Stuck Cam – How to Remove a Stuck Cam? | Chicks Climbing

Kitty calhoun explains how to remove a stuck cam

Kitty Calhoun answers How to Remove a Stuck Cam?

Have you ever struggled to remove a stuck cam?

When trying to remove a stuck came it helps to know how it got stuck in the first place.

Most of the time a cam gets stuck when a leader gets pumped and scared. In a rush, the leader pulls the trigger bars back and rams the cam into the crack. And even if it is too big, they are too sketched to replace it with the proper size. Instead they clip and keep climbing.

It’s also common for cams to get stuck when they walk back into the crack. This can happen when the leader used a short sling. A short sling can encourage the rope to jiggle the cam. The jiggling causes the cam to walk back. Flaring cracks are particularly prone for this. The problem with a cam walking back is that you can no longer reach the trigger bars in order to release it.

Tips to Remove a Stuck Cam:

1. Look to see how the cam was placed. Was it placed from below, above or straight in horizontally? Try to remove it the same way it went in.

2. Use a nut tool to

  • Pry against the groove and get movement in the cam leg that is most wedged.
  • Pull the cam out horizontally if appropriate.
  • Hook the trigger bar to pull down while pushing up on the stem. You can also use a sling for this technique. See video –

 

How to Pack for a Mountaineering Trip – Light-is-Right

Learning how to pack for a mountaineering trip is important because a lighter pack is easier to carry.Going mountaineering. Wildflowers line the trail on the approach to Mt Baker.

Going mountaineering. Wildflowers line the trail on the approach to Mt Baker. ©Kitty Calhoun

The main tenant when it comes to how to pack for a mountaineering trip is that light is right! 

Light is right for many reasons not least of which is that light is much easier and more enjoyable to carry.

However, light-is-right is especially important to me because I go to the mountains to get away from stuffGetting down to basics allows me to focus simply on what I need and to be more appreciative of what I have. I find freedom in knowing what I can do without.  

With light-is-right in mind, here are my top weight-saving tips for how to pack for a mountaineering trip:

Gear 

The most important thing when packing mountaineering gear is don’t bring more than you need and know how to use it all!

Knowing what you’ll need is often a process of trial-and-error as you gain experience. And knowing how to use all your gear takes a willingness to practice. For example, set up your tent in your living room a few times before you leave. Or, take a wilderness first-aid course. 

Backpack

Limit yourself to a 45L pack lined with a trash bag (if it’s going to rain).

Tent

Share a light, 3-season tent such as the Slingfin 2Lite.  

Insulation

Down compresses more, but if it’s going to be wet, it will not hold up. Synthetic is a better choice for rainy weather and wet conditions.

Sleeping Bag

Use a 30° bag and wear clothes to sleep or tuck in with a hot water bottle if it’s colder. 

Pad

Use a small Therm-a-Rest, such as the NeoAir.

Food

Food is heavy, yet proper nutrition is important for long mountaineering days.

  • Add hydration tabs to your water bottle for increased electrolytes.
  • Use an Energy Drink mix with Roctane to get more branch-chain amino acids.
  • Always drink a recovery drink when you get to camp.  
  • Eat easily digestible, complex carbs when you’re moving. 
  • Eat protein and fat at camp when you’re resting and can digest better.  
  • Choose nutrient rich, calorie dense food.  

Water

  • Use collapsible water bottles.
  • I treat my water with iodine tabs because they are so light!

Clothes

Don’t bring any more clothes than you can wear at one time. For summer mountaineering approaches I’ll bring runners, synthetic shorts and a t-shirt. 

However, for most mountaineering trips I only bring– 

Upper Body:

  1. Next-to-Skin layer
  2. Insulating layer 
  3. Shell (for rain) 
  4. Belay Jacket (for cold)

Lower Body:

  1. Next-to-skin layer 
  2. soft shell 
  3. hard shell (rain) layer

Other Mountaineering Essentials

  • Small repair kit
  • Small first aid kit
  • Communications device such as SPOT or Delorme 
  • Map and compass
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses 
  • Toothbrush (toiletries)
  • Phone/camera

We cover How to Pack for a Mountaineering Trip in detail before we begin all our mountaineering courses. Go to All Chicks Mountaineering Courses to learn more.

You can also refer to for more information.

Avalanche Skills Checklist

backcountry skiers make a skin track used to emphasis avalanche skills checklist

How do you know if you know enough to recreate in a winter snowpack without a guide?  

There is no cut and dry answer but this Avalanche Skills checklist is a good start.

It can be risky business going out with confident friends. Choose your backcountry friends carefully!  This is a critical decision. Don’t be cavalier. Who will you leave the trailhead with? This goes for skiing, riding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and ice climbing.

Bottom line – consequences are high.  Decisions in the backcountry can be the most important ones you may ever make.  The mountains don’t care.

To quote Jeremy Jones,

Some days the mountains are screaming “get out of here,” and some days the mountains are going, “come on in, it’s time to party.”  

You and your group need to be able to discern the difference. It is never black and white.

Here’s a baseline list of skill sets I consider crucial for any recreational backcountry enthusiast, friends and partners included:

Avalanche Skills Checklist

  • __I own and know how to use avalanche safety equipment: transceiver, shovel and probe.
    • __I understand and I practice all my avalanche transceiver functions.
    • __I know how far away from my transceiver I have to carry my other electronic devices.
    • __I can check my partner’s transceiver at the trailhead and not miss any steps.
    • __I know how to probe and I practice probing.
    • __I know how to shovel and I practice shoveling.
  • __I do two or three companion-rescue drills every winter.
    • __I can find a buried transceiver in less than 5 minutes.
  • __I can identify avalanche terrain on small and large slopes.
    • __I carry an inclinometer and know how to check slope angle.
    • __I know the correct answer to the following true/false questions*:
      • __Avalanches can occur on slopes less than 30 degrees.
      • __Most avalanches occur on slope angles of 36 to 38 degrees.
      • __Lower-angled slopes can be connected to steeper slopes that pose risk.
      • __Slab avalanches are the most dangerous type of avalanche.
      • __Wind can increase avalanche danger.
      • __9 out of 10 avalanches are triggered by someone in the party.
      • __An avalanche-burial victim has 15 minutes before odds for survival decrease dramatically.
  • __ I have bookmarked my local weather and avalanche forecasts and I read them.
  • __ I’m unafraid to ask:
    • __Do you have avalanche training?
    • __Have you taken an avalanche rescue course?
    • __What’s the plan?
    • __What won’t we ski?
    • __Can we agree to evaluate a slope before anyone skis it, even if we’ve skied it before?
    • __If anyone feels uncomfortable with any slope, can we agree that we won’t ski it?
    • __What’s in your pack?
    • __Who has a first aid kit?
    • __Do you have a working communication device, repair kit and tarp or emergency blanket?
    • __Is your avalanche airbag functioning and is the handle ready to deploy?
  • __I have visited Know Before You Go.org and watched the 15-Minute General Audience Avalanche Awareness video.
  1. Get the Gear
  2. Get the Training
  3. Get the Forecast
  4. Get the Picture
  5. Get Out of Harm’s Way

*(All answers are true.)

Click on the following links for more information:

Chicks | Avalanche – Silverton Avalanche School Courses

Mammut Barryvox S Transceiver – Stoked For Winter Pop Quiz | Gear We Use

22 Years of Avalanche Fatalities | Ice Climbers At Risk

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

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.

22 Years of Avalanche Fatalities | Ice Climbers At Risk

avalanche above camp bird road

Helicopter assisted avalanche mitigation – big release into a gully above one of the many ice climbs on the Camp Bird Road, Ouray, Colorado. ©Angela Hawse

A recent study, 22 Years of Avalanche Fatalities by Activity and Trigger Type in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks, Canada reveals that 43% of avalanche fatalities were ice climbers, 32% were skiers, and 18% were snowshoers. The study also reveals almost a 50/50 split between victims triggering avalanches themselves or getting hit by a natural from overhead.

table showing avalanche fatals by activity in the last 22 years in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay Parks, Canada

Looking at this study, it’s odd that many ice climbers and mountaineers throughout the world do not carry avalanche rescue equipment. This long-standing culture of climbers not carrying avalanche rescue equipment is especially odd considering ice and alpine climbs often involve avalanche terrain i.e. gullies or exposure on the approach or descent.

In contrast, backcountry skiers have always accepted responsibility for avalanche risk. The backcountry skiing code-of-conduct insists that everyone carries avalanche rescue gear.

Avalanche rescue gear is considered fundamental gear for backcountry skiers. Not only do backcountry skiers expect their partners to be properly equipped, they expect them to be adequately skilled in the event of an avalanche.

Although we see a shift towards avalanche awareness in climbing culture, Chicks wants to encourage all ice climbers and mountaineers to adopt the fundamentals of avalanche safety: always climb with avalanche gear and know how to use it. Don’t climb with anyone who doesn’t.

The best way to familiarize yourself with avalanche rescue gear and fundamental skills is to take a 1-day Avalanche Rescue Course.

Avalanche Rescue courses are not only for skiers. They are for everybody (skiers, boarders, climbers, snowshoers, sledders) who gets out in the mountains in the wintertime.

If you can’t afford to buy avalanche rescue gear, it’s easy to rent.

Again, having avalanche rescue gear as well as the ability to properly use avalanche rescue gear is the only chance for survival in the unfortunate event you or one of your partners is involved in an avalanche.

Together with the Silverton Avalanche School , Chicks is hosting three early-season, 1-day Avalanche Rescue Courses. Each course will be held in a different, yet equally fantastic Colorado San Juan Mountains location.

These clinics are offered throughout the country. Check out the American Institute of Avalanche Research and Education’s Upcoming Public Avalanche Training Courses List. Get signed up for one before you set off pursuing your winter ice!

5 Questions To Help You Plan And Prepare For Climbing Success

Caro North on a mission to send in Salvan, Switzerland. ©Karen Bockel.

 

1. Where?

Bring your guidebook (or topos) of your desired route(s).

Read and take notes on directions to the trailhead, approaches and route description(s).

Use tech resources such as gaia.gps, mountainproject or sumitpost for beta for information.

Pro Tip – If the guidebook is too heavy, take photos of all relevant pages.

2. When?

Make yourself a time plan.

How long does it take to drive to the trailhead?

How long is the approach?

When do you want to be back?

How long does it take to get back?

How much can you climb in the rest of the time?

3. What?

Is your route the right objective for the day?

Are conditions appropriate?

Do you have the gear and experience for the send?

Have a Plan B if things don’t line up.

4. Why?

Is it a project?

Just getting mileage?

Happy to enjoy a leisurely day at the crag?

Define your goal!

5. Who?

Who is the most important part!

Are you in the right mind space?

(Put away the distractions and hidden agendas.)

 

Is your partner on the same page?

 

Communicate your plan for the day.

Teamwork makes the dream work!

 

See you in the hills,

Your Hips Are Your Power Center

Magali Lequient climbing "Liquid Zipper" (11b) at "The Pipeline Crag" in Maple Canyon, Utah.

Magali Lequient climbing “Liquid Zipper” (11b) at “The Pipeline Crag” in Maple Canyon, Utah.©Chris Noble

“Do the Elvis!”

Two young men, whom I barely knew but had eagerly suggested we go sport climbing together, yelled up at me.

“What?” I yelled back, trying to maintain composure. What the hell were they talking about?

I was struggling at the crux of a moderate sport route and when I looked down both of the guys were grinning and gyrating their hips.

At the time, most of my experience was in trad climbing. “I must be missing something,” I thought. I’d never heard of “doing the Elvis” in trad climbing.

Later, I went to a local climbing gym to learn better technique from a coach. After many sessions, it finally dawned on me: my hips should not act like an anchor on a ship! They are in fact my power center.

If you think about it, you can move your hips in many ways to your advantage, just like those boys were trying to show me all those years ago.

  • Move your hips out from the wall so you can see your feet.
  • Once you place your feet, rock your hips over them so that you can stand up.
  • Engage your hips forcefully (as if doing a squat) to get power from your lower body rather than trying to do all the work with your less powerful upper body by pulling only with your arms.
  • Wind up with your hips for momentum when making a big side-to-side or upward movement like a deadpoint or dyno.
  • On steep technical rock, focus on keeping your hips “married” to the wall for better balance.

I bet Elvis never dreamed he’d be invoked as a model for efficient climbing movement!

Alpine Butterfly Knot

alpine butterfly knot

Alpine Butterfly Knot. ©Elaina Arenz

The Alpine Butterfly Knot is primarily used to create an attachment point to the middle of a climbing rope in alpine or glaciated terrain.

However, for rock climbing the alpine butterfly knot is also great for isolating a bad section of rope and using the rope for the anchor.

The reason why an Alpine Butterfly is a good choice for the middle of the rope is that once it’s tied, the knot can be loaded in any direction. This makes it the perfect choice for roping up several people on one climbing rope—for crossing glaciers or other low-angle terrain that might be easy but where you still want security.

To clip into a butterfly knot it’s best practice to use a triple action carabineer designed to protect against cross loading like the Sterling Falcon Talon. Clip the bite of the butterfly knot to your belay loop.

As with any knot, it’s important that you can recognize a correctly tied knot. Be sure to dress it by pulling both strands tightly.

The simplest way to tie the Alpine Butterfly is the hand-wrap method. The advantages are:

  • Easy to tie while wearing gloves
  • You’ll consistently tie it correctly
  • Easy to untie after it’s been weighted

Check out this video demonstration of the Alpine Butterfly Hand-Wrap Method, watch it and then practice until you commit it to muscle memory. Remember, perfect practice makes perfect.

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!