Mountaineering

Mountaineering is a term that can mean many different things; but, generally, it involves climbing in mountainous and, usually, snowy or glaciated terrain. The equipment required can be overwhelming, so here is a guide to some of the things you'll need that we recommend for most climbing trips in the mountains. Like most items Bogong Equipment sells, the driving factor is usually weight and functionality, but trying to find the lightest gear for mountaineering is paramount.


Edelrid Wing harness

Mountaineering Harnesses

Weight is probably the driving factor here. The odd hanging belay aside, you’re unlikely to be sitting in your harness for extended periods and hopefully not taking many major whippers. Thus, weight is probably more important than comfort. The Edelrid Wing (also available in a women's design as the Edelrid Eleve) is a good example.

There are other harnesses that are lighter, but the Edelrid Wing and Edelrid Eleve are essentially a fully featured harness with 4 gear loops and 2 ice screw clipper attachments. The leg loops are adjustable and can be unthreaded and re-threaded if you’re already wearing crampons or clipped in to skis. It is comfortable enough for it to be my mountaineering harness as well as my general cragging rock harness.

Other options:



Edelrid Mission Quickdraw

What's in a Mountaineering Rack?

What you'll find in a mountaineering rack has mostly been covered in this article, but some notable differences include what's below.


Alpine Quickdraws (e.g. Edelrid Mission 60cm Quickdraw)

Regular (non-extendable) quickdraws are usually of little use when mountaineering, because most routes are wandering. I only use alpine or extendable slings so that I can use protection that might otherwise create too much rope drag, or use the 60cm sling to sling rocks, icicles or to tie off an ice screw. You can make your own using the carabiners and sling of your choice, but Edelrid produce their Mission 60cm Quickdraw 'ready made'.

If you are making your own, I suggest going as light as possible (e.g. DMM Phantom carabiners, DMM Chimera carabiners, DMM Spectre carabiners, Edelrid Mission carabiners) and using skinny dyneema slings (Edelrid makes 8mm dyneema slings).


Ice Screws (e.g. Grivel 360)

How many ice screws you take, and what length, depends enormously on the type of trip you're doing. General things to consider are how thin the ice might be and whether or not you'll be using V-threads for abseils. Grivel makes ice screws with the thread flared outwards, which spreads the force when they are loaded. Grivel 360 ice screws are easier to wind in than the standard Grivel Helix ice screws, but are a touch heavier.

My rack includes a stubby 12cm screw for when I think the ice will be thin, and a long 20cm one for drilling V-threads, as well as a few in-between.

Your screws will rack much more neatly if they are all the same brand and style, and if you use a clipper device attached directly to your harness.


Mountainering Snow Protection (e.g. DMM Dead Man)

A 'Dead Man' is not a piece of protection I place often, but it's one I’m very glad to have when I do. Ignore its morbid name: a Dead Man is very useful and easy to place. Some people prefer MSR Coyote Pickets.


Crevasse Rescue Equipment

I find that in in the mountains, even more so than general rock climbing, it is good to have a basic rescue kit. Crevasse rescue requires a Z-pulley, so, at the very least, a few prussiks and locking carabiners are essential. Most of the time, I carry a Tibloc, a Microtraction, prussiks and two pulleys.



Edelrid Apus Pro Rope

Mountaineering Ropes

Rope selection is covered well in this article. A good alpine rope allows for wandering routes and long abseils (e.g. 'half ropes'), and be as light as possible (e.g. 'single ropes'). There are some fantastically light single ropes, but shorter abseils are required. Some parties choose to carry a 7mm ‘tag line’ the same length as their rope, which then allows for full abseils. However, it can be tricky negotiating rope of different thicknesses going through the belay device as you abseil, and this option doesn’t help on wandering routes. This system is generally the lightest. If you are using a particularly skinny rope, make sure your belay device (and your climbing partner’s) works with it.


Edelrid Apus Pro Rope – A super versatile rope for mountaineering. As a half or twin, it allows for wandering routes with gear all over the place and for bolted alpine rock in Europe. Most importantly, it allows for full abseils over 60 metres.

Other options:

  • Edelrid Canary Pro – a super skinny single (also certified as half and twin), which would make for a particularly light set up with a tag line.


Grivel G1 ice axe

Mountaineering Axes and Hammers

Ice axes come with either a straight or curved shaft, and with a normal or reverse curve pick. A straight shaft and normal pick is appropriate for more mellow terrain, and a curved shaft and reverse curve pick is appropriate for steep, technical terrain. The pick and shaft will have a B (basic) or T (technical) rating, which relates to the strength of the axe: T means the shaft is strong enough to be belayed from and pick torqued in holds.

Often, B-rated axes are perfectly adequate for general, mellow climbing; but T-rated axes are more useful (even if you don’t plan on using your axe as an anchor, the vagaries of mountaineering mean you may still need to!).

If you are getting just one axe for mountaineering, it should have an adze. If you are getting two, there should be a hammer and an adze. For steep ice or mixed terrain, some people have neither.





Edelrid Shark Crampon

Crampons

When it comes to crampons for mountaineering, 10-point crampons are good and 12-point crampons better. A 10-point crampon is usually fine for mellow terrain or for use as a ski-touring crampon, but most people find a 12-point crampon to be a lot more versatile.

Horizontal front points are for general mountaineering and vertical front points for ice climbing.

Crampon attachments are known by different names, but are essentially clip front, clip back or strap front, strap back or any variation of those. I find it easier to negotiate the clips, especially with half frozen hands; however, straps are easier to visually check to make sure they are on right, and some insulated, high-altitude boots only work with straps.


  • Edelrid Shark crampon – A great all rounder, this 12-point crampon is ideal for most mountaineering, and by curving the steel Edelrid has made it very light without sacrificing strength. Edelrid Shark crampons come with every attachment type.

Other options:

  • Grivel G12 crampon – Classic mountaineering crampons in a time-tested design. Slightly on the heavier side, and you must choose an attachment style.
  • Grivel G14 crampon – The steep ice version of the Grivel G12, with vertical front points that can be swapped out (dual points for mono and vice versa).


Mountaineering Clothing

There is, of course, a big difference between climbing Denali in spring and climbing north-facing New Zealand alpine rock in January, but the general concepts of layering clothing apply to most mountaineering scenarios.


Mont PowerDry Baselaye

Mountaineering Base Layers



Mountaineering Mid-layers

This is where you can really layer up, depending on the temperatures you're likely to encounter. There are too many options to list, but here are a few recommendations:




Mont Supersonic Jacket

Mountaineering Outer Layer

Important features for an alpine jacket are a hood that fits comfortably over your helmet and pockets that won’t be in the way of your harness.

Hardshell Jackets are more versatile and offer better protection from weather):

  • Mont Supersonic Jacket (available in men's and women's – A great jacket that balances weight, features and functionality. The Mont Supersonic has all the features an alpine jacket needs, as well as pit zips for ventilation. It is super waterproof and breathable. See also: Outdoor Research Maximus Jacket (fully featured alpine climbing jacket, available in men’s only) or the Outdoor Research Optimizer (well featured, lighter jacket without pit zips, available in men’s and women’s).

Softshell Jackets breathe better and generally are stretchier, but not as weatherproof as hardshell jackets:



Legs

Generally, I wear softshell pants. These give better movement than waterproof pants and I find I’m not bothered by the lack of waterproofness.

  • Outdoor Research Iceline Versa Pants (available in men’s and women’s) – Specifically designed for mountaineering, these use stretchy fabric and have scuff pads on the cuff to keep crampons from puncturing them.
  • See also: the Outdoor Research Cirque Pants (available in men’s and women’s), Rab Defendor Pants (available in men’s only) or the Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pants (much thinner, but nice for warmer days; available in men’s and women’s).
  • For the full waterproof option, you can’t go past Mont Supersonic Pants (available in men’s and women’s) – these are bombproof.



Puffer Jackets for Mountaineering

Insulated jackets are listed in detail in this article, but here are two other good options (below). Most puffy jackets are available in men’s only; but it's common to buy puffer jackets oversized so that you can wear them over the top of all your other layers (think cold belays). So, getting a good fit isn’t important. Because you’ll wear your down jacket at belays, make sure the zip is a two-way zipper so you can undo it from the bottom to access your harness and belay device.



Outdoor Research Stormtracker Gloves

Gloves and Liners for Mountaineering

If you don’t like cold or wet hands – don’t go mountaineering! The battle with gloves is getting something dexterous enough to allow you to place gear and tie knots and so on, yet is still warm and waterproof enough. On most trips, I use a softshell glove (sometimes with a thin liner as well), and carry some larger, waterproof mitts for bad weather or cold belays.



High-Altitude/Polar–Specific Clothing

At a certain point, layering to deal with extreme cold isn’t a viable option. The following are a few items of clothing are super well insulated and useful high-altitude or polar journeys.




La Sportiva Nepal Evo Mountaineering Boots

Mountaineering Boots

Obviously, the mountaineering boot you’ll need depends on where you’re going and the temperatures you’re likely to encounter. Below is a brief rundown of the options. If your boots aren’t quite warm enough, Outdoor Research X-Gaiters are an insulated gaiter that give you an extra few degrees of warmth.

  • La Sportiva Nepal range (La Sportiva Extreme, La Sportiva Evo and La Sportiva Cube, available in men’s and women’s) – There are a few subtle differences in the fit, weight and warmth of this range of mountaineering boots, but they are all a perfect choice for general mountaineering away from cold environments (i.e. summer in New Zealand, Europe or the contiguous United States) – yet, they're also technical enough to be a great boot for ice and mixed climbing (which will be colder, but you won’t be out in it for more than a day). A great mountaineering boot to get you in to the sport and to progress with.

  • La Sportiva Baruntse, La Sportiva Spantik and La Sportiva G2SM (unisex) – These three mountaineering boots fit in the category of extreme cold, but sub-8000m. If you’re looking to climb in the Andes, Alaska or the Greater Ranges, or do multiday winter climbing elsewhere, then these boots are warm and technical, with removable inner liners to keep warm inside your tent. The La Sportiva Baruntse is more agricultural; the La Sportiva G2SM is much lighter and more innovative; and the La Sportiva Spantik is in-between.
  • La Sportiva Olympus Mons (unisex) – Named rather aspirationally after the highest mountain in the solar system, these are the boots for any peak over 8000m; lower if you particularly feel the cold, or are in particularly cold mountains (Alaska, Antarctica).



Sleeping Mats for Mountaineering

Having a functioning sleeping mat when sleeping on the snow is paramount for staying warm. And, seeing as mountaineers have so many pointy things with them, it’s important to use a pad that is less susceptible to puncture. That’s why most climbers sacrifice comfort and get a foam pad – you can put any number of holes in them and they still work. If you are staying primarily in huts (think New Zealand or Europe), where you can organise gear (and sharp things) better, then it’s usually better to have a comfier mat like any of the inflating Exped or Thermarest mats covered here:




Mountaineering Packs

Travelling light in the hills, it’s usually possible to fit sleeping gear, a stove and a day or two’s food in a 35–40L pack. A good alpine pack has attachment points for axes and, sometimes, crampons. Even better alpine packs have a removable hip belt (the hip belt gets in the way of your harness and rack) and have straps that do not impede arm movement.

  • Exped Mountain Pro 30L or 40L Pack (unisex, also available in 50L) – A thoughtfully designed, waterproof pack that carries heavy loads well. It is the classic ‘everything-you-need-nothing-you-don’t’.
  • Lowe Alpine Peak Ascent 42 (slightly smaller, but similar design in women’s is Lowe Alpine Ascent ND 38:48) – A super lightweight pack with a minimalist design.

For longer trips and certainly expeditions, a larger pack is required. Exped makes several larger packs that are well designed for climbing and comfy for long walk-ins.




Mountaineering Headlamps

Alpine starts and late finishes come together to make the headlamp a necessity in mountaineering. Rechargeable headlamps are useful, but if you are unable to recharge it in the hills, be sure to take some extra batteries. Most headtorches designed for the outdoors are powerful enough to be used for mountaineering. Due to their simplicity, weight and brightness, the Black Diamond Storm 375, Petzl Tikka and Petzl Actik Core are recommended.



MSR XGK Stove

Best Stoves for Mountaineering

Stoves are covered well in this article. In addition, it's worth noting that the MSR XGK is definitely the go-to option for expeditions and remote areas where quality fuel might be hard to find. However, gas canisters are increasingly easy to get the world over – so if it's possible you might need to cook in your tent, these are a great deal safer. The MSR Reactor or Jetboil Flash are efficient, hot and easy to use.



Best Mountaineering Sunglasses

Snow blindness from reflected sunlight on glaciers is a thing, so it’s important to have sunnies that are suitably shaded and close-fitting.




See our range of mountaineering gear.

Questions? Visit us, email us or call us (03 9600 0599).


More Articles