Do you dream of standing on an airy summit surrounded by dramatic rocks, looking over a sea of peaks, enveloped by the shadow of the peak you stand on? What does it take to climb a summit of a high-elevation mountain??
Mountaineering, the sport, and activity of climbing mountains require a wide range of equipment in order to be safe and successful. Mountaineering expeditions are more physically demanding than typical hiking trips and involve added risk due to altitude, exposure, terrain, and weather. That’s why every climber must make all necessary preparations, including purchasing needed mountaineering equipment and gear ahead of time. The appropriate equipment is crucial to getting you to the summit and back safely. Faulty or insufficient mountaineering clothing and equipment can lead to unfortunate incidents and can be the difference between life and death in some circumstances.
We have compiled a list of mountaineering technical gear you’ll need for most mountaineering trips.
Please note: These items are essential on many mountaineering expeditions, but not all; the equipment you bring with you will vary according to the season, route choice, and personal preference.
Crampons - Crampons are traction devices that are typically used on the bottoms of climbing boots. They are often composed of a steel alloy and include spikes on the bottom to assist the wearer in climbing ice falls and maintaining traction on glaciers.
Crampons are often fastened to boots using a binding mechanism that varies based on the user's requirements. The most common for mountaineering is the step-in method, which fits most mountaineering boots.
For more information on crampons, read our blog Microspikes for Hiking: Traction Devices 101
Ice Axe - An ice axe is a multi-purpose tool that is used in most mountaineering expeditions in which one must climb an icefall or traverse a glacier. Ice axes can be used as a trekking pole when traveling across a glacier or ice field, assisting you in maintaining your balance on the ice. They can also be used to tie yourself to the ice and pull yourself up to the top of icefalls or steeper glaciers.
Helmets - Helmets are an essential aspect of mountaineering safety. Climbing helmets are intended to protect mountaineers from rocks thrown from above, or if the climber hits their head due to an overhang or slip.
Carabiner - Carabiners are used for a variety of purposes in mountain climbing, including securing the climber to the rope, the rope to the harness, and the climber to the belay anchor. For safety reasons, every mountain climber should keep numerous carabiners on hand.
Harness - Climbing harnesses connect the climber to their rope and support them during their ascent or descent. Harnesses do this by utilizing a waist belt, one or two buckles, and multiple loops.
Prusik cord - A prusik cord, while primarily used in emergencies, is a vital complement to any climber's harness. Climbers can securely protect themselves from many threats while rappelling with a simple prusik hitch, without inflicting costly damage to your rope.
Types of ropes:
Dynamic ropes - Dynamic ropes are ideal for climbing because of their added elasticity compared to static ropes. The added stretch when pulled tight creates a softer catch for the climber in the event of a slip or fall.
Dynamic ropes are often available in lengths ranging from 30 to 80 meters (100 feet to 260 feet). The length of rope required must be at least twice as long as the route. For example, if you want to climb a 100-foot-tall wall, you'll need 200 feet of rope.
Fixed Rope - A fixed rope is a rope that has been fastened to the path and is left in place. It enables safe and rapid transit up and down a challenging section. Climbers protect themselves by tying into a mechanical ascender on the fixed-line, avoiding time-consuming belays. If you fall while climbing next to a fixed-line, the ascender cam will lock onto the line and hold you up.
The diameter of fixed lines usually varies between 7 and 10 millimeters, with the size depending on the terrain and the amount of use the line is expected to get.
Crevasse rescue equipment
You must have crevasse rescue equipment on hand in case you or one of your climbing partners falls into a crevasse, especially If your trip will take you onto a glacier.
Many climbers build their own basic crevasse rescue kits that typically include:
1 snow picket
1 single-length sling
1 double-length sling
20 ft. of 5–7mm accessory cord for making prusik slings
2 lightweight pulleys
Ice Screw - An ice screw is a threaded tubular screw used by climbers as a running belay or anchor on steep ice surfaces such as steep waterfall ice or alpine ice during ice climbing or crevasse rescue to catch the climber in the case of a fall.
Ice screws are available in a variety of lengths, ratchet mechanisms, cutting tooth counts, and surface areas, among other features.
Belay - Belay devices essentially act as rope brakes on a climbing rope. Belay devices are vital for climbing safety because they maintain rope tension and catch the climber if they fall.
Figure 8/Descender - The Figure 8 belay device is shaped like the number 8. Figure 8 is a more frequent rappelling technique. However, certain figure 8 gadgets are also intended for belaying.
Tape Slings - Slings are an essential piece of climbing equipment that you will need every time you go climbing. A sling is a tied or sewn loop of webbing that works with all of your other climbing equipment, including carabiners, quickdraws, cams, nuts, and climbing rope. They can be wrapped over rock portions and used as runners or anchors.
While most climbing destinations will have places to rent gear and many guides will provide the gear necessary for your specific climb, it may be good to invest in your own kit if you plan on climbing often or completing unguided climbs.
For more tips on how to get started with mountaineering, head over to our blog, Mountaineering 101: How to Get Started
If you want to learn basic skills and put them to the test by being led across crevasses, book one of the guided trips to Mt. Baker, Glacier Peak, Mt. Adams, or Mt. St. Helens, and get to summit some of the PNW’s most beautiful mountains.
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