Monday, 4 January 2010

My winter loadout?

Inspired by reading my friends blog on his winter kit list ( I thought I'd write up my own. I've just had a week in Scotland climbing roadside mixed routes, Grade IV mixed gullies in the Northern Corries and some roadside icefalls. I've even snagged a day's winter climbing in North Wales to boot. Added to all this I rock climb pretty much all year round, multipitching on mountain routes and sea cliffs.

Unlike Chris I enjoy pushing myself on harder and harder routes, prefering harder mixed buttresses to snow filled gullies and steeper and harder Ice. I'm not to afriad of risking it a little more either. That isn't to say that Chris is wrong or I'm putting him down. If anything I wish I could gte the same kicks out of mountaineering that he does without high objective danger.

My kit list is pretty much based around two conflicting principals, being "light a fast" and "take enough to get up, but also get back down". For light a fast don't think I mean just leaving stuff behind in a effort to stay light, but if can carry something and keep going then take it, as long as it doesn't slow you down. I'll usually carry more climbing protection and go a little on the heavy side, being a little safer for climbing. As for taking enough to get back down, carry enough food, water and energy (this includes good meals and breakfast before you start climbing, and adequate hydration). And enough warm clothing to keep you warm once everything is wet. Anyway here it is.

For clothing I warm thermals and a short sleeve baselayer. When I'm out in the mountains I add my softshell Quechua trousers (I'll rave on about Quechua gear in another blog) and a RAB vapour-rise jacket. The soft shell pants have an internal gaiter that is realy quite effective (now that I've sewn it up tight) so this keeps snow out. I'll add gaiters if I really think I'll need them breaking trail, but I find my ankles get hot and sweaty so I tend not to bother. On top of this I'll add my hardshell when I'm actually climbing or the wind is up. This is some Rab Latok pants, which are light, full of holes and repairs now and reasonably waterproof and a Outdoor research jacket I picked up for £160 at V12 in Llanberis (to replace my crap RAB latok alpine). This jacket was a steal at £160 (its RRP is £320) and is pretty much all I want in a winter jacket. It's hardwearing, simple, massive pit zips to keep my cool and bright yellow which is very important for not being monochromatic in photographs, and being seen. I carry a ME Fitzroy jacket as my belay jacket which is synthetic, warm and pretty water resistant. My only bug bear about this jacket is that its grey.

Extremities! My feet as stuck into 2 pairs of socks. A pair of thin light weight summer socks and then some thicker warmer winter socks. Again simple, cheap and warm when wet. I then stick them into my Nepal Extremes. These fit my feet like a glove and again are warm (too warm for alpining as I found out in the summer) and keep my feet dry. As for my hands I carry 3 pairs of gloves. Some OR softshell gloves, Marmot softshell gloves and a pair of Dachstein mitts. I climb in the pairs of softshell gloves as I find the dexterity more useless than overall w
armth (I accept hot aches as part of the game). I find my OR gloves do get much wetter than my marmot ones though. Dach mitts are a must. As for my head I have a nice warm powerstretch fleecey balaclava which my mother brought me for christmas. I would never leave the ground without it. Added to this I carry a buff and a thin fleex hat. I spose eyes protection should come in here. I carry some snow goggles as in a blizzard/climbing in spindrift they are invaluable. As for sun glasses I would carry them but I recently lost them when they got carried away in an icefall. I'll replace them.

Well that's pretty much it for clothing. I know all this works as I've tested it. If the weather is bad then I'll add maybe some more fleece gloves, a fleece and an extra hat. All of this goes in my bag which is a Lowe Mountain attack. Once I tighten the straps up
I can reach the back of my harness fine with it and its a good pack to climb with, plus I can remove the waist belt. I keep meaning to place it with a decent lightweight waist belt.

As for rack like I said I seem to head for buttress routes, but I seem to be encountering all sorts of stuff on my climbing travels from lots of ice, rock and many different varieties of "munge" (this being a coverall term for stuff between turf-earth-choss-ice filled choss-frozen scree-choss, frozen scree-choss-turf and anything else you can think of). I take whats probably considered a big rack but here it is:

Harness. I chose a DMM renegade because I can use it all summer and winter. Its alright for winter but the buckles (I have thread-back buckles) are a little harder to do up. However it's never ending supple of gear loops especially those which are close
to the front of your harness meaning you can see what your grabbing for. I don't like bandoliers, never have but I keep trying them in winter as they do seem like a good idea for winter. I have 2 ice-clippers, one on each side as close to the front as possible. These are definatly worth more than the 5 quid you pay for them. Infact Uncle Rob and Stewie both experienced winter climbers where so impressed with them on my first day winter climbing they went out and brought one each the next day.

Each climber should have about 4 wiregates, 2 screwgates, belay device, prussic loops, 240cm sling on a HMS, and a 120cm and 2x60cm slings. This is enough to construct a belay regardless of what other rack protection you have, and doubles a pretty much a decnet slef rescue kit. I usually carry a few more 'biners and about 3 metres of abseil tat on my harness. I tend to go for the lightest screwgates (Spectres and Phantoms) and wiregates (Spectres and Neons) as I can. Slings are no thinker than 10mm, mostley 8mm dyneema.

As for an actual rack then I carry about 4 long quickdraws and a screamer. Then 6 slingdraws as these are infinatly most useful. I carry 4/6 screws depending on how much ice is on route, but between me and my partner I seem to have been taking about 6. Personal preference dictates that I use BD turbos expresses, just because they are the best you can get. 1 to 10 in a rack of wires, and 1-6 in superlight rocks. some pegs consisting of maybe a large angle, a small angle, a med lost arrow and a knifeblade, maybe 2. Then a mixed hook and a warthog. A rack of tri-cams (1-5) and some torque nuts completes the set. I don't carry cams, but I saw tonnes of placements where one would have been useful this winter already. I might try carrying a size 2 and 3.

I've been climbing on 7mm twin ropes all week in scotland, but I'll either use these or some half ropes. 50 or 60 metres doesn't seem to matter at the moment.

My pack has usually got 1.5 litres of water in it, with Andy (my winter partner so far) carries a litre of tea in a flask with him. Fluid is communal. Obviously in my pack is a map, and compass and then odds and sods. Between us we have a small 2 man group shelter, but I keep meaning to get a lightweight bivi bag as well. I always carry a headtourch (Petzl Tikka-XP) and a spare (Petzl E-lite) and batteries for them. And my camera. And finally a small koala bear, because for fear of bag juju I wouldn't like to leave the ground without it.

Oh! and how could I foget. My helmet. Never leave the group without one. My helmet has saved me from serious injury (and possibly) my life at least once this winter.
Something else I've forgotten is my tools. I use some Charlet Moser super12 crampons and DMM fly's. My crampons are old worn an second hand, and have duck tape instead of anti-balling plates. I'd like to replace my axes for something newer and sexier, but I don't feel I've given them the time of day and if I really thnk about it I have no issues with them. I keep all my gear very sharp which although means I need to keep resharpening and replace my picks more often, it pays off. I wouldn't mind some clipper leashes though.

I guess thats all I carry. I tend to change it all around thought depending on what we're doing, conditions and where. If theres more ice I add more screws. Pure ice I still carry the superlights. Less ice I'll carry more wires and slings. I'm not a winter mountaineering instructor or an MIA of anything. I don't even have ahuge range of winter experience but this is what I use and so far it works. I built this up from reading UKC, Andy Kirkpatrick, articals in climb and climber (and climbing) and pulling skills across from rock climbing and winter walking.


Lauren said...

Finally, someone else who uses Quechua softshell trousers. Honest to goodness the best £40 I think I have EVER spent. Truly awesome.

Matt said...

Well they are awesome for thier price. I find them so hardwearing, especially since mine are restitched together form crampon rips (looks embarrissed)

Lauren said...

Don't worry, mine are too. The trick to a decent repair though is to stitch the hole back together, then use a piece of iron on seam sealer tape (designed for gore-tex seams) - that way your repair is once again waterproof. Point North sell the stuff in metre lengths for not many coins.

I hasten to add that the worst damage my troos received from crampons were not my own - my mate fell over behind me and put his razor sharp G14 frontpoints into my leg. Not a good day!

Matt said...

I usually stitch and then seamsealer/spinnaker tape any holes I get. After many years of use my quechua trousers are not as water resistant as they used to be (sadly!).

When you say "put into my leg" you mean the trouser leg or your actual leg?