Alpine Climbing Guide
Other Guides of Interest
As a Climber there are several items you may need that can be found in other sections of our website - these include essentials from our travel section and sleeping bags from our camping section. Advice on buying these can be found using the links below:
If you are planning to get involved in some more technical climbing, such as an ascent of the infamous Walker Spur route in the French Alps, then as well as a solid background in traditional climbing and experience of winter mountaineering in the UK you will need the right equipment.
The modern alpinist has a tough task to balance weight against function. For example if you could only take one what would you choose out of a stove or sleeping bag? There's no right answer. Luckily the gear now available has dropped in massively in weight without loosing strength/warmth. So we have compiled a list of some of the best items to look for when choosing equipment:
Below is a list of all the equipment you could take with you. Most routes will not need all of this however it is often better to err on the side of caution. As always, we'd recommend using a British Mountain Guide for any alpine adventure.
Harness - Arc'teryx X 350A
The Arcteryx X 350A is a fantastic harness for the alps. It's lightweight and has excellent pack-ability thanks to it's warp strength technology. It really needs to be tried to see the all the benefits. For more information and to purchase click here.
Passive Protection - Wild Country Rocks, DMM Wallnuts and DMM Torque Nuts
It's worth taking a large selection of nuts to the Alps as they will inevitably get left on routes or stuck in cracks and you don't want to spend the best of the weather looking for replacements. Of particular use are Torque nuts as these can be used without a quickdraw (which saves weight) and also work in icy cracks where you can hammer them into place while cams would slide out. Our range of nuts and hexes can be found here.
Pitons - Grivel Onda, Rocket and Stilleto
Whilst unethical to place on British rock (except for the odd Scottish winter only line) these are still very useful for icy cracks or hard aid climbs in the Alps. Grivel have been making the most robust pitons for years and our range can be found here.
Cams - DMM Dragon Cams
Granite cracks love cams, giving you fast, reassuring protection. You'll find yourself using them on every pitch. DMM's Dragon Cams are especially good as the wide range allows them to be used in a larger variety of placements and the double extender saves a quickdraw. They are also the lightest double stem cam around. More information here.
Karabiners - DMM Boa, DMM Shadow Screwgate and DMM Revolver
DMM's range of hot forged karabiners offer amazing strength for their weight. The Boa is a large HMS ideal for handling lots of knots and is also easy to use with gloves on. The Shadow provides an excellent handling screwgate at an incredible weight, so a few of these should make it onto every climber's rack. Finally the Revolver provides a great pully / karabiner in a light package that's ideal for crevasse rescue. View our range of karabiners here.
Quickdraws - DMM Phantom 12cm & DMM Phantom 18cm
At just 61g for the 12cm and 64g for the 18cm these quickdraws are super-light and super-strong and are therefore ideal for the weight concious alpinist. We'd recommend picking up a few 60cm slings to go with these to make versatile "slingdraws". View our quickdraw range here
Belay Devices - Petzl Reverso 3
An auto-locking belay device allows you to bring up two 'seconds' or sort out the stance while safely belaying a second. This can shave hours off long routes. Carry two of these per climbing team to make swapovers as fast and efficient as possible. Get yours here
Ascenders - Petzl Tibloc &Ropeman
For crevasse rescue alone it is worth carrying a micro ascender and learning how to use it. By the time you factor in the ability to climb ropes safely or act as a running belay when simul-climbing these little devices become essential. There should also be a honorary mention for the Petzl Handled Ascender a pair of which are crucial for aid pitches. All our ascenders can be found here.
A pair of double ropes gives much larger flexibility in the mountains, allowing you to do full length abseils and minimising rope drag, which will help make sure you get up and down the mountain safely and quickly. 60m will help with long pitches and allow sections to be cut from the end of the rope should it become damaged. Edelweiss make some of the best handling and most durable ropes around. View our ropes here
Strong, light and quick to place, slings are a mainstay for any mountaineer. We believe the 8mm DMM range offer a great balance between durability and weight. A selection of 60cm, 120cm, 240cm and a couple cordelettes will enable for faster rope work and speed up swapping over at stances, especially if block leading. It's useful to rack each with it's own karabiner over the head and shoulders with the 240's running diagonally opposite to the 120's for an X. This makes length selection fast and enables you to unclip any sling using it's karabiner. Finally each climber should have a Metolious Personal Anchor System - this will enable fast swapping in and out of anchors and help aid past awkward sections without the "body weight" loop clipping problem of a daisy chain. View our range of slings here
Helmet - Petzl Altios
With loose rock and ice coming down from the mountain above it is essential that a helmet is worn. The Petzl Altios provides a hard shell and comfortable fit so you'll forget you're even wearing it! View our range of helmets here
Ice Axes - Black Diamond Viper & Grivel Air Tech Evo
For steep north faces and couloirs a pair of technical axes will give confidence and security. The Black Diamond Viper Adze and Hammer are superbly balanced and offer good clearance to get you past those icy steps. It is also worth packing a mountaineering axe for the more classical of rock lines, saving weight over carrying a single technical tool and giving better arresting on gentle snow slopes. Our range of axes is available here
Crampons - Black Diamond Cyborg Pro & Grivel Air Tech Newmatic
As with axes, a couple of pairs of crampons will allow you to have the most fun on steep technical ground or treks over classic peaks. Vertical front points that can be configured to either dual or mono point will bite into hard alpine ice but rely on a heavier construction making them more tiring to walk in. Something like the Black Diamond Cyborg Pro is a good technical alpine crampon, while the Girvel Air Tech Newmatic is lightweight for mountain trekking. View our crampon range here
Ice Screws - Black Diamond Turbo
Those that have climbed ice before will have experience the jelly-like wrists and burning calves while trying to get an ice screw to bite. Luckily screws have massively improved over the last few years and now will bite into even hard ice efficiently (provided you look after them). The Black Diamond Turbo is one example of a modern screw that once tried will leave you not wanting to use anything else. View our fantastic range of modern screws here
As well as climbing equipment, cooking equipment and food is crucial to a successful alpine trip. Below are some details of items we think will make your trip successful:
The ability to get some warm food in you whilst bivving high on a cold mountain should never be underestimated. Throw in the fact that water will freeze so needs to be melted out and the importance of a stove becomes really apparent. The ideal stove would be an efficient kettle that you could hold in your hand, had a piezo lighter and boil water/melt snow quickly and efficiently so that you don't have to carry a lot of fuel. Jetboils Flash Personal Cooking System fits this description exactly. View our range of stoves here found in our camping section of the site.
Utensils - Light My Fire Spork
Light, functional, doesn't freeze and is also cheap - nothing more needs to be said on why Light My Fire Sporks are one of the best utensils around for alpinists. Get yours here.
Evening Meals - Mountain House
There was a time when dried food tasted of sawdust and was about as edible. Thankfully this time is no more as Mountain House meals provide an great meal in minutes for very little weight. View our ready meals here.
Snacks - Go Energy Bars
Being able to get energy whilst on the go will really help with decision making, fitness and above all enjoyment when out mountaineering. Stuffing your pockets full of energy bars means they're to hand when you have a break and you're more likely to eat them. Some of our favourites are the Go Energy Bars. View our complete range here.
As well as essential equipment, having the right clothing is vital. We recommend using a layering system as this provides the most versatility and warmth. Below is a selection of recommendations from this system but personal preference, body shape and weather conditions can alter these choices dramatically. All our clothing is picked from top brands and is durable. If you are unsure about an item please contact one of our stores or our mail order team on 0845 100 1000.
Base layer - Icebreaker Oasis 200 Crew
Icebreaker baslayers are made from Merino wool which stays comfortable after days of use, wicks effectively, and is very warm for it's weight. The Oasis 200 crew is a good baselayer thickness and cut for climbing. View our range of baselayers here
Insulation - Patagonia Micro Puff Hooded Jacket
The insulation layer will vary in thickness and material depending on the weather forecast, time of year and length of time you expect to be on the mountain. For worse forecasts, winter and longer routes, make this layer warmer to prevent getting cold. For shorter day climbs in the summer a lighter alternative can save weight - sometimes even as light as micro fleece. However, for most mountain days we'd recommend something similar to the Patagonia Micro Puff Hooded Jacket - The synthetic insulation in this jacket will keep you warm even when it gets wet and it provides a good balance of weight to warmth. Finally it has a hood you can pull up when it gets even colder. View our complete range of down and insulated jackets here or our range of fleeces and midlayers here.
Windproof / Softshell - Haglofs Viper II Hoodie
Softshell clothing has made the alpinist's life much easier. This is the layer that will be worn most of the time and will keep off the wind / spindrift and keep you comfortable. There are lots of jackets that now fit this bill with some being warm, more windproof, more rain proof, lighter or more breathable then others. The Haglofs Viper II Hoodie is a good example of balancing all these factors. View our range of softshells here.
Waterproof / Hardshell - Arc'teryx Alpha LT Jacket
Waterproofs should always be carried, even in a good forecast, as they offer fantastic wind protection and general protection from the elements for their weight. A balance always has to be struck between weight, price, breathability and durability. A performance shell fabric is softer, more comfortable and cheaper (it's also just as waterproof and windproof) however it probably isn't robust enough to deal with high mountain peaks where we'd recommend using a pro shell jacket (or equivalent fabric). We offer a variety of cuts for all shapes and sizes. Climbers should look for a helmet compatible hood, meaning the hood can be put up over a helmet, and high pockets designed to sit above a harness. Our top-selling mountaineering waterproof is the hereArc'teryx Alpha LT Jacket and with good reason! It features a fantastic cut and amazing attention to detail; using slim seam tape to improve breathability, harness compatible hem lock to keep everything in place, and packs down super small - if you're in doubt about which waterproof to buy this one won't disappoint. Our full range of waterproofs can be found here
Soft Shell Trousers - Mountain Equipment Men's Ibex / Women's Chamois Pants
While people spend a lot of time, money and effort looking after their top half, the legs are often forgotten. These need looking after as well and one of the best ways to do this is to get a pair of softshell trousers. Tough, flexible, comfortable, and offering great protection from wind and snow, these trousers last for a long time and you will find yourself wondering why you never bought a pair before. The Mountain Equipment men's Ibex or women's Chamois softshell pants offer great value and a great fit. View our complete range here
Gloves, Hats & Neck Warmers - Take lots!
You really can never have too many gloves, hats, or neck warmers, take as many as you can of all shapes and sizes thick thin, to protect from the sun or to keep you warm. Our climbing gloves can be found here, our hats here and our neck warmers here.
The best advice that can be given for buying mountaineering boots is to buy what fits you best. With this in mind we'd recommend you try on all the boots in our extensive range at one of our stores. If you have to buy online, order several types and sizes and send the ones that don't fit back to us for a full refund (T&C's apply). The two boots above are examples of the type of boot to look for and our full range can be found here