Archive for October, 2010

What I Learned From Camping with Toddlers

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

I went on a camping trip to Green Valley Lake, California last weekend with my sister and her family which includes her husband and her two identical twin girls, who just turned 3.

Toddler Twins Go Hiking

Toddler Twins Go Hiking

Here are a few things I learned:
1. When you go camping you “co-op-er-ate”
2. You do not get fussy when camping.
3. If you are having trouble you: Breathe deeply, ask for help nicely, and be patient
4. A mini van with its doors closed makes a nearly sound proof “time-out” capsule where you can yell all you want
5. 3 year old girls can have no fear, including no fear of heights
6. My nieces are going to be crazy climbers, they wanted to boulder everything!
7. You do NOT need an alarm clock if you sleep near 3 year old twin girls
8. Tents are great for dance parties, naps, and getting scared
9. Fungi growing on a fallen tree is not a fungus, it is an alien!

I had a lot of fun camping, I was surprised at how much energy my nieces had, even at 7000 feet elevation and at cold temperatures. We hiked up a hill (no trail) and then did some bouldering at the top before traveling a very little ways on a trail and coming down a different route. [Of note to climbers, I saw a big slew of boulders from the top vantage point, next time I’m bringing a spotter and crash pad!]

My nieces are only 3 and have been camping and hiking many times now. I think I’ll take my lessons learned from the trip and will try to apply them to my next outing.

Looking for that handhold

Niece P looking for that handhold

Decked out for the cold

Niece E decked out for the cold

Joshua Tree Through New Eyes

Friday, October 15th, 2010
Part of the Thursday crowd on Friday morning

Part of the Thursday crowd on Friday morning

Joshua Tree Fall season has started off with a bang for me. I went out this past weekend, Thursday night through Sunday and had a blast. Why do you say? Was it because I did my hardest red point ever? Was it because I crushed it non stop 3 days in a row? Nope, it was mainly because I got to hang out with old friends and with climbers who mostly had less than a year of experience but a lot of enthusiasm.

I think I’d nearly forgotten what it was like to go out with a large group of new climbers. Sure K and I had taken out a group of 3 new climbers last year but that’s not the same as a group of around 20 which is what we ended up with on Saturday. A ratio of about 4 veterans for every 5 new (or new to outdoor climbing) climbers.

Some highlights:

  • Fabulous weather! Daytime temps were around the 70s then went as high as the low 80’s by Sunday (we climbed in the shade that day).
  • Being able to get 3 sites in Hidden Valley Campground because on Friday morning we decided to just cruise by to look (we spent the previous night in Ryan). We just happened to find that 3 cars worth of folks were leaving for their group reservation for a wedding in Indian Cove. 3 sites in Hidden Valley campground all close to each other on Friday is something unheard of since pre National Park days.
  • Also on Friday, onsighting a route at Atlantis to put up a rope. I also got to demonstrate “Elvis Leg” while I tried to find pieces for a flaring crack. The route was 2 cracks over from Vorpal Sword (5.9) so according to two different books it was either Minotaur (5.8) or in the other book it could have been Grain for Russia (5.8) or Grain Surplus (5.7). I really doubt it was Minotaur though as I and others understood that to be a crack on a nearby wall which finished with distinctive “horns” at the top (I led it last season as a flash).  So if it’s not Minotaur than I guess it’s Grain Surplus though I really thought it was harder than the one next to it and my friend Peter even thought it was harder than Vorpal Sword, which he lead. I’m not sure I agree with that but I will say it was not as straight forward.
  • Going up to the Space Station on my own at sunset.


    Sitting in the Space Station - Chimney Rock

  • Teaching the new folks about  “catch the end of the rope, get a beer”. Having the new folks adopt, “put up a rope, get food” on Friday evening as they fed me 🙂
  • Watching folks eyeball a climb and decide they wanted to do it and could do it. This happened all weekend. One new friend even said she was done but with some more beta she made it all the way to the top of Spaghetti and Chili (5.7)
  • Giving beta that helped folks.
  • On Sunday, climbing in the Hall of Horrors area and cruising The Exorcist (5.10) crack on my second toprope try on it that day (I had tried it on toprope once last season). K and my friend Peter did their redpoint leads of it, it was K’s first time to do so. I think I’ve figured out a sufficient intermediate step to the part where the crack ends and a big hold is next so I’ll consider leading it next time.
  • Sunday night, having dinner with the same group of folks who came out Thursday (plus K this time) and then our friend Elaine (chief organizer of the big group who were mostly her co-workers) and the 3 guys we climbed with on Thursday surprised Peter, K and I with gift certificates to Nomad’s! My eyes watered, I was so touched.

Some folks say I like to teach. I’ve done it in fencing, music and climbing. But really I’m usually not in a formal position as a teacher, I’m just so excited about something that I want to share it with folks. Also, I believe the idea that “if you really want to know something, teach it”, is true. I certainly find that sharing or teaching gives something back to the giver as well. In my particular case, who knows if I would’ve tried the onsight if I hadn’t had the extra incentive to put up the rope? And having folks cheer you on, I’d almost forgotten what a nice psychological boost that was, it didn’t matter to the cheering folks that you were “only” on toprope. I certainly got back as much if not more than I gave that weekend.

And then to be given a gift certificate at the end, well that was just the cherry on top.

So thanks Elaine (my fellow “E Team” friend who is a fabulous teacher, climber and Unofficial Company Outing Organizer), Alex, Art and Brian! It was a pleasure to have climbed with you all, and in the case of the guys, to be able to say I was there towards the start of your undoubtedly great climbing careers!

Full set of the weekend’s photos.

Video on Space Station view:

Petzl Elia Helmet Review – Don’t Let Looks Fool You

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010
Me onsight with the Elia at Atlantis Wall, Joshua Tree

Onsight with the Elia at Atlantis Wall, Joshua Tree

“Hey, cool helmet!” a guy arriving to the crag called out from behind me.
I said, “Thanks, I’m reviewing it. It’s a women’s specific helmet.”
“Oh, I could guess that because of the things around it,” he circled his finger around this head. He meant the vine and leaf like design on the helmet. A shallow ridge on the helmet made up the vine and the leaves were air holes and head lamp clips. I hadn’t really noticed that design detail up till then. Upon receiving the complimentary helmet from the good folks at Pemba Serves, I had been most interested in the unique fit system of the Elia. “Do you like it?” the climber asked.

And here, dear reader, is the short version of this review. I answered, “Yeah!”

I’ve worn a variety of climbing helmets over the years and currently own one closed cell foam helmet (Petzl Meteor III) and one hard shell (Black Diamond Half Dome) that I have been meaning to replace because it’s over 10 years old and has taken some knocks to show for it. The opportunity to review the Petzl Elia came at a good time. Since receiving it I’ve worn it to a local crag and just came back from a 3 day weekend in Joshua Tree National Park.

Here’s my video review of the helmet:

Helmet Features:

  • Specifically sized for women (52-58 cm headband)
  • Patented OMEGA system adapts to pony-tails
  • Headband can be adjusted with two lateral buttons to obtain precise and comfortable positioning of the OMEGA system
  • Side openings for ventilation
  • Injection molded ABS shell is both lightweight and durable
  • Expanded polystyrene liner absorbs impacts
  • Adjustable chinstrap, nape height and headband for an extremely comfortable fit.
  • Chin strap position adjusts forward or backward and redesigned side-release chin strap buckle is positioned off to the side for comfort
  • Narrow polyester webbing straps offer improved comfort.
  • Headband adjustment folds into the shell for compact storage and ease of transportation.
  • Headlamp attachment with 4 optimally placed clips.
  • Foam is removable and washable


The fit. I was quite taken by the OMEGA system. I had heard about the “ponytail fitting” feature of the helmet before but what I didn’t realize is that this meant a complete overhaul of how the helmet was adjusted as well. I found the system to be the best fitting system I have yet worn. The helmet felt snug and secure but still comfortable (with one caveat, see Cons below). I was impressed with the sliders on the outside of the helmet which let me loosen or tighten the system easily by pressing in and moving them with my thumbs while the helmet was on my head. While climbing I felt the helmet moved with me and I found I didn’t have to readjust it between climbs.

The ponytail feature. This performed as advertised, I didn’t have to pull my ponytail through some small space in between webbing. I just put the helmet on my head, fast and easy. Now I have the option to wear pig tails or a ponytail again!

Build of the helmet. It felt solid without feeling too heavy.

Price. The Elias is priced at the lower end of the Petzl line of helmets and I think is a great buy if you’re looking for a good all around helmet that will last you well into your climbing career.


Mary liked the Elia helmet

Mary liked the Elia helmet

Sizing. Petzl says one of the ways this helmet was specifically designed for women is that it fits a smaller range of heads. Well, I guess I have a big head. I pretty much had to use the sliders at the largest end of their range. The helmet is quite comfortable for wearing straight on my head but I don’t think I’ll be able to wear a fleece hat under the helmet. Fortunately I have a Buff and the non-fleece Buff fits fine under the helmet so I’ll be covered for warm to cool climbing situations. Please note that I let another female climber use the helmet for a few climbs and it fit her fine with room to spare. Also, I’ve read a few other Elia reviews online and none of the other women have mentioned the sizing being snug. In case you’re wondering, I also can’t fit into the smaller CAMP brand helmet, and that’s without a hat or a Buff under it. So if that size works for you then the Elia will definitely fit you.

Jealous girl friends? Sorry, I’m just trying to think of another con to justify the pluralization of the word “Con” in the heading of this section. Of note, this past weekend I went on a 3 day Joshua Tree Trip. One of my friends arrived at the base of Double Cross while I was at the top. We shouted, “Hellos” to each other and then she added, “I like your helmet!”


As I mentioned in the Pros section, I think the Elia is a great buy for a female climber looking for a good all around helmet, just check your head diameter with a fleece hat on. Personally I’ve decided it’s time for me to finally retire my old knocked about Half Dome helmet and let the Elia fill its role.

The Petzl Elia is available in many gear shops. You can also buy it online here: Petzl Women’s Elia Climbing Helmet [my affiliate link].

You can read more about the Petzl Elia helmet and find a list of retailers at Petzl’s site.

Elaine bought an Elia after seeing mine!

Elaine bought an Elia after seeing mine!

One of  those retailers is Nomad Ventures, right outside of Joshua Tree National Park. How do I know? Another friend of mine who I was climbing with this past weekend liked the helmet so much that at our stop at Nomad’s on the way out she bought one for herself. I didn’t know she was going to do this so I asked her what swayed her,  she said, “That ponytail thing is amazing!”