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Keep the back of your SUV clean

The best accessory I purchased for my 4-Runner was a cargo liner.  I strongly recommend you buy one too if you drive an SUV, mini-van or station wagon.  All it consists of is a rubber liner that covers the area in the back of the vehicle.  The liner has shallow walls that contain everything from dog prints, dog slobber, river pebbles that managed to hitch a ride into your gear bag, chalk dust that escaped from your harness, and the list goes on!      

Rolling Tip

Using a paddle float is like using training wheels on a bicycle.  It really builds confidence.  To make one buy a piece of blue foam from the hardware store.  I found a piece that is 4 feet by 2 feet for around $7.00.  I cut it into pieces, a little larger than the intended paddle blade.  I secured it into place with two black straps.  Presto! for an economical price I had three paddle floats.  I brought them along to the pool sessions.  A student of mine tried them on, then within two tries he had a roll using the training wheel.  After five of those rolls, I took the float off and he hasn't missed a roll since.  Not only do my students benefit and learn to roll much faster, I spend a lot less time ducking flailing paddles.


How to Keep Comfortable Outside in the Winter

The two most important keys are 1) wear tons of layers and 2) avoid cotton at all costs.  Polypro and other synthetic fibres tend to smell by the end of the day, but that is a good sign - a sign that you were challenging yourself and having a good time.  Especially be sure to avoid cotton underwear or you will have a cold bum all day.  I usually start with a thin undershirt.  My favourite brand is Duofold though I also have a Pacific Trekking shirt with a zippered collar that I love too. On top of that I add a thin micro fleece shirt.  The next layering item is a thicker fleece anything from 200-300 weight will work.  The last layer would be a wind proof water resistant shell jacket.  I am not particular yet to any one of these materials such as Gortex or Neo Dri.  As far as I am concerned it is all nylon.   I have a FarWest two layer jacket which I choose for lighter conditions.  I also have a Valhalla Pure 3 layer jacket that I wear when I will be riding ski lifts or other activities where I am not generating heat for short periods of time. This jacket is quite short in the front which makes it ideal when I am wearing a ice climbing harness.   My last choice of shells is a Banff Designs that has is longer than the other ones.   This jacket is ideal for heavy snow conditions.

On the bottom half of my body, I start with lycra shorts to keep my bum warm.  I match the shorts with a pair of ski socks that go as high as my knees.  On top of that I add a pair of micro fleece pants.  If I intend to be fighting gravity for the greater part of the day like when I am snowshoeing or backcountry skiing, I put the fleece pants in my pack instead.  At the end of the day or when the ascent becomes a descent I put the fleece pants on.  The outside layer consists of lined nylon pants - Gortex or otherwise as long as it is breathable, water resistant and wind proof.

There are few essential accessories that I always throw into my pack and wear as needed.  My favourite is my fleece neck warmer, followed by a toque with ear flaps, a head band, and goggles.  Most people relate goggles to skiing but I have found them handy for ice climbing and snowshoeing too.  Any activity where you may need to navigate through blowing snow may require goggles.

Lastly as a special treat put a piece of thinsulate pad in your pack to sit on at lunch time and a thermos of hot tea.


How to Keep your Feet Warm Paddling in October

On Thursday, I waited at the Goldpan for a client, Jo Ann.  It turned out she was waiting on the other side of the information building.   She pulled up noticing my bright yellow boat in the back of the truck.  We chatted for awhile procrastinating paddling because we were both early and the air was quite cool.  Cool enough that I could see my breath.  While we chatted she kept glancing at my feet.  I was worried that I had a wad of toilet paper or dog poo but I couldn't see anything weird.  She opened up her truck and handed me a package.   She told me that she had just purchased some neoprene socks, but they did not fit.   I turned them over in my hand, they looked great but I was worried that I would not be able to wear my paddling shoes over top that I had invested over $100.  We headed out towards the Quesnel Canyon.  Jo Ann decided not to take her recalled Firestone tires all the way to the take out so I drove on ahead and planned to walk back to her vehicle.  My paddling boots tend to make my toes bleed if I have to walk around, so I was dreading the continuation of the shuttle.  When I was gearing up I remembered the socks that Jo Ann had given me.  I put them on my feet and they fit perfectly, not only that, my paddling shoes fit nicely over top.  I was able to jog back to where Jo Ann was parked without even a callus on my toes.  We headed for the put in and jumped in the water.  We paddled down checking out waves and other features.  At the takeout, I put my feet right in the water, they remained warm and dry even submersed in the chilly water.  If your feet tend to get chilly early or late into the season, you must get a pair of 3mm neoprene socks.       


How to remove a hornet's nest from your favourite crag

Last week I headed up above Dragon Lake to try out a new Crag.  I took Kathie along, as I usually do when I want to try out a new route for new climbers.  We set up the routes and tried out the rock.  Kathie dubbed the first route Kermit the Frog.  I scanned the wall for a new place to set up the rope and I noticed something papery hanging down.  It seemed it was the remains of a hornet's nest.  Since it appeared it was gone I thought nothing of it.  We continued to climb on the rock.  After awhile we stood back to examine more of the crag.  I spotted what looked to be the hornet's nest on the ground only a few feet from our belay position.  My path along the rock passed within inches of the nest.   I tossed a rock near it to check on the occupants and the hornet's started to swarm.  Quickly and quietly we decided to call it a day and  left the hornets to themselves.  Later in the week I headed back to the nest after dark with Doug and Donna.  It is best to spray hornets early in the morning or late at night when all of the hornets should be inside the nest.  We parked the truck facing away from the site with the door open for a quick escape.  I approached the nest armed with a special bottle of raid that sprays hornets from a distance of 3 meters, my caving suit made from cordura, a helmet capped with a head lamp, a bug net, gum boots, and work gloves.  I sprayed the nest and then made a run for the truck.  Days later Lynn, Donna, Doug and I headed out to go climbing at what is now deemed the hornet's nest.  I threw a rock close to the nest to once again check for occupants.  Again the hornet's swarmed.   Then in a sort of Lord of the Flies manner, everyone began to pick up rocks and toss them at the nest.  Soon there was no much left of the nest and we had to pull Donna away from the rocks, though she kept saying just five more rocks, then we can go.   I intend to head up to the crag later this week to spray the rock so that the hornets do not try to rebuild their nest in the same location.   



Take a safe picture on the rocks and avoid an embarrassing butt shot...

The best way to take climbing pictures is to give the camera to the person who is not belaying or climbing.  If that is not possible the belayer can take a great picture too.  Before the climber starts clean out the weeds and long pieces of grass at the bottom of the route.  When the climber is 3 feet off the ground, she should find a good position that she can hold for a few moments and create the illusion of a "move".  The belayer can then move close to the rock and get a great side shot of the climber.  Try to choose the side of the climber that creates the most interesting back drop behind them for the photo.  No one will know that the climber is only a few feet of the ground once the vegetation is moved and the safety of the climber is not comprised by a distracted belayer taking advantage of a photo op.  It is not safe for the belayer to take a picture when the climber would be a risk if she fell from the photo spot.  That is why 3 feet is a food rule of thumb to follow.  Also if the picture is taken from the side close to the bottom of the route, then the infamous butt shot is avoided.  In the following picture, the climber is rappelling.  To take a wonderful in this instance, the same guidelines follow, weed out the vegetation and wait until the climber is low enough the her butt is not the main focus of the picture.    

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What to Wear Climbing That Will Prevent Embarrassing Exposure?

The last piece of clothing that I wear to the crag is shorts.   The way a harness fits, it tends to hike up the legs of the shorts a bit which could be embarrassing for those who are shy about exposing their under garments.  I prefer to wear loose fitting nylon pants that allow for maximum room in the hips.   When I was thinner I also wore lycra tights or other stretchy materials which are the most comfortable.  Close fitting material does not bunch up under a harness.   Now I find the loose nylon pants disguises the view from ground level.  On the top I like to wear a tee-shirt.  I normally choose one that is long enough to tuck into the harness.  Unless your shirt is skin tight, the material tends to flap around providing interesting views to those on the ground.   Tucking the ends into the harness will avoid that problem.  Some women climbers wear an athletic bra top but these tips are intended for novices that have not yet developed the muscles that are revealed by such tops.  Looking through climbing pictures, the next tip I recommend will be a solution to minimize those horrendous butt shots taken of climbers by their belayers, though you will have to wait until next month for that tip.   



How to Choose a Whitewater Kayak


            Kayaks are available in a variety of shapes and sizes, depending upon the intended use for the boat.  The most important feature to aid in your decision for buying a kayak is the hull design. 

Hulls range from short to long, big volume to small volume and flat bottoms to round bottoms.  Kayaks generally range from 6.5 feet to 12 feet long.  Longer boats tend to be faster than shorter boats, and are often more stable. Short boats are more appropriate for advanced rodeo moves like cartwheels, splitwheels and spins, but they are also much slower than longer boats. 

 Rocker is another important feature.  Rocker is the bottom of the boat’s curvature from the bow to the stern.  Increased rocker enables a boat to turn faster, but at the expense of hull speed.

 You should also consider the volume of a kayak.  The volume is the amount of water that is displaced when a kayak is submerged (Some boat manufacturers measure the internal volume of a boat so be alert when comparing boat specs).  Big volume boats float higher in the water and tend to be faster, more stable and safer than smaller volume boats. They are also useful for storing gear or multi-day trips. Small volume boats are often better for rodeo moves and tend to be much more lively in big hydraulics. 

 The next characteristic to consider is the bottom of the boat: Is it round or flat? Round hulls are also called “displacement hulls”.  Flat bottoms are also called “planing hulls”.   Examine the edges or “chines” of boat. This is where the sides of the boat meet the bottom.   The more pronounced the chines are, the edgier the boat will be.  A round hull is initially less stable that a flat bottom boat, but it is less edgy while turning and carving.   Round hulls are easier to roll than flat hulls. Flat hulls are better for rodeo moves. 

 All of the above characteristics vary from boat to boat.  To choose what boat is right for you, you must determine what you would like to use it for.  Be wary of purchasing older boats, especially fibreglass models. Recent advances in designs and materials have resulted in kayaks that are much safer and more responsive than most older models.

 Sometimes, as with skis and golf clubs, it is necessary to have more than one. You may choose different boats for the different types of rivers you are paddling on any given day.   Mostly paddlers fit into one or more of the following categories, and have to choose their boats accordingly.

Big Water – high volume rivers with large waves and powerful hydraulics.

Creeking – small volume rivers with a steep gradient

Rodeo – surfing and hole riding, cart wheeling, wave wheels and spinning

Squirting – spending most of the time with the entire boat under water

Slalom – fast moves through gates

Wildwater – whitewater down river racing

All Around – some river running mixed with some surfing and hole riding

Expedition – exploring remote rivers on multi-day trips

At Wild Chickadee Adventures we have a variety of boats to choose from.  Most of our clients prefer to use the boats that are longer and have more volume.  This style of boat makes it easy to run a river without feeling like the river is pushing you around.  A longer boat glides through a hole without the stern getting caught like some of the smaller boats.  A larger boat is excellent for building confidence in new paddlers.





Wearing a Dry Top When You Have Long Hair

   Dry tops can be be a wonderful accessory when you are paddling in cold water or on a cool day, though it can be a hassle to get into one when you have long hair.  The best way to put one one is to take any hair elastics and barrettes out.  Have your hair down and then the latex gasket will not catch on any obstacles that may tear the seal.  The gasket will slide easily down the hair following the 'grain' of the hairs.  Once the jacket is on then the remainder of the hair can be pulled into a low pony tail.  Braid the pony tail to avoid the terrible tangles.  Long hair tends to get severely tangled between the helmet and the dry top.  Braiding your hair seems to keep things under control.


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