Margo Talbot reviews Black Diamond Cobras

Girly Guide Margo Talbot has just done a review of the Black Diamond Cobra ice tools for us at Chicks – check it out in this video (and check them out for yourselves at a Chicks with Picks clinic!)

The Black Diamond Cobras: “The ultimate pure ice climbing tool on the market.”

Margo Talbot is a world renowned ice climber whose love for the mountains sprang from her discovery of the Canadian Rockies over 20 years ago. Margo shares her passion for ice through guided expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctica and through courses she teaches for The Glitter Girls and Chicks with Picks. Margo co-founded The Glitter Girls with Karen McNeill in 2003 and continues their mission of helping women find and grow their own inner goddesses through guided adventures on ice, rock and snow. Her book “All That Glitters” will be published in the Spring of 2011, check out her website at

When you gotta go, what’s the easiest FUD to use?

Two of the wonderful ladies we have on our blogroll, “Rockgrrl” (the one and only Eileen Ringwald), and author of “Everyfrog’s Blog,” Tiffany Royal have each posted brand new reviews of FUDs – female urination device (or director), something essential to many of us chicks!

Eileen gave the Sani Fem Freshette a test to compare alongside the GoGirl. In testing both devices on a recent trip to Indian Creek Rockgrrl concluded: “The difference in the two non disposable models I used is that the Go Girl is flexible silicon, and the Freshette is hard plastic with a pull out tube. This sturdier model was better for using more discretely (I didn’t have to lower my shorts). The GoGirl I wasn’t confident to do that so it was a little pointless in the convenience area, however it worked in the “don’t have to balance squat” way. Since the GoGirl can stow smaller I can see how it might be useful in areas where it isn’t so much standing up is a convenience but a way to get away from unsanitary positions (portapotties or unkempt bathrooms) or to put distance between you and poison oak / ivy, bugs, etc.”

Check out the complete in-depth review and description of both devices on Rockgrrl here!

Tiffany tested out The Freshette FUD several years ago, and in her review describes just how convenient and easy it is to use, clean, and store, which is why she considers this girly pink piece of gear her “11th essential.”

You can read all about Tiffany’s experiences using the device to pee like a guy when needed saying “It goes on every trip – backpacking, cragging, mountaineering,” here on Everyfrog’s blog.

Do you have experience with a FUD? If so, which one do you prefer and would recommend to other ladies?

Which Crampons are right for you?

by Kitty Calhoun

Recently, I’ve been doing some thinking about crampon configurations and have asked some tech-queenie guys their opinions as well.  The choices between crampon configurations are: duo-point vs mono-point and horizontal points vs vertical points.  I wondered if  one crampon worked better for mixed, if one crampon was better for longer routes, if one was better for brittle ice (or soft).

I asked three of the most techy guys I know: Mark Miller, Will Gadd, and Bill Belcourt  (tech guy at Black Diamond).  Each had a different opinion.  Mark liked his mono-points for everything – mixed and ice and does not believe that a mono-point gives any less support on long routes than dou-points.  He does not think that a mono-point is any more likely to shear in hollow ice or fracture brittle ice than a duo-point , whether horizontal or vertical.

Will Gadd likes his horizontal points for mixed and ice routes.  He finds duo-points more stable than mono-points.  Furthermore, he says that horizontal points allow you to climb ice more like you climb on rock because when you raise your heels, they are less likely than vertical points to break the ice and shear out.  There were only a few unique places and conditions where he thought any other configuration out-performed horizontal points.

Bill Belcourt said that everyone has their own theory as to which configuration is best but none are verifiable by science.  He does not like mono-points in less than vertical terrain because he feels it is more work to stand on your feet and keep your balance.  The Black Diamond vertical duo-points (Cyborgs) have front-points with serrations on the teeth so they feel more secure when standing on mushrooms.  They are heavier than the horizontal points, but you can change out the front points to mono-points or replace the points when they become worn out so the crampons last longer.

I would love to write more about choosing crampons, but space does not allow.  I think that it is best to demo all types of crampons to find out what you like best. Personally I like the new BD crampons.  Stainless is lighter, does not dull as easily, does not rust and has no toxic coatings on on them.   In the meantime, it is fun to play with different configurations because it tends to focus your attention on your feet, which in itself would cause you to climb better!

How to choose a rope

by Kitty Calhoun

The first thing to decide is how you will most often be using the rope.  Do you need a dry rope? Will you be mostly top-roping? Will you be doing multi-pitch routes or long approaches in the mountains?  Each of these factors affects your decision as to diameter, length and dry treatment of your rope.  So let’s look at your choices:

  • Single ropes (9.4mm – 11mm). The larger the diameter, generally, the longer the rope will last. The larger diameter ropes are harder to feed through belay devices and are, of course, heavier.  Conversely, the smaller diameter ropes are lighter, but do not last as long.  I would choose a 10.2mm for top-roping and on big walls where I have to do a lot of jumaring. I would use a 9.4mm for alpine routes, and a 9.9mm for most of my climbing.
  • Half ropes (8mm – 9mm). These are two ropes used together in such a way that you clip one line of pro with one rope and another line of pro with the other to reduce rope drag, or simply alternate clips. If you clip both strands into the same piece of pro, the impact force goes up on the pro and on you (not good).  The advantage of this system is that it reduces rope drag on wandering routes and you have two ropes in case one gets chopped. Also, you have two ropes to rappel. The disadvantage is that it takes extra time and is more awkward to manage the ropes while belaying on a hanging or semi-hanging belay.
  • Twin ropes (7mm-9mm). Another two-rope system, but with twins, you have to clip both ropes in each piece of gear so there will be  more rope drag than with half ropes. Like half-ropes, you have two ropes to rappel but have the disadvantage of dealing with the extra time and awkwardness of managing the ropes while belaying on hanging or semi-hanging belays.
  • Other factors. The most common lengths are 60m and 70m.  You can normally get away with a 60m rope (and this saves weight and money) except on some long single pitch routes.  As for dry treated ropes – the water-resistant coatings are often applied to the sheath and to the core fibers as well.  This makes the rope more water-resistant, stonger, and it lasts longer.

Additional things to consider would be fall rating and impact force rating of each rope you’re considering as well as the care instructions for each type of rope. Ropes do have a shelf life and at most, a rope is only good for 4-5 years.  I get a 70m 9.9mm dry rope at the beginning of every ice season and try to make it last a year.  I also carry a 70m 7mm dry cord (static) with me on multi-pitch routes for rappelling.

I have been using PMI ropes for 20 years and would highly recommend them.  Chicks with Picks proudly uses them as well.

Chicks Gear Review of the Black Diamond Cobra Ice Tool

Gear Review of the Black Diamond Cobra Ice Tool
by Kitty Calhoun

Pros: I got a pair of the new Cobras last year and they are now my favorite tools. I never used the earlier versions – always some other BD tool – because I felt the grip was too big for my hand. That changed with the new Cobras. The other thing that is nice about this tool is that it is carbon fiber, which means that there is a dampening effect when you swing, reducing the chance of tendonitis in the elbow joint. Finally, the shaft on the Cobra has the most clearance of any of their tools and keeps the majority of the tool’s weight in the head. Cons (50 words max): There aren’t any that I can see! They are one of the most expensive ice tools on the market, however. Bottom Line (40 words): A great ice tool for steep ice and multi-pitch ice (use with the optional leash). Lightweight, easy swing and offers great hooking potential with the high-clearance shaft.

Practice makes perfect…my pee funnel experience.

by Hillary Nitschke

It’s pre-dawn on Saturday, and I’m happily cruising down the interstate on my way to meet some friends for this season’s first winter mountaineering adventure. Despite the awfully early alarm clock, and the true shiver in this morning’s coming dawn, I’m happy. While I haven’t had to pack this much gear for a few months, I’m going over the day’s potential in my head, and I’m appreciating my place in the world.

Some of us switch purses to suit our needs, and others among us switch back packs. Suddenly I recall… the pee funnel! I will spend enough of the day in a harness, and it’s going to be chilly, too. I’d rather not shimmie out of my harness and bare my butt to the wind when nature calls today. I’d rather not be in a spot where harness removal is not an option. My bladder was still recovering from several pitches earlier in the week!

Alas, no pee funnel. What’s a girl to do but cope? I have a great fondness for my funnel. I knew the day would be just a little different without it. I must say, I liked it especially on a rope team where I was the only woman. I will admit, however, to one occasion of equipment failure. That is to say…yes, I’ve peed down my leg instead of in to the funnel, but only once! A couple of times I simply couldn’t make myself let go standing up. It takes a little practice. When all your life you’ve done it another way, and then you pee down your leg… Well, it gets even harder after that. I’ll now admit when I peed down my leg, all sorts of more accomplished climbers and guides were right nearby. I felt really silly (I wasn’t new at this great and complex skill after all, and to top it all off, I’d practiced at home before taking her out on the trail), but until now, no one ever knew.

To learn more about pee funnels, and have a good chuckle click here: