Rope. What’s your climbing objective? Vertical rock or ice? Glacier travel? Canyoneering? Identifying your goals will help you choose the best rope suited for your mission.
Single rope, these can be great workhorses for rock, ice and alpine climbing. Do you need a 70m, 9mm dry treated rope for mixed climbing in the alpine setting that can also see duty at the local crag after work for some sport climbing? If so, single rope is the choice. You would be advised by most to get a rope which has a dry treatment, especially if you plan to climb in the alpine where conditions can change quickly or you will be on ice or snow. The DRY COVER protection on our BEAL Unicorn rope is a great choice.
Half or Twin rope is great for the hardcore ice or trad climber who will end up on sketchy rock sections. While half and twin rope systems are not exactly the same, many of the benefits parallel each system. Both half and twin rope implements 2 ropes and is great for a few reasons. These ropes are typically skinnier from 8mm to 9mm and are ultra lightweight. This reduces the weight you have to carry on the approach to your climb because you can split the load with your climbing partner. In the case of climbing with half rope it also reduces the impact on the protection you have placed in case of a fall. This can be critical if you are not 100% confident in the ice where you set your ice screws Also, the extra confidence of two ropes on the rappel can be satisfying when your feet are hanging 1500’ up on a hanging belay station.
Canyoneering? Don’t worry we have you covered too. For this application you want a light weight rope with a durable sheath to survive the coarse sandstone formations you will be navigating. A 9mm lightweight rope will make your approach to the canyons easier and packs well for those walking sections spelunking. A durable technora sheath with leave your mind at ease and having a polypropylene core that helps the rope float is wonderful to have in the slot canyons.
Helmet. A safety must-have. As far as construction goes there are two big differences.
Suspension helmets, think construction hard hat. This type of helmet has a hard outer shell with foam lining the inside to help dampen impact of rock fall from above. These are great helmets but tend to be a few ounces heavier on average when compared to foam helmets.
Foam helmets, these lighter weight helmets are usually made from polystyrene or polypropylene foam. This type of helmet is also better at protecting the head from side and rear impact better than a suspension helmet. Durability will vary and these helmets are not typically as tough as suspension helmets.
Both these types of helmets are lightweight and will not slow you down on your climb but still offer great perfection for your dome. All helmets today are equipped with an attachment for your headlamp for dawn patrol missions. Whether you’re climbing in your local canyon or on that ski mountaineering trip you’ve been planning for months, you can find a suitable helmet for the task.
Harness. There is a harness designed for virtually every type of climbing style including specialised harnesses for women and children to get the perfect fit. Choosing the right harness can really help you enjoy your day out. If you plan to be sitting in your harness often, consider a model with thicker padding like those designed for trad climbing or canyoneering. Conversely, if you plan to be in a standing position in situations such as glacier travel you may want a lightweight alpine mountaineering harness. For this piece of gear you want something you can be comfortable in all day.
Ice Axe. These are a necessity when climbing snow, ice or traversing massive glaciers. If your objective is a glaciated snow climb then one ice axe per person will be necessary. An extra axe per party is common practice for some as axes can be lost in crevasse falls and ice picks can be broken on tougher climbing surfaces. It’s good practice to use a leash on your axe on extremely steep couloirs or areas where crevasse falls are likely. On steep slopes it is good insurance to have an axe to self-arrest after a fall or to use as an anchor in a pinch.There are many options when choosing an ice axe. Do you want lightweight aluminum for long multiple day expeditions or will you need ice tools to climb vertical ice? Some mountaineers will choose to go with one standard ice axe and one ice tool if the conditions will be mixed snow and ice, or the conditions of the route are unknown. Whatever your chosen terrain is, we have the right axe for task at hand.
Snow Shovel. A good backcountry snow shovel is something every person should carry and will handle a long list of chores around camp. You’ll want something durable enough to withstand long trips with hard snow and ice but light enough to carry long distances. While the shovel will perform simple tasks such as digging snow for drinking water or clearing drifted snow for your tent site, avalanche rescue is where this tool is a prize possession and can become a life saving tool. There are a few different options, but the most popular materials are aluminum and high density polyethylene. Of those mentioned, mountaineers tend to prefer aluminum for its amazing strength to weight ratio. Blade size will vary but around 35x45 cm is the general size preferred as it is large enough to dig efficiently and still fit into a reasonably sized pack.
Crampons. Just another valuable piece of equipment to bring along on your adventure. There are a few factors to think about when deciding what’s best for you. What type of boot will you be wearing? Hiking boots can be fitted with a universal strap-on crampon which can be transferable to your other hiking boots or a friend’s if they ever need to borrow a pair. For mountaineering specific boots a hybrid universal crampon is the best choice, the heel locks and there is little chance the crampon will ever slip off. The most hardcore and reliable crampons are the step-in variety which also have a heel lock but also have a metal toe plate designed to hold the mountaineering or ski boot in tightly. Now if you are climbing ice you will want to choose a vertical toe point instead of the horizontal toe points commonly used for snow travel. Also worth mentioning, if you are wearing overboots on your trip, be sure to get the appropriate size crampon to fit them.
Ice and Snow Anchors. Anyone traveling on glacial terrain or steep snow should be carrying snow pickets and or flukes/deadman anchors. Now, on any type of ice or mixed routes some ice screws will be necessary for protection. All these items are must-haves for this kind of backcountry travel.Pickets are preferred in winter like conditions with solid consolidated snow where flukes will be preferred during spring conditions with wet, heavy unconsolidated snow. The obvious choice for ice routes is simple, ice screws. Just make sure to have a variety of lengths to get the best anchor possible and carry enough quickdraws for your entire route.