This is one part of my climbing that I enjoy, spending hours on researching, drooling over and field-testing. It seems as if every time I purchase a new piece of gear, that is lighter and shinier than the old version, they bring another lighter and even shinier version out a few months later. I am sure climbing gear manufacturers are actually all owned by the Apple Corporation.
It's becoming very fashionable to use the term fast and light, and while that may have been be the case for the late great alpinist Ueli Steck, we are not all like him, but with the progression of newer and lighter gear, we may be able to move a little faster in the hills.
While I am all for saving weight on gear I think some items should be carried and worn regardless of their weight. On 8,000-meter peaks where speed is not of the essence for the most part, I recommend carrying a two-way radio and wearing an avalanche transceiver. If your western expedition operator does not provide these items to you then I would have serious doubts about their ability to help you if a problem happens on the hill. I always tell my team members that the avalanche transceiver I provide them and that they have to compulsory wear is to help the rescuers retrieve bodies safely if possible, it will not protect them from an avalanche or serac fall. Any climber on an 8,000-meter peak who's part of a larger expedition and who does not carry a radio is stupid in my honest opinion. They weigh nothing and can save your life. I can attest to that after taking a big crevasse fall back on Manaslu in 2013 and my radio I was carrying saved my life. Ask your expedition operator to provide Lithium batteries as they weigh much less than regular ones.
I usually climb Everest in the spring and Manaslu, Dhaulagiri or Cho Oyu in the fall climbing season. For my recent climb on Makalu I used the following gear. There were Sherpas from various teams fixing ropes on the route so I didn't need to show up with a full alpine rack and technical ice tools. I am also a lot older and slower than I used to be so I try to go as light as possible these days on one of the big ones as I do not have any Sherpa to assist me with my personal loads.
Petzl Sirocco helmet (170g)
Petzl Irvis crampons (730g)
Petzl Gully ice axe (2 x 280g)
Black Diamond Carbon Whippet ski pole (475g)
Petzl Altitude harness (160g)
Pieps DSP Pro avalanche transceiver (200g)
Pieps Checker (19g)
For the longest time I have been using the Black Diamond Vector helmet in an awesome Ninja black color, but it's very fragile and prone to denting, which is a pain if you plan to pack inside a duffel bag or similar. The Petzl Sirocco is a little more sturdy in the travel department durability although the black or white color schemes offer little color choices, with the white version making the wearer look like a Storm Trooper from Star Wars.
The Petzl Irvis crampon has only 10-points, compared to most standard mountaineering crampons with 12-points. I found for non-technical terrain, especially expeditions where fixed rope is in place they work fine although these crampons are more designed for ski mountaineering or occasional glacier use over semi-technical mountaineering. When using the heavy La Sportiva Olympus Mons boots these crampons offset that weight, as they are much lighter than traditional 12-point crampons.
The new Petzl Gully axe is perfect as a tool for occasional use due to it being ultra lightweight at 280 grams, especially on terrain, which will have a fixed rope in place. It's length is only 45cm making it useless as a traditional piolet but as an occasional tool on steeper ground it works. If I am climbing a peak where there may be the possibility that fixed ropes are not present, I will carry both a Gully adze and a hammer version as the combined weight of the pair is the same weight as a regular single Quark. A lot of the younger generation of alpinists, believe an adze axe is unnecessary and they prefer to carry two hammers, but I find an adze is perfect for high altitude mountaineering as it has many functions over a hammer in and around campsites.
Seeing as I am using a very short ice tool(s) for any technical sections, I will also use a Black Diamond Carbon Whippet ski pole as a main climbing aid. This ski pole has a small pick and I can use to self-arrest if needed. I only use this pole on non-technical sections.
The Petzl Altitude harness is a no frills basic harness with an amazing weight of only 160 grams. The gear loops are simple in their design and make the harness perfect for non-technical high altitude mountaineering and ski mountaineering. For the past several years I have been using the original Black Diamond Couloir harness and it worked well except for the bad design of the buckle. I am hoping the newer version now available rectifies this problem as it weighs only 215 grams and is offered in a more subdued color scheme than the Altitude.
I included the avalanche transceiver as climbing gear as I think it's as important as an axe or harness. I prefer the PIEPS DSP Pro version as it has a 60-meter range and is very simple to use. All my Sherpa wear these and know how to perform a search and rescue with them. It only weighs 200 grams so why would you not wear it. I also bring along a PIEPS Checker to make sure my partners and my transceiver are working correctly.
Black Diamond Ultralight Ice Screw 13cm (74g)
Black Diamond Super 8 rappel/belay device (80g)
Petzl Ange S carabiner (2 x 28g)
Black Diamond Vaporlock screwgate carabiner (2 x 52g)
Black Diamond Index ascender (200g)
I like to have at least one ice screw with me on an 8,000-meter peak, just in case I need to anchor myself to the hill. The Ultralight ice screw by Black Diamond in the 13cm length is the lightest screw out there but is not a durable as the classic Black Diamond Express. If you want a screw to last the years go with the Express, if you are obsessed about weight, go with the Ultralight.
ATC's do not work if using with fixed ropes, especially the Korean 9mm poly rope that is used on 99% of Nepalese mountains having commercial expeditions operating on their flanks.
I'm not a huge fan of wiregate carabiners as I have had several gates break due to the cold weather on the north side of Everest early in the season. I know carabiners have improved in recent years but the memory is still fresh for me. After trying several lightweight carabiners, the Petzl Anges S works best for me for high altitude mountaineering. I am using this carabiner as an accessory biner for 8,000-meter peaks and I find the monfil gate is actually quite easy to open even wearing big gloves. It's a very small sized carabiner and I know from reading reviews, it's a big issue with a lot of folks, but not me. These biners are probably my favorite piece of new gear to come out over the past few years.
The Vaporlock screwgate is an amazing carabiner and I just wished Black Diamond would release a smaller version, similar in size to the Nitron carabiner with a regular gate. I use one for my belay device and the other for my safety sling carabiner when using an ascender.
The new Petzl Ascension has been modified and had additional holes drilled and widened to bring its weight down to 165 grams but the Black Diamond Index, weighing 200 grams, it the best ascender I have used in the past 25 years.
La Sportiva Olympus Mons boots (2,520g) | La Sportiva G2 boots (1,940g)
Mountain Hardwear Absolute Zero Suit (1,780g)
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer jacket (197g)
Arcteryx Nuclei FL synthetic down jacket with hood (280g)
Arcteryx Phase SL long underwear top (120g) | Arcteryx Phase SL long underwear bottom (120g)
Arcteryx Alpha SL Gore-Tex jacket (305g)
Arcteryx Fortez beanie hat (25g)
Black Diamond CoEfficient ¼ zip top (386g) | Black Diamond CoEfficient pant (200g)
Arcteryx Psiphon AR climbing pants (515g)
Black Diamond Punisher gloves (164g)
Outdoor Research Alti-Gloves (309g) | Outdoor Research Alti-Mitts (364g)
Black Diamond Work Gloves (193g)
Patagonia Liner socks (?g)
Smartwool Mountaineering socks (81g)
There are several high altitude boot options out there but the Himalayan market is really dominated by two brands, La Sportiva Olympus Mons and Millet Everest GTX, made in Italy and France respectively. I have always loved Italian shoes and the same goes for my high altitude boots. I am the proud owner of multiple pairs of La Sportiva Batura, G5, G2 and Olympus Mons boots and I recommend nothing else. For acclimatization rotations I wear a less warmer rated boot that is lighter in weight to reduce fatigue. I have gone as high as 7,500 meters in the G2 boots without getting cold feet.
A down suit is probably the one piece of equipment you will use the least in your high altitude mountaineering career and most folks take whatever is available. The gear companies do not put much research and design into these items as they are such a specialized piece of clothing and the market for them is small. The two best models I have seen are the Mountain Hardwear Absolute Zero suit and The North Face Himalayan suit. Both companies are losing their direction somewhat as they are now owned by larger corporations where the focus is now on profits and not design for the outdoor market. The Mountain Hardwear suit is lighter but bulkier around the waist, an important area as you are wearing a harness. The old style North Face Himalayan suit is heavier, but has a more trim fit, which makes the harness more accessible and in my case makes my ass look great according to several folks, myself included. Down suits are an expensive purchase, so I recommend trying on as many different styles as possible before you purchase if this is an option, but it probably will not be. I good down suit will not need multiple thick layers on underneath, but layering will still be needed with thinner garments.
I'm not a huge fan of carrying a large, heavy parka when on the hill. I prefer to layer with the awesome Ghost Whisperer down jacket from Mountain Hardwear in conjunction with an Arcteryx Nuclei FL synthetic down jacket with hood. This system allows me options in regards to wearing one of the jackets and carrying the other in my pack when a parka would be two warm. I prefer a synthetic outer layer as I do not have to be concerned about the insulation getting wet.
Arcteryx clothing - Do I really need to say anymore. Some of the nicest, best designed and made outdoor clothing available. It's expensive gear but I think worth every penny.
Black Diamond are coming out with some great clothing for all areas of outdoor activities. The first year or two of production, I would say had some issues here and there but it seems as they have ironed out the creases and are now putting out some of the best looking, most functioning clothing for the outdoors. They lean heavily towards the ski market during the season as they should and not so much towards alpinists, but there's a bigger ski market right?
I still think the Outdoor Research Alti-Mitts and Alti-Gloves are the way to go after all these years. They have been improved on with different looks over time but they are still the old school high altitude glove and mitt I love. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Black Diamond bring out some sweet leather rappel gloves from the Dirt Bag to the more expensive Work Glove. Both are excellent but the Work Glove may last a couple of expeditions after multiple hand rappels on the Korean fixed ropes.
One of the most important areas of gear choice is footwear, both boots and socks. Wherever possible I like to wear a liner sock and then a thicker mountaineering sock as I have had a lot of frostnip (not frostbite) over the years and I like the warmth of a two sock system. A lot of climbers wear their boots too small and this results in cold feet and frostbite as the feet expand at altitude. I'm not going to get scientific here and draw charts with elevation and expansion rates, etc., so here's my take on what size boot you should wear.
As I said earlier on this page, I wear La Sportiva boots exclusively as I think they are best boot available for alpine and high altitude climbing. I am not saying this because La Sportiva give me free boots, I purchase all my gear as I am a climber and not a good looking athlete that can sell shit by me wearing their gear. They make good boots period.
I wear a US size 10 street shoe so for ice climbing Upstate New York or alpine climbing around Chamonix I wear a size US10 La Sportiva Bataura with a medium thickness mountaineering sock. For 6,000-meter peaks in Peru and on the amazing Cholatse I will also wear the same boot but in a size US11 in conjunction with a thin liner sock and a medium thickness mountaineering sock to allow for the feet expansion due to the increased altitude. Remember tight fitting boots mean cold feet.
On 8,000-meter peaks during acclimatization rotations where I may climb as high as 7,300 meters I wear the La Sportiva G2 boot also in a size US11. Most folks don't get cold climbing in lightweight boots, they cold when they stop climbing. When I go for a summit push I leave the G2's at base camp and don the Olympus Mons to summit and back, hopefully. My 8,000-meter summit boots are sized US11.5, that's 1.5 sizes larger than my street shoe and again I wear the liner sock and medium thickness mountaineering sock combination.
The biggest reason for cold feet are one or more of the following problems.
1. Your boots are too small to allow for feet expansion at altitude.
2. Your boots are crap and you should have upgraded to a decent pair many years ago.
3. Your pace needs improving, as you are moving too slow, possibly need to train more and buy new lighter gear.
Petzl Actik headlamp (92g) | Black Diamond Icon headlamp (230g)
Julbo Trek glacier glasses (33g)
Panasonic Luminix DMC camera (175g)
Arcteryx Alpha FL 45 pack (650g)
Suunto Ambit watch (89g)
Platypus 1 Liter PlusBottle (23g)
Thermarest Neo Xlite mattress (340g)
Mountain Hardwear Mtn Speed bag (446g)
Valandre Lafayette bag (1,020g)
Rab Expedition Slippers (240g)
SPF chap stick and small tube of sunscreen (?g)
I don't know why I listed the above items as personal gear but I had no other place to put them.
I believe the best headlamp around is the Black Diamond Icon. They keep improving it, which is hard to do, as it's already a great product. The only downside is it's weight and bulk. For low altitude it's perfect, for high altitude it performs better than any other headlamp I have used in regards to power consumption, performance in the cold and the strength of it's beam. This season on Makalu I will be trying the Petzl Actik. They say it's designed for mountaineering so let me be the judge of that. I will of course be carrying my trustworthy Icon, now with an incredible 500 lumens.
I have been using Julbo since day one and there is no better brand out there for glacier eyewear. Again this is my honest opinion and I am not swayed by my choices by receiving free gear, although I could, and I would, so if anyone in the business reads this, I need stuff, preferably in black, as I like to think I'm the Johnny Cash of the Himalaya. The Trek from Julbo give me full UV coverage but I have to be careful at the top of the brow where I always forget to ply sunblock. These are great glasses for a fair price. You may have a hard time finding a pair of Trek glasses now days as they have been discontinued and replaced with the equally awesome Julbo Shield. The Shields are not as sexy as the Treks, but they are a solid choice for glacier glasses.
I picked up this Panasonic camera around 2013 and it still works which is surprising for me as I'm hard on electronics. I'm not sure if it's still being produced but supposedly it's shockproof, cold proof and waterproof ad I have to say I have treated it like dirt and it still works. If only they could make a laptop like this.
The Arcteryx FL series packs, meaning fast and light, were produced a few years ago, then improved on the original version with a few tweaks and it's one awesome durable pack. The Canadians and Europeans like this pack for some very hard to figure out reason, and I would not use any other pack. I hope Arcteryx will let me know when they plan to discontinue this product as I will order several. I also have the Alpha FL30 for lightweight alpine climbing. The sizes are a little misleading as the FL45 is more like a 30-liter pack but can be extended with its capacity to 45-liter. The FL30 is more like a 20-liter pack but can also extend it's capacity to 30-liter.
I used to think that all these first time Himalayan climbers showing up in Kathmandu with these huge Suunto Vector watches in bright yellow, red or white were trying a little too hard to identify themselves. I didn't understand what the attraction was until I came into the possession of a Suunto Ambit and I have to admit it's pretty darn good. I'm still slow on the take in regards to all you can do with it but it works well although the battery charge is not that long. These guys at Suunto like to make very big watches and I'm surprised as I've been to Helsinki, Finland and everything seemed to me to be on the smaller scale there.
I see a lot of climbers, especially from the States using Nalgene bottles. They are a strong popular bottle but I have had them crack on me due to the cold temperatures experienced on the north side of Everest, there's a pattern here with carabiners and crampons also breaking because it's un-believably cold early in the season in Tibet, probably the coldest you will ever be climbing, apart form Denali in the Winter. I have been using the same Platypus 1 Liter PlusBottle since 2012, and although it's discolored from all kinds of beverages being put in there, no wine or Khukri Rum ever I promise, it has never leaked and it only weighs 23 grams. How much does an empty Nalgene weigh and can the Nalgene fit snug in chest pockets under layers so it will not freeze? I had some insulation sleeves made in Kathmandu from very lightweight foam stitched inside a very lightweight fabric that fits like a sleeve over the bottle to reduce the chance of the contents freezing.
The introduction of the Thermarest Neo Xlite mattress a few years ago changed the way I thought about how to sleep up high. I was never a fan of carrying both a closed cell foam pad and an air mattress due to the weight and the bulk. Then I discovered the Neo Xlite and was hooked. I also use the Neo XTherm, which is slightly warmer and just a little heavier, worth the extra weight if you want to sleep more comfortable. The Neo Xlite comes in at 340 grams and the Xtherm at 425g, which is the same weight as a regular Thermarest foam mattress.
When folks see my sleeping bag they think I'm crazy. It packs down smaller than a one liter Nalgene bottle and weighs only 446 grams. It's rated to 32F but I think that is a little generous and is more like 40F. Why use such a thin bag on an 8,000-meter peak? I have all my clothes with me anyway, so I sleep with all my layers on and higher on the hill I will wear my down suit inside the bag. Many of the climbers who I have been fortunate to climb with on an Altitude Junkies expedition have inherited this school of thought and have reduced the weight of their high altitude sleeping bags considerably. None of them are crazy enough to go with a 32F bag, but a lot are now using a 0F bag and not the -40F bag that so many expedition companies are still recommending. For base camp I will use a warmer bag and the Valandre Lafayette is rated at 5F as I am not too concerned about the weight for a stationary bag. I still prefer a lighter bag at base camp that is not -20F as I like to start to sleep with many layers on, removing them once I am warm. Too many climbers show up with huge -40F bags and these end up being too warm for them at the respective base camp elevations.
My Rab down booties (Expedition Slippers) are so super light and warm. I use them in the above sleeping bag as the bag is too small in size to sleep with the high altitude boot liners on.
The majority of my alpine climbing is done down in the Cordillera Blanca of Peru and the conditions down there change from season to season. I really put the emphasis on finding the most durable and lightest gear available, as it is very hard to replace in Huaraz half way through a season. Lately it has been very icy and a there is a lot more exposed rock, so with this in mind I climb with the following gear for a summer season. I’m not too concerned about having too much gear to transport as a I keep a year round house share in Huaraz which allows me to store some items.
Petzl Sirocco helmet (170g)
Petzl Dartwin crampon (765g) | Petzl Dart crampon (745g) Petzl Irvis Hybrid crampon (505g) | Petzl Leopard crampon (400g)
Black Diamond Cobra tool (617g & 588g) | Petzl Quark tool (2 x 480g)
Petzl Gully tool (2 x 280g) | Petzl Sumtec axe (2 x 450g)
Black Diamond Slinger leash (2 x 54g) | Petzl V-Link leash (80g)
Petzl Sitta harness (270g)
Pieps DSP Pro avalanche transceiver (200g)
Pieps Checker (19g)
Black Diamond QuickDraw Carbon Probe 240 (271g)
Black Diamond Deploy 3 Shovel (565g)
I have multiple crampons for alpine climbing depending on the route and conditions. The Petzl Dartwin and Dart crampons are some of the lightest technical steel crampons available. They are designed for ice climbing but I modified the Petzl Antisnow anti-balling plates to fit them enabling me to use them for technical alpine terrain. The Dart are a singular mono-point crampon, similar to the Dartwin, but I prefer a mono-point if the route I'm climbing has a lot of steep rock whereas I prefer the Dartwin for steep ice.
If I have an easy approach on an acclimatization rotation, such as to high camp on Cholatse, where I will usually only encounter soft and neve snow I will wear a pair of super lightweight all aluminum Petzl Leopard or Irvis Hybrid crampons, which have a front steel section and a rear aluminum section, as you hardly know you are wearing these crampons. Once you add the Antisnow anti-balling plates to the Leopard's they are pretty much the same weight as the classic Black Diamond Neve crampons but the dynema cord connecting the front and rear sections allows easier compact storage in my pack.
On technical climbs I need a harness, which is comfortable, light and has sufficient gear loops for all the additional hardware I am carrying. I find the Sitta is perfect for all my needs as it’s super lightweight and very comfortable.
My favorite ice tool is the Black Diamond Cobra, which I own a couple of pairs of, and I use them mainly for ice climbing and new technical alpine routes. To make the Cobras as light as possible for alpine use I remove the upper and lower pommels.
For alpine routes I have climbed before or routes where I kind of know what to expect in regards to what protection I need to place, I will use a pair of Petzl Quarks stripped of the Griprest and the Trigrest as well as the adze and the full hammer. Stripping these tools brings their weight down to 460 grams each but I will add an Mini Marteau Hammer weighing 20 grams to both of the tools if I know I will be placing pitons and snow pickets. The Quarks have a different shape of shaft than the Cobras so I wrap each tool in 3M Temflex electrical tape to allow a nice sticky grip to the shaft as well as adding some insulation.
If I know the route I am climbing and it's predominantly on neve snow I will use a pair of Gully axes to save weight on the approach and the route as these tools are ultra lightweight and good for non-super technical routes. As with the Quarks I wrap the Gully tools in 3M Temflex tape.
If I am climbing in the Ishinca Valley of the Cordilera Blanca, where the terrain is not super technical and where I will need a second tool occasionally, I will use a pair of stripped down Petzl Sumtec piolets. The Petzl Sumtec in a 55cm length is a much better suited general mountaineering axe but comes with the added weight of 450 grams when stripped, still lighter than most technical piolets offered at present. I prefer the longer, not so aggressive bend of the shaft of the Sumtec’s on non/semi-technical alpine terrain where I will predominantly plunge my axes for a better self-belay. As with the Quarks, I remove the standard adze and hammer and add two mini hammers to the tools as well as wrapping them in 3M Temflex electrical tape.
I have seen many variations of alpine tool leashes from the scary homemade job, to factory modified. People ask me why do I use two Black Diamond Slinger leashes when they offer the Spinner leash, which is designed for two tools. The leash length on the Slinger is slightly longer than that on the Spinner, which I prefer. Two Slinger leashes have a combined weight of 108 grams whereas the Spinner weighs 120 grams. I can also remove one of the Slinger leashes from my harness if I have an easy approach enabling me to free up my harness of additional clutter and attach the additional tool to my pack rather than holstering on my harness for a long period of time. If I am climbing a route with a very direct approach to the technical part of the climb I will use the Petzl V-Link elasticated leashes as these only weigh 80 grams.
Carrying an avalanche transceiver is pointless unless it ‘s accompanied by a probe and a shovel. On 8,000-meter peaks the transceiver is worn mostly to allow others to locate a body, on lower altitude alpine terrain it is worn as a tool and climbers with the right training can possibly save each other’s lives if the need arises. I usually climb with a single partner in remote areas so we need to be self sufficient in all aspects of rescue. The Black Diamond QuickDraw Carbon probe is one of the easiest I have ever used and with its 240cm length it comes in at only 217 grams. The Black Diamond Deploy 3 shovel has a great packing design as the handle slides over the blade to make it compact in storage. It has somewhat of a small blade but only weighs 565 grams compared to the Deploy 7 version with the larger capacity blade that is double that of the Deploy 3 version and that weighs slightly more at 700 grams.
Black Diamond Ultralight Camalots from #0.4 to #4 (843g)
Petzl Pur'Anneau 60cm slings (10 x 18g) | Black Diamond 10mm 60cm slings (10 x 19g) with Petzl Ange S biners (20 x 28g)
Petzl Pur'Anneau 120cm slings (2 x 32g) | Black Diamond 10mm 120cm slings (2 x 39g)
Black Diamond Ultralight Ice Screw 13cm (2 x 74g), 16cm (10 x 81g) & 22cm (2 x 96g)
Black Diamond Stoppers, from #4 to #13 (442g)
Petzl Ange S biners (20 x 28g) for stoppers, screws and camalots
Petzl Attache screwgate carabiner (2 x 56g)
Petzl Spirit screwgate carabiner (2 x 45g)
Black Diamond Lost Arrow Piton #1 (2 x 56g) | Black Diamond Angle Piton #1 (2 x 56g)
For a season in Peru I do not really know what I will need until I get down there and talk with other climbers in Huaraz who are returning from the hills. If I don't bring it with me there is no way to purchase it in Huaraz so I need to make sure I have all my rack available.
The Black Diamond Ultralight Camalots are awesome and 25% lighter than the original cams. There are lighter cams available but not with such a different size range.
I usually will climb with ten 60cm slings combined with Petzl Ange S biners. Some people say these biners are too small but I actually prefer their size as they rack easier on my harness loops and take up less space as the nose has a very slim profile. They take a little getting used to but perform the same as any other biner. I prefer for my biners to be visible, especially if I drop them in snow or on rocks, and the orange ones allow me to find them easily. The new Petzl Pur'Anneau slings are a few grams lighter than the previous Fin'Anneau slings although the different sizes are not as easy to distinguish as the previous version, although this does not really bother me as my 60cm slings have biners on both ends, whereas my 120cm slings are attached to a single biner. I will also carry two 120cm slings for safety slings and additional belay anchors. For routes where I will be climbing predominantly on rock I will switch the Pur'Anneau slings for Black Diamond 10mm Dynex runners as these are a little more durable for sharp rock edges.
For many years I have been using the Black Diamond Express screws in the 16cm length mostly. These weigh 145 grams then I switched to the Petzl Laser Speed Lite in a 17cm length that weighs only 100 grams. That does not sound like a lot of weight difference being only 45 grams lighter but multiply that by the ten ice screws I may be carrying at one time and that's a 450 gram difference, nearly half a kilo.
I had waited a long time for Black Diamond to release the Ultralight ice screw and I was not disappointed. I prefer to have the majority of my screws in the 16cm length and will only carry a couple of 13cm screws on routes where I do not expect to use screws, just in case. When using the 16cm length if I find the screw is too long I can always girth hitch a sling onto it although usually the ice conditions in the Cordillera Blanca require the longer screw. I carry a couple of the 22cm version for making v-threads.
I prefer the Black Diamond stoppers over any other brand of nuts and will carry sizes #4 through #13 with me. I will have additional Ange S biners for stoppers, screws and cams, a couple of the Petzl Attache and a couple of the Petzl Spirit screwgate carabiners.
Just as an insurance policy I will carry around four pitons. I prefer Black Diamond Lost Arrows and Angles, both in the #1 size, as these are the lightest ones available from BD.
Petzl Multihook (40g)
Petzl Reverso 4 rappel/belay device (59g)
DMM Bugette rappel/belay device (27g)
Petzl Tibloc ascender (39g)
Petzl Spatha knife (43g)
Petzl Oscillante pully (2 x 42g)
The Petzl Multitool is an awesome piece of gear as it can be used to remove nuts, thread a v-thread and even remove shit from inside an ice screw. It's a basic lightweight piece of gear, which is well thought out. I will bring two of these down to Peru just in case I lose one.
Most ATC's are pretty much the same design these days but the Petzl Reverso 4 is one the lightest of it's kind. If I am using ropes with a diameter smaller than 7.5mm then I will use the DMM Bugette device with two locking biners to increase friction. I have recently been introduced to DMM by a British friend and I expect I will be using a lot of their gear in the future. I will take two of each with me for the season in case I lose one.
I always carry a Petzl Tibloc device if I am traveling on a glacier as well as a couple of pulleys. My trustworthy Spatha knife is always on my harness for when I need to cut cord for my v-threads.
Rope & Hardware
Black Diamond 7mm x 60m ropes (2 x 2,040g) | Bluewater 7.7mm x 60m Ice Floss ropes (2 x 2,280g)
6mm perlon 6 meter (6m x 24g)
Mountain Safety Research Coyote 24” Snow Picket (4 x 386g) | Kathmandu made picket (4 x ?g)
For easy climbing terrain on predominantly snow and ice I will use a thinner half/twin rope than on steeper more committing routes with a lot of rock and mixed conditions. For the occasions where I have no mules to help getting gear to base camp and I have to carry all my gear, I will use a pair of Black Diamond 7mm ropes as they only weigh an amazing 34 grams per meter. When using skinny ropes on rappels I use two locking biners with my BMM Buguette rappel device to increase the friction
The Ice Floss ropes from them great folks at Bluewater are still the lightest 7.7mm ropes per meter that I can find at 38 grams per meter. They handle well and do not stretch too much on rappels and I like the increased security of a thicker rope on more challenging terrain.
I carry about 6 meter of 6mm cord for anchors but I will travel to Peru with about 30 meters in total for the season as it's very expensive to purchase down there.
The MSR pickets are good but expensive. I only really use these on a route where I know I can retrieve them. If I am climbing on unknown terrain I will use the snow bars made in Kathmandu as I pay about $2 each for them or cheaper. They are very similar to the European style of picket and I can afford to leave a few behind if I have to. I like to have four pickets between two climbers, two for belaying off and a couple for protection.
La Sportiva G5 boots (1,240g)
Arcteryx Nuclei FL synthetic down jacket with hood (280g)
Arcteryx Atom SL synthetic down jacket with hood (260g) | Atom SL synthetic down vest (155g)
Arcteryx Cerium SL down jacket with hood (215g) | Cerium SL down vest (125g)
Mountain Hardwear Kelvinator hooded vest (?g)
Arcteryx Phase SL long underwear top (120g) | Phase SL long underwear bottom (120g)
Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody (250g)
Mountain Hardwear Quasar Pullover (261g)
Arcteryx Fortez beanie hat (2 x 25g)
Arcteryx Delta LT Zip Neck Top (230g)
Black Diamond CoEfficient pant (2 x 200g)
Black Diamond Alpine Softshell pant (400g)
Black Diamond Punisher gloves (164g)
Black Diamond Dirt Bag gloves (158g)
Patagonia Liner socks (?g)
Smartwool Mountaineering socks (81g)
For many years I have been using La Sportiva Batura boots as these were perfect for low to mid altitude alpine climbs, especially Peru up to elevations of 5,500-6,000 meters. I even got away wearing them as high as Cholatse (6,440m) but I wouldn't want to go any higher as these are a not a double boot, but a one and half boot. I have recently switched to the new model of Batura, the G5 that are much lighter and have the same awesome lacing system as the G2 boots. Above 6,500 meters I wear the La Sportiva G2 boots.
As with my 8,000-meter clothing systems, I prefer to use multiple layers for my outer and inner insulation needs instead of wearing a heavy fleece jacket or carrying a large, heavy and bulky belay parka that sits in my pack most of the time.
I use the following layering system for insulation (not wind protection) on my upper and lower body starting next to my skin:
1. Arcteryx Arcteryx Phase SL long underwear top and bottom.
2. Arcteryx Delta Lt Zip Neck top | Black Diamond CoEfficient pant.
3. Arcteryx Atom SL synthetic down jacket with hood | Black Diamond Alpine Softshell pant.
4. Arcteryx Cerium SL down jacket with hood.
5. Arcteryx Nuclei FL synthetic down jacket with hood.
6. Mountain Hardwear Kelvinator hooded vest.
I will wear a very lightweight Arcteryx Delta LT zip fleece on top of my Arcteryx super lightweight base layers. On top of this I will wear a synthetic layer with the Atom SL jacket to combat perspiration issues. This jacket only has light insulation around the main torso and the arms, side panels and hood are not insulated, to reduce weight and allow the body to breathe. Having lightweight synthetic insulation will still keep me warm if the insulation gets wet from perspiration.
A down layer on top of this with the Cerium SL will insulate me and if needed I will wear an additional synthetic layer with the Nuclei FL hooded jacket in case of any precipitation. This layer will keep my down jacket dry and functioning. I have multiple hoods to keep each respective layer dry.
For any long belays I will throw on the Kelvinator hooded parka (minus the arms) as this is now superlight and keeps my upper body warm (not arms) quickly.
I will also have the Atom SL and Celrium SL hooded jackets in a vest version if I do not need all the hoods and extra warmth of long sleeves. I do not know exactly what system I will use until at the mountain, so I make sure I have everything with me at base camp, hence the reason I go very lightweight on clothing.
As with the layering of my upper body I do the same with my head and have two thin beanies which creates a thick warm one if needed.
With me using a lightweight sleeping bag I utilize a warm down jacket for a comfortable sleeping system, like I use a down suit with my sleeping bag on 8,000-meter peaks. The Mountain Hardwear Kelvinator jacket is a warm hooded down jacket but I had my tailor in Kathmandu remove the arms to reduce weight and to make the jacket a vest, which is more comfortable to climb in if weather conditions dictate. Removing the arms has reduced the weight considerably and allows the jacket to be packed even smaller.
The Cordillera Blanca is usually warmer than the Himalayas so I prefer to use a lighter shell jacket and pant. The Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody is so light you forget you are wearing it. If I expect some precipitation or strong winds then I may switch to the Mountain Hardwear Quasar Pullover as it's more of a Gore-Tex style jacket. The Black Diamond Alpine Softshell pant is lighter than most soft shell pants and I find has adequate protection from the wind and snow.
I will do a lot of rappelling while spending the season down in Peru so I will take a couple of pairs of the Black Diamond Dirt Bag gloves as they have great dexterity and are pretty cheap, the only downside is they are not that warm but that's the trade off as I usually trash them both by the end of the season.
Petzl Actik headlamp (92g)
Petzl Noctilight (85g)
Petzl E+Lite (26g)
Julbo Trek glacier glasses (33g)
Panasonic Luminix DMC camera (175g)
Casio G Shock watch (79g)
Salomon Soft Flask Speed (2 x 34g)
Buff neck scarf (?g)
Thermarest Neo Xlite mattress (340g)
Mountain Hardwear Mtn Speed bag (446g) | Valandre Lafayette bag (1,020g)
Rab Hot Socks (135g)
MSR 1-liter Reactor stove (420g)
Black Diamond Firstlight tent (1,280g)
PIEPS Bivy Bag MFL Double (525g)
SPF chap stick and small tube of sunscreen (?g)
Arcteryx Alpha FL 30 pack (585g) | Black Diamond Blitz 28 pack (444g)
Black Diamond Touchstone 70 (2,440g) | Zion 145 Haul Bag (4,290g)
The Petzl Noctilight is a great little carrying case for my Actik headlamp which means I can leave the batteries in place without being concerned that the light will accidentally switch on and drain the batteries. It's 85 grams but that weight is traded off as the Noctilight serves as a protective case as well as turning into a lantern. I prefer to have this lantern hanging in place when getting ready for an alpine start from base camp rather than two climbers blinding each other with their headlamps in a cramped tent.
In addition to my regular Actik headlamp I will also bring a back up light in the form of the Petzl E+Lite. This headlamp is only for emergency use if my regular light fails, it only weighs 26 grams and is very compact, as I prefer this over carrying two regular headlamps.
The Suunto Ambit 2 is a great watch but the battery life is quite short. If I'm alpine climbing somewhere for any length of time then I will wear a cheaper Casio G Shock watch, as I do not want the hassle of looking for electricity or carrying solar panels to recharge the watch every three days.
On short alpine climbs I may only need a little water so I switch out the 1-liter Platypus Plusbottle for the smaller 0.5-liter Salomon Soft Flask as I find this is easier to stow in my smaller sized backpack I use for alpine climbing. I find the speed soft flask does not freeze as easily as the Platypus bottle although it has a smaller volume. I will bring two just in case one breaks on me.
Every climb needs a buff as they weigh nothing and are great for any trek to base camp where the trail is dusty and pack animals ply the route.
I will take one of two sleeping bags to my high camp or bivy, depending on the climb. If I know I will be overnighting using a tent I will go for the warmer Valandre Lafayette with a 5F temperature rating. If trying to complete the climb in one long push, where there may be a possible bivy somewhere on descent, I will take the Mountain Hardwear Speed 32 bag rated at 32F and weighing a mere 446 grams. Depending on the climb and the current weather conditions I may switch out the sleeping bag and carry a PIEPS bivy bag instead as this gives me shelter from the wind and snow.
I try to reduce my weight on all my gear when alpine climbing so I will switch the Rab Expedition Slippers out for the Rab Hot Socks as these are lighter and easy to compress than the slippers. I will only carry these if I plan to spend the night on the mountain or expect a possible bivy on descent.
For occasions where I have to bivy or use a tent I will take a one liter version of the MSR Reactor stove. This is the lightest Reactor available and is perfect for two climbers overnighting. If the weather looks sketchy I will carry and use the older style Black Diamond Firstlight tent. This tent is surprisingly larger once inside then it looks from the outside and stripped down it comes in at only 1.28 kg which is perfect for two climbers to split the weight.
The Arcteryx Alpha FL 30 pack is a smaller and lighter version of the Alpha FL 45. This pack is super durable and good for routes that include a lot of rock, where the pack may come in contact with sharp edges. For total snow and ice routes I will use the Black Diamond Blitz 28 pack as it's lighter although not as durable as the Alpha..
For alpine approaches in Peru I will use a Black Diamond Zion 145 Haul bag as I can get all my gear, tools, rack, etc. into one durable bag. I can carry this as a backpack for those occasions where no mules are available to my respective base camps. In Nepal I primarily use helicopters to get to base camp or the start of the trek and as with the Zion 145, the Touchstone 70 can be carried as a pack or thrown onto a yak. The Touchstone is a perfect size for the B350 helicopter hold or for someone to sit on in the back seats of the bird.