It’s a good idea for skiers to cross-reference this list, too: the clothing needs are basically the same for both activities, since off-piste skiing crosses the boundary between skiing and mountaineering.
Mark has used much of the specific gear on this equipment list for alpine climbing for many years; it works well for him. Kit with an asterisk (*) can easily be hired.
They should have stiff soles and accept a clip-on crampon. Stiff means you cannot really bend them, even with considerable effort. It is important to have a boot that is laterally stiff so that you can edge while scrambling and rock climbing. An example might be La Sportiva Trango Extreme, but a lot will depend on the shape of your foot:
- La Sportiva generally has a narrow last.
- Scarpa tends to fit a wider foot. Either are very good.
Heat packs for feet
Nice to have but not essential. These are like tea bags which you open and shake. They give you up to 6-hours extra heat. Consider them as back up if the plan is to climb big 4000-meter + mountains.
12 points. Must be fitted with anti-balling plates. Petzel Vasak are the gold standard at present. They are light and pack down well.
Don’t forget a crampon bag. Simple as possible, flap closure with elastic if you can find one. Bags with zips are over-complicated and create unwanted hassle. Rubber bung point protectors are very 1980’s.
55 to 65-cm classic mountaineering axe like the Petzl Summit. Whatever you choose it should not be longer than 65-cm no matter how tall you are.
Petzl Sirocco (or Meteor) is pretty good although there are a lot of very good helmets. Like your feet, the choice will depend on your head shape.
Black Diamond Alpine Bod is the classic choice; Petzl also makes good ones. Get something simple and light. The goal should be to be able to put it on without taking your feet off the ground.
The simplest and lightest climbing-style pack with no side pockets. Your goal should be to find a tube with shoulder straps on it. You probably will not find such a thing, but you should try and get as close as possible. I currently use a Simond Sprint 33, which is brilliant: very lightweight, versatile and inexpensive. Black Diamond Speed 30-litres is also a good choice.
Does not need to line the rucksack, just needs to be big enough to put a few things in that you really want to avoid being soaked by–say–a punctured Camelbak. 10-liter size would be good.
An excellent place to get these on line is Alpkit.com
You don’t need big long gaiters like you might use in the UK. Short ankle gaiters are best. Like the Black Diamond Talus.
Try to get a Patagonia TorrentShell Pullover. We have not found anything better for all alpine climbing. Their Triolet jacket is also great. Don’t let the shops bullshit you into buying something that is totally overbuilt with lots of stupid pockets and ridiculous “pit zips”: you take the jacket off if you get hot. Remember, pockets and zips add weight while making jackets more expensive and leaky. It is important that you use an anorak that has a big, well-designed hood. You don’t want a jacket with a flimsy nylon hood that pulls out of the collar.
Water and windproof, these should have full-length zips to the waist. Once again, you should be able to put them on without taking your feet off the ground. Make sure this is possible while in the shop. Again, do not accept any bullshit from an ignorant sales assistant.
These trousers need to be light and compact. The plan is for them to live in the bottom of your rucksack and only come out very occasionally…hopefully not at all. Patagonia often makes a minimalist full side-zip rain pant (but not every season). Currently, their Triolet trousers are excellent.
These can be made of poly-cotton or supplex, or the best for high mountain climbing is a fabric called “Schoeller”.
High-wicking clothing. Merino wool is a favorite and of course does not stink (like synthetics). Cotton should be avoided at all cost: it is slow to dry and can make you very cold. So, don’t bring any for use on the hill.
I basically quit wearing fleece when Patagonia came out with their highly breathable Nano-air hoody jacket. They are warmer and more compressible than the equivalent weight of fleece.
Lightweight duvet jacket
Patagonia Nano-puff with hood, or similar (not the same as the Nano-air, discussed above).
Tend to only wear them on the summit days on Mont Blanc. Normally if it gets cold, just stick on waterproof trousers. If it gets really cold then head for home.
Worth carrying a spare pair.
With a removable inner for easy drying. Again, don’t be bullshitted: the only waterproof glove is a washing up glove…but Mountain Hardware’s Outdry membrane is darned close.
The saying goes, “If you have cold feet put a hat on.” The ability to regulate your heat by keeping your hat in your pocket can not be over-stated.
Your chance to make a statement…but make sure it’s as light and packable as possible.
Wrap around high altitude lenses. All sunglasses give acceptable UV protection–blackout lenses are not required. Photochromic (adjustable density) lenses are brilliant. Ray Ban Aviators are defiantly not suitable. The Cebe Proguide Category 2-4 is the best pair of glasses I’ve ever used. Or get a pair of white framed Vuarnet’s for a retro-cool fashion statement.
Black Diamond Storm. These are good; we especially like the red light option as it helps preserve night vision and doesn’t piss people off in the huts when you shine your head torch in their eyes at 2.00am. Get lithium batteries for the torch. They have hugely more power and importantly weigh 5 times less than conventional batteries.
High protection factor. Piz Buin factor 30 or 50. Try not to turn up with a family value pack that you bought at the airport on the way out.
Personal medical supplies
i.e. aspirin, prescriptions, Compeed or 2nd Skin plasters for blisters, etc. But make sure it’s all in small packages: you have to carry it.
With key local emergency numbers plugged in:
- France (PGHM): +33 4 50 53 1689 (or 112)
- Switzerland: 144
- Italy: 112
This should be small, compact and be carried around your neck. It does not matter if you have the best camera in the world. You will not be able to take photos with it if it is stuck in your rucksack. Most smart phones have very good cameras on them. However this can chew through the power and it is not usually possible to recharge the phone. So, consider bringing an…
Whichever model you get, make sure you test it beforehand. Read reviews before purchasing–some don’t work at all. Solar panels can’t hurt but if they are small enough to carry they can’t keep up on their own, either. The Black Diamond Ember is a clever small flashlight with less recharge capacity, but maybe enough for your phone?
If our itinerary involves an overnight in the mountains.
10 Things You Definitely Don’t Need:
- Map & particularly, a map case
- Plastic survival bivi bag
- GoPro (the evidence is that these cameras interfere with avalanche beacons)
- Summit flag
- Mascot (“My child asked me to carry her Bunny Rabbit to the top with me”)
- Dead relative’s ashes (yes, someone once turned up with their mother’s, ready to scatter on Mont Blanc)