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).

Summer Resolutions

As Alex and I are getting ready to move into a slightly smaller apartment in next week, I’ve been gutting my belongings, keeping only what I truly need or wear often. While I was ruthlessly tossing pants I’d rarely worn and shirts that never quite fit exactly right, I came across a shirt at the bottom of my dresser.

A tube top.

I wore tube tops all the time in college and when I first moved to Denver. I can’t quite put my finger on when or why I stopped but I think it has to do with less ‘going out’ and more ‘growing up’. Instead of tossing the in the giveaway pile, I decided that this summer, I would wear more tube tops.

summer resolutions - wear a tube top! //

aww, such babies!

And then I thought about other summer things that I haven’t done in a while (years, even!) that I absolutely want to do this summer.

So without further ado, I present my 20 Summer Resolutions.

1. Wear a tube top at least twice.

2. Lay in the sun next to a pool in my swimsuit and read a book.

3. Swim in a pool. (Anyone have a pool where I can come swim? Ironically, for the first time in all my years in Denver, I’ll be living where there is no pool. Because, duh. You want what you don’t have.)

4. Make homemade ice cream.

5. Try to set a record number of freeze pops consumed in one summer. (but only the legit kind)

6. Sleep under the stars on a backpacking trip.

7. Run early morning miles on mountain trails.

8. Read at least 3 books (like high school summer reading but without the book report).

9. See a concert at Red Rocks.

10. Watch a movie at Red Rocks.

11. Eat brunch on a patio in our new neighborhood.

12. Run to and around my new neighborhood parks at least once a week.

13. Summit a 14er (at least one).

14. Summit a 11er, 12er or 13er.

15. Eat burgers and potato salad at a BBQ. (Someone please invite me to a BBQ?)

16. Rock climb outside!

17. Spend at least a weekend backpacking.

18. Take a vacation – near or far; driving or flying.

19. Test as many ‘patio pounder’ drinks as necessary to find my most favorite summer drink.

20. Spend more time smiling than stressing.

I’m calling ‘summer’ Memorial Day to Labor Day which is approximately 15 weeks. Plenty of time to knock out these 20 resolutions.

Too frequently, I find myself looking up at the calendar and another week, month, season has passed and while I’ve certainly enjoyed it, there are always things I wished I’d made time for before the weather changed again. That’s what these resolutions are about.

I easily get tunnel vision and so fixated on THE THING OF THE MOMENT that I forget that I also really enjoy and appreciate the other, smaller moments, too. I feel like, in Colorado especially, there’s this drive to have every day and weekend be this super-awesome-totally-rad-gnar adventure in the wilderness. Absolutely, those are great and I totally love those days and weekends! They are on the list!

But I also love the quieter adventures. Discovering a new favorite restaurant. Devouring an awesome book. Laughing with friends on a hot summer night. Wearing summer dresses.

So this summer, here’s to the smal moments AND the big ones. To extra sunscreen for a lazy afternoon by a pool and the epic summit of a mountain or two (or many). To eating too many ice cream cones from the little shop up the street and nights spent under the summer stars. To scheduling adventures but not overscheduling my life. To wearing a dang tube top and celebrating my youth and living in a city and state I love.

Cheers, Summer. Let’s do this thing!

Misadventures in Carrot Cake

Looking at my blog, you’d think the ONLY thing I do is mountaineering school. Which, for a while, was absolutely true. But recently, I’ve gotten some of my free time back to dabble in non-mountaineering fun!  Lest you think I am a girl who only does mountain adventures (which wouldn’t be awful but isn’t true), I wanted to share other parts of my life and interests, too! Like recent misadventures in baking.

A few weeks ago, Alex celebrated his birthday. Alex isn’t as jazzed about birthdays as I am but does love picking out his birthday cake. For the past few years, he’s asked for different varieties of cheesecake, a recipe I’ve mastered. This year, he threw me a curve ball and asked for carrot cake.

‘No big deal!’ I thought. ‘How hard can carrot cake be?’

I got a recipe from Val who swears by it for her husband’s birthday cake, too. And then, overly confident, I waited until a couple days before his birthday to make his cake expecting a flawless creation on my first ever carrot cake attempt.


The carrot cake recipe (here) is super easy but I made 2 mistakes: not using cake flour and (I think) over-mixing the batter. As it was baking, I knew I’d done something wrong when the edges were rising but the center was not.

Of the 3 layers I baked, only 2 survived pan-removal.

Birthday Carrot Cake Recipe //

I gingerly removed the second 2 layers and stored them, hoping to ice them 2 days later on Alex’s actually birthday. It ended up being even a few days after that (4 days after baking) that I did finally ice the cake and cross my fingers it tasted good.

Birthday Carrot Cake Recipe // lgmsash.comTaste good? Check. The cake was a little dense (thus, cake flour next time) but the flavor was spot on. And the creamy cream cheese icing (also from the recipe) really brought the cake together. Literally. It was the glue that held the crumbling pieces together.

Look good? From the top, check. From the side…not so much. It was a little…uneven.

Birthday Carrot Cake Recipe //

But really, at the end of the day, is it more important to look good or tast good? I vote taste good.

I’m posting this recipe for my own future carrot cake attempts so I don’t have to dig through my recipe books or printed papers to find a recipe that I know can work with a few tweaks. Hopefully next attempt, I’ll have a better looking cake to share!

Basic Mountaineering School: Second Rock Day

If you’re just tuning in, I’ve been taking a beginner mountaineering class with the Colorado Mountain Club called Basic Mountaineering School. You can find all posts about Basic Mountaineering School here.

Basic Mountaineering School: Rock Climbing and Rappelling //

Our fourth field day brought us to Castlewood Canyon State Park for ‘Second Rock Day’. We’d practiced basic outdoor climbing and rappelling on First Rock Day and spend 2 nights on an indoor wall between First and Second Rock Days.

Second Rock Day was dedicated to passing a knot in the rope while on belay and ascending the rope with Prusiks, both with and without our packs on.

Basic Mountaineering School: Rock Climbing and Rappelling //

Field days are invaluable experience because we put our book and classroom learning into real life situations. While we focus on only a couple main objectives each field day, we learn SO much more than that while we’re out. For example, building anchors. Basic Mountaineering School teaches the basics of anchors because the Colorado Mountain Club has other schools dedicated to anchor building. So we read about anchors in our book and get an overview of how/what do to – but our instructors have taken the time to show us a bit more than the basics. For a girl who is very new to rock climbing, it’s so helpful to see the practical application of these techniques in different situations.

Basic Mountaineering School: Rock Climbing and Rappelling //

using natural anchors

With the ropes set up, we split into teams of two and started on our first task, rappelling and then ascending the rope with our waist and foot Prusiks. The rock was maybe 50+ feet so still a baby wall, compared to what experienced rock climbers climb, but was big enough to get the adrenaline running for us newbie mountaineers.

Alex and I partnered up and he rappelled and ascended first, no problem. As we switched roles, I felt butterflies jump from my stomach to my throat; the initial start of a rappel still rattles my nerves! I know with repeated exposure this will dissipate and I do trust the rappel system (and in Basic Mountaineering School, we are always on a backup safety belay), it just takes time to get comfortable with the idea of walking backwards off a cliff.

I rappelled myself down and started ascending the rope. Basic Mountaineering School: Rock Climbing and Rappelling //

Basic Mountaineering School: Rock Climbing and Rappelling //

A Prusik knot is a friction knot which means as you load it with weight, it tightens its hold. To ascend the climbing rope with a Prusik, you attach your waist Prusik to the rope and your belay loop on your harness and your foot Prusik to the rope and put your foot in the loop. You then stand up on your foot Prusik to release the weight on your waist Prusik and move it up the rope. Then you sit to unload the weight in your foot Prusik and move it up the rope. Over and over. Basic Mountaineering School: Rock Climbing and Rappelling // Basic Mountaineering School: Rock Climbing and Rappelling //

It took longer and more energy than I expected and I can’t imagine ascending a rope much longer using only Prusiks.

Next, we moved on to passing the knot. In real life, if we were rappelling and came upon a knot in our rope, we’d need to figure out how to get past the knot – getting out of and then back in to our belay devices – safely. We’d practiced this during a wall night but this was the real deal. Alex and I chose to change ropes and moved to a station with a 10 foot rock lip followed by 40 feet of free rappelling.

Basic Mountaineering School: Rock Climbing and Rappelling //

Basic Mountaineering School: Rock Climbing and Rappelling //

It took me about 10-15 minutes to pass the knot – not the most comfortably seated 10 minutes of my life, that’s for sure! Hanging on a rope in a harness is about as comfortable as you imagine it to be.

Once we all passed our knots, we then rappelled and ascended the rope with our packs on for a ‘real life’ flavor.

1.rappel with packIf I thought ascending the rope without a pack was tiring, adding the pack made it exhausting. These ascents took a bit more time and we were all relieved to hear that it was our last ‘hard work’ task of the day. The rest of the afternoon would be taught from the ground so we rappelled, once more, down to the ground with our packs on.

Before we moved onto our last lesson of the day, our instructors invited us to do some climbing before they dropped the ropes. We’d all brought our rock shoes, hoping for this moment, and excitedly jumped on the rock.

Basic Mountaineering School: Rock Climbing and Rappelling // Basic Mountaineering School: Rock Climbing and Rappelling //

Basic Mountaineering School: Rock Climbing and Rappelling //

As I called down to Alex to ‘take’ and ‘lower’ when I’d finished the route, I took a moment to notice how confident I felt to sit back in my harness and be lowered down. Well, I guess I actually noticed that I didn’t think anything at all. I’m not a huge fan of heights or exposure and usually, I feel very nervous and my heart beats faster as I near the top of a route in the climbing gym but after 4 big-to-me rappels that Saturday, my exposure/heights threshold definitely increased. It felt good to notice that progress!

I often forget that I’m still so new to climbing that it’s OKAY to have these feelings! Evolution has taught us to avoid walking off cliffs or climbing up steep things – and here I am doing exactly that! Yes, I’m protected but absolutely my mind going to ask me what the heck I’m doing until it begins to understand that it’s all good.

After climbing, we wrapped up with a discussion of lead climbing, using ‘pro’ (protection, like cams and pitons) and multi-pitch climbing. Our next and final rock climbing field day is on the Boulder Flatirons where we’ll be exposed all three of those things.

Our field day ended with burgers and beers at The Stagecoach in Franktown. Our group of 12 definitely stood out in the biker bar but DAMN did that food taste delicious!

By the time Alex and I got home that night, we were awake just long enough to gulp some Gatorade, rinse off in the shower and climb into bed. After a long, tiring but awesome day, I was happy to be snuggled in bed by 8 p.m. Early to rise, early to bed!

Fun Outdoor Videos on a Friday Morning

It’s Friday! This week has been very weird and I am ready to close my laptop at work this afternoon and shake the funk off.

Tonight, Alex and I are headed to Breckenridge with our mountaineering class so we can ‘sleep in’ (and I use that term loosely!) tomorrow morning to climb up Cristo Couloir on Quandary Peak. I’m excited but am also already looking forward to the hot tub I plan on soaking in AFTER Hard Snow field day.

I’ve got so many blog posts bouncing around in this little head of mine but they will wait for another day. Today, I wanted to share these entertaining videos pertaining to the great outdoors, climbing and life. I mean, we all need a little levity on a Friday, right?

(In case 2 minutes isn’t long enough for you, someone made a 4 hour version of this ‘song’.)

(Dan Osman free solo climb)


(there is nothing I don’t love about this video or brandon leonard.)

Whether you’re into outdoor adventures or not, these videos should provide a chuckle.Except for the last one. I’ve watched that last video more times than is probably healthy to admit; I want to make it my life motto.