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A Love Letter to My Patagonia Micro Puff

Kitty Calhoun out testing Patagonia's new Micro Puff Jacket on a recent ski tour in Colorado's San Juan Mountains.

Kitty Calhoun out testing Patagonia’s new Micro Puff Jacket on a recent ski tour in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains.

I never thought when I was learning to ski at age 6 where my skis would take me.

How many memories my gear and clothes would hold?

I remember my Dad helping me into a garage-sale jacket and putting mittens on my tiny, frozen hands.

There’s the short, tailored sweater with yellow and blue stripes that I wore as a teenager—a tool to attract boys.

When I started winter climbing, I gave up fashion for the function of baggy wool: a brown, plaid button-down, army trousers, and Dachstein mitts.

Back then we all wore wool because it kept us insulated from the cold even when it was wet.

Kitty Calhoun skiing the East Face of Teewinot , Grand Teton National Park, 1982, in her fashion backwards Army Surplus wool knickers and sweater.

Kitty Calhoun skiing the East Face of Teewinot , Grand Teton National Park, 1982, in her fashion backwards Army Surplus wool knickers and sweater.

The problem was the smell of sweaty, wet wool is distinctive. And, inevitably, before the end of a long day, an ice storm would blow in and I’d be caked—further insulated with a thick layer of snow and ice!

After college new fabrics became available. To save money, I made my own waterproof anorak but splurged on a Patagonia fleece.

Living out of my Subaru, I didn’t have many clothes. I wore this fleece day and night for eight years. I loved it because it didn’t stink when it got wet. It was also softer, and dried faster than wool.

Kitty Calhoun at 14, 158 feet on the Summit of Mt Sneffles, Co, 1982, wearing her homemade anorak and wool gloves.

Kitty Calhoun at 14, 158 feet on the Summit of Mt Sneffles, Co, 1982, wearing her homemade anorak and wool gloves.

Over the years I have tested many different insulating jackets.

Always, the challenge is to find a material that insulates by trapping heat but also breathes. A material that “breathes” means that it allows moisture vapor to move away from your body and your next-to-skin, wicking, base layer.

REJOICE

For a decade, Patagonia worked to answer the problem that when down gets wet it looses its heat-trapping loft, but synthetics are never as warm and compressible.

The Micro Puff is the answer. It’s a synthetic jacket made with a unique patterning construction that works to prevent down-like filaments from shifting.

The result is the best warmth to weight ration of any jacket Patagonia has ever created. That is saying a lot!

BEWARE

The Micro Puff is not a belay jacket.

The Micro Puff is designed to be part of a layering system, which Patagonia developed in the 1970’s:

  1. Next-to-skin wicking layer
  2. Insulating layer
  3. Wind, water resistant/proof shell

COMPANY BACKGROUND

 We couldn’t be more proud to have Patagonia as the title sponsor for Chicks Climbing and Skiing.

We look forward to new adventures in jackets of higher performing materials partnered with a company whose mission includes “using business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

Try out Patagonia’s revolutionary layering system at our clinics.

Petzl Sirocco Helmet

petzl sirocco helmetThe Petzl Sirocco Helmet has been updated and is better than ever. It features top, side and rear impact zone protection which makes it the go to helmet for rock, alpine and general mountaineering.

It covers more of your head, has a lower profile than it’s predecessor and weighs 170 grams, which is slightly more than the weight of your smartphone. In fact it’s so light you may forget that you are wearing a helmet at all.

Read more about why this is going to be your new go to helmet for all your mountain adventures.

 

Nice Climbing Rack

climbing rackYou’re heading out to go climbing and your partner asks you to bring the rack. What exactly do they want you to bring? Here are a few basic guidelines to help you show off your nice climbing rack.

First, to be clear, a rack is whatever you need to climb the objective that day. If you are ice climbing, ice screws are the rack. If you’re going sport climbing, quickdraws would be the rack and for crack climbing you will need a trad rack. The rack will vary from one person to the next depending on your skill and comfort on the terrain.

 

What is a standard rack?


quick drawsThat again depends on what medium you are climbing. Typically the guide book will describe the standard rack in the early pages of the book. Even sport climbs will typically list how many bolts to expect so you know how many quickdraw to carry. For most trad areas, the standard rack may be a single set of cams to a certain size, and a set of nuts. This standard rack is just a starting point. You may find due to your ability level, the difficulty and the size of crack may warrant that you want more or less of a certain size of gear.  Be sure to ask friends, and search for beta on sites like mountain project to find out what you will need on route.

 

Should I rack on a sling or on my harness?

nice rackThis is such a personal preference, there is no right or wrong answer. When you are starting out, try racking both ways to see what you prefer. Each method has its benefits and drawbacks. If you rack on the gear loops of your harness, the weight is carried closer to your center of gravity. If you rack on a gear sling, the weight is higher up on your torso and you can more easily see which pieces you have available. No matter how you choose to carry the gear, have a clean, organized, methodical system that you can replicate. This way you can find the gear you need when you are in the crux.

 

Get familiar with your rack.

size up your rackNo matter what rack you carry, or how you carry it, get familiar with it. Squeeze cam triggers within the optimal range and compare the size to your hands or fingers. This way when you are in the business you will have some idea what piece goes into the tight hand crack. The more familiar you are with the gear, the easier it will be to place when you are stressed.

Finally, don’t over rack. There is no need to bring items you simply do not need. Every extra “just in case” piece adds up quickly. A reasonable rack can quickly grow into something too big to climb with that will weigh you down and make climbing more difficult. At some point you just have to trust that what you have is enough. Again, experience and a little beta can go a long way.

 

At Chicks Climbing our clinics focus on skills to make you an independent climber. Learn how to rack up, place gear and build solid anchors, multi-pitch transition strategies and loads more. Let us help you understand how the gear works and when to use the right tool at the right time.  Our upcoming Red Rocks, NV and our newest program in Joshua Tree, CA are both the perfect places to work on all of these skills and more. We hope you will join us!

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