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Chick Pick: Petzl’s New GriGri +

Petzl Gri Gri PlusIf you haven’t heard the buzz about PETZL’s new GriGri + here’s the skinny. PETZL has upped the ante on innovation again with improvements to the coveted GriGri that make it a more user-friendly and safer device across the board for beginners and experts. The new “anti-panic” handle on the GriGri+ completely eliminates the possibility for user error in descent mode that has caused numerous accidents with earlier models by belayers holding the handle wide open and not holding the brake strand properly.  Those days are gone, moving the GriGri+ into the #1 assisted braking device on the market. This doesn’t mean you can forfeit good belaying technique which is required for proper use, but it does mean the learning curve is safer for beginners and the belay and lower are more secure across the board.

Another upgrade is the ability to put the device into either Lead or Top Rope mode. Top Rope mode facilitates taking up slack and overall makes for easier operation whereas Lead mode provides the same ease of paying out rope with the additional security of knowing the lower will be glitch-free. A simple knob on the back of the device below the handle makes the switch easy prior to belaying. It is possible to belay either a lead or top rope in either position, so you can’t go wrong but using the correct switch does optimize it’s performance.

Petzl Gri Gri

The lockable belay mode selector and the anti-panic function of the new Petzl GRIGRI + adds an extra level of security when belaying both in lead and top roping mode. The steel wear plates and expanded rope range also increases the devices lifespan and application.

Compared to the GriGri 2, the GriGri+ is overall a better suited device for all users across the board.  As an expert who climbs with beginners frequently it has quickly become my assisted braking device of choice after only a week and a half of use. It’s weight of 200g compared to the 170g of the GriGri 2 is insignificant for the improvements in security.

With a MSRP of $149.95, it’s a no brainer investment to add more security to your climbing. As with any belay device, proper instruction and use of the device is required.  

Learn more in our article on How to Lead Belay with a GriGri.

Chicks Gear Review: Sterling’s Chain Reactor

Personal Anchor Systems (PAS) replaced Daisy Chains years ago as superior solutions for anchoring yourself while cleaning anchors at the top of sport routes, setting up TR’s, rappelling, canyoneering, partner rescue and transitioning from up to down on multi-pitch climbs. Sterling’s Chain Reactor is the superior product on the market for a number reasons.

Sterling Rope Chain Reactor
The Chain Reactor and Chain Reactor Pro are rated to 12.7 and 14KN respectively. Each loop is full strength and can hold more of an impact than your body could actually withstand. Because it’s constructed of entirely of nylon as opposed to Dyneema, it has dynamic properties that enable it to handle up to 3 factor 2 falls which although highly unlikely, increases my confidence when using it as a sole attachment point.

When used as a rappel extension, both models have attachment points that help prevent a carabiner from rotating and cross loading. These attachments are also the perfect distance from the harness, enabling you to use your gear loop as opposed to your leg loop for a third hand friction hitch back-up.

The Pro version attachment to the harness is doubled, which for heavy use is the the best choice. The classic Chain Reactor is lighter, which for multi-pitch routes is my go to. Sterling Rope products are all made in the U.S.A. and individually hand checked to maintain Sterling’s high quality. The company is founded and run by a woman who has put together an incredible team to produce and insure that all of their products meet international ISO and EN standards.

Sterling is also a long time supporter of women’s climbing and Chicks’ Official Rope Sponsor.

Chicks Gear Review: Osprey Kamber ABS®

Osprey Kamber

Angela wearing Osprey’s Kamber Pack in the San Juan Backcountry.

The Kamber, formerly known as the Kode, has been my favorite pack for the past 3 winter seasons. It’s withstood 200 days of backcountry skiing, heli-ski guiding and ski mountaineering off a boat in the Antarctic Peninsula with minimal wear, which is impressive for a pack with so many zippers. I’m typically a minimalist and cut off any excess straps, bells and whistles but every zipper on this pack has a well designed purpose giving access to thoughtful components and panels.

Why am I am huge fan?  The list goes on but my top features include:

  • Compatibility with the ABS® Vario airbag system. Unique to airbags, the ABS® system has two separate side mounted twin airbags which in the event of a puncture, you’re more likely to maintain at least 50% floatation. This system integrates with a number of different packs, including Osprey’s Kamber 42 which I use for overnighter’s and ski mountaineering. The ABS system zips on easily giving me the option to use it as a piece of safety equipment or removing it to go lighter when conditions are less spicy. Buyer beware of the sticker shock. The cost of the ABS unit is over $650 but relative to an insurance policy, it’s a good investment.
  • Extremely comfortable to skin and ski with. The padded back panel has excellent support with heavy or light loads and the hip belt and shoulder straps are easy to adjust with when wearing gloves. All the zipper pulls and fastex buckles are well designed to be used with gloves.
  • Designated panels make organization and keeping key gear dry. The front loading panel is the best of any pack I’ve used. It accommodates a beefy shovel, probe, snow saw and ski mountaineering axe (45cm). It’s amply large that I can fit my aluminum boot crampons under the shovel blade with everything else in there! This large panel makes it easy to get my shovel and probe in and out quickly which is key for getting observations frequently.

    Osprey Kamber

    Osprey Kamber in action. Photo by: Avery Stonich

  • Large zippered back loading panel gives easy access to the goods. It’s remarkable how much fits in this pack even without expanding it another 10+. Guiding a ski mountaineering trip to the Antarctic Peninsula I packed it as full as it’s ever been with a first aid kit, rescue sled/shelter, repair kit, 60m 8.5 rope, ski crampons, thermos, extra gloves, hat and puffy jacket. In addition I was able to shove a picket down from the top into the separate +10 compartment and have easy access to it without feeling it or having to carry it on the outside of the pack.
  • Huge goggle compartment with scratch free lining. More than enough room for goggles, snacks, a sunglasses case and buff with room to spare.
  • Two zipped pockets on the hip belt are large enough for GPS, iPhone, compass, sunscreen and lip balm. When using the ABS® system, the hip belt only has one pocket.
  • Fits my small frame perfectly, which isn’t the same for many packs of this quality. Comes in both S/M and M/L sizes (with an additional 3 liters of room in the M/L).
  • Pocket on the front panel has a stowable helmet carrier with room for a map, snacks, etc.
  • Diagonal carrying system for skis (vertical for Boards) is fast, easy and extremely adjustable.
  • Ice axe loop is beefy, if you can’t get yours inside the pack.
  • Insulated hydration sleeve in the shoulder strap keeps your hose from freezing.
  • Suitcase style grab loop is an awesome unique feature that makes for easy hauling and grabbing with gloves.

I’ve tried many other airbag packs and have always gone back to this one. Much of the time I remove the ABS® system for tours without even having to unpack everything. Another winner from Osprey.  If you’re in the market for an airbag system give this one some serious consideration.

Learn more on Osprey’s website.

Chicks Gear Review: Petzl Altitude Harness

 

Written by: Chicks co-owner and guide, Angela Hawse

Petzl has dPetzl Altitude Harnessone it again, leading the industry with the first harness to incorporate Dyneema into an ultra-lightweight, full strength harness.  Weighing in at only 150 grams (5.29 ounces), the Altitude harness is the lightest in the world.  You can bet you’ll see others follow suit in the coming years to catch up to Petzl’s innovation.  Currently other’s in it’s class weigh in at 215 to 260 g. (9.17 oz).

If you are shopping for a lightweight harness for ski mountaineering, high altitude climbing or fast and light moderate alpine link-ups, pay attention to the features on the Altitude Harness that make it so desirable.

  • All-day comfort. For most endeavors requiring a light-weight harness, you’re wearing it all day long.  For ski mountaineering, which is why I got the Altitude, I can’t tell I have it on.  Unrestricted movement makes a big difference for all-day skinning and skiing.  It’s streamlined enough that it doesn’t add pressure points or rub under the hip belt of my pack.
  • Rigid Support. This is the unique feature that Petzl nailed with the use of Dyneema threads throughout the waist belt and leg loops that make it not only light, but stiff enough to provide the support needed when you weight the harness. Last year’s testers claimed it was as comfortable as the Petzl Hirundos Harness!
  • No Bulk. Doesn’t add weight or take up valuable space to your pack if you aren’t wearing it but just may need to pull it out for an occasional rappel or roping up.
  • Petzl Altitude HarnessFull Features. The ALTITUDE Harness has a full strength belay loop, speed buckle and leg loops designed for ease of entry with skis, boots and or crampons on.
  • Gear Loops + Screw Immobilizer. The skimpy gear loops look minimal and they are but for ski mo or moderate alpine they are completely sufficient. These Dyneema loops are actually stronger than any others in Petzl’s line and the unique configuration stacks carabiners nicely. This also makes it compatible with a pack’s hip belt which is the never ending challenge with the combination.  Unique to this harness, which other’s have followed is a double loop ice screw holder on the leg loops that keeps the screws in place, free from swinging and damaging your outerwear.
  • Minimal H20 Absorption. With the majority of the material Dyneema, the Altitude Harness is not going to suck up water and add weight to your day. Other’s in this class are predominately Nylon and will absorb water.

So if you are heading into the hills for big days, look at the make up of other light-weight harnesses, compare and decide for yourself. For $79.99, you’ll be glad you chose PETZL’s ALTITUDE Harness.

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

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

We Are Officially City Chicks

Written by: Chicks co-owner and guide, Karen Bockel

Cityclimb2webWe are back from the City of Rocks!  The Chicks clinic was a smashing success with lots of good climbing, beautiful camping in the aspen groves, good food made on the camp stoves, and most importantly a great group of women.  From 14 to 60 years young, coming from far away places like Florida and Minnesota, this flock of Chicks climbed together, pushed each other, and made the program so special with all they brought to this clinic.  The guides for this program, Angela Hawse and Aimee Barnes, had nothing but progress, smiles and stoke to report.  Everyone got to practice a number of climbing techniques, work on climbing skills, and perform a rappel using an auto-block back-up.  The guides’ extensive guiding experience and knowledge of the City of Rocks climbing area and history added much depth to the bigger picture of climbing in this world-class destination.

Over the three days of climbing, the group visited a number of different climbing areas, sampling some of the City’s finest pitches.  One day was spent at the neighboring Castle Rocks State Park where ground-up climbing technique was practiced under the supervision of Angela and Aimee, and all the climbers completed a lead climb. Three Chicks stayed for the multi-pitch climb on day 4, and together they summited the Lost Arrow Spire with guide Aimee.

After all this fun we had, we can’t wait to go back to the City!  With its endless climbing potential of routes at every grade, there is so much to do for any Chick. Stay tuned for the next opportunity to climb with us at the City.

Go to City of Rocks – Rock Climbing Idaho for information on our next City of Rocks clinic.

CityGroupWeb

How to Choose a Rope

Written by: Angela Hawse

Selecting the right rope any given day is as important for me as shoe selection.   As a Sterling Athlete Team member, I have the benefit of having as many as 12 ropes at any given time in my quiver.  I know this is a luxury most don’t have, unless you are a Mountain Guide.  If your budget only allows for one, two or even three, I have a few tips on rope choice that may help you choose.  The abundance of ropes on the market and the many games we play can make it difficult.  An informed choice when shopping for the right cord for your style of climbing and your goals will definitely give you better results.

Diane Kearns, Elaina Arenz and Angela Hawse in the Adamants after descending in a storm.  A stuck rope on the descent resulted in having to cut the rope.  The choice to take two ropes on this committing route was a good one.

Diane Kearns, Elaina Arenz and Angela Hawse in the Adamants after descending in a storm. A stuck rope on the descent resulted in having to cut the rope. The choice to take two ropes on this committing route was a good one.

Most climbers purchase ropes based on price, weight and diameter.  Not necessarily in that order and, of course, pretty colors come into play as well.  UIAA and EN/CE standards thankfully make it possible to trust all the critical details, but knowing just a tad more can help you pick the right rope without geeking out too much on the specs.  Let’s have a look…

Dynamic – For the purposes of our discussion, I’ll refer exclusively to dynamic single ropes.  Stretch in a climbing rope is what makes it suited to catch a fall, absorb energy and reduce the impact force on our body, our protection and our belayer.  Single ropes make up 80% of my quiver and I use them 95% of the time.  Details on UIAA/EN/CE ratings are abundant on the web, so I’ll focus on the qualities we’re interested in for each category and a few techniques manufacturers are using to increase performance.  They can generally be identified in the following categories.  I’ll refer to specific Sterling Ropes for the best in class, but you can generalize across different brands, which all have their own representatives.

Workhorse Ropes – 9.8 – 10.4mm cords that weigh in at more than 60 grams per meter.  If the majority of your climbing is top roping, big walls, working hard projects on course rock, this is your best choice for durability and a lot of climbing.  This is your burly marathon rope that will outlast all others.  It will take more falls, resist more abuse and sharp edges than any other rope.

These are two Sterling Ropes in my arsenal I recommend:  The iconic 9.8mm Evolution Velocity. It weighs in at 62 g/m and has a sheath that will outlast the rubber on your shoes.  It’s by far my go-to cord in the workhorse category.  The 10.1mm Marathon Pro is a close contender at 63 g/m and my go to rope for lots of top roping, big wall projects or cragging in Joshua Tree.

Ridgway gals enjoying dog days and top roping action at Red Rocks Canyon.

Ridgway gals enjoying dog days and top roping action at Red Rocks Canyon.

All-Around Ropes – 9.4 – 9.7mm cords that weigh in between 57 – 60 grams per meter.  These make up 55% of my fleet.  Durability is excellent, weight is reasonable and stretch is manageable.  These are your versatility masters for sport, trad, multi-pitch, ice climbing, alpine mountaineering and a reasonable amount of top rope action.  The lower the diameter, generally the lower the weight meaning when I’m 165 feet out and pulling up to clip, the less I feel the heft of the cord.  A workhorse adds to your pump here, indeed.

Sterling’s 9.4mm Fusion Ion R has been my go to rope as long as I can remember.  Weighing in at 57 g/m it’s light enough for long alpine routes where it’s durability matters.  It’s the workhorse in its class with a sheath that endures mileage.  The new competition in Sterling’s line is the 9.5mm Evolution Helix weighing in at 59 g/m.  Have a close look at this one if you are looking for one rope that does it all.  With a burly 41% sheath to core weight ratio and lighter core construction, this rope gets my vote for best in category for it’s remarkably good handling qualities, reasonable weight and durability.  It has a softer hand than the Ion R, which many prefer.

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.

Skinny Bitches – 8.5 – 9.2mm cords that weigh in as low as 48 grams per meter and up to 56 g/m.  These little beauties make up 30% of my quiver.  Ideally suited for alpine climbing, long multi-pitch routes, on-sights, sends, and ice they some have problems for everyday use.  They are definitely sexy, but fortunately the price point beckons buyer beware.  For more money you get less falls, less action.  Less material overall compromises longevity no matter how you break it down. Low friction means your belayer better be on their game giving you a lead belay (see Best Belay Ever). High stretch demands diligence with a tight rope for your partner above ledges or the ground and a bigger whip than often anticipated on lead.  Low durability is often a harsh reality when that unanticipated core shot shows up on the scene.  All combined with a high price tag makes these specialty cords less versatile, but as good as gold when you really need them, especially if you are carrying them very far on your back.

Sterling’s Fusion Nano IX is my favorite in class.  This little beauty got a face lift in sheath construction and went on a diet, from a 9.2 down to a 9.0mm this year, weighing in at 52 g/m.  Durability has improved, it has a tighter weave and resists water and friction better than its predecessor.  Sterling’s new Evolution Aero 9.2mm is worth a good look if durability is your main concern.

It’s putting up solid competition, but I’ve simply had too many good times with the Nano to let it win me over.  The Aero shares many qualities of the new Helix, boasting a 41% sheath to core weight ratio and impressive handling characteristics.  At 56 g/m it’s a good balance of weight and durability for a skinny bitch.

Sterling Team Member Brittany Griffith sending in Indian Creek.

Sterling Team Member Brittany Griffith sending in Indian Creek.

At the skinniest end of the scale, weight reduction can be as much as 3 lbs. for a 60m rope when compared to the fattest of the all-arounders.  That, combined with low friction over rock, through carabiners and belay devices adds to the appeal of skinny ropes in our fight against gravity.

Despite the downsides of skinny ropes, they seem to be hot sellers and manufacturers are responding to the demand with considerable and varied improvements in technology.  If you’re paying close attention, you’ve picked up on the fact that while a rope diameters have gotten smaller, weight reduction has not necessarily decreased proportionately.  Improvements in technology have enabled manufacturers to produce skinnier cords using nearly the same amount of material that fatter cords enjoy.  So, if reduced weight is a key criteria for choosing a skinny bitch, you should pay particular attention to the gram/meter details. Buyer beware.

We could get all jiggy on the particulars of diameters.  If you’ve shopped for skinny cords or had your hands on a number of them, you know the interpretation of diameter is all across the board.  If the rope manufacturer has purchased an EN 892 standard (UIAA standards are free, easily accessed on the web), the rope diameter is one of the easiest tests in the control, albeit human error does contribute to inconsistency.  Sterling Rope has purchased an EN standard and my rope Guru, Jim Ewing, gave me a simple explanation to help decipher what that means.  In Europe (EU), UIAA certification is not a requirement, anywhere.  Any product sold in the EU must have a CE mark, which means it must comply with the EN standard.  In the US, there are no such requirements. You could essentially purchase a rope that does not meet industry accepted practices.  Buyer beware.  If you find a rope that has the CE standard but no UIAA, it’s as good as gold.  If you are more confused than when you started reading this, pose your question on the comments section of our blog.

Back to weight.  Weight is a relationship of core to sheath ratios, obviously affected by  diameter.  While ropes are getting skinnier, an increase in sheath proportion doesn’t reduce the weight with respect to diameter.  Remember, advances in technology mean your skinny bitch may have as much actual material in her as her big-boned sister.

What does increase with increased weight, however is durability which is directly related your investment.  If reduced weight is what you are looking for, pay close attention to the grams/meter specs.  If durability is your goal, the same formula applies.  I suggest directly comparing the specs on the two new Sterling Ropes I suggested above; Fusion Ion R vs. Evolution Helix and the Fusion Nano IX vs. Evolution Aero to get a better grip on new skinny rope technology.

Sterling’s two new cords in the Evolution series, the 9.2mm Aero and the 9.5mm Helix.

Sterling’s two new cords in the Evolution series, the 9.2mm Aero and the 9.5mm Helix.

The last criteria in rope selection is length.  Many subscribe to 70 is the new 60.  Age maybe, but with ropes this is a major factor for my daily rope selection and a 70m is usually not the winner.  Surely for specific routes, it is.  An additional 10 meters adds 1lb. 4+oz to the weight to an all-arounder, not to mention the coiling effort.  60m is my go-to, but there are many days I grab a 50m and even a 40m for longer alpine objectives.  With good beta, a specific rope length on any given route can help cut the amount of time you pull in cord, reducing your effort considerably, as well as the weight on your back.

Another critical detail that needs utmost attention with rope choice is your belay device.  Choose one that is specified by the manufacturer to work with your rope’s diameter.  A V-shaped groove is going to help with the catch, especially important with skinny cords.  I’m a huge fan of the Edelrid Mega Jul and the Mammut Smart.  My clients belay me on these and my partners who don’t mind entertaining me, see the merits as well.  Petzl’s Gri-Gri is fabulous in the right hands.  I’m an avid glove user.  Don’t let your guard down, skinny ropes are hard to hold and friction is your friend for a safe belay.

Dry Treatment or not?  Yes. The added cost is worth it.  Your rope will last longer, you will experience less rope drag and when it does rain or you are climbing ice, the payoff is immediate.  Bicolor or middle mark?  Yes. If you are doing technical descents or top roping, this will save you minutes which add up to hours in a long day.  Half ropes vs. Twin is another topic all together.  If you’re interested give a shout to our comments section below and we’ll dive into the nuances of choosing these ropes, with a more in-depth look at impact force, which is something that must be understood when you delve into more advanced climbing techniques.

Angela Hawse enjoying a beautiful day with a perfect rope.

Angela Hawse enjoying a beautiful day with a perfect rope.

 

Angela Hawse has been a Chicks Guide for 16 years and is a new owner of this stoked Sisterhood.  Shes an AMGA/IFMGA licensed Mountain Guide and an Instructor Team Lead for the AMGA.  She proudly represents Marmot, Sterling Rope, SCARPA, Julbo and Metolius Climbing.