Build Lock-Off Strength

Weather is changing and it’s time to start thinking about training for two of our favorite winter sports, mixed and ice climbing!  One key strength area to focus on is our arms and shoulders specifically for locking off.  This gives you the power and ability to pull yourself in and reach for the next hold.  Chicks guide and owner, Dawn Glanc, shows us two simple moves getting started building your lock-off strength!

lockoff-training-video

 

Chicks Tech Tip: Building Climbing Anchors

You’re on the sharp end and you’ve finally reached the top – now it’s anchor time! You scroll through the running list of climbing anchors options you’ve got memorized for what type of anchor is going to work in this scenario.  Do you have your Sterling cordelette?  Consider the quad anchor!  Angela Hawse shows us how to apply this system in a variety of settings.

climbing anchors

It’s a Takeover! @LadyLockoff Controls Chicks Instagram

This week (Sept 19-23), we’re launching a week-long takeover on Instagram by the one and only Irene Yee aka @ladylockoff. Irene is a Las Vegas based photographer who has a keen eye for composition and the ability to capture the essence of a moment. Irene’s takeover collection will feature women Red Rock, NV and her images will be sure to inspire you.

Step 1: Start by following Chicks on Instagram  so that you don’t miss anything.

Step 2: Post your own photo of your climbing adventures. Be sure to tag it #chicksclimbing and one lucky winner will walk away with one of our new Chicks Chalkbags.

ladylockoff-takeover

We recently caught up with Irene and had a few questions for her:

How did you get your start in climbing?

I was always curious, but thought it wasn’t for me because of my perception of the culture around it. Finally I decided I needed to be myself get up the confidence and take the plunge. So I went to a MeetUp group here in Vegas at a local gym. I met a fun community of people who encouraged and taught me how to climb.

How have your climbing experiences shaped you?

It has taught me so much about myself. I have learned that most of your doubts come from within, and it is a rebellious and courageous thing to say “it’s not that I can’t do it, I just haven’t figured it out yet”. It is persistence in the face of what I may think is impossible, and the joy of finding out that, using nothing but my own body and mind, I can overcome any challenge.

What do you love most about climbing?

Getting outside! You get no better views of this earth then when you are 800ft. up on a rock face.

What advice would you give to others who are just getting started?

Never feel defeated. There is nothing wrong in stopping, taking a breath, and gathering yourself. You are trying something new that is difficult and hard, do not let anyone tell you, especially yourself, that you cannot do it. Never feel that you can’t get back on and try again.

What inspires your photography?

#chicksclimbing Women are so much fun to photograph. There is always a beautiful array of emotions and such passion that can emanate from them. There is nothing like seeing a woman push herself to her limits and push past what she thought she could never accomplish. My photography inspires me to climb, and my climbing inspires my photography.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what 3 items would you want to have with you?

1. Cake, layered, butter cream icing 
2. Harry Potter book series (am I allowed the whole series???) 
3. Satellite phone to get home

Chicks Tech Tip – Retrieving a Quickdraw Using a Stick Clip

Ever had to leave a quickdraw behind? Never again – this month’s Chicks Tech Tip with Dawn Glanc shows you how to use your stick clip to quickly retrieve your draw!

dawnstickclip

Chicks Tech Tip: Climbing with Kids

Everyone one of us was born a natural climber. This is obvious when we observe young children. Each child has the natural curiosity to climb. Many of us grew up without the opportunity to rock climb. Instead we climbed on furniture, jungle gyms and trees. At some point parents stop this natural exploratory process by scolding the child and saying “get down, you are going to get hurt.” Kids will be kids, and they will continue to climb. When the child falls, the parent quickly scolds the child again and says “see, this is what happens when you climb on things”. Now many years later, most of us can reflect back and relate to being scolded by a parent for climbing. How many of us wish we could of started climbing at a younger age? With young kids, we should facilitate the learning process, instead of stifling the kids climbing tendency.I have worked with many kids of different ages and maturity levels over the years. Boys and girls both love to climb. However, anytime you work with kids climbing you can hit major roadblocks. Here are a few tips to help you have fun at the crag with kids.

Rope Swings

A child can start climbing as soon as they can wear a harness. Most major brands make a full body harness for very small kids. If the kids are completely new to the rope system, just have them move high enough off of the ground to swing and bounce on the ropes. Repeat the mantra “no matter how high you go, the rope and harness will always catch you the same”. The goal is to instill confidence with the rope systems and have fun swinging.
climbing kids

Indigo doing her “gnar wall unicorn dance”

It’s not about the top

Many kids are intimidated by the overall size of an objective. Break down the climb into more tangible steps. Encourage kids to set a smaller goal before leaving the ground. For example, If the goal is to get to “the Third bolt” just focus on getting to the high point with as many hangs and in as much time as it takes. Let the child hang and bounce on the rope whenever needed. The idea is to get comfortable with being off the ground and focusing on a task. If they don’t make it to the goal, that’s okay too. Make it a project and try again next time.

Chalk bag treats

A great way to help kids climbing on the wall is to fill a chalk bag with treats. Skittles,jellybeans and popcorn work well because they will not melt in the bag. As the child climbs, they can have a chalkbag treat when they get scared or if they just need to hang on the rope. This will encourage the kids to stop, relax and re-evaluate the situation when feeling distressed. It’s like a time out, but with reward.
Orion stopping for a chalkbag treat.

Orion stopping for a chalk bag treat.

Responsibility

Climbing is not rocket science. Many of the skills we do, are not mentally challenging. However, the skills and techniques we use have real consequences. Kids often want to take on some of the responsibilities when climbing. It’s okay to let kids belay if the are being closely supervised. This helps the kids engage with climbing on a different level and allows them to have more ownership in the experience. Sometimes after they get comfortable with the techniques and the process, kids like belaying  more than the climbing.
Kids at the voyager youth camp call the ATC the old fashion belay device.

Kids at the voyager youth camp call the ATC the old fashion belay device.

You are never too old or too young to start climbing. No matter your age, the goal is to have fun and enjoy the outing. Perhaps some of the tips can work on adults as well.

ClimbingwithKidsDawn

Dawn Glanc is a guide and Co-owner of Chicks. She works with kids and loves every minute of it.

Chicks Tech Tip: Build A Solid T-Slot Snow Anchor

The last time I guided Denali my team came upon a crevasse rescue effort by another party that could have gone dreadfully wrong. From hundreds of yards away we could see two climbers pulling against a snow anchor with their backs towards to the lip of the crevasse their partner had fallen into. Unbeknownst to them, they were multiplying the forces on their anchor and only adding friction to their pulling efforts. With two of them pulling on the rope against the anchor it could have potentially failed, which would have been catastrophic. Fortunately we got to them quickly and pulled the climber out in less than 15 minutes. Snow is a weak link. Stack the odds in your favor with the following tips to build solid anchors in snow. In a crevasse rescue scenario this will increase your safety margin tenfold.

The snow picket is a standard piece of equipment for traveling on glaciers or steep snow climbs where anchor building for belays is likely. In glaciated terrain if traveling with only a single partner, it’s a very good idea for both climbers to carry a picket. With a rope team of 3 or more, one picket per team will suffice as there will be ice axes available for anchors if need be. How many to bring? It depends. I remember the Denali climb mentioned above “fixing” the traverse across Denali Pass with 17 pickets in my pack! Obviously there are many factors to consider when deciding how many pickets to bring and the right answer usually “it depends”.

Materials commonly used to construct a solid snow anchor include; one 18’ Sterling 5.9mm PowerCord, 2-3 locking carabiners, one snow picket and a quality ice axe with an adze. A light “racing” style ice axe is not designed to be used as an anchor. I’ve seen them bent in half. Yates makes a cable picket that is superior to the standard expedition picket but for simplicity we will focus on the basic kit to build an “equalized” two-piece snow anchor. Why two piece? Because redundancy is always a good idea unless you are absolutely certain the condition of the snow is ideal and can withstand the greatest possible load it may have to endure.
PHOTO #1

Unless the snow is bullet-proof, building a T-Slot anchor will be the strongest method in virtually all spring/summer conditions. A vertically oriented picket will only work if you can pound it in with 15+ extremely hard blows.  If ever in doubt, default to the trusted T-slot. Depth of the slot depends on the resistance of the snow. With very firm snow 10” deep may suffice but with softer snow, go more than 14 -18” or more. If you can’t make a snowball with the snow, deeper is better. The swath for your sling should be cut as narrow as possible with the axe pick or shaft, not the adze. Avoid disturbing any snow on the load size of the T to keep it as strong as possible.

Clove hitch a 48” Sterling Dyneema sling around the middle of the picket. Shown here is the Yates Expedition Picket. Their Cable version is more versatile and eliminates the 48” sling.
Horizontal picket for snow anchor
Place the picket horizontally at the bottom of the T slot, tight against the load wall, with the 48” sling resting in the slot toward the load or crevasse. It’s crucial that the forward/sling swath is the same depth as the main slot to prevent it from pulling the picket up under load.
snow anchor buried

Use snow from the backside of the slot to bury the picket, stomping it down firmly. This is process increases the strength of the anchor (age hardening is the term commonly used). In very firm snow this may not be necessary, but is advised.
snow anchor master point

Tying a small master point in the sling adds redundancy and makes it easier to back up your initial anchor with a second anchor as will be shown. Digging a trench below the master point reduces friction on your hauling system and makes a cleaner working space. This master point is tied in an overhand on a bight with a loop for the tail. This loop will be the attachment to the second anchor and make it easy to equalize with a block and tackle system.
Snow anchor master point
Attach a locking carabiner to the master point and transfer the load from your harness to the master point in the event of a crevasse fall or simply use a clove hitch if you are pitched climbing to clip into the master point with the climbing rope. With pitched climbing, be sure to extend yourself well below (6-8’) the master point so as not to put any upward force on the anchor.  Typically with pitched climbing we belay off our body (belay loop or hip belay), enabling us to make the belay more dynamic, which places less force directly on the anchor. If belaying directly off the anchor it must be absolutely bombproof. In a crevasse rescue scenario, all of this must be built while you are holding the weight of the fallen climber in self-arrest (or a knotted rope has jammed against the lip). Holding the weight of your partner is assumed in this article and not covered, nor are skills such as how to tie in to the rope and carry extra coils needed to execute a crevasse rescue.

In a crevasse rescue situation, the next step may be going to the lip of the crevasse to communicate with your partner and pad the lip. Before you descend to your partner (if necessary) or start hauling you need to enhance the anchor with a second T-Slot, equalizing it to the main anchor. Your ice axe may be the only tool available if you do not have two pickets.  Dig another T-slot, ideally directly behind the primary anchor, back at least 2 feet, taking care not to disturb the snow between anchors.
snow anchors

Find the balance point of your ice axe. It will be closer to the head of the axe rather than the middle with the mass of the pick and adze.
Balance point for snow anchor
This is where the 18’ Sterling PowerCord comes into action. To maximize usable length, use it as a single strand with an 8-10” overhand on a bight tied on one end. Make a clove hitch on this bight and slip it over the shaft of the axe, snugging it up on the center of balance point.
Serling powercord snow anchor
Place the axe with the pick down firmly in your second T-Slot with the cordelette laid in the slot towards the crevasse.
Bury axe snow anchor

Bury the axe with snow from behind the T-Slot and stomp it down to strengthen the anchor. Tie an overhand on a bight in the cordelette above the first T-Slot clipping a locking carabiner in it.
Snow Anchor

You can now equalize both T-Slots using a block and tackle from this carabiner with the single strand cordelette to a second locking carabiner on the primary anchor, clipped into the small bight behind the master point.
Equalize snow anchor
Simply clip the single strand in a circular loop between both carabiners, at least twice to make a block and tackle. Take care to keep the strands tidy (not crossing or twisting them) to reduce friction. Pull tension through the block and tackle so both anchors share the load. Tie it off with a mule hitch or slip knot and secure it with an overhand on a bight.
Snow anchor
Snow anchor
You should now have a bombproof, inline anchor capable of withstanding potential forces you generate extricating your partner. You have to be 100% confident in your anchor system.
Final Snow Anchor

This article is the first in a series explaining how to use Sterling Rope’s new Pico Crevasse Rescue Kit. Stay tuned in future newsletters for more.

Many other key details are beyond the scope of this article. Rappelling into the crevasse with your first aid and skills to use it, or position your partner upright with a chest harness are real possibilities. Ascending the rope to climb back out of the crevasse with your partner’s pack is another essential skill. You may need to knock considerable snow off an overhanging crevasse lip before doing either. There are many competencies that are assumed before you venture onto glacial terrain and attempt crevasse rescue. If you lack them, get up to speed on one of our Alpine Programs in 2017 to buff out your skill sets so you’re ready to get out in the mountains safely with your partners.

Chicks Tech Tip: How to Coil Like a Pro!

Chicks co-owner and guide, Angela Hawse, shows us the in’s and out’s of the perfect, well-balanced coil with one of her favorite Sterling Ropes!

RopeCoilVideo

Tech Tip: Keep Calm & Carry On – Breathing

RRG3_DawnGlanc_webThat saying appears everywhere and while it is super cliché there is something to be learned from this. There are so many seemingly uncontrollable factors at play when you’re climbing. There is one thing that you can control that has a profound effect on your physical and mental status, your breathing.

Breathing is an autonomic bodily function, meaning you just do it without having to think about it. But, the most important thing to be aware of when climbing is your breath.

So the question is, how do you keep calm, cool and collected when climbing? I think you already know the answer…breathe deliberately. Do the following exercise and see if it makes a difference to your mental and physical state:

Choose a route that is easy for you to climb without exerting too much effort. You will climb this route two times.

Lap #1. Set an intention to be aware of your breath. Notice if you’re holding it, breathing evenly, rapidly/slowly, deep/shallow.

Lap #2. Breathe Intentionally. Climb the route a second time, this time making a conscious effort to breathe the whole way from top to bottom.

Compare the two. Did you feel more relaxed and focused on the second lap? Did you feel less scared?

When you’re stressed, most people have tendency to hold their breath. This elevates your heart rate which causes you to breathe more shallowly and rapidly. This in turn makes the mind anxious, so you lose focus and get tunnel vision. Your climbing performance suffers as a result.

Be more aware and set an intention to breathe, ask your belayer to remind you, breathe evenly and deeply and you’ll feel much more focused, relaxed and less anxious when climbing.

If you want to learn more about this technique and many others to help improve your climbing performance, sign up for the Red River Gorge, Red Rock and Rifle clinics. We will share lots more of our secrets of success.


Written by: Chicks co-owner and guide, Elaina Arenz.

 

Float Like a Butterfly: Focus on Your Footwork

 

Written by: Elaina Arenz

I’m going to let you in on a little secret of mine. I often hear people comment that it appears as if I’m floating up the rock effortlessly. I sure to have them fooled. The key to conserving energy and appearing like you’re levitating on the rock is to build a solid foundation to stand upon. Follow these tips below and you will find the flow too.

  1. Chicks Guide and owner Elaina Arenz on Fantasy in the New River Gorge.

    Chicks Guide and owner Elaina Arenz on Fantasy in the New River Gorge.

    The 70/30 rule. Your feet should support 70% of your weight and your arms support 30%. To do this you must look down at your feet 70% (or more) of the time while you’re climbing. Look down and place your feet precisely every time to ensure you are placing your foot on the best part of the foothold.

  2. Silent Feet. Be like a ninja and sneak up on those footholds. Your feet shouldn’t make a sound at all when you’re climbing. Again, look down at your feet and maintain eye contact with the foothold you choose to step onto. Don’t look away until you are weighting that foot. This will ensure that you’re not dragging your toes up the rock behind you. Not only is toe dragging sloppy footwork, you will also wear out the rubber on the tips of those very expensive climbing shoes.
  3. Little Steps. The smaller steps you take and the more frequently you move your feet, the more you movement you will create in your climbing. Instead of pausing between each move, you will notice that you are linking individual moves together to create a movement and flow in your climbing. Big moves and giant high steps are more strenuous than a bunch of little steps. Practice moving your feet 3 times for every 1 hand movement to help create this feeling of flow.
  4. Shoe up last. Don’t walk around in your climbing shoes anymore than necessary. Be sure to wipe off the bottom of your shoes to clean away any dirt and debris. Consider giving the rubber a spit shine to clean the surface, carry a towel or a piece of carpet to stand on before you step onto the rock.

Elaina Arenz is a Chicks Co-Owner and Guide. She is an AMGA Certified Rock Guide, is in the instructor pool as an AMGA Single Pitch Instructor Provider and a Warrior’s Way Trainer.

Spring Gear Cleaning

If you are like me, you threw your rock gear into the garage or gear closet at the end of the rock season in anticipation of the forming ice. The rock gear was stored away without much inspection. Now the seasons are changing, and the ice is melting away. It is time to dust off your rock gear and get ready for another great season. As you sort through your gear you should include an inspection of each item to be sure you start the season off with a clean kit. Here are a few high use items to give some extra attention to during your preseason checkup.

Belay Devices:

belay gear

Belay devices do not last forever. It is important to look at the climber side/back side of the device. The rope friction can cause sharp edges to form. This photo shows a device that has developed grooves that are quite sharp. If your device is developing this type of groove, consider replacing it.

GriGri1

GriGris can get very dirty. This dirt transfers to your rope and drives particles into the nylon strands. Take an old toothbrush and quickly scrub away the black gunk that accumulated last season. No water or special cleaners are needed.

GriGri Gear

Carabiners:

Biner

The carabiners on the market today are very lightweight, unfortunately this often means the durability is low. Take a look at your belay carabiners and the carabiners on your quickdraws. If you can see a groove, feel for the depth and for any sharp edges. If you have any doubt, replace this carabiner. The questionable carabiner can be rotated into your quiver to become a utility carabiner. I typically retire the carabiner to a job that does not involve movement of the rope.

Ropes:

Ropes

The rope is our life line. We must be sure this piece of equipment is ready to for a long season. If rope has fuzzy spots, be sure to examine this spot thoroughly. Check for soft spots and white core strands coming through. You can cut out the bad spots, but be sure to remember that the rope will be shorter and middle markers will be offset.

If your rope is black with dirt, consider washing the rope. To wash the rope, lay it in a bathtub. Fill the tub with warm water, swish and agitate the rope in the water. Drain the tub. REPEAT until the water runs clear. To dry, hang the rope over the shower curtain rod. Be sure to lay a towel down to collect the dripping water. If you choose to use a rope wash, follow the manufacturer’s directions.

Helmets:

Helmet

The lightweight helmets available are not very burly. They typically cannot take multiple seasons. Take a look at your helmet and look for cracks and dents. If your helmet is looking beat up, consider replacing it.

It is up to you to be sure your gear is clean and ready to go. Don’t hose your partner by showing up with neglected dirty gear. Set yourself up for success with a little attention ahead of time. Happy climbing everyone!

Written by Chicks Co-owner Dawn Glanc. Don’t miss your chance to climb with her and the other great Chicks guides this rock season.

Dawn