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Chick Gear: Marmot Isotherm Hoody

Marmot recently provided a few Chicks with Isotherm Hoody’s for the day.  The Sampler Chicks put these jackets to the test as they braved an unusually cold weekend in Ouray’s Ice Park.

 

Marmot Isotherm Hoody

Mary mixin’ it up in the Isotherm Hoody

Mary O’Cleary
Home state: Washington

After descending her first climb, sporting the sunset orange isotherm hoody, this is what Mary had to say.

I love it.  I just did a vertical climb with it thrown on over my shell.  In colder weather, when I’m just in my shell I get a bit chilly but this jacket produced the slightest bit of air in between to help me control my temperature.   There was absolutely no restriction when it came to arm movement, which is unique for me because usually I have a hard time finding jackets that fit across the back through the shoulder area.  Sleeves are great length and the pockets sit high for easy access with my harness on.  The chest pocket is a great feature as it’s a great place to quickly store glasses.  I would love for Marmot to add a two-way zipper but would buy this jacket in a heartbeat even without.

Beth Elliott
Home state: Massachusetts

Beth spent the whole day in this jacket climbing, belaying and route-spotting.  At the end of it all, I had to practically tackle her to get the jacket back.

“I love it and I don’t want to give it back to you…ever.  I fell in love because it doesn’t even feel like I have an extra layer on under my softshell, yet it’s super cozy warm, like I just had some hot chocolate!  The sleeves are not bulky which is perfect as I don’t need extra warmth on my arms. I have all this extra heat around my body without sacrificing the mobility of my arms.  It’s amazingly lightweight and I’m very impressed with its warmth to heaviness ratio.

What Marmot has to say:

The new species of warm, light and breathable – the Isotherm Hoody’s active insulation is made with the ice climber or backcountry skier in mind. The Polartec® Alpha®, a new state-of-the-art insulation, banishes the need for impervious down-proof fabrics. Rather, this hoody is made with a ridiculously lightweight, abrasion-resistant fabric and lined with a breathable DriClime® mesh. The result is a lighter, more breathable insulator that adjusts to every need.

Marmot ice climbing layers

Marmot athlete Tonya Clement talks about – and shows off – which Marmot pieces she uses, and how, for ice climbing!

In this video she features the Women’s Ether DriClime Jacket (http://marmot.com/products/wms_ether_driclime);
The Women’s Jena Jacket (formally Venus Jacket (http://marmot.com/products/wms_jena_jacket);
The Women’s Super Gravity Jacket (http://marmot.com/products/wms_super_gravity_jacket);
The Women’s Scree Pant (http://marmot.com/products/wms_scree_pant);
and Marmot Baselayer (http://marmot.com/catalog/baselayer/224–4?ps=1).

What Marmot layers do you use? The Ama Dablam is a personal favorite of mine!

Thank you to Marmot for being our title sponsor at Chicks Climbing!!!

Maijaliisa Burkert is the marketing and social media Chick for Chicks Climbing

Thank You to the Sponsors & Supporters of “The Complete”!

Thank you to our sponsors and supporters of the Chicks with Picks “Complete” that is going on right now. Here is a little sampling of the goodies our gals get to take home with them (not to mention all of the demo gear they are outfitted in as well)!

Thank you Marmot, our title sponsor! These programs would not happen without your support!

Patagonia! A company that supports Chicks, sponsors Kitty & provides tons of soft goods to keep our gals warm in the park. Oh, and gives everyone one of these awesome shopping bags!

Osprey Packs, which also makes awesome hats. Our Chicks are always easy to spot in the Ice Park with all the bright Osprey demo packs, which have tons of space for everything inside so we don’t have junk shows with things strapped all over the outside 😉

Pistl! Could these gals look any cuter with these awesome hats?

Fox River socks! These are always a favorite with the gals!

Nothing worse than a hungry Chick trying to ice climb. Thankfully, Luna bars keep our Chicks satisfied!

Beyond Coastal/Chums keeps our Chicks from getting sunburned!

Too cold to eat but need some quick fuel? That’s what these Gu’s are great for!

Last, but certainly not least – Grabber! Helping Chicks keep hands, toes and everything in between WARM! Love these things!!!

We also want to thank The Victorian Inn for continuing to host our gals in Ouray as well as Eddie Bauer First Ascent which is sponsoring some brand new Chicks to come out and climb in “The Quickie” in just a couple of weeks!

Our Chicks Climbing programs really and truly rely on the support of our sponsors and we hope you will sponsor those that sponsor us in turn! 🙂

 

Caring for that sleeping bag!

Considering I just posted about sleeping bags on the Chicks blog – specifically those made by our sponsors at Marmot – earlier this week, I thought this “how-to” video tutorial from Sierra Trading Post on caring for sleeping bags was pretty appropriate.

As I mentioned I’ve had my Marmot sleeping bag for more than 10 years and it has gotten mighty dirty and always recovers well from the type of laundering as described in this video. (I also use Nikwax as they mention here too). So, since my sleeping bag will be getting some good use in the Bugaboos in the next few weeks and as lots of my friends and fellow Chicks are out climbing around the world right now I wanted to share 🙂

Do you have any other tips for maintaining a sleeping bag?

Marmot’s Lithium sleeping bag

As we have mentioned in the past, our title sponsors at Marmot have been supporting our women’s climbing programs for years. They truly see the value in our ‘women climbing with women for women’ philosophy and we couldn’t be more grateful to have their backing that allows us to not just help women improve their climbing, but learn something about themselves AND give back to the community. So thank you again, Marmot, for believing in the power of Chicks!

Today we want to introduce you to just one sleeping bag in a wide array of products they have available. I have personally had a Marmot sleeping bag for more than 10 years and it was purchased after having been a floor model in a store somewhere in Alabama (I believe!). In any case this sleeping bag has done its job for me in locales as far out as Chilean Patagonia where the wind does NOT stop to some of America’s best climbing playgrounds in Yosemite, Indian Creek and the Red River Gorge. Later this month it will be making its inaugural trip to the Bugaboos, and I couldn’t be more excited about it! So my point is, not even knowing technically what sleeping bag it is, or how long it was a floor model, or the fact that it was used, etc. this bag has been a top-of-the-line performer, which I believe is a quality of all Marmot bags.

So, since one of my dream climbs is “Ham & Eggs” up in Alaska’s Ruth Gorge, I cruised the Marmot website for some colder-weather bags of which there are plenty including:
The CWM MemBrain
The Col MemBrain
The Lithium MemBrain

But today the sleeping bag that caught my eye was the Lithium. Most of Marmot’s sleeping bags – with the exception of those rated below 0 F (i.e. the super-cold weather ones I listed above) – are tested for comfort for both men & women, which is then printed in an EN graphic. The rating includes the comfort limit – based on a standard woman having a comfortable night of sleep, followed by a lower limit – which is based on the lowest temperature at which a standard man can have a comfortable night’s sleep, and lastly the extreme rating, which is the survival rating for a standard woman.

The technical rating for the Lithium is in fact 0 degrees Fahrenheit. The EN testing results rated the Lithium at 18.3 degrees Fahrenheit for a standard woman’s temperature of comfortable sleeping, 6.1 degrees Fahrenheit for the lowest temperature a standard man experienced a comfortable night’s sleep, and is survivable at temperatures down to -30.3 degrees Fahrenheit! This bag only weighs 2 lbs. 15 oz and was designed with ultra-light fabric and 850-count down (the highest quality down Marmot sources!) for the purpose of designing a bag for mountaineers and backpackers. It still has the full-length zipper, zipper guards, an insulated draft tube and hood draw cords that you’d expect in a bag but also features a trapezoidal foot box to give your feet more room and a nautilus 6-baffle hood for better control and fit.

Here is what some reviewers are saying about the Lithium on the Marmot website:
Without a doubt the warmest, lightest, most comfortable bag I have ever used in the past 40 years. Winter Adirondack camping can be a bit nippy, but the lithium out performs all my other even more expensive bags. My search has ended. I am off tomorrow to the high peaks again in full confidence. 5 stars if there ever was one.

– Dr. Mike T

I bought this bag a number of years ago and tested it in Glencoe, Scotland at minus 16 centigrade. My Thermarest froze but the bag was great even though I only wore one base layer. I have used it ever since when the temperature drops below zero. It is a brilliant bag and has never let me down. Exped sleeping mats are a good match for the bag in snow. I have just bought a Marmot Hydrogen as I think their quality of manufacture is sound enough to last many years.

– John Perrott

Great bag. The warmth/weight ratio is the best I have ever seen. I used it ski mountaineering at high elevations in mid winter and have never had to hunker down in it. I am 6’2″, 175lbs and use the Long so that I can throw the essentials I dont want frozen by morning down by my feet.

– Coonish

Check out all the details on the Marmot Lithium bag here and all the other sleeping bags Marmot has on the market here. They really are some quality sleeping bags – definitely a worthy investment!

Thank you sponsors & supporters of Chicks Rock! Devil’s Lake

Thank you, Wisconsin, for another great Chicks Rock! clinic at Devil’s Lake. Our Chicks had a great time getting out with Girly Guides Dawn Glanc & Kitty Calhoun to learn better climbing techniques. Of course, none of our Chicks Climbing events would be possible without our sponsors, so we wanted to give a big THANK YOU to the sponsors and supporters that make it happen.

So many goodies to give to our Chicks!

Thank you to our financial supporters at Marmot, Osprey Packs, Sterling Rope, First Ascent, Rock & Ice, Patagonia and Omega Pacific for believing in our programs and the positive changes they make in the lives of our Chicks. We truly could not do it without you!

Thank you also to our many supporters who contribute product for our Girly Guides and our Chicks! We are very fortunate to have a long list of companies here like Keen, JetBoil, Beyond Coastal, Chums, Luna Bars, Isis, Fox River, Rock On, Women’s Adventure and more!

Our Chicks are always THRILLED with the bag of goodies our sponsors and supporters provide. At Devil’s Lake we heard “it’s like Christmas morning!” 🙂

But it’s about more than the fun goodies. It’s about climbing and self discovery.

Nancy Lee topping out!

Lisa in the chimney!

Eva crushing it (with the greatest smile ever!)

Julia eating up “Push Me Pull You”

What a shot of Sophia on Condolences!

Melissa making a traverse on Michael’s Project while daughter Sophia belays!

In just a few short days at a Chicks clinic it’s amazing how much the focused effort on technique can help you change, but even more so I believe (as a participant in many clinics) that it is the positive support system of the fellow Chicks that really help to change your mental state from “Geez, this looks hard…I don’t know if I can do this…” to “Whoa, this is going to be fun, and I am going to do my best to use the new _____ that Dawn/Kitty showed me to send this thing!” And 9 times out of 10, sendage happens, and the rest of the time positive progress is still made. We save our tears for the final ceremony when the Chicks talk about what they learned at the clinic – about climbing and often more importantly, about themselves.

The lovely Eva shares at the final ceremony.

And I’m not just blowing smoke. I’ve even seen Kitty get tears in her eyes before!

Kitty giving Tracey a hug at the final ceremony after talking about Tracey’s development over the past three days.

So while our sponsors and supporters are happy to back our climbing programs, we want to let you all know that you are supporting Chicks in doing much more than climbing, and we just love that 🙂 so thank you all!

Speaking of climbing, there are still THREE Chicks Rock! events on the calendar for this year including:

Chicks Rock! Girly Gathering at the New River Gorge, West Va., Sept. 21-23 (2 days)
Chicks Rock! Girly Gathering at the Keene Valley, Adirondacks NY, Oct. 5-8 (3 days!)
Chicks Rock at Red Rock Canyon, Nev. Oct. 18-21 with optional multi-pitch day Oct. 22 

Please contact us at info[at]civi-chicks.biz if you are interested in signing up for any one of our remaining clinics! We are continuing to update our Devil’s Lake Chicks Rock! 2012 photo album here as our Chicks send in more photos, and also have this great album to share from Skillet Creek Media here.

You can learn more about our financial sponsors here, while the list of our dozens of awesome supporters can be found here. Do you want to support Chicks? We’d love to hear from you!!!

Trust Marmot’s DriClime® to stay comfy!

Our title sponsors at Marmot are really the leading force behind us being able to offer our Chicks with Picks ice climbing and Chicks Rock! rock climbing clinics, going on 14 years for Chicks with Picks, and in year four of Chicks Rock! So, not only do we think they are awesome for their loyal & continued support of women’s climbing clinics, but because they also make some pretty sweet gear! Today we are going to introduce you to their DriClime® pieces, which are pretty well suited for use in almost ANY sport. And who doesn’t love multi-functional gear?!

What is DriClime®? It is a Marmot-designed proprietary bi-component knit polyester that really works to help you to keep your temperature regulated. The plaited bi-component knit fabrics were engineered so that the inner fabric quickly wicks moisture away from your skin while the outer layer spreads the moisture out across the material as a means for fast evaporation to keep you dry.

The really cool part of the Marmot DriClime® design is that it never stops working – it will continue to pass moisture from the inner to the outer layer for infinity. It will not wear or wash out!

Marmot has used this DriClime® material in designing a whole host of products including base layers, shelled micro-climate layers, gloves, and even sleeping bags and backpacks!

The pieces we really love on the women’s line include the Marmot Women’s DriClime® Windshirt, which is an ideal piece for a plethora of activities as reviewer Janine notes: “I absolutely love this jacket, which is versatile for any activity – camping, hiking, biking, you-name-it! It’s perfect for keeping you warm without making you too sweaty. It also folds up nicely and compresses into small compartments of your bag easily so that you can carry it with you wherever you go.” This piece retails at $95 and comes in a range of bright colors. I’m thinking a breathable, windproof & waterproof piece that is actually sized FOR women at this price is pretty awesome 🙂

The other current fave of ours is the Marmot DriClime® women’s Ether jacket, which is pretty close to the windshirt, but features a hood, too! This $110 retail piece is so versatile it can go from alpine climbing to trail running while keeping you the same, comfortable temperature thanks to the DriClime® technology.

You can check out Marmot’s complete line of DriClime® technologies by searching “DriClime” on the Marmot.com website, or by simply clicking here: http://marmot.com/catalog/driclime/193

Thank you Marmot, for your continued support of our Chicks Climbing programs!

Ladies, we want to know – do you have a piece of Marmot DriClime® gear? If so, what do you think of it?!

Gear review: the Marmot Ama Dablam down jacket

I purchased the Marmot Ama Dablam jacket late this winter, just a few weeks before my (first) trip to Canada this ice season. I was so psyched to have found it in my size, in a cute color, AND on sale for more than 50% off at REI. Now to be honest I didn’t *really* need a new puffy coat. I had a perfectly acceptable puffy coat that my husband had bought for me years and years ago. I really only wear a puffy coat while belaying, so it wasn’t as if it had worn out or anything like that. It’s just that it was black. Blah. Everything my husband buys for me is always black, mainly because that’s the color/size combo that is on sale (he never buys clothing at full price, and as a result always resembles a ninja). Since I like to show my ninja skills in other ways I wanted something more fun. I had seen the Ama Dablam in the ice park last year in all kinds of pretty shades and had been coveting one ever since. I loved the octagonal pattern of the coat as well, so when I ‘accidentally’ saw it available at REI for such a steal AND in ‘Tahoe Blue’ I snatched it up.

The 'old' black puffy coat. I'm the goon on the right not looking at the camera. Photo by Dawn Glanc.

I couldn’t have had a better testing ground than the Canadian Rockies in February to put my new puffy to good use. It performed exceptionally well at keeping trapped heat in. It was only when swapping leads and standing at a belay station for a LONG time that I ever really got cold. To be fair the temperature that day was -21C, so it was legitimately chilly out, and on lead belay you obviously aren’t wanting to wiggle around too much to where they feel it on their end!

Wearing the Ama Dablam at the top of Chantilly, after I had just punctured the sleeve with an ice screw 🙁

OK, so about the coat. There are two zippered hand warmer pockets on the front, along with a zippered pocket on the outside of the left sleeve. I was asked if that’s where I kept my cigarettes (?), but really, a good place for stuff you may want access to if you end up wearing the coat UNDER your harness. (Smoking is GROSS by the way!). There is also an internal zippered pocket that doubles as a stuff sack. Really, it’s super cool – one less piece of gear to drop while three pitches up (that stinking stuff sack has almost floated away from me more times than I can count!). I was a bit skeptical about the ability of the entire coat to fit into the internal stuff sack, but indeed it does with a small hook for clipping onto the back of the harness.

Climbing in the Ama Dablam. It was THAT cold. Also, that's how I ended up puncturing it with a screw! Oops.

The front zipper has a nice and cushy protective flap for your chin. I really get rubbed raw from all the high neck zippers on my gear, so I love having a big protective flap on top like on the Ama Dablam to keep my chin feeling good. The best part about the zipper though is that it zips UP from the bottom, so you can really easily get access to your harness while belaying!

The sleeves – while I’d love them to be just an inch longer – have a Velcro cuff and elastic at the bottom that you can easily pull it on over big gloves and then cinch it down to keep heat trapped in. And the hood – oh, the hood – it fit just perfectly over my helmet WITH the front zip all the way at the top. I didn’t lose peripheral vision and there are little adjustment doo-hickeys you can use if you’ve got a small head and need to tighten it back. I seem to have so many ridiculous hoods – they fit over the helmet great, but they are ridiculously huge, floppy, and a hassle to deal with, so I was really psyched on the fit of the Ama Dablam. The coat is a bit longer in the back than in the front – maybe this is good for keeping under a harness? Or maybe it’s just supposed to keep your bum extra warm.

I'm at the bottom belaying in my Ama Dablam as Chicks alumna Dara Miles leads into the Valley of the Birds in the Ghost. I have no idea what kind of coat she is wearing.

As far as durability goes, it seems to be holding up fairly well so far, with the exception of the inner right sleeve which I punctured with an ice screw. How? Well, I don’t normally climb in my puffy coat. But, one day on my last trip – you know the one where it was -21C – I was SO COLD that I didn’t want to take it off, after I had seconded a pitch and was getting ready to lead the final pitch of the day. So up I went – with every single layer of clothing I had on and in the process nicked the jacket enough with a nice sharp screw that has resulted in a puncture wound that spews down. So alas, my first piece of Duck Tape now adorns it; without it I’d surely lose all the down in that section pretty quickly. At least I have purple Duck Tape so it isn’t totally hideous, and I do look a lot more badass (and less newb) that way, right? The Ama Dablam kept some other gals pretty warm too on our cragging day at Haffner, there was no need for it to sit on the ground when there were Chicks ready and willing to keep it warm while belaying 🙂

So all in all, I am a HUGE fan of the Ama Dablam. Fellow Chick Diana had it in purple in Canada too, and really loved hers as well (and the purple is a beautiful color!). Here are the specs on the Ama Dablam from the Marmot page:
– Ultralight Down-proof Fabric
– 800 Fill Power Goose Down
– Attached Adjustable Down-filled Hood
– Zippered Sleeve Pocket
– Inside Zip Stuff Sack Pocket
– Elastic Draw Cord Hem
– Zippered Handwarmer Pockets
– Adjustable Velcro®/Elastic Cuffs
– Angel-Wing Movement™
– Wind Flap Behind Front Zipper – Protects Against Drafts
– Shaped Hem/Dropped Tail

You can check out all the tech-y stuff here.

Yes, Marmot is our main sponsor here at Chicks, but this review was written without influence about a jacket I purchased with my own hard-earned money. So it’s REAL. I can’t wait to take this pretty puffy on another trip to Canada in just a few days (!!!!!!), although with this unseasonably warm weather I may not be needing it as much!

Gear review: Marmot Flashpoint Hoody

The ONLY picture I have with the Flashpoint Hoody on as an outer layer. Not a fan of this picture though :-/

I received my bright “Tahoe Blue” Marmot Flashpoint Hoody in mid-January. My version has a very special addition in the form of a special Chicks with Picks logo sewn onto the right sleeve. (Just another benefit to being the social media Chick!)

The Marmot Flashpoint Hoody has two zip-up handwarmer pockets in addition to a great zip-up pocket on the left side of the chest. I really appreciate having this extra pocket on the chest for storing things like extra cash and a key so that I don’t accidentally flip it out of my handwarmer pockets that I constantly get in and out of. Being that it’s a hoody, there’s obviously a hood – no strings – but it fits well (snugly) over a helmet. I thought this was a nice part of the design so that I was able to have a deeper underlayer pulled up over the helmet, that really helps keep heat in where you want it. The front of the hoody zips up to just underneath the chin, and has a small flap of material to protect the chin from chafing on the zipper. Finally, there are thumbholes at the wrists, which I’ll talk more about later.

In the past month and a half I’ve definitely put the hoody to good use. I feel like a 2-year-old who always wants to wear the same shirt. On days it goes in the wash I miss it. And really, I’d say I’ve worn it at least 35 of the last 45 days! At home, it’s a perfect layer for staying warm in the house, and the fantastic bright blue is really such a fabulous color, I love wearing it with almost anything. But, for the purpose of this review, I was far more interested in testing its functionality as part of a layering system while outdoors. So, for full-on testing I wore it for a day of Nordic skiing and five days of ice climbing in the Canadian Rockies last month, and it really was a great piece for both.

For anyone that’s done any Nordic skiing, you know it doesn’t take you long to get HOT. I wore the Flashpoint Hoody over a capilene base layer and that was it. The conditions varied wildly within the span of a few hours that I was on the trail. What started out as sunny and pleasant ended up with fierce wind and snow. So, at the beginning of the outing I got pretty warm, but just unzipping it halfway kept me really comfortable. I am a big time sweater (you know, the wet stuff!) so it was great that as the capilene pulled the moisture away from my body, the Flashpoint Hoody was breathable enough to keep that sweat moving away which allowed me to dry quickly on my base layer. I really appreciated that once the wind started to blow and I got cold! I suspect the fact that it’s a Polartec Classic 100 Micro explains why it was both breathable AND pretty dang windproof. I mean, for being a relatively thin piece, this really does a great job at blocking the wind. It also held up pretty well to the wet snow, never getting saturated with the wetness from the outside.

I'm wearing my Flashpoint Hoody here, even though you can't see it!

Over the following five days I wore the Flashpoint Hoody as the second (and sometimes third on days when I wore two base layers – brrrrrr) layer in my ice climbing system. The hoody took the place of my normal Patagonia R1 which I rely on to pull moisture away from my body while ice climbing so I don’t freeze in between pitches. I have to say, the Flashpoint Hoody totally surpassed my expectations. I’ve climbed for so many years in the R1 that I was nervous to try anything else thinking I’d be wet and cold, so I actually brought it with me the first day. In the end, all the R1 did was take a walk and then sit in my duffel for the rest of the week.

The Flashpoint Hoody has a decent amount of stretch so you never feel constricted while climbing in it, and it is also a nice length – perfect for staying tucked in underneath my harness all day without riding up. There is a cinch at the base of the jacket to tighten it up if needed (for women with tiny hips?) but I never needed to use it because the jacket stayed put on my hips just where I wanted it.

Really, my only complaint about the hoody is the thumbholes. I’m normally a HUGE fan of thumbholes. However, on this jacket they are not on an extended wrist cuff, they are just at the end of the sleeve, which means it’s not easy to get your thumbs in and out, and the sleeve length is just not long enough for them to be comfortable. In fact, they fit so poorly that I ripped a hole in the wrist seams trying to pull it down far enough to get my thumb through! So, the thumbholes are totally useless for me on this piece. Maybe I have really long arms? I don’t know. I’d recommend putting a larger wrist cuff on the next iteration of this jacket for the thumb holes – then the Flashpoint Hoody would be PERFECT. For those of you with short arms, it probably already is!

Check out all the specs for this piece here.

Many thanks to our supporters at Marmot for sending all of us at Chicks Climbing a Flashpoint Hoody this season (and in such a beautiful color)! Marmot has been a loyal supporter of our Chicks with Picks and Chicks Rock! women’s climbing programs for many years, and we love them! But, just because they are a sponsor doesn’t mean I didn’t give an honest review here – that is my 100% hand-to-heart feedback on the Flashpoint Hoody – bottom line is, I love it!

Look for my review of the Marmot Ama Dablam jacket to be up next week – this baby I’ve been coveting for a couple of years and scored in the fabulous Tahoe Blue on a BIG sale at REI last month 😉

P.S. I should add that even though in Canada I wore this piece for six straight days of sweaty activities, it did NOT stink  at all. Impressive!

Jess’ Chicks transformation

I don’t look like a climber.

I don’t have strong, beautiful muscles bulging out of my arms and back. I am terrified of heights. I’ve never been able to do a pull up. I am 6’ tall and weigh 180 pounds (oh my god, I just admitted to that. *Breathe*). So believe me when I say that signing up for my first Chick’s clinic was a huge and scary step for me.

Before my first clinic, I had been climbing on and off for a couple of years. I climbed with people I knew and was very comfortable with, and I still felt incredibly self-conscious every time we would go out. I was certain that people were looking at me, the fat lady trying to climb and wondering why the hell I even bothered. Since most climbers are shaped a little differently than I am, even the gear provided challenges. I felt like I was the only one ever doing the “butt wiggle” trying to stuff my ass into my harness. I had to get a size medium so that I could snug the waist up enough to be tight, but it’s ridiculously tight going over my butt. And the adorable brightly colored bras by Verve that everyone around here is wearing? Yeah, forget about it. Approximately half of one of my breasts actually shoves in to a size large. But I kept going.

I went to crags and climbing gyms whenever I could. I wanted more of those few minutes on the rock or ice where my mind is focused only on my next move and my breath. I craved the feeling of power in my legs as I stand up on a tiny hold. I was fueled by the shift in my energy when I was at home in my own body and feeling the strength it possessed. So with massive trepidation, I went to my first Chicks clinic. I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that I hardly slept the night before. I envisioned a group of strong, badass women – thin with beautiful muscle definition, who would all be gracefully prancing up the rocks scoffing at me as I tried to haul myself up. I was afraid that I would be paying to go to a clinic only to be hurt and embarrassed. I could not have been any more wrong…

Sure, there were absolutely beautiful, strong, badass women there; women who easily climbed routes that I found to be challenging. But there was no scoffing, no judgment, and no hurt (other than some bruised knees!). I found myself in a new mini-family of women who were all just putting themselves out there, doing the best they could and supporting one another no matter what ‘level’ they were at.

I was both humbled and inspired by the Girly Guides. What an amazing feeling to be coached by the legendary Kitty Calhoun or ass-kicking Dawn Glanc! And even though both of those ladies could run up the routes I was climbing, they still genuinely celebrated MY successes. They cheered the times when I’d feel exhausted and frustrated and on the brink of tears pull out one more move than I thought I could. It didn’t matter that we were climbing 5.9 and these women don’t even sink that low to warm up…they were supporting me the whole way.

Yesterday I wrapped up my third Chicks clinic. This time we were on the ice at the Ouray Ice Park. As it always seems to, the hurtful voice inside my head was screaming loudly as we started to climb. “You’re too fat. Why are you here? You can’t do this. Go home.” But with each swing of my tools, kick of my feet and bit of encouragement from Kitty or the girls in my group, that voice started to take a back seat. There’s no room for such judgment and self-hate when you’re surrounded by such amazing CHICKS!

It’s my hope that more people will discover Chicks. Especially those girls like me who most people would never expect to actually be rock or ice divas at heart. Feeling (even briefly) at home in your own body and being wholly supported by fierce women you barely even know is a fantastic blessing. I am so thankful for the opportunity to climb with these ladies, and I know I’ll keep putting myself out there. Again and again and again. At some point the voices telling me that I’m not good enough or too fat to do this WILL be replaced by the amazing Kitty Calhoun telling me that I am special. Because if she believes that, who am I to disagree? 🙂

My heartfelt thanks to the Head Chick, Girly Guides and amazing sponsors like Marmot, ColumbiaPatagoniaOsprey, Rock and Ice, First Ascent and The Victorian Inn who make these clinics possible. It’s not just about the climbing. You’re all changing lives.