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.

Black Diamond Icon Headlamp

Black Diamond Icon Headlamp

Black Diamond Icon Headlamp

Black Diamond’s Icon headlamp shines as one of my top six most appreciated technological advances in alpine climbing gear over the last couple of decades because it prevents against unplanned bivouacs.

With a range of 125 meters—the furthest of any BD headlamp—and 500 lumens, the Icon allows for route finding in the dark. What this really means is that with an Icon strapped to my head, I can keep climbing even when the day ends. This ability to climb in the dark is an essential preventative against the dreaded unplanned bivouac!

As if avoiding a forced bivy isn’t enough, the Black Diamond Icon Headlamp has even more loveable features:

  • Red, green, and blue light modes to help protect your night vision.
  • Removable battery pack—put it in your pocket to help keep it warm and preserve battery life.
  • Three-level power meter allows you to keep track of how much power you have left.
  • Settings that allow you to toggle between range and power.
  • Brightness Memory—turn it on at a chosen brightness rather than toggling back through the settings.
  • Max burn time is 70 hours on high and 175 hours on low.

Thank you, Black Diamond, for your ingenuity in creating solutions so that I can go farther into the mountains with fewer bivouacs!

Osprey Mutant 22 Backpack – 5 Reasons Why I Love my Mutant 22

Lindsey Hamm sharpening her ice climbing tools next to her Osprey Mutant 22

Chicks guide, Lindsey Hamm, sharpens her ice climbing tools next to her loaded Osprey Mutant 22 backpack.

Osprey’s Mutant 22 is my go-to multi-pitch and alpine-climbing backpack.

The smallest of the Osprey Mutant Climbing Backpack series, I use my Mutant 22 when I need an on-route backpack.

Five Reasons why I love my Mutant 22

  1. Not too many straps and pockets. The problem with too many straps and pockets is that they can get confusing. Think, “Where did I stash my Gu?” Or, “Whoops, wrong strap.” Pack confusion is not a problem here.

  2. Perfect size. I can carry a single rack, extra clothing layers, water, and snacks.

  3. Easy to carry while climbing because it sits high on my hips. Combine this with the fact that the Mutant 22 does not have a padded hip belt and my climbing-harness gear loops stay free and accessible.

  4. Sternum Strap. Snugs the weight firmly onto my shoulders

  5. Compression Strap. Keeps everything from moving around while I’m climbing.

6 Other lovable Features:

  1. Padded with snowshed fabric–great for rock climbing and perfect for ice and alpine climbing!

  2. Removable sheet frame. Want to go fast and light? Remove the “frame” to shed weight. Need a little cushion? Sit on it at an alpine belay.

  3. Internal Hydration Pocket. It’s easier to stay hydrated when you sip. Our experience is that if you stay hydrated, you need less water.

  4. Big Buckles–all the more easy to open with gloves on!

  5. Easy Rope Attachment. Carry your climbing rope on the outside. Drape it over the top/opening lid. Cinch it down so it doesn’t flop around (or off!) as you approach. Easy!

  6. Top Lid Top-Zip Opening. Don’t worry about your things falling out when you access your stuff. But remember, you still have to be careful not to drop stuff on multi-pitch climbs!

Black Diamond Fuel vs Cobra Ice Climbing Tools

Black Diamond Fuel Ice Tool

Black Diamond Fuel Ice Tool

I love my Black Diamond Fuel Ice Tools.

This reflects a change of heart.

Recently, I dumped my Cobra tools and took up with a pair of Fuels.

For years the Cobra and I were in a solid and trusting relationship. They were my favorite ice climbing and technical alpine climbing tools.

I loved the Cobra for its intuitive swing—similar to a tennis serve or throwing a ball. With the Cobra much power and momentum comes with little effort. I also appreciated the Cobra for its exaggerated arc and clearance when climbing over bulges.

However, one day while climbing with my Cobras, I got extremely pumped on a strenuous lead. I lost all the strength to raise my elbow and drop my tool back. I could not execute a “proper” swing.  Instead, I found myself moving with an abbreviated and more downward motion. After this, I started looking for another tool.

What I found is that the proper swing of a Fuel is more abbreviated and downward.

The Fuel’s swing fits perfectly with the only kind of swing I have left when I’m totally gassed.

Since then, the Fuels and I have been tight.

But there is another reason why the Fuel has become my favorite ice climbing tool.

When I climbed with my Cobras, I was afraid to use the upper grip. I found the Cobra easily popped out of the ice if I exerted the least bit of outward pull.

Since, I was scared that my tools would pop, I climbed with an outdated technique. I glued my hands to my ice tools. Meanwhile, the newer, or more evolved ice climbing technique is to freely move ones hands, both between tools and up and down the shaft, as the terrain and climbing moves dictate.

The shape of the Fuel’s upper grip and shaft, on the other hand, are more forgiving of an accidental outward pull.

This means the Fuel has the potential to transform my ice climbing. Using the upper grip on an ice tool is extremely useful for maximizing reach. Also, the upper grip is useful for getting into an extended repertoire of body positions.

Thank You, Black Diamond Fuel, for giving me the confidence to continue to learn and grow my climbing.

A Love letter to my Patagonia Capilene Midweight Crew

Kitty Calhoun shows of her new retro-stripe Patagonia Capilene Midweight Crew

Function AND fashion. Kitty dressed for skiing in Patagonia’s retro stripe Midweight Capilene Crew. ©Kitty Calhoun Collection

Dear Patagonia Capilene Midweight Crew,

Who Says You Can’t Improve on Mother Nature?

I live in my baselayers, which means I live in you!

It doesn’t matter if I’m ice climbing, skiing or need a long-sleeve shirt for cool-weather-rock-climbing. Patagonia Midweight Crew, I wear you to the grocery store, to yoga and just lounging around the house.

I know that many people prefer Merino wool because it’s soft, warm-even-when-wet and naturally controls odor. I like Merino too, but I love Capilene and you, Patagonia Capiline Midweight Crew, are my number one choice.

Some people ask me why I choose Capilene over Merino when wool is all-natural and has an exceptional feel.

Capilene Midweight Crew, I choose you because you EXCEL!

You are the best at wicking moisture away from my body.

You dry the fastest.

You breathe the most efficiently.

(This is why Patagonia blends their Merino wool line with Capilene—to increase durability, wicking and drying time.)

Capilene Midweight Crew, I choose you and I love you even more for your special “techy” features.

Your odor control is permanent—stopping the growth of smelly bacteria dead in its tracks.

Your smooth face makes layering comfortable–you don’t bind and bunch.

On the inside, your brushed-back-grid helps wick moisture away from my body even better. It also increases your warmth without adding weight.

And, to top it off, Patagoinia Capilene Midweight Crew, I’m crazy about your new Retro-Stripe color option.

Thank you Capilene Midweight Crew for keeping me comfortable, warm, dry and also very fashionable!

A Love Letter to My Scarpa Phantom Techs

So sexy! Scarpa's Phantom Tech Ice Climbing Boot

So sexy! Scarpa’s Phantom Tech Ice Climbing Boot

Dear Scarpa Phantom Techs,

It’s that time of year again when I have more time for you and we can pick up where we left off last season on some of our favorite frozen waterfalls. Although I have terribly cold toes 365 days a year (poor circulation), you manage to keep me warm out on the ice where suffering used to be the norm.

What I love most about you is your svelt, tech look and feel. Not only do I look good with you on my feet, I climb better than ever. It’s remarkable what your lightweight nature has done to make all that fancy footwork a breeze.

Your integrated gator is super sexy and super functional and as we all know, the old days of gators have come to an end in the world of fashion and function.

I also appreciate how comfy you are on the approach and descent. Just loosening you up a bit makes a world of difference when we’re walking. Yet, even with gloves on, you’re quick and easy to tighten at the base of a cold climb. And you keep my heel locked in place exactly where I need it.

I promise to bring you in out of the cold, warm you up when we’re done, and take good care of you again this season, just like you do for me. 

 Thank you,


Stealth RECCO — Grivel Helmet Review

Grivel's Stealth RECCO in Yellow. It also comes in Titanium, Carbon and White.©Grivel stock photo

Grivel’s Stealth RECCO in Yellow. It also comes in Titanium, Carbon and White.©Grivel stock photo

As Chicks approaches its 20th anniversary, we stand on the shoulders of a giant, a company that has been in the business of making the tools we use to climb for centuries.

 This year Grivel celebrates their 200th anniversary.

 And Grivel just launched the first-ever helmet with a RECCO reflector.

 RECCO reflectors bounce back signals to RECCO detectors. A rescuer with a RECCO detector can follow the signal back to the reflector; in this case the helmet and the climber wearing the helmet.

 The RECCO reflector only adds 3 grams to the already uber-light Stealth and Stealth HS. These unique looking helmets are barely noticeable to the wearer but pack great protection.

 Historically, ice climbers haven’t worn transceivers or carried avalanche rescue equipment.  Although a RECCO does not replace a transceiver, it adds a considerable safety margin for search and rescue.  Ski areas, helicopters and mountain rescue teams are typically equipped with the RECCO system.

 If you backcountry ice climb and/or alpine climb, this new piece of equipment from Grivel could help stack the odds in your favor. It’s a small additional investment for your safety kit.

 Chicks could not be more proud to partner with such a longstanding and innovative company. 

 Our partners at Liberty Mountain are the sole distributors of Grivel in the U.S. Liberty Mountains lists the suggested retail price of the Stealth RECCO as a mere $119. Well worth the investment for this new tech brain bucket.

Petzl’s Passion 

Petzl's Ergonomic, Nomic and Quark ice climbing tools. ©Petzl stock photo

Petzl’s Ergonomic, Nomic and Quark ice climbing tools. ©Petzl stock photo

Since the early 1900’s Petzl’s passion for exploration has led to many innovations transcending from the caving world up into the rock, ice, and ski mountaineering world.

Petzl’s mission is to “continue to invent products and provide solutions that allow sports enthusiasts and professionals to access some of the most inaccessible places, both day and night.”

This summer, Petzl introduced a new tool called the Ergonomic. They also brought out redesigns of the Nomic and the Quark. Exerts from their press release follow:


The Ergonomic functions as well on steep ice as it does on overhanging dry tool and mixed routes. The Ergonomic comes with a redesigned DRY pick, which has more aggressive teeth that taper from 4mm at the top to 3.2mm at the tip. A new over-molded, glass-filled, nylon handle makes the upper grip more durable. The unique lower grip is larger in diameter and it has flat sides. This design creates a higher volume contact area, which gives a more secure grip.


The Nomic has long been the preferred tool for ice climbers. Now, this classic has been redesigned to be more durable and lighter. The Nomic comes with an enhanced PUR’ICE pick, glass-filled nylon, over molded, upper grip and lighter lower grip – shedding 20 grams from its predecessor.  It also has an all-new, wider griprest. This griprest is also over molded with rubber and has a stainless-steel pick at the base.


The Quark is Petzl’s most versatile ice tool—good for ice climbing and technical mountaineering. The lower handle is over molded with high friction rubber, and it’s designed to be flatter on both sides and front for better indexing and grip. At the base of the tool are a single stainless steel pick and a brand new, foldable grip rest.

Birthday Backpack Osprey Sirrius 50

Happy Birthday Backpack! Osprey Sirrius 50 in ruska purple. © Roxanne DiSanto

Happy Birthday Backpack, Osprey Sirrius 50 in ruska purple. © Roxanne DiSanto

For my birthday this year my husband gave me an Osprey Women’s Sirrus 50 backpack. This was to replace a beloved pack he had given me 20 years prior.

Initially I was reluctant. I was dubious about the Sirrus 50, especially when trying to determine my size. I’m 5’2” with a short torso. I loved my previous pack because it fit my small frame so well.

After a lengthy time comparing the Women’s Sirrus small & extra small, I finally settled on the XS.

Hands down, the Sirrus is the best fitting pack I’ve ever owned. Not only does it fit my torso perfectly, the internal frame is integrated into the hip suspension, which cups & contours my hips & arcs at my back. These innovative designs are my favorite features. The hip contour helps to distribute & stabilize the load. The arc allows air to flow between my back and the pack, keeping me cooler overall when carrying a load. I also like the pocket upfront. This pocket is specifically designed for a helmet and allows more room for gear in the main compartment.

After a 20-year relationship with my old pack, now my new love is Osprey’s Sirrus 50.

Hollablock Girl  A Shout Out to Sterling’s Hollow Block

Elaina Arenz, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, rappelling with an auto-block tied with a Sterling Hollow Block. ©Elaina Arenz 

Elaina Arenz, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, rappelling with an auto-block tied with a Sterling Hollow Block. ©Elaina Arenz

Dear Hollow Block, or as I prefer to call you, my “Hollablock.

Gwen Stefani made your name synonymous in my mind with being ultra-useful—you’re the one piece of gear I never take off my harness—and all my friction hitches are going to happen like that! Safe and secure.

Your braided aramid fibers are the perfect heat resistant material to make my friction hitch of choice.

For example, when I rappel, the auto-block is my friction hitch go-to. I quickly wrap you around my climbing rope 3 times. Then I clip both of your ends into a small locking carabiner attached to my belay loop. Et Voila, I’m ready to rappel with no fuss and no muss of having to dress you tidy.

You dress yourself, which is why I love you so. I never have to make sure your wraps are nice and smooth. You always lay flat and grip the rope with the perfect amount of friction.

Hollow Block, you save me time and time counts when the sun is setting on the horizon and the shadows of night are chasing me down the wall.

The folks at Sterling thought of everything when they designed you: high melting point; hollow braided construction that allows you to grip the rope like a Chinese finger trap; two lengths: 13.5” and 19”; Oh!, and how strong you are! At 14kn I can use you as a sling and feel totally secure knowing you have my back.

Hollow Block, with you on my harness, “I’m ready to attack, gonna lead the pack.”

Yours truly,

Elaina aka Hollablock Girl