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!

Fun | Or, “It Doesn’t Have to be Fun to be Fun.”

fun in the present moment watching sun-shadow line on approach to chandelle du tacul, chamonix, france

Fun in the present moment — watching the drama of the sun-shadow line play out on the approach to Chandelle du Tacul, Chamonix, France. ©Kitty Calhoun

“It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun.”

—Mark Twight, alpinist extraordinaire

When it comes to alpine climbing and mountaineering-style climbing objectives, one of the things you’ll learn about yourself is how much you can endure.

Tough conditions

like post-holing to your waist, sleep deprivation (check out Kitty’s Unplanned Bivouac story), heavy packs, and suboptimal weather will all test you.

When you go alpine climbing or mountaineering, you’ll find yourself immersed in the wild, miles away from the trailhead without a choice but to soldier on.

Ladies, you’ve got to put one foot in front of the other and keep marching!

Sound like fun?

To some, it’s not fun while they’re doing it. It only gets fun once they look back on the experience and realize how much they stretched themselves. Fun comes from having gone beyond perceived personal limits. Only in retrospect can some appreciate the amount of personal growth they’ve gained through a climb.

However, in my personal experience even more fun is possible by focusing on being in the moment. Trying to escape my current situation by wishing I were somewhere else, or complaining, just prolongs my personal suffer-fest.

I’ve found a better approach

is to focus on what the present offers: beautiful views, fresh mountain air, and the camaraderie of a shared experience with friends. Sometimes, it also helps to think of all the skills I’m learning that will take me on to bigger goals.

If you’re a rock climber or a blossoming mountaineer and you’re looking for the next step in your personal progression as a climber, consider joining our Mt Baker, Washington trip. Mount Baker is a great introduction to climbing glaciated mountain summits. You’ll also learn the skills you need to camp, climb, and travel on snow.

If you’re more of a multi-pitch rock climber at heart, kick things up a notch on our Chamonix trip. The alpine rock routes in the French Alps are fantastic. Alpine climbing in Chamonix is world class with lift-based access to some of the highest peaks in Europe. Quaint French villages, delicious food and wine every evening and all under the wing of experienced and fully certified AMGA Chick Guides.

Now that sounds like fun!


Tired, Hungry, Happy: Alpine Chicks

Teton Alpine Camp – Trip Report

Alpine climbing with Chicks

Chicks Alpine Alum! Photo by: Angela Hawse

Our first flock of mountain climbers has returned to the valley after our inaugural Chicks alpine clinic, and when everyone got together for a celebration dinner, they all showed the true signs of alpine climbing:  Tired, hungry, and happy faces.  Nowhere else does success come as hard earned as in the alpine, and nowhere else is the reward as great.

Taking place in the famed Grand Teton National Park, the first ever Chicks alpine clinic was completed just a couple weeks ago with three Chicks guides and nine Chicks climbers.  At the helm was lead guide Angela Hawse, an IFMGA Mountain Guide with extensive alpine climbing history and a longtime career in guiding on the Grand Teton for Exum Mountain Guides.  The group of Chicks climbers encompassed seasoned climbers from the Cascades, strong young guns from California, a Texan turned Coloradoan who fell in love with mountaineering at age 64, and few veteran ice and rock climber Chicks.  A fine team, and that was of importance:  Teamwork is a large part of alpine climbing, and this team showed it’s true colors of camaraderie, trust, and friendship up in the high country.  When the going got hard, the steps got steep, anchors had to be built, and climbers belayed, these women were there for each other.

The clinic began and ended at the American Alpine Club’s Climber’s Ranch in the national park, a home in the mountains that is both comfortable and rustic.  We started the opening meeting with a good introduction to what was to come, and everyone got outfitted with demo gear and boots, before fueling up on a big homemade dinner.   During the first day spent at the Hidden falls training area accessed by boat across Jenny Lake, the group got to ready themselves with the tools of the trade for alpine climbing:  They practiced movement skills in their approach shoes, worked on rope management, completed multi-pitch climbing, learned to belay each other with alpine techniques, performed overhanging rappels, and refined their down-climbing skills.  The evening was spent back at the Climber’s Ranch with another home-cooked dinner and prep-work for the next morning’s departure into the mountains.

Chicks Alpine Tetons

Getting Alpine Skills. Photo by: Angela Hawse

Now came the real deal, as the group climbed 7 miles and 5,000’ to the Exum Hut on the Lower Saddle, a beautiful flat perch below the Grand Teton, towering above at 13,784’.  It was a long day, complete with gentle to ever steepening trails, snowfields, and stormy clouds.  It was a great accomplishment when the group was assembled at the hut and cozied up inside with hot drinks and dinner made on the propane stoves as the sun set bathing the mountains in a purple glow.

The next morning dawned beautifully, and no time was wasted getting to work on full day of snow climbing.  The guides used the Glacier route on the Middle Teton as their venue and the group split into climbing teams, practicing self-arrest, ice axe and crampon use, snow anchor building and belaying.

Chicks in Tetons

The Real Deal. Photo by: Angela Hawse

Another night was spent at the hut, followed by a pre-dawn start for part of the group to put their skills to use on a climb up to the West Summit of the Grand Teton, also known as the Enclosure.   Then came the long descent of the whole group back to the valley floor, where the climbing teams had to use their freshly honed snow skills to belay each other down the steep headwall before reaching the steep, rocky trail through boulders and around waterfalls that finally gave way to a hiking trail in the timbers below.  Sun, blisters and tired legs were the companions on the descent, but so were the feelings of accomplishment and pride.

Alpine climbing does not come easy, and the whole group deserves a big hats-off for their hard work and fine performance in completing this first ever Chicks alpine clinic.  From all of us at Chicks, we can say this:  We are so proud of what you all accomplished during these 4 days!

Alpine Climbing in the Northern Cascades

The following is a guest post from Chicks alumna Carolyn Riccardi, who has generously shared the trip report from her experience a couple weeks ago alpine climbing in the Northern Cascades.

But it’s much more than just a trip report, it’s an open and honest piece about climbing and its challenges, especially training the mind and the body. Her beautiful slide show immediately follows, but please don’t skip a word of this compelling piece.

“I know the pieces fit. I know the pieces fit. I know the pieces fit. I know the pieces fit.”

I can remember being the happiest  kid in all of Flatlands, Brooklyn after a heavy snow would fall in the winter. I would walk for hours and hours to find the biggest snow piles in the freshly plowed parking lots of the Kings Plaza shopping mall a few miles from my home. With the wind picking up off the water and light fading fast, I would throw myself, again and again, down the grey and black snow hills. And proclaim to all those within earshot that I was king of this snow pile. My gloves would been soaked with ice water, my cloth jacket weighted heavy from the wet snow and the leather on my pumas cracked from nights of thawing them out too close to the radiator.  The Kings Plaza parking lot or the empty land fills in Georgetown were about as far as I could get from home when I was 11 years old. They were as close to nature and the mountains as you might get in the southern tip of Brooklyn. I was trying to touch something out there. Something in the cold was comforting. Something in the cold made me alive.

I am not Rested. Relaxed. Or satisfied. I look in the mirror and I see compromise. I look back on my trip and I am gripped by every little mistake I made. Everytime I was too tired to contribute fully. The leads I passed up. The many times my head felt heavy with exhaustion. Too drained. Too tired. Too sore to think straight. Is this alpine climbing? Am I totally over my head? I note half measures in my training. Crossfit. Long hikes. Runs. Bikes. Where did I go wrong? How can I be so fit and not fit enough to keep it together? What I did and what I could have done but didn’t. What sounds good on paper, in books and in training journals. I look at my photographs and I see all the mistakes I made. A week later my body is still wreck.  My hair and skin feel dry. My shins are brushed, scratched with one nice size puncture wound that continues to pain me. Always a slow healer, the past week I am healing at a glacier’s pace. I want look at my photos and feel pleasure. I want to look at myself and just be pleased with myself. I want to be 100% proud at being an alpine badass. But I don’t.

Last week my friend Ryan Stefiuk ( and I headed to the Northern Cascades to climb some classic alpine routes in Washington State. For me the Cascades seem to be a natural stepping stone into larger climbing objectives in the lower 48. While some friends practice aid for Yosemite and others head to sport climbing areas that are close to beaches and bikinis, I look for a great white and chilly reprieve from the sweltering humidity of New York State.

Mt. Shuksan
Ryan and I planned on two routes for our trip. The North face of Mt. Shuksan and the Mt. Torment to Forbidden Peak Traverse from the Boston Basin. On Shuksan we concluded the No. Face was getting too much sun and the snow far too soft so we opted instead to ascend the White Salmon Glacier to the top of Willey’s Slide. From here we would be in a good position to get an early start and make a summit push if we desired on our third day. The crux of the route ended up being the gnarly approach where a bulldozer and a machete was needed to battle the dreaded Cascades Slide Alder. the approach to the white salmon glacier is called a Bushwhack grade 4 or BW 4 by our friends in the Alpine Club of Canada.. A BW 4 is defined as “Pace less than one mile per hour. Leather gloves and heavy clothing required to avoid loss of blood. Much profanity and mental anguish. Thick stands of brush requiring circumnavigation are encountered.” Friends I lost some blood on this one. It was 4 grueling hours of punishment though we might have made it in 3 if we hadn’t gotten slightly lost).

While the first two days the temps were perfect on the evening of the second night at our small exposed bivy on Willey’s there was a shift. I woke up freezing around two am shaking from the wind and the cold. The formerly clear night was gone and it seemed like we were in a dense cloud with winds whipping down Hells Highway onto our camp. I was freezing. I technically had great gear. I had an excellent clothing system (MHW chockstone jacket, Patagonia capilene top and Nano puff pullover. Patagonia wool and Marmot Scree Pants) and sleeping gear (EMS 25 degree down bag, MHW bivy shell) for the 30 degree temps but i think after two full days on the move I was unable to generate enough heat to be warm during the rest of the night. I had to shake out repeatly to stave off the chills a few times before day light but was able to feel okay-ish in the morning. By the time we broke camp without breakfast or coffee we were in a full hail storm. The descent down Fisher Chimneys proved an ample white out navigation challenge as we tried to move as fast as possible in wet cold. Having never been in a white out before and wondering if my body wasn’t getting a little hypothermic I was starting to get a little nervous. Experience and a solid skill set is everything Cascades as Ryan taught me a thing or two about navigating us down the rest of the Fisher Chimneys as we made it back onto the Lake Anne trail. We soon made it to the town of Sedro-Woolley and filled our belly’s with pizza and beer.

Schism: The Mt. Torment to Forbidden Peak Traverse
“The poetry, That comes from the squaring off between, And the circling is worth it, Finding beauty in the dissonance”

As I describe the very exposed 50 degree snow/ice traverse, the crux of the route, to my friends Jason and Courtney over a lazy brunch in New Paltz, Court meets my eyes and she asks me if I cried during the climb. It’s the first time anyone has asked and I feel a sense of comfort in her question. “Oh yeah,” I say “a bunch of times.” She says she would have done the same. Kathy Cosley and Mark Houston describe steep snow climbing as “a common Achilles heel” among alpinists and I would agree. Though I have a passion for ice and snow most I spend most of my time playing in both in the winters of the north east. Climbing on the exposed crux of the TFT was a humbling education.

The TFT almost didn’t happen as we arrived at the Marblemount Ranger Station only to find out there were no permits for the Boston Basin. Both Ryan and I had been to the BB on previous trips and there was something comforting in heading back into familiar terrain in the second leg of our trip. Now with no permit available we opted for the Torment Basin a considerable steeper and more challenging approach with little water available for the first 3,000 feet. My stomach did a little backflip as I filled out the paperwork and half read the approach description in the guide book.

The approach was all uphill, steep, soft dirt in a densely wooded forrest with no water until you make it to the Basin. We made good time but it was hard work. Every step was earned. We made our camp in the late afternoon and I felt good as we made dinner and absorbed the stunning views of Mt. Johannesburg and Eldorado Peak. We got to bed as early as you can when its bright day light until 10pm, knowing we would be getting a 3am alpine start the next day. Day two proved to be the crux as we made fast time to the summit of Mt. Torment only to have a hard time finding the notch to the small glacier on the north side of the ridge. The route finding challenges are definitely on the first half of the Traverse with easier exposed 4th class climbing over loose rock done after the snow/ice section of the route. After completing the aforementioned snow and ice crux on the traverse we made a welcome bivy and celebrated my 42nd birthday with a snickers bar. 14 hours of being on the go I was crushed. The next morning we finished up the ridge and opted to descend one of the snow gullies and out the Boston Basin.

Our days had been long 9-14 hours and while we did make stops to rest, refuel and eat for my body it was never enough. I think our caloric intact was pretty good though breakfast was the hardest meal as you’re struggling to consume calories while getting ready to break camp. Hydration was a different story. I imagine I was only averaging 3 to 3.5 liters of water per day. This during a 9 plus hour climbing day. Woefully short of what Mark Twight recommends in Extreme Alpinism. Hydration and nutrition were a real challenge for me in the mountains. At the end of the day you need to refuel but your body is so exhausted and your past hunger. The climbs also spoke to my inexperience of travel fast in 4th class terrain climbing with a pack and mountain boots. The instability of the terrain caused me to be extra cautious while climbing. My toes felt destroyed and my knees pained me. It was like doing 10,000 squats in a day. Snow climbing is a whole world unto itself with marginal at best protection and self arrest being far more difficult on steep slushy ice with serious consequences. The newness of all these experiences were wicked heady during most of my trip. It turns out I was more of an alpine noob than I had imagined and I felt a heavy weight of this self awareness as we headed out to our rental car.

Digging Through Old Muscle
I am in the best shape of my life. I crush crossfit WOD’s and my June deadlift PR was 313. Despite a minor tendon injury with my right ring finger that happened in early spring I am climbing well. I am confident and strong. My lead head is improving and I’ve got the heart and passion on an army of spartan women warriors. I thought I had this. I thought it was going to be a comfortable win. I was over confident. I got destroyed. Now mind you it’s important to love yourself, take care of yourself and not wallow would of’s and could of’s. I am a young alpinista. It’s going to take time to learn and train my body and mind. that’s the point. But to become better I have to really look in the mirror, assess my performance and work hard to become a better climber. Become a better me. And that what this is about. My cardio endurance on this trip was off. Way off. I gassed and gassed again on this trip in exactly the ways Mark Twight and Gym Jones have pointed out can happen if you rely on the high intensity workouts of crossfit. I didn’t train sports specific nearly enough to met the tasks at hand. I hiked and climbed but didn’t put in the long days off training to mirror the long days I would do in the Cascades.

Reaching out for whatever may come
“I wanna feel the change consume me, Feel the outside turning in. I wanna feel the metamorphosis and Cleansing I’ve endured within”

I am drawn to the ice and snow, a place that others move away. When I climb ice and snow I am trying to touch something. A perfect state of trust in myself and my abilities. I am trying to transform. To connect with the snow and ice and unforgiving terrain. And in the process re-embrace myself and what makes me strong. I guess it’s not alpine climbing until you shed a few tears behind your glacier glasses. It’s perfect cause no one can see. During the climb tears felt like submission. My struggles were crystal clear indications that I didn’t belong on these routes. I couldn’t keep up. I was lagging. I was afraid. Now I realize that all those moments were the heart of the climb not top outs and summits. I was wrong. The tears are self knowledge. They apart of who I am. It’s not simply that I pushed through the tears and become this alpine amazon its that I own my tears. I own my fears. I own my short coming and failings as I own my hard work and my climbing skills. My heart and my passion. It’s all me.

Check out a slideshow I did of our trip (above). And don’t forget to hit up Ryan at

To learn more about Carolyn see her bio. here, and follow her blog here.