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Surly, you shouldn’t try saving too much on climbing gear. If you can afford the best accessible equipment and update it as soon as you believe there is a considerably better alternative then do it. However you might have found that you had already stretched your budget on rock gear. Being a novice to winter climbing you are the best means for shop assistants to achieve their sales targets by flogging you expensive, super technical equipment you may not need yet.

To protect you from buying gear you may not fully take advantage of, here are a few rules to follow:

  • Don't buy loads of items until you know you are going to like alpine climbing. The game involves hard work, constant suffering, and a certain amount of danger. See some route videos at TVmountian site, which will let you know what to expect.
  • Know well how often, when and where you are going to use your gear. If you go through your rock gear you will be surprised to find out how much of it you have never used.
  • Unlike ice climbing and alpine climbing, for snow plods you just need an axe, any decent boot that takes crampons, sun hat, sunscreen, sunglasses and crampons.
  • Less technical gear, for its versatility, suits better complete and novice to moderate climbers.
  • Flashy brands are good for going to the pub in and for Chamonix street parading.
  • Start your search with window shopping, check around a few online shops (25% off the street price) and search climbing forums.
  • Colourful marketing materials, gear reviews, sales assistants and some e-PR saturated forums are profit angled sources.
  • List your options and ask climbing partners and guides for their opinion. Raise your doubts at a local indoor wall.

    Finally, browse through this guide to see what gear have satisfactory served me throughout my progress from the beginner to a mid-grade alpine climber. Hopefully you will find in here a few useful tips.




HARD SHELL - Marmot rain jacket

pros: super light,
cons: waterproof layer of hood peels off after 2 seasons, not the most ergonomic cut,
price and value: 90 Euro, provided that a helmet recompenses for the loss of waterproofness of the leaking hood, you get here quite good functionality/price value,
general guidance: while GoreTex jackets prove to be the most waterproof and breathable, they tend to be heavy on the pocket and in your rucksack. Lighter and less expensive fabrics like coated nylon work well in the Alps. Don’t wear waterproof/breathable hard shell unless wet, snow, rain or spindrifts are falling. Always climb in good weather,
alternative products: The North Face Venture Jacket 80 Euro, Mountain Hardwear Epic Parka 110 Euro.


ICE SCREWS - Russian Alvotitanium

pros: super light and strong, an absolute No 2 after Grivel 360°, superb ease of use, UIAA approved,
cons: no drive-in handle,
special features: made of a special Titanium alloy, they come in 18, 20, 22, 25 mm diameters and in 10, 15, 22 cm lengths,
price and value: 8-14 Euro, available over the post,
general guidance: always go for 4 teethed screws with sharp thick thread,
alternative products: Siberia 180 (360°) from Alvotitanium 20 Euro see at: www.alvoti.ru, Grivel 360° 48 Euro.

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CRAMPONS - Petzl-Cherlet Super 12

pros: ideal for general mountaineering, ridges and face climbing, versatile- work well with any boots including trekking, ski and snowboard boots,
cons: the double ring strap tends to loosen up causing crampons dangerously tilt on boots, takes time to put them on,
price and value: 90 Euro, excellent value for complete and beginner to moderate alpinists,
general guidance: look for a pair of adaptable, automatic crampons, more technical crampons will be needed when you become good at climbing French 5+ ice,
alternative products: Grivel G-12 100 Euro, Black Diamond Sabertooth 105-140 Euro.



SOFT SHELL - Salewa Alpine Speed

pros: good cut to your body ensures an unimpeded range of motion, windproof and breathable,
cons: poor waterproofness,
special features: map pocket at the back, windproof hood
price and value: 50 Euro, useful on dry ice otherwise a well waterproof outer shell needed,
general guidance: alpine winter in France is different to Scotland; you can expect to get freezing cold in the shade, hot in the sun and hardly ever too wet. Spindrifts are not very frequent, so you would want a clothing system that adopts to varying external conditions and changing levels of body heat and moisture. Create layering system that doesn't require messing with. It needs to fit well and flex enough to allow an unimpeded range of motion.

Put the minimal amount of clothes (base layer and thin zip fleece pullover) while on the approach and on the route. This will ensure your body not too hot so that your muscles stay efficient. Layer a soft shell or a belay jacket over the top of them once stopped. The moisture that built up in your initial layers travels into the belay clothes drying you out for more action. Such a system stops you from sweating out too much of moisture and from becoming dehydrated,
alternative products: Marmot DriClime Windshirt 80 Euro, The Noth Face Apex 80-120 Euro.


pros: warm and super durable,
cons: poor waterproofness,
special features: up-to-knee summer side zips, fleece-lined,
price and value: 140 Euro,
general guidance: since legs don’t produce much moisture and radiate less heat than the torso, go for the pant which are great at waterproofness rather the breathability the torso needs.

Your legs could be protected with layering pant, and fleece-lined pant or salopettes. In alpine summer simply drop layering pant and down jacket of the proposed here system. Put a zip fleece pullover at the bottom of the pack as extra for the high altitude summits and descents. Don't plan to get it exactly right. If it's colder than you expected you just move faster,
alternative products: Mountain Hardwear FTX Ultra Pant 240 Euro, Arc'teryx Theta LT Bib Pant 290 Euro.



BASE LAYER - inexpensive Polish make

pros: weather resistant, highly breathable, dries quickly,
price and value: excellent value for 25 Euro,
general guidance: get one light coloured for summer and a thicker one in black for winter, look for snug fit and anti-microbial fabric protection to cut down on stench,
alternative products: a sea of brands and types to choose from.


BOOTS - La Sportiva Nepal Extreme

pros: perfect fit, superb feel and flexibility on technical ice, good performance on rock,
cons: at altitude with temperatures below –20 and dehydration problems they can cause your big toe frost bits,
special features: lace stoppers,
price and value: 290 Euro,
general guidance: in the Alps you are much less likely to get sopping wet feet, and should be able to get away with something lightweight. However for multiple day winter climbing and long ski approaches you would be better using plastic boots,
alternative products: Scarpa Cumbre 300 Euro, Kayland Revolution 350 Euro.




BELAY JACKET - Expedition equipment

pros: tailor made, slim cut, light weight, warm and cosy,
cons: poor waterproofness,
special features: down to –25°C, 750+ fill power goose at 90/10 ratio, zip off hood with draw cord and velcros for adjustment, 2 way YKK zip, hand warmer pockets, inside zip pockets, reinforced shoulders and elbows, elastic cuffs, Pertex shell fabric,
price and value: 100 Euro, excellent functionality/price ratio, the ultimate winter alpine and lightweight expediton jacket,
general guidance: look for maximum loft, warmth, compressibility, and minimum weight. Down jackets loose with synthetic ones only when they are wet. Since good fit is essential to avoid cold droughts tailor made jackets may be your best solution, buy one from where manual skills are still inexpensive e.g. Central Europe. You will find your belay jacket exceptionally useful when cold, hunger, thirst and exhaustion consume your warmth on the summit and descent days,
alternative products: Garwhal PHDesigns 360 Euro, Feathered Friends Rock & Ice Parka 500 Euro, Bering Valandré 550 Euro.

SLEEPING BAG - Expedition equipment

pros: tailor made, warm and comfy,
cons: poor waterproofness,
special features: comfort tested in -25°C, mummy shape, 850+ fill Eastern European goose down at 90/10 ratio, half-length YKK zip with draft tube, pull cords for easy hood adjustments, soft and supple Pertex lining, Pertex shell fabric, perfect for alpine winters and lightweight expeditons,
price and value: 170 Euro, excellent warmth and comfort/price ratio.
general guidance: see belay jacket,

Wear your clothes while sleeping in a synthetic sleeping bag or put them in that extra space around your legs inside of your down sleeping bag,
alternative products: Xero 800 PHDesigns 570 Euro, Freja Valandré 560 Euro.




ICE AXE - Petzel Quark

pros: excellent accuracy and confidence on delicate ice and technically demanding mixed terrain,
cons: new imperfectly modernized clipper on the leash can cause you loose tool,
price and value: 170 Euro, you want to get the right axes first time so I advise go for Quarks, they are hard to beat on performance level in the Alps,
general guidance: choosing your axes you have to look many years forward, they are expensive investment but your performance depends on how much confidence they give you. Don't cut the corners here,

ICE AXE - Cassin

pros: feels more rigid and reliable on mid-grade mixed,
cons: not as well balanced as the Quark,
price and value: 110 Euro, good value torsion tool especially for ambitious beginners on the budget,
alternative products: Simond Naja 130 Euro, Black Diamond Cobra 215 Euro.



pros: light weight, girls like your boom in them,
cons: make my old ass itching,
price: 9 Euro.

Other necessities:
A selection of your rock gear, Mammut genesis 60m ropes, lip balm, Opinel penknife, SIGG flask or a platypus, fleece balaclava, 2-3 pairs of gloves, extra socks, Tikka head torch, first aid kit, altitude sunglasses, compass, map and crevasse rescuing gear. Now you can think about where you can cut down. Pack it all in a simple, light weight, slim shape, functional rucksack. And don’t forget to put sun cream (block 40) all over your face that includes the insides of your nostrils and ears.