The 2008 Winter Climbing Kit List has been thoroughly updated for 2012 - Read the 2012 Winter Climbing Kit List here>>>
-all photographs copyright Dave Pickford - www.davidpickford.com
A January Storm clears Mont Blanc: there are few places more alluring places to climb than the Alps in winter.
With the winter climbing season fast approaching, it’s time to start considering what to add to your arsenal of essential gear for cold climbing. To give you a few ideas on where to start looking, planetFear has compiled a definitive list of winter climbing equipment, clothing, and accessories. With winter climbing, the specific gear you take is determined largely by what sort of thing you’ll be doing – ice-falls or alpine, single or multi-day, Scotland or Canada?
Arguably, the most important single component of a winter climber’s equipment is their clothing: without the right clothes, success and survival in the mountains becomes impossible. An effective layering system is the foundation of a functional winter climbing wardrobe, and it must start with a good base layer. PlanetFear recommends the following base-layers for winter climbing:
Mammut New Kula Pull
Haglofs Activies 021 Long John
The soft-shell concept has been around for some years now, but improvements to the technology and functionality of these brilliant garments is continuous among the leading outdoor brands. A softshell is the ideal winter climbing outer-layer for all but the worst conditions: light and very breathable, yet warm and windproof enough to keep the elements at bay, a good softshell is a perfect companion on winter climbs. PlanetFear recommends the following soft-shell products for winter climbing:
Arc'teryx Gamma MX Hoody
Climber using a soft-shell system in perfect conditions on the classic of Mont Blanc Du Tacul, the Chere Couloir (TD). There is no need to wear a hard-shell in conditions like these - it can be safely stored in your pack!
A tough and resilient hard-shell is an essential addition to your winter cragging sack. When the conditions get really challenging, only a hard-shell will keep you dry and warm. PlanetFear stocks a range of high performance climbing hard-shells from the leading brands – click on the links below to read more.
Rab Latok Alpine Jacket
Neil Gresham (www.neilgresham.com) ice climbing in a hard-shell / soft-shell combination
Hats and Gloves
Keeping your extremities warm can mean the difference between a succesful and enjoyable day’s climbing and a thoroughly miserable one. PlanetFear recommends the following products as a starting point:
Good insulation - the secret to keeping warm whilst rock or ice climbing in the winter.
The last element of a winter climbing clothing system is a good insulating garment, usually a lightweight down jacket, which can be packed away easily. The difference being insulated makes on a long cold belay has to be felt to be appreciated!
North Face Redpoint Ladies Jacket
Arc'teryx Covert Hoody
A well-fitting and correctly chosen pair of winter mountaineering boots are about as important as any individual part of your clothing or racking system: they can (sometimes literally) make or break your climb. You should choose your boots according to the type of winter climbing your doing: if it’s mostly ice-fall cragging in Europe, you’ll be better off with a light, technical pair; if you’re doing long Scottish winter routes or full-blown alpine faces, then you’ll need something a little warmer, more robust (and therefore heavier). Click on the links below to find out more about the winter climbing boots available from planetFear.
La Sportiva Trango S Evo
Ian Parnell ice-fall climbing in Italy - the right combination of boots and crampons is crucial for ice climbing. Forget expedition-weight breeze-blocks: think light and comfortable. A good pair of socks can make even a lightweight ice climbing boot functionally warm in sub-zero temperatures.
Having chosen the best pair of boots you can afford, socks are often an afterthought: they shouldn’t be – a properly-constructed pair of insulated socks can immeasurably enhance the warmth and comfort of your boots: click here to find out about the mountaineering socks available from planetFear.
PlanetFear sponsored blogger Tim Emmett (www.timemmett.com) sharpening his Petzl Nomics in Valsavaranche, Italy. Having a well-maintained winter rack is as important as getting the right gear for the job.
The interface between your arms and the ice / rock is about as important a single item of winter equipment as any, and the selection of axes on the market reflects this. The choice between leashes or leashless has become easier now as many modern axes offer the facility of removing the leashes quickly. Click here to browse the ice axes available from planetFear.
Although more gets said about axes, equally important are your crampons. If your old pair are looking a bit tired, why not splash out on a new set this winter? There’s nothing worse, after all, than a seized or broken crampon you’ve just walked for two hours uphill! Click here to browse the crampons available from planetFear.
A normal ice climbing rack consists of ten ice screws, twelve quickdraws, three screwgates, a selection of slings, plus an abalakov threader and spare cord. For mixed climbs, this is then supplemented with various items of rock protection. Other items such as the bulldog and deadman can be very useful in frozen turf or snow; obviously whether you take these along will depend on your chosen route. Click here to browse the ice and winter protection available from planetFear.
A powerful headtorch is absolutely essential for any day out winter climbing: as any seasoned Scottish or Alpine winter climber will tell you, returning from a long route in daylight is a very rare event! PlanetFear recommends the following headtorches for winter climbing use:
Black Diamond Vectra Iq
On longer alpine and Scottish winter routes, a 30 - 45 litre alpine rucksack is essential. Giles Cornah uses a prototype Karrimor Alpiniste 35 in Fournel, France.
A good, tough alpine climbing pack is an essential tool for days out winter cragging. PlanetFear recommend the following packs for ice, mixed and alpine climbing:
Arc'Teryx Naos 55
Cooking by headtorch on a winter's evening in Sicily: a good torch and stove are essential for well-lit and well-nourished winter climbing!
Beyond the main categories outlined above, you may need other items in your winter arsenal if you’re planning on tackling multi-day alpine routes: a lightweight stove, tent, and a 4-season sleeping bag and mat would be the basic minimum requirements here. PlanetFear has selected the following top winter products in this category:
Rab Quantum 600 Endurance Lady
And finally - don't forget that a large percentage of the equipment you buy for winter climbing, from clothing to ice screws and ropes, will be perfectly suited to that other great winter pastime - skiing!