Currently - June //

…excited to be an official Basic Mountaineering School graduate.

…feeling physically stronger (a little bit), thanks to classes like Power Hour, Captains of Cardio and Meta Circuit at Fitness in the City.

…feeling physically and mentally extra tired – and really sore, thanks to said classes.

…failing at catching up on sleep after a dizzyingly busy couple of weeks.

…running in city parks and on mountain trails.

…celebrating my little scaredy-pup acting more like a ‘real dog’ these days.

…wincing as my husband watches Army medical rescue shows on Netflix.

…thanking friends, family and all other military personnel for their service

…researching strawberry ice cream recipes.

…finishing Orange Is The New Black season 2 in record timing (I finally understand this ‘binge watching’!).


Outdoor Research Voodoo Pant Review (#ORInsightLab)

This past weekend, I took my Outdoor Research VooDoo pants out for their maiden trek. (Note: I’m participating in Outdoor Research’s (OR) #ORInsightLab to help test gear and offer feedback. These pants were provided to me at no cost but, as always, opinions are my own.)

Outdoor Research VooDoo Pants //

From the moment I put these pants on, I loved them. They fit snugly in all the right places and move like a dream; the nylon/spandex blend means these pants are stretchy in all the right ways.

Outdoor Research VooDoo Pants //

First, I wanna share what I loved about these pants:

    • The wind and water resistance
    • Breathable
    • Zippered thigh pocket
    • Fit and style

On the 3 mile hike in and out from Herman Lake, we post-holed through snow, stomped through creeks and hiked into the wind. These pants did not fail once – without wearing gaiters, these pants didn’t get wet and didn’t move. Even through post-holing (stepping and sinking into snow), the pant cuff stayed at my ankle the entire time – something I really appreciated!

I also really loved the thigh zipper pocket. As I’m sure many others do, I carry my cell phone in airplane with me on many of my trips to snap some photos and to have an alarm clock. This zippered pocket is perfect for holding my phone flush against my leg. No awkward moving, no danger of it falling out. This would also be a good place to keep easy-to-reach snacks like ShotBloks.

But what I really loved about these pants is that they maintained their shape and fit throughout the trip. It may be vain of me but I do care about how my clothes look on me in addition to how well they perform. The Voodoo pants fit and looked just as perfect on the hike out as they did on the hike in. That is a major win in my book!

Outdoor Research VooDoo Pants //

Now, what would I change? Honestly, not much. I truly loved the fit and performance of these pants. If I had to say something I missed on these pants, it would be a way to cinch up the pant legs.

On Friday afternoon hiking in, it was warm – hot, actually – and sunny. And carrying a heavy pack made me feel even warmer. For a few minutes, I rolled my pants legs up to feel the breeze on my legs and help cool me down. Other climbing/hiking pants I wear have a feature that lets me turn my pants into capris and I really like that. Despite breathablity, sometimes you just gotta feel the air on your skin, right? I did find loops on the inside of the VooDoo pants that I hoped would fasten onto something but these are for an instep lace instead.

So, in short, I think this photo sums up my feelings about the Voodoo Pants:

Outdoor Research VooDoo Pants // lgsmash.comFun fact: I somehow convinced my husband to help me take these photos and video below (I know, I can’t believe it either!); that was the first any only jump photo he snapped! Talk about a trigger finger.

I should also note that I did not wear these for our couloir climb on Saturday morning; I was afraid I wouldn’t be warm enough in the pre-dawn darkness. I’m glad I didn’t wear them before the sun rose because it was quite a bit colder than I anticipated but once the sun came up, I’d wished I had these on instead.

Just for kicks, I tried to make a super short and very amatuer review video. Temper your expectations, folks, because I’m still learning how to talk in front of a camera and remember all of the words I want to say (and to not say ridiculous things)…but can’t get better without practice, right?!

You’ll definitely see these pants splashed on my blog and Instagram this summer – they’re definitely my new ‘go to’ pants for summer backpacking and climbing!

Basic Mountaineering School: High Peak Graduation Climb (Citadel/Pettingell Traverse)

We did it!! We finished mountaineering school!!

After 3.5 months of Basic Mountaineering School at the Colorado Mountain Club, our class came to a close this weekend with our High Peak Graduation Climb. This climb is a student-led trip, designed to pull together all of our learned skills and test our abilities. Each BMS group climbs a different mountain and all locations are kept a secret until a couple weeks before the climb to prevent 1) freakouts and 2) early planning.

Our team, Team Stoked up the Adze, was assigned the Citadel/Pettingell Traverse, a route close to Denver that summits two 13ers (mountains at least 13,000 feet tall). After a few student led planning sessions, we’d picked our route (Snoopy’s Backside Couloir), estimated climbing times and settled on a campsite. From there, a trip plan was prepared and distributed. I’m including a copy of our trip plan here – you can see the level of planning detail that went into this climb. For each and every field day, we students prepared a trip plan exactly like this.

We planned to meet Friday afternoon, drive to the Herman Gulch Trailhead and hike in 3 miles to our campsite at 12,000 feet.

Citadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb // lgsmash.comCitadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb //

The 3 mile hike in was tough! We gained 1,700 feet in those 3 miles! 3 hours later, we found our campsite just above treeline and near Herman Lake.

Citadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb // Citadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb // Citadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb //

We arrived shortly before the sun dipped behind the mountain and quickly set up our tents.

Citadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb //

With so much snow, we set up a little tent village in one of the few grassy patches near Herman Lake. Next objective was water; we were able to find water nearby bubbling out of the ground (Herman Lake was still frozen!) and refilled water bottles.

Citadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb //

One water bottle Alex and I were excited to fill was his Pat’s Backcountry Beer bottle. He was gifted a kit for Christmas and we were pumped to finally have a chance to make legit beer in the backcountry.

Citadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb //

Survey says? It’s a winner! This genius product warrants its own blog post so more to come on Pat’s Backcountry Beverages!

Before the sun fully set, we started calling it a night. We had an alpine start of ‘boots on the ground’ at 2:30 a.m. As our alarms chimed in the morning, we hardly needed headlamps, thanks to a huge, full moon, which made getting ready and determining our route so much easier.

Citadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb // Citadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb //

The base of the couloir was ~1 mile from camp. Here we stopped for a quick snack break (snacks at 3:30 a.m.! Some people are eating White Castle at 3:30 a.m.; I was eating a Cliff Bar. This post applies here.) and harnessed up. It was couloir climbing time!

Snoopy’s Backside Couloir varied in steepness from 35*-50*ish with the summit situated between two summits of The Citadel, with the steepest section in the top half. This couloir is no joke. Rock fall is a very real danger on this couloir and we were fortunate to have a ton of snow which helps mitigate rock fall risk. The steepness was also pretty unnerving – it was, by far, the steepest climb I’d ever been on and knowing the consequences of a mistake rattled my nerves. My mantra of the morning? DON’T FALLIt took us just about 1.5 hours to climb up the 500 vertical feet of Snoopy’s Backside Couloir.

Citadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb //

At the top of the couloir, we had an East Summit (the true summit) and the West Summit. Most of us climbed up the East Summit first, West Summit second. The exposure and snow freaked me out a little so I climbed up the initial rock to the East Summit on belay and then opted to stay put. I was confident in my ability to climb UP to the official summit, less confident in keeping my head together to down climb after. Citadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb //

Citadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb //

View of the East Summit from the West Summit

Citadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb //

Citadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb //

View of the West Summit from my East Summit perch

Once off the East Summit, it was time to review the trip plan and decide to continue to Pettingell or bail out. There was quite a bit of snow on the exposed route and very few bailout options once we began the traverse. After considering the size of our group (10), the time it’d take for us to complete the route (especially given that a couple of us were nervous about exposure) and risk of weather moving in, we opted to bail out with just a Citadel summit.

We evaluated our options to get off Citadel and settled on downclimbing the opposite side of the couloir about 100 vertical feet, traversing a snowfield and glissading down from the Citadel ridge and hike (er, post-hole…) back to camp.

Because we weren’t traversing to Pettingell, we had enough time for pancakes on the Citadel summit! One in our group, Rob, promised summit pancakes if we needed to kill time on Citadel because we needed sunlight before starting the Pettingell traverse so by nixing the traverse, we had some extra time to enjoy a hot, fluffy pancake on top of a mountain.

Citadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb //

It was awesome.

Soon, we packed up, clipped our ice axes back to our harnesses and learned to downclimb. Nothing like learning a new skill in a do-or-probably-get-injured-or-die situation, right? Kidding. Kind of.

Truthfully, though, downclimbing was not challenging, just fatiguing. After a few minutes of downclimbing, we hit the snowfield, traversed to the ridge that would take us home and glissaded down!

Citadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb //

Citadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb //

Glissading was a perfect almost-end to the climb as we giggled our way to the bottom of the mountain. From there, it was a short distance across the valley to our campsite and a 3 mile hike back out. Unfortunately for us, the snow had softened significantly and the short route back to camp became a long hike, slipping and sliding with each step in the snow. We did finally make it back, exhausted but all in once piece.

Dark clouds moved in minutes after we’d returned and we hustled to pack our tents and get down below treeline. The last place I want to be when a thunderstorm rolls in is above treeline with a metal-framed pack and an ice ax attached to my back. Bad news! Fortunately, we made it back to our cars with no rain – but we did get a tiny bit of snow!

In total, our route from start to finish was approximately 8 miles. My Garmin died on the hike out so this route isn’t completely accurate but close enough.

Citadel-Pettingell Traverse Route Garmin //

While this couloir climb was a bit freaky for me in the moment, looking back, I’m proud of myself for persevering and finishing it and I’m really looking forward to finding a time to come back and do the full Citadel/Pettingell traverse. I was way out of my comfort zone all morning but now, my little comfort zone is just that much bigger. I know I can successfully climb a couloir, down climb a couloir, keep my head together when it seems impossible, summit a class 3 route with little sleep and enjoy a pancake with syrup.

I’ve got a lot of thoughts about Basic Mountaineering School that I’ll save for a future post. In short, I’m SO glad I took this class and I’m also so glad it’s over! I learned so, so much and I’m really excited to be able to plan my own trips again, incorporating all that I’ve learned and experienced these past few months.

As they say in rock climbing, climb on!

[edited to add: this also checks off Summer Resolution #14: Summit a 11er, 12er or 13er!]

Knowing When To Say No and Knowing When To Say Yes

Long Beach - work travel //

This week, I’ve been in Long Beach, California, for work. Since Saturday night, actually. This week, for me, has been a strong reminder to say no (and yes) and take care of myself.

In a weird twist, the mountaineering class that forced me to put myself first is also something I had to say ‘no’ to last weekend. Our Routefinding field day, second to last mountianeering outing, was Saturday but because of a Saturday night flight, possible late climb finish and definite early morning start (Alex left our apartment at 3:30 a.m.!), I had to make the tough decision to say no to the climb in order to take care of last minute work items and to not frazzle my poor little brain. A big climb followed by 4+ long days of conference exhibiting followed by another big climb this weekend is a recipe for disaster for this gal.

When I packed for the conference, I made sure to bring 2 sets of workout clothes. I was flying west, after all, so I’d definitely be awake early and could get a run or yoga in. I’d even tweeted a nearby yoga studio asking about towel and mat rental for a pre-conference yoga zen session.

Nope. Each morning, I opted to sleep that extra hour and said no to a workout. It’s been a while since I’ve been on ‘booth duty’ and this conference is the biggest one we exhibit at – early mornings, late nights and lots of socializing over happy hour drinks. While fun, it’s more draining than I remembered! So my running shoes waited patiently in my suitcase.

But yesterday afternoon, after we’d packed up the booth and the hard part of the trip was behind me, all I wanted to do was flop on my bed and relax with Netflix. And I should have spent my time holed up in my hotel room, making progress on work projects. But I said nope to both. I jumped into my running capris and #GetMovinCO tech t-shirt, asked the hotel staff for a running route along the beach and I hit the pavement. I spent 45 minutes soaking up the California sun and shaking off the stress of the past few days.

Long Beach - work travel //

selfie on a beach with palm trees!

And this morning, instead of saying nope, I said yes to running a 5k the conference holds each year – in my 5 years working at this conference, I’ve yet to miss the 5k. I love that there’s a growing community of attendees that sign up each year and I’m happy to help support a healthy lifestyle. And when I think about the 20 mile drive back to LAX and 2.5 hour flight later, I’m glad I will have tackled a quick workout while I had the time.

So sometimes saying no is healthy. And sometimes saying yes is healthy. The true task is figuring out when to say each, owning your decision and taking care of yourself.

Skirt Sports 5k Recap with the Kickstart Program

Apparently, yesterday was National Running Day. I did not do any running on National Running Day (up too early and out past midnight the day before will send a girl to an early bedtime, that’s for sure). But don’t let that stop you from thinking I won’t be eating donuts on National Donut Day tomorrow.

What I wanted to share today was the 5k I ran on Sunday, the buddy I ran it with and the program through which we met!

Why the Skirt Sports Kickstart Program ROCKS! //


Earlier this year, I saw Skirt Sports post a link to apply to be a ‘Motivator’ in their Kickstart program. They needed women who’d run at least the 5k distance before to be paired with ‘Beginners’, women who wanted to run their first 5k. Because I really love what running has given me, I wanted to help someone else find the joy that comes from lacing up your shoes and hitting the pavement (or trails!) for a few miles. So I applied and found out in March that I’d been accepted. Yay!

9ish weeks ago, the Kickstart program kicked off at the Skirt Sports Headquarters in Boulder. We met Nicole DeBoom, founder of Skirt Sports and my current girl crush, met our training buddy and listened to incredibly inspiring stories from the women participating – Beginners, Motivators and Skirt Staff alike.

The group went for a 30 minute run/walk that day. My buddy, Jen, and I ran/walked 15 minutes out and 15 minutes back. I could tell she was nervous about what she was committing to and was probably feeling a little unsure about this smiley, too-talkative blonde girl she’d been paired with for the next 8 weeks of her life.

Skirt Sports Kickstart 5k //

Jen’s goal was to run the whole 5k without stopping and we tweaked the run/walk plan Skirt Sports handed out to fit her life schedule. Throughout her training, we checked in with each other and even made it out to Golden to run together on the paved trail. She ran 4 miles that day! That’s when I knew she would crush her 5k goal in June.

The Kickstarters met for our final get together the day after Memorial Day to go over race logistics, pick up our pretty race shirts and go out for another 30 minute run.

The difference in mood, attitude and distance between that first and last run in all of the Kickstarters was staggering! My buddy was confident, excited, super smiley and we ran twice as far as the first time – while holding a conversation! I was so proud of Jen’s hard work – she had blossomed into a runner in 8 short weeks and in 5 days, we’d conquer her first all-running 5k race.


The race was held in Lousiville, CO and consisted of a 5k and half marathon (or – as Nicole says: ’13.1 miles isn’t half of anything! We call it a Thirteener around here.’). The half marathoners had started much earlier than our 7:30 race start. It was a super small race so parking was not an issue at all – I parked at 7:05 and met the Kickstart group at 7:10.

Skirt Sports Kickstart 5k //

Nicole DeBoom, founder of Skirt Sports!

As we waited for the race to start, we warmed up, chatted nervously and parted ways with diligent supporters who’d come to cheer on their runners. Before we knew it, Nicole was counting down the seconds in the mic and we were off!

The course was mostly flat with 2 BIG hills at almost the halfway point. It was an out-and-back of sorts and we ran through a neighborhood and on a paved trail – it wasn’t particularly scenic. The weather was terrific – sunny with a breeze keeping us cool.

Skirt Sports Kickstart 5k //

skirtsports map

Course map here.

Jen’s goals for the race were:

1. Run the 5k without stopping

2. Beat her previous 5k time (running on her own during training)

And we did both!

Jen KILLED it on the run – she powered through those tough neighborhood hills and even managed to crack jokes (‘If Brittney Spears can make it through 2007, I can make it through this hill!). As we rounded the second to last turn, we both knew we were close to the finish. A quick check on the watch showed that if we picked it up and pushed through the last 1/2 mile, we’d get her a shiny new PR, too…and we did just that.


We crossed the finish line 2 seconds faster than Jen’s previous 5k time – which had been running around flat City Park in Denver. Here, she beat her time on a hilly, hilly course – if she’d been racing at City Park on Sunday, she would have smashed her PR!

Skirt Sports Kickstart 5k //

We grabbed food (gluten free cake! bagels! Snarfs Sandwiches!) after the race and cheered our fellow Kickstarters as they crossed the finish line.To watch these women finish their first 5k when 8 weeks ago were doubting they’d be able to run 10 minutes, let alone 3 miles was SO cool and so rewarding. Whether they continue running or not, they have made a positive change in their lives that they’ll carry with them forever. But I suspect, as we runners know, that they’ve been bitten by the bug, too – many were already talking about races to sign up for next.

I would absolutely come back and run this race again, Kickstart participant or not. The race was small and well organized. Obviously, most runners were women of all ages but there were a few men – and a couple were even running in a Skirt Sports skirt! The vendors were so nice, food was super tasty and Skirt is a fabulous, local, women-empowering company that I truly believe in and respect.

tl:dr. Kickstart and Skirt Sports are awesome. So is my buddy Jen.

The Basic Kale Salad I Can’t Stop Eating

I know, I know. Another post on the internet about KALE.

Here’s the thing though. I only tried kale recently and I don’t like kale for the health benefits or because it’s purportedly a super food. I genuinely like the bitter taste. Weird, I know. But, it can’t be that weird because I see kale salad variations all over Denver restaurant menus. So I know I’m not alone.

Simple Massaged Kale Salad Recipe //

When I brought home my first little bunch of kale leaves, I used this recipe to make my kale into a tasty salad and made my first ever salad dressing. I loved it. It was tart, crunchy, salty and had a hint of sweetness. Even my decidedly-against-all-things-kale husband tried the salad and didn’t hate it.

Since that initial jump into kale-salad-land, I continue to use that recipe – less the dressing unless I’m feeling extra fancy. Over and over. It’s so quick and easy! And I can make a big ass bunch of kale salad on Sunday night, massaged and all, and have salad for two lunches in the upcoming week.

Simple Massaged Kale Salad Recipe //

Most recently, I’ve been adding some crunched up 34 Degrees crackers as a topper. Eat them quickly, though, if there’s extra massage oil on your kale; the crackers become soggy if they sit for too long.

If you’re considering giving kale a try (am I too late? Did that ship sail in 2010?), I’m here to encourage you to do so! Can’t go wrong with kale, lemon juice, olive oil and salt. Simple, pure, delicious!

Gotta Get The Gear! (Gear Testing with #ORInsightLab)

*DISCLOSURE: Outdoor Research provided me free gear to wear in exchange for thoughtful feedback. As per usual, reviews, tweets, photos and thoughts will be honest and my own. 

If I know one thing about outdoor aficionados, it’s that we love adventures and we love GEAR. From the casual dayhiker to the person who quits their job to live out of their van, you will never not find us talking about our gear. What we love, what we hate, what we wish we had and what we can’t wait to get our hands on the next piece of important gear to add to our collection. Gear for every season, every activity and every type of weather. We adventurers can never be too prepared.

(I digress.)

So when I saw Outdoor Research (OR) tweet that they were looking for their next round of #ORInsightLab participants, people to talk to them about gear, I immediately tweeted back my interest and crossed my fingers! Alex and I regularly talk about who our top 3 gear companies are and our top 3 pieces of gear of the moment. (Asking either of us to pick our absolute favorite is like asking me to stop eating buffalo sauce on everything – ain’t gonna happen!)

For both of us Outdoor Research is always in our top 3; the product quality is always phenomenal, design is beautiful and fit is flattering (for men and women!). Outdoor Research is a company I respect and admire. The fact that they open up their gear to honest feedback and conversation, publicly on social media says to me they’re confident in the products they’ve designed and are truthfully interested in creating the best gear possible. Way cool. 

#ORInsightLab Gear Testing //

Much to my delight, after a long day of apartment moving, I opened my computer to an email from Outdoor Research! I immediately accepted their offer and, this week, was sent an unassuming brown box packed with high-tech, begging-to-adventure-NOW gear. Having the opportunity to engage with and talk about gear with you all, my #ORInsigntLab peers and OR themselves is an outdoor junkie’s dream come true. MORE GEAR TO TALK ABOUT!

#ORInsightLab Gear Testing //

Clairvoyant Jacket, Whirlwind Hoody, Voodoo Pants, Air Brake Gloves

The timing couldn’t be better as I’ve got some fun climbs, final mountaineering field days and backpacking trips planned to put this gear through the ringer. Included in my box was the Clairvoyant Jacket, Whirlwind Hoody, Voodoo Pants and Air Brake Gloves – all designed for climbing and backpacking.

A great thing about #ORInsightLab is that they send each participant gear that is specific to the activities they love and do regularly – OR chooses to give a more customized approach, recognizing that adventurers can’t all be pigeon-holed into the same gear or outfits for their activities. Check out the #ORInsightLab hashtag on the Twitter and Instagram to follow along on the epic summer gear testing adventures, from backpacking to van life to kayaking and paddling to rock climbing. You’ll see it all!

What does this mean on this here blog? 

Nothing changes except that you’ll definitely see detailed (and useful, I hope) reviews about the products I was sent to test throughout the summer. (DISCLOSURE:) As per usual, reviews, tweets, photos and thoughts will be honest and my own – Outdoor Research provided me free gear to wear in exchange for thoughtful feedback.

Basic Mountaineering School: Third Rock Day (Boulder Flatiron Multi-Pitch Climb)


Sunday was our ‘final’ field day for Basic Mountaineering School. Technically, class is now over; the final 2 field days are ‘invite only’ and will mark the true end of BMS.

From the beginning, 3rd Rock Day made my hands clammy. On day one, our instructors told us 3rd Rock Day would see us multi-pitch climbing up a Boulder Flatiron and rappelling off the back. ‘Um, WAT?!’ followed immediately by massive butterflies in my stomach have been my only thought about our assignment. As long as I’ve lived in Denver and have taken visitors to hike on the Flatiron trails, I’ve told them about the ‘crazy people who climb UP the face of the Flatirons!’ and here I was, about to embark on that very quest.

Baker's Way, Fandango Boulder Flatiron Climbing Trip Report //

Baker's Way, Fandango Boulder Flatiron Climbing Trip Report //

We hit the trail at Chatauqua just after 7 a.m. and hiked to our entrance at Baker’s Way. From Baker’s Way, we’d catch and follow Fandango to the top, traverse the ridge and rappel off the back. NBD.

Baker's Way, Fandango Boulder Flatiron Climbing Trip Report //

Baker's Way, Fandango Boulder Flatiron Climbing Trip Report //

cell phone map consulting

Our large mountaineering group split into smaller groups for 3rd Rock Day and climbed on different days over two weekends; Alex and I partnered up with our friends and instructors, Brandon and Dan. Brandon and I would climb together while Dan and Alex climbed on a rope next to us.

This climb was Alex and my first step into multi-pitch climbing. This means the climb is longer than a single rope so multiple belay stations must be built to complete the route. Essentially, multi-pitch climbing means the first climber climbs as far as the rope allows (and to where a safe belay station can be built) while the second climber lead belays. Then, the first climber belays the second climber. Once the second climber reaches the belay station, climbers switch roles and the first climber climbs again.

Baker's Way, Fandango Boulder Flatiron Climbing Trip Report //

It took us 5 pitches to reach the rappel station. Much like Katie wrote on the Sierra Trading Post blog, I am not a fan of heights or exposure – I was looking forward to this challenge but also knew it would be a mental battle to keep my wits about me. I quickly learned that while I was belaying and left to my own thoughts, doubt and nerves clouded my confidence. Of course I trusted the ropes and anchors Brandon set up and I absolutely trusted Brandon but I couldn’t keep my mind from jumping to worst case (and many times, ridiculous) situations.

But I persevered. I called on my One Little Word to reign in my thoughts and just FOCUS on the task at hand. I reminded myself that nervous actions would lead to an accident faster than a confident move. I took deeper breaths, committed to more yoga in my life once back on solid ground and kept moving up the rock.

Baker's Way, Fandango Boulder Flatiron Climbing Trip Report //

We reached the ridge, traversed up and over a few ‘up and downs’ (I cannot, for the life of me, remember the technical word) before reaching the rappel station.

Baker's Way, Fandango Boulder Flatiron Climbing Trip Report //

Baker's Way, Fandango Boulder Flatiron Climbing Trip Report //

Ropes? We don’t need no stinkin’ ropes!

Side note: I could not believe the number of free climbers on the Flatirons. Overall, the mountain was incredibly crowded and many were climbing without ropes, without protection. These guys in the photo above were with an American Mountain Guides Association training and were practicing alpine rope techniques; they were roped up to each other but not to the rock. They reminded me of mountain goats and I envied the spring in their step!

We rappelled the 90ish feet off Flatiron 1 and arrived safely on solid ground just before 5 p.m. The hike back out to the parking lot took just over 30 minutes and were were inhaling burgers before we knew it.

This definitely was the coolest field day but also the most mentally and emotionally challenging for me. They certainly weren’t joking when they told us we’d push our personal limits in class – this field day pushed me way out of my comfort zone!

If you’d asked me one year ago if I’d ever consider climbing the Boulder Flatirons, I’d have said a loud, HELL NO! I didn’t know the slightest thing about climbing and struggled with Kelso Ridge’s exposure. Each time I challenge myself to climb higher and with exposure, I become more comfortable with being uncomfortable. My tolerance for what is ‘intimidating’ grows and my horizons wider. I still have a LONG way to go but I feel pretty proud of what I did this weekend.

Currently (May)

Currently - May //

…realizing I missed April’s ‘Currently’. (oops!)

…helping pack a moving truck today.

…donating lots of extra STUFF. (Where did all of it come from!?)

…wondering how we accumulate so much STUFF. (No really, where did it all come from?!)

…looking foward to unpacking boxes in a new apartment tonight and tomorrow. (I love the promise of a fresh start and blank walls.)

…deciding that this is my theme song of the week. (Go! Do!)

…appreciating the #COgetmovin challenge that reminds me to get moving for at least 30 minutes each day. (No ‘I don’t have time to workout’ excuses because I can definitely find 30 minutes to get moving.)

…using Sarah Fit: Get Skinny Again for her 10-minute workouts because who doesn’t have 10 mintues to get in some lunges or core work? (and adding a teeny tiny bit of strength training to my 30 minutes feels good.)

…swallowing the butterflies in my stomach when I think about Sunday’s mountaineering field day (climbing Flatiron 1 in Boulder!)

Basic Mountaineering School: Hard Snow Day

After our second rock climbing day at Castlewood Canyon, we turned our sights to Cristo Couloir on Quandary Peak for our Hard Snow field day. Hard Snow Day’s mission was to gain experience with crampon walking techniques, walking in balance and ascending a steep snow slope. We managed to check all of those tasks off before we jumped, unexpectedly, into emergency first aid practice.

Mountaineering - Cristo Couloir Climb //

It doesn’t look like much but that baby is 2,500 feet of vertical feet! The summit of Quandary is out of sight in that photo. We started our day at the Blue Lakes Trailhead at Quandary’s base.

Mountaineering - Cristo Couloir Climb //

From the beginning, the stars did not align to make this our best field day. One student was sick but forged ahead with the group. One instructor was sick and turned around almost 1 mile into our hike to the base of Cristo Couloir. Everyone felt tired from the early wakeup.

Mountaineering - Cristo Couloir Climb //

We trudged on through the snow and wind, sans snowshoes, to the Blue Lakes Dam parking lot. Here, we donned our crampons and prepared for the steep slope ahead of us. Walking in balance (downhill foot back, uphill foot forward, ice ax staked in the snow uphill and a bit forward) took some brain power and practice to get used to but once I found my rhythm, I was moving. Slowly, but moving.

Mountaineering - Cristo Couloir Climb //

photo cred: instructor R

We students took turns leading and kicking steps into the steep, stiff snow. Kicking steps is hard work; as the snow softened in the sun, it became slightly easier but still a challenge. We took a couple breaks as we ascended the couloir to refuel. Let me tell you, taking a ‘bio break’ above treeline just a few yards from a group of predominantly male climbers quickly erases any self-consciousness I had about peeing in private. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

After our second pit stop, our sick student had to turn around – the altitude and his nausea were causing him to feel unsafe on the snow. He down-climbed with an instructor and they perched themselves on the warm rocks where they’d wait for our descent.

The rest of our group continued on for another couple hundred vertical feet when we decided to take a moment to discuss snow conditions. It was approximately 10:30 a.m. and the snow was softening rapidly. We’d noted avalanche danger before we started and because Cristo Couloir is a southerly aspect, it receives a lot of sun and avalanche danger increased as the snow warmed. We considered our climbing speed and bailout options should the snow become unsafe. We concluded that, while we were only an hour-ish (800 vertical feet) from the summit, we were not moving fast enough to summit and descend safely. It was best for us to turn around and avoid any possibility of avalanche danger. Yes, it meant not summiting Quandary but our objective was never to summit; a summit would have been a nice bonus but certainly not the mark of a succesful day.

We took a moment to assess our best option for glissading down the slope we’d just climbed, chuckling at the irony of undoing hours worth of work in a matter of minutes. As we all chose our respective routes, we quickly transformed into little kids, squealing with glee at sliding down a mountain on our butts.

Mountaineering - Cristo Couloir Climb //

photo cred: instructor R

Unfortunately, seconds after that video, I glissaded down a bit further to find a group of students gathered around an instructor. What I initially thought was just a conversation about the best route for continuing down became quickly apparent that it was a much more dire situation. Our instructor, M, had been injured on his glissade down and couldn’t put weight on his leg. He was afraid his leg was broken.

Immediately, the entire group went into rescue mode, working together to stabilize M’s leg and get him off the snow, strategizing how to get him off the mountain safely.
Mountaineering - Cristo Couloir Climb // Without getting into the nitty-gritty details, the team used pickets (and later, ice axes) to create a splint. We gently moved M from the snow to a large patch of grass. We sent 2 of the group back to the trailhead to call 911. We relied on extremely helpful Ski Patrol skiers to help us belay M down the slope on a tarp while we waited for Search and Rescue. We assisted Search and Rescue in getting M down to the snowmobile and then waved them off as they sped away, bound for the hospital.

Mountaineering - Cristo Couloir Climb // Mountaineering - Cristo Couloir Climb //

Mountaineering - Cristo Couloir Climb //

In total, it took 5 hours to get M off the mountain. It was 11:15 a.m.-ish when his foot caught a rock as he was glissading (and he still managed to self arrest with a bum leg). It was 4:30 p.m. when M was safely loaded onto the snowmobile and jetting toward the trailhead. The majority of those hours were us belaying M down as we waited for Search and Rescue to arrive – nearly 3.5 hours after the incident.

I don’t mean that disparaging in the slightest but merely to make outdoor adventurers aware of the time it can take for help to arrive. Certainly, if we’d told them it was a life and death situation, I expect we’d have received a quicker response but M’s injury was not life threatening. He was responsive, not bleeding, and in good spirits, considering the situation. Even still, 3.5 hours is a long time to be in severe leg pain.

All things considered, this was the relatively good situation for an injury to happen. M was surrounded by 10 knowledgeable and able-bodied climbers and the weather was really nice – warm and sunny. Everyone had the 10 essentials (and then some) so we were able to dress his injury and move him safely.

Our impromptu lesson in emergency rescue and wilderness first aid, while not ideal for M, gave us students a chance to really put what we learned into practice. An unfortunate situation handled beautifully; I’m really proud of how my group responded and even more proud to be part of the group.

M reports that his hamstring was partially torn and he is on the mend. He hopes to join us for our final 2 field days in June.

The long, Hard Snow field day was a stark reminder that even if you do everything right, accidents can happen. Being prepared for adversity (having your 10 essentials, knowing what your bailout route is, understanding what to do in an emergency, etc) and knowing how you’ll handle adversity goes a long way to making a crappy situation a bit less crappy and, ultimately, increases your chances of success (and survival).