope, or tie a knot into the end. This way the climber can’t get lowered off the end of the rope.
  • Someone should know how to set up and clean the anchor. In the climbing gym, you top-rope through fixed anchors. At the crag, it is not proper to top-rope through the fixed anchors because this causes undo wear on the anchor. Instead, it is expected that you will top-rope off of your own gear clipped to the anchor. Therefore, the first person has to set up the anchor and the last person has to clean it.
  • Practice clear communication. Verbalize your plans with your partner. Who will clean the anchor? Will they rappel or lower?
  • Learn to read a guidebook and recognize features like dihedrals and arêtes.
  • You need experience reading sequences on rock. The holds are not color-coded outside!
  • It is handy to know how to use a stick clip and also how to clean an overhanging route.
  • Be wary of loose rock – both leading and belaying. Know how to test the rock and how to use it if you must.  Know where to safely position yourself for the belay if there is rock fall hazard.

Re-mindfully yours!

Kitty Calhoun

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

Mobility Exercises for Performance and Injury Prevention – 15 Minutes of Mobility Exercises



“I know, I should go to yoga”


Today I want to stress the importance of a proper warm-up and mobility exercises. It is important to do 15 Minutes of Mobility both before AND after any activity. If you do 15 Minutes of Mobility in a mindful way, you’ll get 10x the gain from your workouts and you’ll get less injuries!

I call it “too-much-of-a-good-thing” syndrome.

We love climbing and skiing so much. These activities calm our minds and feed our souls. But too much repetitive movement can create structural imbalances. And left uncorrected, these imbalances can lead to pain and injury. In addition, most of us sit too much: 10 – 12  hours a day on average.

(If you don’t know by now, sitting is horrible for you:

So, even if you think you’re active, you probably sit too much. Even if you always exercise after work and hit it hard on the weekends–you still probably commute to work sitting, and drive a desk all day.

Loss of mobility causes pain whether it is in the back, neck, shoulders, or hips. Loss of mobility creates range-of-motion issues, muscle imbalances, and joint stress.

15 Minutes of Mobility Exercises

Doing these exercises will create a neuromuscular stimulus that turns on under-performing muscles and “chills-out” overactive muscles, increasing mobility over time.  

Execute the movements precisely. Stay in alignment. Build balanced strength. As a result you’ll be stronger and with the added benefit of decreasing your risk of injury.

Remember quality over quantity. Smarter, not harder, creates results.

(Don’t do any of these exercises if they cause pain.)

Before activity stretches should be dynamic: move in and out of the stretch, holding for 3 – 5 secs and repeat 10+ times.

After activity stretches should static: hold for 30+ sec to lengthen the muscle. Longer stretches fatigue muscles, so they shouldn’t be done before training or activity.

15 Minutes of Mobility

Upper body

Hold spine in neutral and core stable so that your back doesn’t arch.

If these are easy, lay on a bench or foam roller to increase available range of motion.

1) Chest Opener

chest opener exercise

15 Minutes of Mobility Exercises – chest opener

2) Elbows at Sides

mobility exercises - elbows at sides

15 Minutes of Mobility – elbows at sides

3) Overhead Reach

15 Minutes of Mobility – overhead reach

4) Shoulder Openers Video

Lower Body

For all stretches maintain a neutral lumbar spine and do not mash low back into floor

1) Single Leg Hamstring Stretch (Use squat rack or door jam.)

15 Minutes of Mobility – single leg hamstring stretch

2) Hip Opening 

hip opening mobility exercise

15 Minutes of Mobility – hip opening

3) Lying On Back Twist

mobility exercises - back lying twist

15 Minutes of Mobility – back lying twist

4) Hip flexor (lie on bench, bed or chair)

hip flexor mobility exercise

15 Minutes of Mobility – hip flexor stretch

5) Frog stretch

hip mobility exercise - frog stretch

15 Minutes of Mobility – frog stretch

6) Quad stretch

quad stretch

15 Minutes of Mobility – Quad Stretch

7) Calf stretch (Ideally on a ramp but a step will work as well.)

calf stretch exercise

15 Minutes of Mobility – calf stretch


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


One-Handed Clove Hitch

Attach to the anchor with a clove hitch

Attaching to the anchor with a one-handed clove hitch. ©Aimee Barnes

Attaching to the anchor with a one-handed clove hitch is beneficial for a number of reasons.

  1. You are hardwiring into the anchor and you need no other tether.
  2. A clove hitch is easily adjustable.

twist the rope towards yourself and clip it into the anchor

With anchor at head  or chest height, raise rope and intentionally back clip the carabiner twisting the rope towards yourself.

one-handed clove hitch step 2

Pick up the rope that is coming from the back.

one handed clove hitch step 3

Twist toward yourself again and clip it. Creating a clove hitch.

finished clove hitch

Clove Hitch!

Sterling’s Fusion Nano IX – Gear We Use | Alpine Climbing

The Fusion Nano IX dual color in action. Chicks alumna, Kristy Lamore, 2nd Flatiron, Boulder, Colorado. May snowstrom. ©Karen Bockel

The Fusion Nano IX dual color in action. Chicks alumna, Kristy Lamore, 2nd Flatiron, Boulder, Colorado. May snowstorm. ©Karen Bockel

Sterling’s Fusion Nano IX, 60m, 9mm rope is my most commonly used rope.


because I mostly go Alpine Climbing.

Pre-dawn starts, big- heavy packs, hiking, pitches, and pitches of climbing, ridges, and multiple rappels are in order. For alpine climbing efficiency is key.

The Sterling Fusion Nano IX is efficient because it’s really light and small for a climbing rope—a scant 52 g/m (grams per meter) and a 9.0 mm diameter makes all the difference when I’m out for 10-12 hours a day.

When it comes to strength, the Fusion Nano is strong enough for the job! Since I plan to lead climb, I need ropes that are single rated.

And, the Fusion Nano IX is Sterling’s lightest single-rated rope.

And, in fact, it is single, half, and twin compatible, making it a coveted triple-rated rope!

The Sterling Fusion Nano is not too stretchy and not too stiff. Its stretch lies right in the middle of commonly used lead ropes. At 26% dynamic stretch and 7% static stretch, it doesn’t drop you too far, yet still allows for a soft catch.

The Fusion Nano comes with DryXP Treatment. Alpine climbing usually involves snow and ice, in addition to rock. Snow and ice can be very wet! A dry treated rope is a huge weight-saver compared to a water-logged beast coiled around my shoulders.

Most often, the descent, particularly if there are any rappels, determines the length of rope needed for a climb. I’ve found that in most North American alpine terrain, a 60m rope works really well.

I use a 60 meter Sterling Fusion Nano IX bi-color.


-Use of the Fusion Nano IX rope requires belaying and rappelling experience.

–Due to the small diameter, it is not recommended for top-roping or working routes.


It just goes to show, ya gotta have the right tool for the job!

Find More Climbing Partners – The Art of Being Solid

Find more climbing partners at a Chicks Climbing clinic. 4 Chicks participants lined up to show off their Chicks chalk bags

Find more climbing partners at a Chicks Climbing clinic. Chicks participants line up to show off their Chicks chalk bags!

One of the most commonly asked questions I get is, “How do I find more climbing partners?”

My answer, “You don’t have to be a super sender to find climbing partners, you just have to be solid.”

In order to be solid, I have some advice for you:

Be honest, be reliable, be skilled, and, most importantly, be fun.

Find More Climbing Partners


Be Honest

We all want to put our best effort forward, but rarely do we climb at our top level.

For example, even though I’ve climbed a 5.13a (once… over 5 years ago!), I don’t tell a prospective climbing partner “I’m a 5.13 climber!” Instead, I say, “I’m comfortable leading 5.12 sport, but I really love to climb 5.11.”

Be Reliable

No one likes it when their climbing partner cancels. Consider that they probably rearranged their life to go climbing with you and are counting on you to do what you said you would do. Be on time, ready to go. Don’t bail.

Be Skilled

Know how to take care of yourself. Know your technical skills forwards and backwards. If you lead, great. If not, be a solid second: learn to remove gear efficiently, climb quickly, belay attentively, give soft catches, clean anchors, pull the rope and stack it. The day will pass smoothly and safely if you are skilled.  As a result, you’ll get more climbing in.

Need skills? Chicks teaches technical skills at all of our clinics. We’ll get you up to speed and confident in no time.

Be Fun

When it comes right down to it, climbing is fun and the most solid climbing partners are the most fun.

Solid Climbing partners say interesting things and they make me laugh. It doesn’t matter how hard they climb. What matters is that they’re positive, funny, and willing to share interesting stories.

Solid partners don’t complain or make excuses. They leave the drama at home and don’t melt down, scream, or throw wobblers.

Lastly, you will find more climbing partners if you make decisions!

Solid partners decide and they don’t say sorry endlessly. Unless, of course an apology is in order, then they own it and get on with it.

Learn more about being solid at How to be The World’s Greatest Climbing Partner.

And for an amusing take on climbing partners in general read Your First 7 Climbing Partners.

Alpine Climbing Fitness – Training For Alpine Climbing

Carolyn Parker, training for alpine climbing by wearing a pack on an inclined treadmill

Carolyn Parker, building alpine climbing fitness wearing a pack on an inclined treadmill.

Alpine climbing fitness will help you expand your alpine climbing knowledge and journey further into the backcountry.

Alpine climbing asks many things of climbers, not least of which is fitness.

Fitness for alpine climbing involves three factors:

  1. A good aerobic base
  2. An ability to tolerate the load of a heavier-than-usual pack
  3. A body that is trained for long days – maybe even a few in a row!

However, training for alpine climbing can look very different depending on the style of the climb, its technical nature, the altitude, and your experience level,

Let’s say you’re planning on climbing Mt Baker this summer.

Mt Baker is a fantastic alpine endeavor.

For those who want to do more mountaineering in their life, Mount Baker is a perfect place to learn steep snow climbing and glacier travel skills.

Your guides can help you learn all the skills necessary for your climb. But your guides can’t help you arrive with a good base of fitness.

Often, fitness is the most difficult piece for those who want to be prepared for alpine climbing. The fitter you are the better for the long approaches, big summit days, and carrying heavy loads. Not to mention enjoying the experience!

How to train for long, back-to-back days?

Weekends are usually the best time for gals to get out and train for more than an hour. But, if you have time during the week for more than an additional hour in the morning, then excellent!

Week One:

Week days

2-3 x a week (indoors or outdoors) shoot for 60 min on a treadmill at 10 – 15% grade, or go for a hike with as many hills as you can find. Carry a pack with the weight of your normal, day hiking pack.

Weekend – Start by increasing time from weekday hikes. Try 90min on Saturday and Sunday, again, with a standard day pack. Try and find as much uphill terrain as you can, if you live where it’s flat, consider doing one more day indoors on a treadmill (10-15% grade) or step mill—not exciting but it will begin to condition your legs to the uphill.

Week Two:

Week days

2-3 x hour-long hikes. If all went well on week one, add five more pounds to your pack from last week—carrying extra water is a great way to do this weight addition.


Stick with your standard daypack, but increase the time you are out to two hours both Saturday and Sunday

Week Three:


Increase load in pack by 5 # for 2-3 x 60 min treadmill sessions or outdoor hikes.


Increase load by 5 #, keep time the same 2:00 hours each day.

Week Four: 


Increase load in pack by 5 # for 2-3 x 60 min treadmill session


Keep load the same as last week, however increase the hike time to 2.5 hours both Saturday and Sunday.

Long-Term Alpine Climbing Fitness Goals:

Shoot for the weight you’ll be hiking in to base camp with. 40-45# is a good target weight. Increase load slowly and consistently over time.

And, increase weekend hikes to 8-9 hours over combined days. You can do one longer day (say 6 hours) and one shorter day (3 hours) if that is easier with your life schedule.

The key is to begin. Then slowly increase weight. Avoid injury by not over doing it too quickly.

There are so many specifics to alpine climbing: day-long adventures, two-week trips, high altitude, trekking in, back packing, using huts. The idea is to understand your body’s needs. Be prepared for the longer days and the energy spent.

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

Carolyn Parker

Founder Ripple Effect Training

Gym Jones, Fully Certified Instructor

AMGA Certified Rock Guide


Small Steps

Emilie Drinkwater taking small steps on the approach to Dent du Geant, Mont Blanc

Emilie Drinkwater takes small steps on the approach to Dent du Géant, Mont Blanc, European Alps, Summer, 2017. ©Karen Bockel

Small steps can turn big challenges into something quite manageable.

“Kleine Schritte, Kleine Schritte!”

“Small steps.” In German, I heard someone repeat, “small steps” to the group of Swiss climbers in front of us just as pre-dawn light touched the peaks.

My partner, Mary, and I had been climbing by headlamp.

Roped together, we’d steadily gained ground up the steepening glacier.

Surrounded by quiet, all I could hear was the sound of our breaths and the crunch of hard snow under our boots and crampons.

A snow couloir would eventually give us access to the rock ridge and then the summit. But, first, we had to climb over a bergschrund and some rock steps.

In the faint light, the massive abyss below the bergschrund looked dark. The exposure felt like a cold breeze.

I held the coiled rope tightly in my hand and felt Mary behind me through the tension.

Then, I turned to her and said, “kleine Schritte, kleine Schritte!”

In careful unison, we tiptoed around the icy void and then over the rock ledges.

Step-by-small-step, it didn’t take long before we’d reached the couloir and were back to steady upward progress again.

Thinking back,

I’m sure that crossing over the bergshrund would have been harder and potentially more dangerous if we had tried to force our way through or fight the terrain, using big steps. I’m convinced that taking big steps makes climbing harder and less safe.

Taking smaller steps, on the other hand, can turn what looks like a big challenge into something quite manageable.

So, try “small steps” next time you face a seemingly impossible challenge.

And, if you don’t feel confident in your skills and abilities, join me on one of these upcoming Chicks trips: Chicks Alpine Climbing – Chamonix or Chicks Rock Climbing – City of Rocks.

I’ll help you gain climbing experience and get quicker and more dialed with your climbing.

Instinct VS Rock Climbing Shoe for Women by SCARPA

stock photo of SCARPA Instinct VS Rock Climbing Shoe

SCARPA Instinct VS Rock Climbing Shoe in black aqua.

Thank you SCARPA for refining the tried-and-true Instinct VS rock shoe into a women’s-specific model that comes with a lovely, fresh new color to boot.

The original orange Instinct VS has been my go-to shoe for the past 5 seasons. They have served me well on everything from steep, overhanging sport routes to multi-pitch crack climbs.

The women’s-specific Instinct VS

has all the same performance features as the original Instinct. But, even better, the women’s specific model has a curved, asymmetrical female last. They’re also built to be a tad softer, which means they’re slightly more sensitive. Being softer and more sensitive also makes them more comfortable, more like a slipper.

Although the Instinct VS is aggressive and it will get down right gritty with you, it’s also a great all-day shoe for every style of climbing. For all-day, I just size them one size up from my approach shoes. Anyway, I hate tight shoes, always have. I’ve even got a pair that I can wear with socks for cooler weather or easy long routes.

Although, just like most new shoes, the Instinct VS’s are pain machines out of the box, they stretch and mold to your feet within just a couple of days out.

The Vibram XS Edge rubber is as good as any “stickier” resole rubber I’ve used. New, they should last you for a couple of seasons. Then the burly Italian construction will further last you through multiple resoles. With years of use, the Instinct VS’s are sure to become your trusted companions.

To get the best fit, go to your local SCARPA dealer to try these bad girls on. Just make sure you don’t let them talk you into a pair that’s too tight!

Buy local, think global.

MSRP $185

You may also like to read my love letter to SCARPA’s Gecko approach Shoes.