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!


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.


Chicks Gear Review: Petzl Elia Helmet

Petzl EliaPerhaps one of the most important gear buying decisions you can make is the climbing helmet. When it comes to choosing a helmet, there are a many options available, but really there are only two types of helmets: light weight foam (like your bike helmet) and hardshell options. Since I’m pretty tough on my gear, I prefer a hardshell helmet like the Petzl Elia. Not only is it the most comfortable hardshell helmet I’ve worn, it’s durably constructed and dare I say stylish. It’s a great all around helmet, perfect for rock and ice climbing.
Here is why:
Comfort & Fit: For a hardshell helmet, the Elia is fairly light weight and comfortable. It has removable padding inside along the forehead area, so you can keep it clean. The easy to adjust suspension system keeps the helmet centered on my head. There’s nothing worse than an ill fitting helmet that slides too far back exposing your frontal cortex, or perhaps even worse, slides off to this side making you look ridiculous in your summit selfie. For those of you with longer locks, the harness system that sits on the back of your head has a nice horseshoe shape that can easily accommodate a ponytail without compromising fit and proper placement on your head.
Durability: The Elia’s hard shell construction consists of an ABS plastic covering over a polystyrene foam.  This makes the helmet ever so slightly heavier but tough enough that I don’t have to worry about any denting or dinging it up. I don’t stress too much if I shove it into the bottom of my pack or put into in my checked baggage if there’s no room for it in my carry-on.  
Style points: Call me vain but I don’t want to look like a bobble head doll. I know, the whole point is to protect your dome-piece, but if it doesn’t make me look hideous I’m more likely to wear it. Look good, climb good I say! The Elia comes in a couple of colors, white for those who aren’t afraid to wear it after Labor Day, and the latest colors of the season: celery green and red apple.

Written by: Chicks co-owner and guide, Elaina Arenz. Elaina is an AMGA Certified Rock Guide, is in the instructor pool as an AMGA Single Pitch Instructor Provider and a Warrior’s Way Trainer.

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.

Training Tips for Chicks: 8 Week Rock Climbing Training Program

If you are new to the Chicks Training Tips take a few minutes to read the previous newsletters, there’s a lot of great information in there!
Its incredibly beneficial for all the Chicks to be introduced to new movements and concepts for training, and initially implementing these in a regular workout in almost any fashion will create positive change. So re-read the first 6 installments to get a look at all these great movements. Videos have been included!

IMG_3288Rock Climbing Training Program, 8 Weeks

I’m going to start with an intermediate rock climbing training program, this applies to the climber who leads and is comfortable top roping up to 5.10 or 5.11. Here we go, lots to explain but I’ll try to keep it simple and out of the weeds. Your week will look like this:
Monday – Yoga or active recovery
Tuesday – Strength session gym and power climbing
Wednesday  – Strength session gym and strength endurance for climbing
Thursday – PE session gym/Cardio vascular output
Friday – Rest
Saturday – Climb
Sunday – Climb or rest if overly tired, listen to your body this is a lot of volume
Climb  2 – 4 days a week to the best of your ability.
Week 1 – 3: Hard weeks push yourself.
Week 4: Easy week- take three rest days and just have fun, don’t train with any structure or you’ll burn out or worse break.
Week 5 – 7: Hard weeks push yourself again.
Week 8: Easy week – take three rest days and just have fun, don’t train with any structure or you’ll burn out or worse break.

Days in Detail

Monday – self explanatory
Tuesday – If possible climb first: warm up on easy routes or boulder problems, this is a hard bouldering workout for climbing power, try things you fall off after a move or two, try and do all moves and project the same problems for three weeks you will make progress every week. In your session once warmed up complete: 3xVO 2xV1 2xV2 1xV3 –
Then once the skin is done head to the regular gym area and do a supplemental strength workout.
Wednesday(You may have to skip this workout at first depending how sore  you are from Tuesday till you build the capacity to recover from this amount of work. Thats ok, listen to your body. If you do then do active recovery,  yoga, recovery endurance, etc.) 
Start with climbing, now it’s routes of difficulty. warm up on two moderate pitches then. TR or Lead with no hangs or very short hangs if you fall, i.e. get back on the wall.
Three routes at or close to your limit back to back with no rest. for example 5.10, 5.11, 5.9 you should be blowing off the last route due to pump and fatigue both mental and physical. Climb routes you know so you can be super efficient and try to finish them once you fall you are done, no hang dogging. do 3- 4 groups of three pitches. Vary difficulty so you are always falling on last pitch or close. As the weeks progress make the pitches more difficult: 5.10, 5.11, 5.11. Find a partner psyched on this as well, they belay you, then you belay them!
Then once the skin is done head to the regular gym area and do a supplemental strength workout.
Thursday – This is a cardio vascular output WO, this is for heart rate capacity or VO2Max and your ability to recover when under duress. Very important while leading difficult routes you’ve got to be able to recover quickly at rests, and that’s not just forearm recovery, heart rate management is key.
You’ll do WO provided below under the Power Endurance category (IWT) and the like. If you are super sore from Tuesday’ WO and can’t climb Wed, then shift your climbing to Thursday and do routes + PE WO and rest Wednesday. Or do Yoga.
Friday –  Rest, or active rest go on a walk, easy ride. It takes a lot of mental and physical energy to be disciplined enough and work hard at training. Give your body and brain a down day.
Sat and Sun – go outside I want you to try and climb both days, or get Endurance greater than 90min on one of the days. Saturday – Push Hard climbing you should feel good coming off a recovery day.
Sunday –  go easy, fun indoor climbing or nice long ski or ride. Or rest if necessary.
Repeat the week above, move things around as life demands. And get a friend to train with you so much more fun!
If you’d like specific Strength WOs to try so you don’t have to build your own. Email me
 and mention the Chicks Newsletter and I’ll send you workouts based on what has been listed in the newsletters so far. There is a fee involved, which will be discussed at the time.
Power Endurance WO are below. We haven’t spent much time discussing this type of workout in the newsletters so here are a couple of examples.
Power Endurance #1
Warm up 10:00 Row, 5:00 minutes of the 10:00 sound be 30 secs hard, 30 sec easy to open up the pipes a bit.
wall squats 3 x5
goblet squats 2 x 10
shoulder openers 2 x 10
warm up to your deadlift weight
5x Deadlift+ 90 Sec Row, 2:00min rest
Three Rounds.
5min rest
5x Front Squat + 90sec Airdyne (indoor bike) 2:00min rest
Three Rounds
5:00min rest
7 x 15m KB Bear Crawl 2 @ 30 –  55# DBs or KBs
Power Endurance #2
Warm up:10min C2 or Airdyne
wall squats 3 x5
goblet squats 2 x 10
oh walking lunges 2 x 10
2:00 KB Swings + 500m Row + 20x Box Jump 18″ + 20x Front Squat/Push Press with DBs + 2:00 Airdyne (Indoor Bike) Go Hard! + 2:00 KB Swings rest 2:00
x 2
8 – 1 Push Up Ladder

Chicks Training Videos:

View our complete list of videos on the Chicks Climbing YouTube Channel.
New videos this week:


Chicks Training Tips: Creating Regular Workouts

Written by: Carolyn Parker
GSquatIt’s incredibly beneficial for all adventurers to be introduced to new movements and concepts for training, and initially implementing these in a regular workout in almost any fashion will create positive change. So re-read the first six installments to get a look at all these great movements (with detailed videos):
  • Shoulder Openers – Shoulder flexibility and ROM
  • Modified Cuban Press – Rotator Cuff strengthening and posture correction, with scapular area strengthening, and overhead ROM
  • Wall Squat

Installment #2:

  • Goblet squat
  •  Push ups

Installment #3 (part 1):

  • Leg lower and raise
  • KTE
  • L seats
  • Knee raise
  • Static holds
  • FLR
  • Ring support

Installment #3 (part 2):

  • Push ups
  • Walking push ups
  • Ring push ups
  • Archers
Installment #3 (part 3):
  • Pull up
  • Body row
  • Bent over row
  • High pull
  • Pull over
  • Walking lunge
  • OH walking lunge
  • BSSU

Installment #4:

  • Front raise
  • Lateral raise
  • Reverse fly
  • Y’s with bands
  •  Low trap flys with bands
  • Deadlift
  • Front squat
  • DB push press
  • Plate OH hold
  • Handstand hold
  • Bench dip / ring dip
Eventually the athlete will have built a good, broad foundation from which to launch their fitness to the next level. But how exactly is this done? Imagine being in an oar boat paddling to a destination, your goal.  If you just barely dig the paddle in a gently pull you may eventually get there but the current may pull you off course long before you arrive at your goal. Instead now it’s time to dig the paddle in deep, pull hard and set a course to confidently arrive at your destination and achieve your goals.
For our next installment I’ll begin the discussion of what a workout might look like when you start putting the movements together and structuring the sets and reps and load for strength gains. Remember we participate in a strength to weight ratio sport, all mountain sports are. We want to remain light and get strong! So here we go!
Without getting deep in the weeds we have a simple structure to workouts:
Part I) warm up – 10:00 of activity or movement to actually “warm” the body. Light jog, rowing machine, stationary bike, jumping rope all are great.
1a)Then a specific warm up is needed to not only for alignment but physical preparation for what is to come in the workout. If you spend 10 extra minutes warming up properly the return you get from your workout will be ten fold.
Part II) The core of the workout, this is the focus of the workout. Is it strength based, strength endurance, power endurance.
Part III) Usually we want to add a “supplemental” piece to the end of a training session. Often this targets either an area of identified weakness in the athlete or some part of the machine that has yet to be trained that day.
The following four workouts are examples of this idea of constructing a training session comprised of three parts. Remember we are just scratching the surface of strength training. If you have any questions, seek an education and coaching from a professional who can work with you directly.
Workout 1
Warm up 10:00 bike
Shoulder openers 2 x 8
Cuban Press 2 x 5
Y’s with Band 2 x 8
Wall squats  3 x 5
OH Walking Lunge 30m
Work up to heavy BSSU
5 x 3 (per leg) BSSU@_____
On rings
10x Archers + 10x Feet to Hands 5
rest 3:00
FLR 3 x 60 sec work/ 60 sec rest
Workout 2
Shoulder openers 2 x 8
Cuban Press 2 x 5
DB PP 2 x 8
Wall squats  3 x 5
Walking Lunge 30m
Work up to heavy SLSLDL
5 x 2 SLSLDL@ _____
In between sets:
Work up to heavy weighted pull up, 2 RM (Rep Max) hang weight from a harness at waist. If you are still working on pull ups this is the time to walk away from assistance and try jumping into a locked off pull up and slowly lower controlling the movement as a negative, these should feel hard! (5 x 2)
10x weighted leg lowers + 5x KB Bosu chest press
Rest as necessary
5 rounds
Workout 3

Warm up 10:00 Row, 5:00 minutes of the 10:00 sound be 30 secs hard, 30 sec easy to open up the pipes a bit.


wall squats 3 x5

goblet squats 2 x 10

shoulder openers 2 x 10

warm up to your deadlift weight



5x Deadlift+ 90 Sec Row, 2:00min rest

Three Rounds.

5 min rest


5x Front Squat + 90sec Airdyne 2:00min rest

Three Rounds

5:00min rest


7 x 15m KB Bear Crawl 2 @ 30 –  55# DBs or KBs

Workout 4
Warm up: 10 min row
Wall squats 3×5
Goblet squats 2x 10
Shoulder openers 2x 10
Work up to heavy DL
Then 5 x 3 DL @ ______
rest 2-3 min between sets
(If the athlete is well conditioned a round of 5x Push up + 5x Pull up can be done between sets of Deadlifts.)
Finish with
1:00 Sit Ups
1:00 Mtn Climbers
1:00 Ring Support
1:00 rest
x 3
There are many, many elements to cover: frequency of workouts, what type of workout to do when, strength vs. power, what is power endurance. I will continue to cover these topics in the Chicks training newsletters and for more detailed information regarding programming of this nature you can contact me at or

Training Tips for Chicks: Pulling Strength & Ski Legs

If you are new to the Chicks Training Tips take a few minutes to read the previous posts, there’s a lot of great information in there.

Winter is on its way! For some of you snow has already fallen, puffy jackets, hats and gloves are out and skis are being dusted off with excitement for the winter! And if skiing isn’t your number one, I know ice climbing must be, so sharpen those tools and lace up those boots the ice is forming!

This installment will round off a few pulling strength movements for climbers the last of a three part series for climbing. Even though rock season is ending, ice is just around the corner. In addition, we will begin to introduce leg/ski specific training for winter fun – back or front country!

Once again gals, all the techniques and movements discussed in Chicks Training Tips are beneficial for all mountain athletes of all ages. The number one goal for fun is outdoor play, let’s enhance that fun, injury proof you and keep you stronger longer!

Let’s talk pulling!
We can pull in quite a few ranges of motion:

  • The Pull Up
  • The Row
  • The High Pull
  • The Pull Over

If you remember from previous newsletters we want to target, more sets x fewer more demanding reps. If you can easily perform 10 reps of any of these exercises it’s time to make it harder gals! 5 x 5, 5 x 3, 6 x 2. Review the Stronger Not Bigger post for more information.

Pull Ups
Rings or Bar, If you can’t yet do pull ups on your own grab a band (jumpstretch) for assistance and avoid machines that push on your feet or knees. Your body needs to learn and master stabilizing itself through the range of motion (ROM) of the pull up.

Try to pull from full extension, leading with the chest/sternum raised to completion of elbows back and looking over the bar. Let’s say you can do a ton of pull ups already…try adding weight to your body to make it harder, you can hang a kettle ball (KB) from your harness.

Body Row or Bent Over Row
The Body Row is done using a bar in a squat rack and a bench. The movement must be performed in the full ROM for full benefit. This means chest to the bar for each rep. Begin with the easiest movement with both feet on the ground, advance to one foot on the ground and one on the bench and then both heels on the bench. Stabilize the body, activate the glutes and core and pull your chest up rather than thrusting the hips.

The Bent Over Row is another great movement that also establishes good connection with the posterior chain: glutes, low back, hamstrings. Tools you can are DBs, KBs, or a barbell the movement is the same. Begin standing, creating a slight bend in the knees then activate hamstrings and glutes. Hinge forward, keeping the back flat and spine neutral. Stabilize and protect the low back. Once leaning forward to a point where the torso is almost parallel with the floor, pull or row the hands toward the chest. Drive the elbows back and remember to stop the movement for a second once hands reach your chest before lowering and repeating!

High Pull
I do this movement with a lighter barbell, DBs or KBs just to keep the movement and the strength balanced in the shoulders.

Pull Over
I usually use KBs for this movement, you can use a barbell as well. Laying on the floor, place the weight above your head only far enough away that you can grab the KB with bent elbows, do not try this with straight arms! The spine should be neutral and the core stabilized. Raise the KB off the floor till just above the chest then lower to the ground and repeat. As you lower the KB it is critical that you stabilize your spine and do not let the low back arch.

Ok gals! Previous posts have given a host of core and upper body strength movements for climbing and all mountain sports, let’s get strong!

And now to check in with the foundation of leg strength. The first thing I check with all incoming athletes is single leg movements.

In your warm up add the Walking Lunge and OH walking Lunge to prepare the body neuro-muscularly. The stride should be such that the legs end up at 90 degree angles, your torso should stay erect and the head, shoulder, hip, knee (posterior) should remain in alignment through out the movement. Stride should be a hip width stance, do not walk as though you are on a balance beam, take at least 10 steps forward then reverse the movement, going backward is quite hard. Then add weight (light) in one hand overhead, try forward and backward with each arm. 10 steps.

Now you are ready to begin testing both the SLSLDL – Single Leg Straight Leg Dead Lift and the BSSU – Back Squat Step Up. Try these two movements on different days. It can take a bit of time to work through both. You will likely discover that you have an imbalance between your legs. It may be minimal or profound. All sports, skiing, climbing, trail running, cycling utilize our legs in a single leg fashion. We are limited by our weaker limb so let’s train that leg to be stronger!

Single Leg Straight Leg Dead Lift
Single leg movements take a great deal of focus and attention to do properly, continue to practice and pay attention to the details.

Squat down and pick up the barbell or KB you are going to use with proper form. Begin in an upright position, take a single step forward and activate that leg. Retract the shoulder blades, engage the entire posterior chain, keep your hips and shoulders square and level through out the movement then raise the non-standing leg to initiate the movement. Keep both glutes active, hinge forward till BB or KB touches the floor stand back up, re-stabilize and repeat.

Back Squat Step Up
On a 14 – 18” box, depending on your height. Begin by placing a PVC or broom stick, or light bar on the back as if in back squat position. Place one leg on the box as if you are going to do a step up, come up on your tip toe on the foot on the floor then press with the leg on the box to step up, do not push off the floor. This is a difficult movement to master, we usually want to push off the floor but try and activate the working leg and isolate it.

Ok gals! Test out your leg strength, see which leg is stronger, start using more weight for both movements.

If you remember from previous newsletters we want to target, more sets x fewer more demanding reps. If you can easily perform 10 reps of any of these exercises it’s time to make it harder gals! 5 x 5, 5 x 3, 6 x 2. Review the Stronger Not Bigger post for more information.

Balance the body but remember do not train the stronger leg more than the weaker, catch the weak leg up.

Next few installments we will visit two leg strength movements, stabilize our shoulders, talk about power production and more advanced core stability! We are just scratching the surface of strength training. There are many many elements to cover, frequency of workouts, what type of workout to do when, strength vs. power, what is power endurance.

We will continue to cover these topics in the Chicks Blog or you can have them delivered to your inbox by signing up for the Chicks Newsletter.  For more detailed information regarding programming of this nature you can contact me at or via e-mail.

Signing off for now,
Carolyn Parker

Best Belay Ever

As many climbers know, a good belayer is hard to come by. Sure, most climbers know how to belay, but few actually do it right. Most of the time the climber just assumes that their partner has the skills to keep them off of the ground. No one wants to look down while climbing a crux sequence close to an obstacle to see the belayer daydreaming and not paying attention. Here are a few tips to help you be a better belayer.

Stack the rope
Start at one end of the rope and flake it onto a rope tarp. This will help keep your belay area neat and orderly, and allow you to pay out slack smoothly. By flaking the rope, you take the time to eliminate knots and kinks in the rope. Using a ground cloth of some sort will keep the rope from catching on roots or around rocks.

Stand up and stand close
When belaying, most of the time you should remain standing. If your stance is precarious, perhaps a seated stance or using an anchor point would be more acceptable. Be sure you stand in a balanced athletic position to allow for taking and giving slack smoothly. By standing close to the route you can avoid being slammed into the wall if the climber falls. Oftentimes, standing below the first bolt will also help keep the climber from hitting the ground.

What not to do while belaying.

What not to do while belaying.

This is a photo of what NOT to do. This woman is standing way too far away from the route. She will get pulled forward very quickly when the climber falls. Also, she needs to keep her hand in the brake position when the climber is not moving.

Pay attention and watch the climber
When belaying, limit your talking to others and ask others to limit talking to you. Too much chatting can be distracting and you may miss communications with the climber. Stay focused on the task of belaying. This is not the time to be reading guide books or checking your phone. If you cannot see the climber, you may try a pair of belay glasses to help. When you give your full attention to the climber, confidence is provided to make the scary moves.

Give them some slack
Belaying is a give and take relationship. You must be on your game when you have another person’s life in your hands. Avoid giving huge loops of slack. The “sport” loop is not always acceptable. Keep enough slack so that the climber can move freely without being tugged on. However, adjust your slack if the climber is close to the ground or a ledge. Keeping the climber close, or with little slack, will keep them from hitting the obstacle. If the climber is moving over a ledge or is on a very overhanging route, more slack is needed to keep the climber from slamming into the roof or overhang in the case of a fall. You must constantly adjust the loop of slack for the terrain the climber faces.

Use the right tools for the job
When belaying, use the tools available to help make your job more efficient. Wearing gloves will protect your hands and reduces the friction you feel as the rope slides through the device. Many people complain about neck pain. Belay glasses can be used to help alleviate neck pain and help you see the climber. If sport climbing or top roping, consider using a lock assisted device such as a Petzl GRIGRI or a Mammut Smart. These devices have a lock assisting design to make it much easier to catch and hold falls.

Great belaying technique.

Great belaying technique.

In this photo Dawn demonstrates the proper stance, hand position and provides an adequate loop of slack.

You can learn these and many other techniques at our upcoming Rock Clinics.

Dawn Glanc is a certified guide, sponsored athlete, avid climber, and an awesome belayer.  When not belaying, Dawn likes to send.

Dawn Glanc enjoying sending and not worrying about her belayer.

Dawn Glanc enjoying sending and not worrying about her belayer.

A Renaissance of Return

As many of you know, when Head Chick Kim Reynolds takes off her helmet, harness and crampons, she is a Certified Life Coach. She recently wrote the below article which started my wheels turning, so I thought you all would enjoy as well.

I have to admit that I’ve had some challenges lately, a few setbacks that have taken the wind out Groupof my sails and shaken my confidence. It is my nature to be upbeat and positive; I have the ability to dig deep and navigate through difficulties, yet this time I’m having trouble picking myself up. Be it mid-life or menopause, there is a natural shift that is occurring, and on some level, I feel fixed in this change.

I am experiencing an inevitable cycle of life that we don’t usually talk about. We ignore it because we are uncomfortable making adjustments to what we become used to. During the recent months I lost touch with my core values, and the ways of life that have always brought me joy. So, I took stock and thought, “I’m ready for something really good to happen, something that will propel me forward.”

Over time I’ve continued to pile on more responsibilities, and am fully accountable for obligations I’ve initiated. Sometimes I just want to run away from it all, but instead, I head into the mountains. This time, it was an opportunity to work for Outward Bound in Marble, Colo., where I instructed my first field course in more than 20 years.  In this course, we put everything we need for a week on our backs and go out into the wilderness. During this time the students learn how to navigate and use a map, cook yummy one-pot dinners and set up shelters in the pouring rain. We crossed a 13,000 foot pass with full packs, got lost and climbed a peak – a natural environment for leadership and team building. I almost forgot how much our students get out of this wilderness experience!

At the start though, I was nervous. I loaded my pack with what I needed and hoped I wouldn’t feel too rusty, I even voiced my concern. Much to my delight, everything I learned over the past 37 years as a leader came flooding back to me, and I felt completely at home. I experienced a profound recollection accompanied by utter joy. I could clearly remember just exactly what it was that had me captivated with this job for so many years.

One night we were camped high in an amazing lightning storm that was much too close for comfort – I feared for our safety but felt the aliveness of the moment, the beauty and fierceness of the passing storm, the light and the calm that followed.  It was a rare opportunity to be fully present, far away from my responsibilities or worries at home. And the realization struck me: these are the moments that define the wild and untamed places, that cause me to fall to my knees with complete humility and awe.

And with the flood of innate joy I felt during this wilderness leadership experience, my confidence was renewed and my sense of purpose restored.

Why is that? Where did it go?

I think I just got caught up in the complexities of life and it was simply time to lighten my load, and reconnect to what is most important. It is indeed a strange luxury to want so much out of life and when I simply return to the purity of nature, I seem to be able to sort things out and my life just makes sense again.

It’s important for me to surround myself with people and places that inspire me to wake up, tap in and thrive. It reminds me of this poem:

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.

-David Whyte

What I am describing is a renaissance, a reemergence and reawakening of something fundamental to my life: simplicity, connection, truth, purpose, passion and inspiration. The remembering is coming home and returning to what is most familiar and important to me. It’s my reference point, my compass pointing to true north. It’s important for me to slow down and appreciate the journey thus far. I believe that there are no coincidences – if I ask for what I want and follow the cues – my chance will come, not by chance at all.

Kim Reynolds is a Certified Life Coach living in Ridgway, Colorado. To learn more about coaching, call 970-623-2442. Read more:

The Adirondacks: Small Mountains, Big Training Ground

With our Keene Valley, Adirondacks Chicks Rock Climbing Clinic in just a few short months, I caught up with Emilie Drinkwater – friend of Chicks and Co-Owner/Guide for Cloudsplitter Mountain Guides in New York.  Emilie has climbed some of the most amazing routes and peaks, is a professional (sponsored) athlete, and an all around amazing person.  Emilie cut her teeth in the Dacks, so as we all consider signing up for the clinic, I asked her to remind all of us why climbing in the Dacks is so special.


In 2001 I moved to Lake Placid, NY with $30 in my pocket and no idea what to do next.  I’d recently graduated from college with a fancy degree in Anthropology and African Studies but all I wanted to do was rock climb.  Mostly, I dreamed of all the exotic places I could go to climb (you know, Colorado, California, West Virginia).  Ice climbing, alpine climbing, and ski mountaineering never even crossed my mind at that time so neither did places like Alaska, the Himalaya, or the Alps.

If you’ve never been to the Adirondacks, you should know that there’s a lot of climbing to be had.  A lot as in, more than 3,000 routes spread throughout the vast and pristine wilderness of the 6 million acre Adirondack State Park.  And the quality of the rock is, for the most part, excellent.  Geologically, much of the rock we climb is Anorthosite (the same rock type found on the moon!); cracks, slabs, and faces ranging in height from short, single pitch climbs to nearly 1000′, make for a lifetime of climbing in the Adirondacks alone!

Though the park is huge, Keene Valley and the High Peaks region are often considered the epicenter of climbing activity (but if climbing isn’t your thing, there are also lakes, streams, rivers, trails, and historical sites, to name a few).  My first introduction to the area and to outdoor climbing (during those early days of having no money and no life plan) was on the ever-popular Beer Walls crag.  I fell in love with climbing that day, even though by the end of it, my arms were so tired I could barely grasp the steering wheel to drive myself home.

Focus_KeeneValley_EmilieToday, I’m a full time mountain guide, athlete, homesteader, and writer.  My climbing background on the traditional and high quality, technical routes of the Northeastern mountains has led to adventure, exploration, and sometimes even success, in climbing venues, big and small, around the world.  Though I spend a lot of time in other ranges, the Adirondacks will always remain my home base and the place I credit with introducing me to the pleasure and challenge of climbing mountains!

For more information on attending the Chicks Keene Valley Clinic this Fall, click here.