What to Wear While Ice Climbing - A Guide on Clothing and Gear for Women - Campfire Chic

Dressing for ice climbing as a beginner always gave me a headache. The problem is that you are dressing for two extremes; standing around in freezing weather, followed by intensive climbing. You need both warm layers and freedom of movement with the bonus of having to carrying in everything on your approach hike. After a lot of trial and error, I feel like I’m finally happy with my setup. Unlike other sports, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of information out there on dressing for ice climbing so I’m hoping I can save someone else the hassle of figuring it out themselves.

So, here is what I bring & wear ice climbing:

Feet

Two pairs of wool socks. I wear my first pair on the drive out, then I switch to my second pair once we’ve parked and I’m changing into my ice climbing boots. Driving to a location can be anywhere from 1-2 hrs so I prefer to start my climbing day off with feet that are as dry and warm as possible. My ice climbing boots fit a bit large so I prefer thick wool socks but the key is that you want a sock that will not compress your foot too much in your boots.

Driving boots and ice climbing boots. Ice climbing boots are very stiff which can make driving and long rides uncomfortable so I rarely wear them out of my house. You can rent boots from a local sporting store but if you think you will get out even once or twice a year, buying your own boots is well worth it. MEC (the Canadian REI) has a gear swap website and also sells returned items at a discount which is how I bought my boots. Ice climbing boots also make great snow-based mountaineering boots if you’re looking to kill two birds with one stone. As for fit, just remember that want your boots to be big enough that your toes don’t slam into the front every time you kick. For me I had to go a size up to achieve this and used insoles to help perfect the fit. My boots are Scarpa Mont Blancs.

Superfeet insoles. I got the warmest insoles (hot pink) and find they really do help keep my feet warm. I also use the same insoles in my ski boots.

Crampons. I would suggest renting these unless you plan on getting out a lot. Mountaineering crampons and ice climbing crampons are quite different so don’t expect that you’ll be able to use the same pair effectively for both activities. I usually rent Black Diamond Cyborgs (or Petzl Sarkens) from MEC.

Boots with Wool Socks for Ice Climbing - What to Wear When Ice Climbing - Campfire Chic

Bottom

Wool or synthetic (or both) long underwear. How many and what type of long underwear you choose will depend on you, and the weather where you’re climbing. For the coldest of days I’ll wear a light synthetic pair, a heavy fleece-like pair, and a heavy wool pair. On warmer days, a lightweight synthetic and wool pair. I tend to be on the cold side and the weather here is cold and dry.

Softshell pants. I have a pair of Alpine Guide pants from Patagonia that I love. They are stretchy enough to wear multiple layers underneath but not too bulky. I’ve never worn hardshell pants as I find my softshell pants are water resistant enough to deal with the occasional drips.

Gaiters. The idea behind gaiters is that they keep crampon points away from pant legs and the more you climb, the better you’ll get at doing this. I prefer not to worry about catching points on pant legs so I always wear gaiters. As a bonus, they help block wind and keep your legs warm.

Harness. A rock climbing harness will do in a pinch, but there are some things to be aware of. Firstly, you’ll have more clothes on so make sure the leg loops will fit over your layers. Secondly, it’s really helpful if your harness has slots for ice clippers. These look like plastic carabiners that slip through slots on your harness. You can clip ice tools (useful for rappelling or being lowered) or ice screws (if you’re seconding a multi-pitch) onto them.

Top

Sports bra, synthetic tank top, long sleeve wool layer, long sleeve fleece/synthetic layer. On my top, I notice a big difference between wool and synthetic in that having one wool layer is warmer than just synthetic layers. I also pack an extra warm fleece in my bag in case it gets cold. Another consideration is how sweaty you’ll get on the approach. If you remove layers as you go to regulate your temperature, you will arrive dry. If your approach is strenuous, you may get sweaty anyways in which case bringing a change of tops will keep you from getting chilled from being wet.

Down sweater. My Patagonia down sweater acts as my insulating layer as it’s thin but warm.

Softshell & Hardshell. Depending on temperature and wetness, I’ll wear one or the other. If I’m warm, I prefer the softshell because it’s stretchy and fitted which is great for your range of movement. If it’s colder out, windy, or wet, I’ll wear my hardshell as I can fit more layers underneath and it provides more protection.

Belay jacket. You’ll only wear this when belaying or waiting to climb. Down is the way to go and you want to make sure the jacket is big enough that it fits over all the above layers. If you plan on doing multi-pitches, a jacket that packs up small is a bonus.

Belay mittens. I use my Swany ski mitts with handwarmer pockets for cold days. Any warm mitten will do but make sure they’re not so bulky that you can’t belay properly. If you’re cragging, you’ll leave these with your belay jacket while climbing. If you’re on a multi-pitch, you’ll zip these into your outmost layer when you climb to keep them warm.

Climbing gloves. Gloves are the way to go when climbing. They don’t need to be as warm as your mittens as you’ll take them off when belaying and zip them in your belay jacket (this keeps them warm and lets them dry). I use Black Diamond Arc Gloves as they’re thin, relatively warm and waterproof (which also makes them great for mountaineering or alpine climbing!). You can also keep your hands warm by avoiding over-gripping your axes. The tighter you grip, the more you’ll cut off circulation to your hands!

Ice axes. This is another item I rent from MEC. I really enjoy Petzl Nomics and Black Diamond Cobras but this is a personal preference. If you’re renting axes, make sure that they are sharpened before you take them out. It’s happened a few times that I’ve picked up my axes and they were not only unsharpened, but the tip of the pick was missing!

Umbilicals/leashes. For multi-pitches these are a necessity for me as I REALLY do not want to be dropping tools. I use the Black Diamond Spinner Leash. For single pitches I don’t use them.

Head

Warm hat, neckwarmer and sunglasses. Anything that fits under a helmet will do. I like wool hats and a wool buff.

Helmet. I use my Petzl Meteor but would recommend something harder like the Elios/Elia as falling is very common.

What Women Wear When Ice Climbing - Campfire Chic

Other gear

Backpack. If you’re doing a multi-pitch you will likely need a small day pack that you can comfortably climb in. For single pitch days, anything goes!

Belay device, carabiners, etc. What hardwear you bring will really depend on what kind of day you’re planning on having and what gear your partner(s) are bringing. Best to double check with whomever you’re going with than to show up empty handed!

Hot chocolate & snacks. Be nice to yourself, nothing beats a hot drink on a cold day :) Snacks are also better than a full lunch as sitting around means getting cold. My personal favourite is the bacon sandwich.

 

Notes about the photos used in this post –

First Photo: Enjoying my first multi-pitch at Louise Falls on a warm day in my softshell.  That checked off one bucket list item! My second multi-pitch was on a much colder day at Professor Falls. Photo credit goes to Sarah Hueniken who took my friend and I out.

My ice climbing boots did double duty on a mountaineering trip to the Wapta Icefield.  Despite a late July departure, the trip was snow-filled and the only rock my boots saw was on the approach hike. 

Third Photo: Trying out a mixed climb on a cold day in Haffner Canyon. This was one of the last trips when I trusted that I could wear pants without gaiters.  After this I because very proficient in patching holes

Do you ice climb?

What are your favorite layers for winter activities?

 

Sarah lives in Calgary, AB and likes to spend her spare time in the nearby Rocky Mountains hiking, camping, climbing, skiing or snowshoeing with her husband and friends.  When she moved to Calgary, early adventures involved learning about all the different sports she now does in the mountains.  Her latest adventure will be welcoming a new little family member and introducing them to the outdoors.  You can follow Sarah on twitter or on her website
 

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Bouldering tips from a beginner - Campfire Chic

Bouldering tips from a beginner

 

I’ve posted about bouldering before and got a several comments about how brave I must be and how some of you would like to try it but aren’t sure where to start. Here is another post to add to the ‘tips from a beginner’ mini-series.

 

What is bouldering? Essentially, bouldering is a type of rock climbing that can be done at an indoor gym or ‘out in the wild’ that does not use harness or ropes and you generally don’t go higher than 10-15 feet. There is no belay or safety device used other than the crash pad underneath you.

 

Now, while that sounds scary, I find it more enjoyable than top-roping, which is when you’re using a harness and ropes and the whole sha-bang. It can be very scary and it can be dangerous, even when all safety measures are observed. Please chat with your doctor before making any changes to your normal activities.

 

Listen carefully to the safety introduction

Safety is super important, and being in a rock climbing gym is no exception. Listen carefully to the safety instructions and be extra vigilant when walking around. As you come through doorways, be sure to look up before going through…kind of like not stepping over a log while you’re hiking, you want to make sure you see what is on the other side before going through. There may be somebody above the doorway about to come down and you don’t need some yoked dude to end up crashing down on top of you.

 

There may be other areas of concern: where you can boulder, if you can go up and over the wall or if you need to climb down, and where the emergency exists are located. Pay attention and ask plenty of questions.

 

Fall

Yes. Fall. Practice falling so you know what it feels like, you properly take the fall, and so you’re not afraid to fall. Kind of like learning to dive for the first time…jump in first. You need to know what it feels like to plunge into the water, right? The same is true here. Fall and fall again. Nobody is going to judge you for falling, you need to get off the wall somehow, right? If you don’t fall at least once, you’re not doing it right. Even Chris Sharma falls, so join the club.

 

Focus on fun rather than making it up one of the predetermined routes

While it is easy to get hung up on the routes and the ratings (TRUST ME, I know!), you want to have fun and build skills. This shouldn’t be a chore…if it was a chore, why would you pay to do it? Why would you slip on those uncomfortable shoes? Why would you spend all day in a hot gym if you weren’t having some fun? You’ll obviously want to start working on some of those routes and maybe find a route to work on completing, but by then you’ll find that to be fun, too! Who knows – maybe you’re better than you think!

 

Bring a friend

You know how I said there are no ropes? Aside from the crash pad, another piece of safety ‘equipment’ to bring with you is a friend. Not all gyms are built the same (and when you’re outdoors, you’ll totally want to bring a buddy with you) and crash pads (kind of like a giant mattress) may not be built into the floor, so you’ll need a helping hand on the ground to push you toward the pad should you fall from a great height. I went bouldering at a gym in San Diego and the floor is made of river rocks – like, ROCKS. Do you want to fall and possibly miss the crash pad only to land on rocks?? I certainly don’t.

 

It is also nice to have somebody to yell things up to you like, “there’s a hold by your left knee for your left foot! Match your feet! You got this!” while you’re on the wall and they’re resting/spotting you. You’ll do the same for them while you recover. It’s nice to have friends.

 

Bring flip flops, baby wipes, and water

Have you ever seen a climber’s feet? Don’t google it. Your feet are going to need to breathe, so bring some flip flops for after your gym time. Also, baby wipes are a great thing to keep in your bag or car for a quick wipe down before heading to your next adventure…walking through Whole Foods covered in chalk may not bother some people, but the side eyes may make others think twice. It is also nice to clean up your hands if you get blisters and cuts, especially if you are going to put some sort of balm or crème on your hands. Water is a given, but I somehow tend to forget.

 

One of the main reasons I took up yoga and Pilates was to improve my climbing. I’m slowly getting stronger, and I’m thrilled with that. I have a long way to go, but I have to think back to when I first started and how I felt for the following week…I could barely move for the first few days, but now I recover super quickly! I’m by no means an expert or even good enough to compete, but I’m having fun, and that’s what matters, right?

Do you boulder? Do you want to try bouldering?
What tips would you include?

 

Tank top: Stonewear Designs // Leggings: c/o Fabletics // Shoes: Evolv

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Review: Fabletics Lima Capri by Kate Hudson - Campfire Chic

 Your next legging: Lima Capri by Fabletics

 

I was thrilled to be asked to be an ambassador for Fabletics – Kate Hudson’s new activewear line – but was admittedly a little nervous to receive my welcome package without seeing what the designs looked like…what if it wasn’t my style? What if I looked terrible in the clothing? What if I had to return the goods because I couldn’t squeeze myself into their version of my size?

 

Here’s the thing: I’m not happy with how my legs look right now. My legs don’t see a lot of sun during the week while I’m at work and while they’re powerful, I’m not willing to go most places in shorts. I’m a capri/leggings kind of gal, even during a sweaty vinyasa or hot summer days in the climbing gym. 

  [click to continue…]

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Sender One Climbing and Bouldering Gym in Orange County

 

I am thrilled to share some photos from the newest rock climbing gym in Orange County, California – Sender One.

 

Sender One climbing and fitness gym is located right off of the 55 Freeway in Santa Ana where the 5 and the 55 meet (near The Orange Crush) – essentially central Orange County. The gym offers top rope climbing, lead climbing, bouldering, yoga, personal training, and a group activity/party area known as Funtopia.

 
Some quick stats:

  • 25,000 square feet of climbing surface with walls up to 50 feet high
  • 13 weekly yoga classes in our eco-friendly studio with natural bamboo floors
  • Large fitness area includes free weights and cardio equipment
  • A variety of snacks and drinks available for purchase
  • Hair ties and blow dryers in the ladies’ locker room
  • Plenty of classes offered for new climbers and those looking to learn new skills
  • Free wifi and air conditioning

 

And to top it all off, the gym is owned by world-renowned rock climber Chris Sharma.
 
 
Sender One Climbing Gym in Orange County
The walls are from Walltopia and are a little different than the walls you will find in other gyms — it is slightly textured so you’ll really stick to the wall, but that also means you don’t want to wear your WunderUnder Crops and are more likely to scrape your knees while climbing. Just something to keep in mind – I did hear a few other climbers mentioning the texture and how it will change what they wear next time.
 
What I really liked about the gym was the climbing-specific training tools: some of the bouldering walls are hydraulically adjustable, there is a (now fully set) system board, rings, fingerboards, and a campus board available for training.

 
I’m not going to lie: I was pretty smitten with the couches and benches in the gym — they’re IKEA hacks that will make any climber’s heart sing! The gym set up some inexpensive IKEA futon frames up with Evolv Wingman crash pads! Also, there are benches in the fitness area that use the Evolv Ringer crash pad 

 
Orange County Rock Climbing Gym - Sender One

 

The gym may be a bit too fancy for some gym-junkies, but I have the feeling Alex and I will be getting a membership eventually. For me, the biggest bonus would be combining my yoga practice and climbing under one membership (and saving money!) and the large bouldering area. It is also closer to where we live, which is always a bonus.

 

 

What do you look for in a new gym?
Have you visited Sender One Climbing Gym?

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Climbing Shoes for Beginners - Evolv Shoes for Women by Campfire Chic

 

Today I want to talk to you about the best (in my opinion) climbing shoes for beginners – specifically, for women looking to start climbing and bouldering.

I bought my first pair of climbing shoes in August of 2011 and bought my second pair for myself for Christmas 2012. I use them both to this day and I wanted to share more information about them both with you.

 
Why buy climbing shoes?

Climbing shoes are a great first investment when you start climbing at a gym (or outdoors, if your friends have all the necessary equipment) because renting each time you go can get pricey — Let’s say a day pass is $12 and shoe rental is $6…after going a few times and renting shoes, you’re halfway to a pair of the Elektra VTR shoes! After buying your shoes, you will have more money for you day pass (or monthly pass, should you decide to go often).

 

As somebody who doesn’t wear socks with her climbing shoes, you can imagine why I’m encouraging you to buy your own shoes. Yep, I went there.

I should also mention that climbing in your sneakers isn’t the best option, you’ll want to rent or buy climbing shoes. Climbing shoes have a sticky rubber on them that will help you stick to the wall/rock better and are tight enough on your feet that you will have better contact with whatever it is you are climbing at the time. With climbing shoes, you’ll be able to get a foothold on something you would otherwise not think you could stick to! Think of it as Spider-Man shoes!

 
Why these Evolv shoes?

The Elektra VTR (in purple above) and EVO (in blue above) shoes are fantastic entry-level and intermediate shoes because they are really well-made and have a fantastic price point…especially the Elektra VTRs. I’ve used both pairs in an indoor gym as well as outdoors on granite.

 

I love that both shoes have the climbing rubber surrounding most of the shoe…the EVOs have a higher heel, so there is even more climbing rubber back there. Having that sticky rubber all the way around helps keep you connected to the wall, and I feel that other entry-level shoes cut back on the amount of rubber on the shoe to cut down costs. More rubber = happy Kam.

 

It may just be me, but I prefer to wear shoes with 2-strap closure more than shoes with laces. While there is the rare instance that my straps will get momentarily-snagged on the rope while I belay, I feel more comfortable with straps than I do laces. Laces make me feel I don’t have good control over the tension in my shoe, and I have an irrational fear the laces will get caught on a hold/rock/anchor and I’ll die. Other people prefer laces (the Elektra VTR is available with laces for about the same price as the 2-strap), so try out both types before purchasing your first pair.

 

I’m not saying that Evolv isn’t for elite athletes, it totally is! Heck, Chris Sharma developed one of the top Evolv shoes – the Shaman (mens and womens). I just wanted to share two great options for beginners that are awesome and at a great price point.

 

Shoes discussed in this post:

 

So there you have it!
 
If you’re in the market for an inexpensive-but-awesome climbing shoe, I hope you consider Evolv!
 

What was your first pair of climbing shoes?

If you’re looking to buy your first pair,
what are you looking for in climbing shoes?

 

 

 

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