Expedition Inventory

Expedition Inventory

Page Type Page Type: Article
Activities Activities: Mountaineering

A Comprehensive Look At What Can Be Brought On Expeditions & Trips Into The Wild Places Of The Earth

I wrote this with the idea that it would be awesome to have in one place, 'EVERYTHING' necessary, essential, useful, or just plain cool to take with you during your 'wilderness mountaineering excursions...'The list complete enough for full blown expeditions to Alaska, South America, Asia, etc. But can also apply to a weekend outing: Not everything applies to every trip; but this list, with your help, can serve as a sort of master checklist of what you definitely need; or even what you come to realize, you can do without!

I have organized and led many expeditions that have cut my team off from civilization completely, but have also used this same list for hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, my local Alps: "Light is Right and there is safety in speed, absolutely." But having the right stuff to help you interact with the mountain environment is part of the fun too. Not having something you need can even be life threatening, especially the colder it gets...

So I will do my best, and ask for your contributions: What have you brought that I have not included here? E-mail it to me and I will add it to our list, let’s look at this as a work in progress!

Mountaineering Inventories can be most easily understood by first breaking your needs down into systems. Set aside group gear and your own personal equipment. The weight of your load should be adjusted to your physical condition and to the technical difficulties of the mountain. It is always a good idea to insure your equipment: House and apartment insurance is often adequate, but make sure that unattended gear on a mountainside is covered... Many items are available for rent at local climbing and camping shops. REMEMBER ALL EQUIPMENT AND CLOTHING SHOULD BE EASY TO USE WITH YOUR GLOVES ON! Practice this at home first. Even a few moments exposure to the wind on a subzero day can start frostbite. You should get familiar with your rental gear before heading out. The Alpine Zone is not the place to learn how to attach your crampons to your boots!

The following items can often be rented, by the week, fairly cheaply

Possible rental items:
Plastic double boots fitted with crampons.
General mountaineering ice axes
Skis, poles and snowboards
Sleeping bags of all types
Four season tents
Sleeping pads
Back packs.

However, nothing beats having your own equipment.

Large capacity luggage & bags: (Preferably with wheels.)We have used durable extra reinforced, large nylon bags, but the inevitable dragging around airports can shred them in as little as three trips. Heavy duty cordura does better, and cordura within another-larger cordura bag with large rubber wheels makes for best system, that lasts the longest. Mark everything fragile even if its not. This isn't a miracle cure but it can help. Bubble wrap delicate items & use duct tape on pointy items so they don't tear through your bag.

Clothing: Layering is key: Long Underwear of various weights and synthetic fibers, tops & bottoms, at least two pair or more. Also T-shirts & shorts that are breathable. Remember, ‘cotton kills on a mountain’ because it looses its insulation qualities when wet; but cotton rocks after a hard trip, for hanging around hotels and poolside, and even inside tents all snuggled in after a hard day. I think it has been said that if your not at least a little cold and smelly you brought too much clothing, experience on smaller mountains is essential here to strike that balance. Work on extending your comfort zone and always start the trek to the base of the climb or route a little chilly, you will warm up quicker than you think!

First layer - A layer that wicks moisture away from your body: A light or mid weight Capeline or polypropylene or similar fiber.

Second Layer - Only if extremely cold and when camping: A warmer pair of underwear tops and bottoms; expedition or heavy weight. Many climbers use expedition weight for their bottom layer and adjust a lighter layer on top where most of the sweating happens.

Third Layer - (if needed) A wind proof layer will make your underwear layers feel much warmer. This is for above tree line where the wind and exposure to the elements are greatest. If you are moving fast and generating heat than this can be your outer layer or only layer, as long as its not snowing or raining. Wind proof tops and bottoms come in insulated and un-insulated versions and all are a bit expensive, but are loved by the people who own them.

Fourth Layer - Wool or fleece for warmth under or over your wind proof layer only in the coldest environments. Normally the very act of moving will make this layer unnecessary until one stops to camp, eat & rehydrate for the day. One exception though, a one piece fleece can be used as the first & second layers and then you could add your wind proof layer only as necessary, it all depends upon your personal comfort zone.

Fifth Layer - The traditional outer shell: A Gortex or similar fabric rules. A bib is warmer than a pant and prevents your backpack from pushing your pants down while you are hiking. A one-piece Gortex suit is the ultimate lightweight protection from the elements. They are expensive but once you own one you will know why they are the best. I even carry my one-piece suit throughout the year as rain protection. I like un-insulated ones as I often only wear my Gortex one piece suit and a one piece fleece that compliment each other, zipper-wise, I forget about all the other layers because I am already wearing the most effective layers: Think pit zips, and half moon zippers for going the bathroom, also side-leg zippers for the donning of boots and crampons. These zips should all have zipper pulls and be easily operated with a gloved hand. They can be used creatively in tree line (if you have a tree line on your mountain of choice,) to stay ventilated, and then when the blast of the arctic or Antarctic, wind hits you, all you have to do is zip up! What could be easier. I save all my first & second layers for when I am at higher altitudes and for sleeping so I can carry a lighter sleeping bag.

Sixth Layer - A down jacket and pants add a lot of warmth for very little weight. Once one piece down suits were thought only useful for arctic expeditions but if you are planning to stay above tree line for a long time than you may want to consider one. Nothing beats a down jacket for those cold belays and for camping. If rope team members are around the same size, consider bringing one down jacket for every two team members. As the leader climbs, the belayer stays warm in the jacket.

To sum it up for an average trip

Medium weight tops & bottoms, several pairs as needed, depending upon length of trip. Also regular underwear and a few cotton t-shirts are great for long approach's to basecamp

Heavy weight underwear, 1 top & 1 bottom to supplement the medium weight underwear for your average expedition/trip.

Pile/fleece jacket, heavy, but very comfortable, great place to put a team patch for boosting moral. Consider fleece pants for those really cold trips. A one piece fleece is best.
Wind & Waterproof Layer; Gortex or similar fabric; wind & waterproof jacket & pants, or altitude suit with a full half moon zipper in the back for going the bathroom while keeping your harness on. Don't forget to match your one piece fleece and rear zipper with your altitude suit. One piece fleece's rock, by the way!

Down or similar fabric, easy to compress and lightweight; possibly a down suit if the trip is cold enough, one can save weight by taking a lighter sleeping bag and a smaller sleeping pad by wearing a down suit. You remain much more comfortable while brewing up that much needed food and water at the end of the day with the right camp clothes, so don't just dress for the climb. Reinforce knees and elbows if you think they will get excessive wear.

The Ideal Head System: The hood to your one-piece Gortex suit or jacket fits over your helmet perfectly. Your ski goggles fit neatly with your neoprene mask, which covers all of your face, but does not fog up your goggles. Your underwear top covers your neck. Not a bit of skin is exposed and you are warm, but not over heating. This takes some time and practice to get all these systems down but its worth the thought and effort. 2 hats, one a balaclava, for the second hat, either a second balaclava with face mask built in, or any warm hat with a face mask; try neoprene or fleece and see what works best for you. Plus always have a set of super lightweight ear warmers with you because you may find yourself being too warm, even at 40 below temps. Ear warmers now come with head phones that attach to a Sony type Discman!
2 pairs of gloves, one that has a detachable shell works well for most climbers, one fleece pair with some sort of super tight gripping system for using ice tools. When it gets really cold big expedition mittens rule, but remember, most mittens need a breaking in period to use with axes.

Baseball hat with a bandana to cover neck from sun for approaches and down low on the mountain.

Sock System: • 2-4 pair (or more) liner & heavy socks
Wool socks rule. At least have one extra pair for alpine climbing in case the ones on your feet get wet. Use two - three pair with plastic boots for a cost efficient means of preventing frostbite. If you are technical climbing and need to wear a snugger boot to prevent heel lift than use one wool sock in combination with any combination of high tech thinner socks. Vapor Barrier Liner socks are the same concept as putting plastic baggies over your feet and provide a lot of warmth for very little bulk.
Gortex Socks add some warmth and provide excellent water resisting properties to your sock system. Great when wearing non waterproof leather boots. Fleece Socks are thinner than wool and very warm.
Polypropylene Socks are usually worn closest to your skin. They wick away moisture from your feet and add a layer of warmth. I use them all year round to prevent blisters: Also use anti-perspirant on your feet to help keep them dry. If your feet start getting cold then move your toes, if they don't warm up then stop and take your boot off and get your feet warm as a priority.

Glacier glasses & Ski Goggles: Sunglasses with side shields plus if need be, ski goggles that fit over them for intense winter trips. Try goggles with no tinting and get your tinting from your glacier glasses that can be worn all day long. I use prescription glacier glasses and use amber lenses to reduce altitude headaches and see through clouds better with, just like snipers and marksmen. My glacier goggles have only a light tint and they work over my regular glasses or contacts as well. Prevent contact lens stuff from freezing by keeping it close to your heart or in a neoprene stuff sack. Spare eye wear. UVB protected sunglasses help prevent snow blindness. Ski goggles also can filter the sun and provide warmth for around your eyes. If you wear glasses than a prescription pair of glacier glasses is your best bet. Carry your regular glasses in a hard case to prevent them from breaking. You can additionally carry a pair of ski goggles, which fit over your glasses so if your sunglasses break you will have a backup plan. I sometimes use contact lenses. Be careful to keep the saline solution warm or it will freeze. Apply anti fog prior to your trip and carry some along with you as well.

Boots: Classic leather mountaineering boots have come such a long way. (Crampon compatible, checked for fit and crampons sharpened before your trip.) OR Plastic double boots that can double as a Alpine Touring, Randonee, downhill ski/ski-board or even snowboard boots, also crampon compatible. One pair should do it all and with the options available today this is now possible! Leather boots: Insulated, stiff soled, technical mountaineering leather boots, which accept step in crampons, climb better than plastic double boots. They can be made warmer with the addition of a super gaiter or over-boot. For alpine climbing they can be worn, but be cautious, they will not keep your feet as warm as a plastic double boot. Some people can deal with colder feet than others.

”No mountain is worth your life and no route worth loosing a toe or finger to frostbite.”

Plastic Double Boots: The best choice for keeping your feet warm. They do not climb rock as well as technical leather boots or rock shoes but recent models come close. When you are hanging around camp or in your tent you can keep your inner booties on to stay warm. If you are trekking, backpacking and will not experience much vertical climbing than the warmest fit would be a boot large enough to fit comfortably with several pairs of socks on. If you plan on front pointing on crampons or climbing rock than your boot should fit snugger to prevent tiring heel lift. Several high tech sock combinations can be utilized to avoid the thickness of two pair of wool socks and allow for a closer fit.

Gaiters – full length or expedition super gaiters

Backpacks & Pack Covers: Internal frame expedition back packs or external frame ones, sorry, not a fan of external bckpacks. Some external frame backpacks are still in use and the new high tech ones are lighter and have more usable room than the older models. Many hikers just stand by them as an Old Faithful friend. They are better for flat hiking and are good for hot weather because they keep the pack off your back so you get less sweaty back there. Other than this internal frame packs are lighter and carry weight closer to your body for climbing and skiing. Internal frame packs all carry weight differently and you should have your favorite pack with you on a winter trip. You may also want a light weight climbing pack that can be used both as a carry on; and for summit day and other technical ascents and descents your main pack. The lightweight pack can even be such that it attaches to the back of your expedition backpack as long as it is a fully useful climbing pack with enough volume for a summit bid. The larger the pack, the more tempted you will be to carry more. However, a nice large fully tricked out pack can often be carried by a local porter or donkey etc. in Asia or South/Central America with all the heavy gear, and then you carry your technical alpine pack with your essentials (water-meds, extra clothing etc.) that you need if you got separated from your team, like when your porters run up the trail while you are still huffing & puffing from the altitude on your way to basecamp: Then for the summit bid you just switch things around a bit and your day pack/carry on becomes your technical climbing pack. Pack rain covers are always something to think about, especially if you are sleeping in a bivy sack or a tent with no vestibule.

Map & Compass: Plus a way of keeping your map dry in a waterproof case or a freezer safe zip lock baggie. Practice compass skills before heading into the mountains in winter. Being good with a compass in a white out high in the Mountains might just be the most important thing that you do in life.

Altimeter: Most altimeters can be worn right on your wrist and are also a watch with an alarm attached for that early summit bid! Also consider working with a small lightweight GPS unit

Sunscreen, (Dermatone.) Lipstuff: Hanging around your neck with a lighter taped with electrical tape to keep from freezing. Lets not get too grizzly but dog tags can serve a purpose when in the wilderness solo, and the idea of using a necklace made from perlon tied with a double fisherman's knot is a great place to hang essentials that need warmth. Some people carry their wedding rings here.

Headlamp Head torches, with battery pack inside your pile, fleece or down jacket, or altitude suit: OR a reliable flashlight as a backup. I prefer two headlamps, and even use a SCUBA diving one suitable for ice diving... Think of a place, deep in your pack for lots of extra batteries, then decide how much weight in batteries you really, really need. Also, there is the possibility to improve your night vision. Not a trip has gone by where I have not climbed, rappelled or otherwise descended in the dark, either by design or by mistake. Be careful out there.

Expedition first aid kit with dental supplies, ear cleaners, eye drops, splints, adhesive wraps and hot packs, along with lots of drugs: Drugs like antibiotics, laxatives, burn gel, blister pack, cough-cold & pain meds have been used to barter for my teams freedom during wars that seem to break out during expeditions to foreign countries: Also, many people think that because you are on expedition you must be a doctor. My wife is a nurse and I am an EMT, so we are the closest thing many villagers have seen resembling a doctor when we get really far into the Andes of Bolivia or Peru, or down into the Amazon Jungle.

Small personal medical kit that comes with you wherever you go: No matter how light I go for any summit, I would scale down food and rope before leaving mine behind. A small bivy sack comes with me on every summit bid, life saving yet weighs next to nothing, and my trusty mini med kit, with just enough stuff to make a dying moment into a moment of hope: Snacks like chocolate, GU etc, altitude medicine like Decadron, Diamox, pain meds of all strengths, Uppers for the artificial will to go on when you just cannot move any longer, and an antibiotic or so to give you a very incomplete list. Here is the thing about drugs though: Many climbers and people in general just would rather be more natural and I respect this... I used to manage a health food store and 20 years ago supplements just didn't compare to drugs; but now they do. I am a believer in the miracle of drugs and medications to improve performance, but the miracle of today's vitamins & minerals, herbs, homeopathy, amino acids etc. work nearly as well, or in some cases even better! Lets take a quick look at what's out there but always check with your doctor when it comes to any drugs or supplements... Creatine effervescent rivals weak anabolic steroids and the new stuff in 'titrate' form doesn't cause cramping or GI tract disturbances. Emergen C and electrolyte powders and Cytomax, can flavor water, just dedicate a special bottle for the powder drinks! Large dosages of L-Glutamine shot gunned with Creatine can make you feel like superman or woman. L-tyrosine has been proven in studies at 3-4 grams a day to push soldiers on in icy conditions and increase performance. Herbal formulas can help with acclimatization, check around. Try Nootropics for that mental edge and especially Vinpocitine for both that endorphin-mental edge and acclimating assistance: The best source for climbers to know about this stuff is from bodybuilding magazines, and trying the stuff out at the indoor gym is a must!

Lighter & Wind proof matches, lighter and an optional way to start a fire

Knife attached to a harness with a small piece of perlon that can be opened with one hand. For hiking, a Swiss Army type knife can be more useful.

Sponge, towel & wisk broom.

Wands for marking route

Haul sled if neccesary.

Whistle tied around neck or attached to altitude suit.

Expedition Journal & a good book to read on the plane or while tent bound. Deck of cards for same reason.

Insect repellent: Which can now also serve as a sunscreen, if you buy the right one.

Toilet paper, we call it mountain money! (Plus a way of disposing the TP.) Also don't forget to bring a P-Bottle, one that looks and feels different then your water bottle and women can carry their feminine adapters. No Joke, they save lives when it is 100 below zero out.

Hygiene items - A toothbrush and a small tube of environmentally safe toothpaste. Baby wipes rule. We cut the long handles on our toothbrushes down to save weight. Every little bit counts. By the way, I wouldn't be caught dead with a toothbrush above camp two, or sitting on the summit of a real big mountain. That is, unless my way down was over the backside, then I would have stinky breath for the whole route! Best idea I can come up with is to have a dental checkup right before leaving for any trip.

Camera & film, Think light weight & durable. Carry in a small padded 'camera pack,' that can attach to your climbing harness or on your backpack. Throw away cameras are surprising high performance, digital cameras can be used to download trip report pictures right from the expedition when you reach town. One can update a website and this helps with sponsorship and includes loved ones in your adventures! Remember, you are never just climbing for yourself, every step you take, is taken for all humanity, every achievement that you accomplish pushes all of our evolution along; so let people know about it some how. Let your adventure become someone else’s arm chair adventure, and take care of your fellow well wishers out there; they may never get to see and experience what you do.

Watch with alarm could also be an altimeter as well.

Hand warmers, more of a med kit item.

Thermos bottle, can we find one in titanium?

Binoculars if route finding if essential. Too small and they are useless, too big and they weigh too much, such choices!

Bandanas: Bring at least two. Try one that is a Canadian flag, everyone likes Canadians in third world countries! (Partially kidding here.) We find and enjoy the company of the nicest people in the world abroad; even the ones who wanted to kidnap us during the overthrowing of a government were easily persuaded to allow us to remain free and even gave us food: People are people wherever you go, you generally find what you are looking for in them.

Cell phone, sat phone. I am not a big fan but they had to make the list. Better yet, and I mean this partially joking, but in part serious. Make out a will for even the easiest of climbs and write yourself off. Then, commit yourself holy, to your climb: set your sites without any worry OF DEATH because YOU HAVE ALREADY BEEN THERE IN YOUR HEAD! You have consulted with her, and made your peace. Then tell your ego to stay quiet and just climb: Think like a native American and walk softly, talk to the mountain, she will tell you if you may pass. You may even have to solve a riddle along the way. Turn back for only one of a few reasons discussed beforehand with your partners: It goes like this... Screw the summit if anyone needs rescuing, if the weather is going to kill you, if the route is way too technical, and the crux cannot be aided over because you have too little gear, or you are definitely going to run out of food through a miscalculation of your own doing: Things not to turn back for. Mental fear of any kind, it will haunt you like typical wimpy storms that come and go through entire trips. Nagging muscle soreness that you are exaggerating about and stuff like that... Don't let your fear get the better of you.

Listen to the place where your heart has wisdom, and your mind feels compassion.

Water Filter, at least one for every two-four team members.

A small repair kit: Spare part kit, duct tape, safety pins, awl ,needles, sewing kit, small tools, small pliers, heavy duty thread, wire, spare parts for all tools like crampons, axes, tent etc. Seam sealer, patches for therma-rests etc. Input needed here, any ideas?

Ice Axes: One general mountaineering ice axe or technical axes: Sharpened, with adze, or a hammer if pitons are anticipated for a rappel. Although there maybe an ice route that requires one sharp general mountaineering axe and one technical tool with hammer: Depending upon the route and your abilities, two tools may be needed. Be sure to sharpen all axes at home.

When in doubt there are axe systems out there that are two tool systems with a detachable general mountaineering pick and extendable shaft for numerous purposes! I might carry my second tool on my pack. This tool is more technically oriented with a bent shaft and a hammer for banging in ice screws. When the climbing gets technical I switch my general mountaineering tool in my weaker hand and use my technical mountaineering axe in my stronger hand. The only down side is that one of your tools is not as good for steep ice. The picks on most tools can be changed easily enough. Depending on what type of climbing you are doing will dictate what type, and how many ice axes you will need. For hiking and low grade ice, one general mountaineering ice axe will usually be enough. A long shaft is best for mostly easy routes and makes a great pole to lean on. A shorter shaft axe is better for steeper climbs. These axes come in new lightweight materials which some climbers feel does not bite into the harder snow and ice as well but is real weight savings, but I have not found this to be the case: If you are planning to climb some technical ice with 'some' general mountaineering, than two technical mountaineering axes are the way to go. Technical axes with bent shafts and curved picks have taken ice and mixed tool climbing into the new levels of the extreme. These tools allow for routes to be climbed that were once considered impossible. I usually carry my favorite technical axes with me and just use ski poles with self arrest grips for when I am trekking over lower angled ground.

General mountaineering crampons or technical crampons: When in doubt, use your technical crampons as general mountaineering crampons. Light weight materials are now so available, we have come so far. Crampons: are sharp spikes worn under your boot to grab the ice to prevent slipping.

Crampons: There are two types of crampons to consider: 1. Technical mountaineering crampons, and 2. General mountaineering crampons. General mountaineering crampons are suppose to hike distances better and flex of you are wearing a boot that has flex to it such as some models of trekking/climbing boots. General mountaineering crampons can all climb steep ice fairly well and it really depends upon your own technical ability. Technical mountaineering crampons have much more aggressive spike configurations and are more solid for stiffer boots. They climb steep ice much easier. If you never plan on tackling waterfall ice and only anticipate climbing moderate grades than you may be better off with a soft plastic boot and a good general mountaineering crampon. But if you want to do both peak bagging and steep technical ice & rock climbing than a stiffer boot is not at all bad for tramping around in and technical crampons are fine for general mountaineering use. Be careful, different types of crampons do not fit on certain boots. Try everything on your boot before you buy.

Rock Climbing Shoes: You may need technical rock climbing shoes if your route includes climbing a grade that you cannot do in your boots. Actually the best climbers climb amazingly difficult grades in plastic double boots and new styles of leather boots with rubber rands around the front of the boot. Practice climbing on a top rope on a nearby crag to determine what your winter skill level might be. High top all-purpose rock shoes are best for winter use. Some are even insulated. Leave on your thin first layer sock to help keep your feet warm. The sock will not allow you to feel the rock as well but your sticky rubber soles do not perform as good on cold rock anyway.

Chaulk bag & chaulk

Snow shoes: When needed they are worth their weight in gold. Think light and technical. Many alpinist/climbers leave their snowshoes at home. They represent an additional weight that some just cannot justify carrying along. Only the most popular trails are packed down enough for energy efficient travel without snowshoes. All other trails are a gamble. Often above tree line is so wind swept that travel is possible without snowshoes, but you can often find that the wind sweeps the snow thin in some areas and deep in others. New models of snowshoes made from titanium are very light and can be brought along if you think you might need them. The cleats on all the modern snowshoes can climb very steep routes that needed crampons before.

Some snowshoes allow you to leave the weight of the crampons at home and bring a snowshoe with an aggressive crampon attached instead. I wouldn't do it, but I am more of a technical climber and not a snowshoe athlete. It all depends how you see yourself. Another idea is to bring them along for travels in tree line then stash them. There are obvious problems to leaving any gear behind such as not finding it again and having it stolen, although this uncommon. I find that generally people who can stand up to the challenges of the high-winter Mountains, are not the gutless types who rob others for what they do not possess. I think fellow climbers realize that if they ever took a sleeping bag or tent of another it could be a far more serious crime then theft, it could kill them. Especially if an exhausted climber is counting on finding shelter where they left it, than they may not have the strength to make it all the way back down to the base if they find their gear missing. If you set up a fixed camp, still carry an alpine inventory like a stove and bivy sack on the chance that you have to bivy high, loose your way, or something turns up missing.

Ski-Trekking Poles They are worth their weight in gold, They can be tricked out with avalanche probes, self arrest grips and save on wear and tear of your knees. They distribute the impact of trekking to a larger area of your body and really save the tendons in your knees a lot of stress. Many of the world's best climbers swear by them. Telescoping poles even double as a camera mount. I have tried to save weight by leaving my trekking poles at home and found that I get tired faster without them.

Climbing rope We go as light as 9mm but you must know about rope to make your own decisions.

Climbing Helmets Always wear a helmet when climbing technical rock & ice. They come in lightweight and stylish models. Don't try to save weight by leaving your helmet at home. We have ones that are for multiple uses: Ones that are rated for everything except motorcycle riding. Ones that are for sea kayaking big water, white water running, rafting, Mountain biking & rock & ice climbing etc.

Climbing harness Depends upon what you are climbing. Lightweight and unpadded for winter altitude ascents, big wall harnesses for comfort. It's all a personal choice. We wear them on the approach so less is on our backs. A comfortable fleece lined or padded harness that has at least two gear loops and a buckle that you can use with gloves on is standard. Putting your harness on before you start your hike saves you even more time later on. I am a fan of a full strength gear loop on the back of my harness.

Chest Harness Big wall style or light weight snall improvised one for crevasse rescue situations.

Shovel & Probe Shovels can fit onto ice axes and probes can fit onto ski poles now! Many climbers go without a shovel because of the added weight. But a shovel is the most energy efficient way to dig someone out of an avalanche or dig a snow cave/wall. If you are going light and fast and are not skiing or snow boarding and are not going over any avalanche prone slopes that it is possible to do without a shovel & probe. The adze of your ice axe digs fairly well with a lot more effort if you had to use it this way. New light weight shovels are available and some also use your ice axe handle as there shaft. It really depends upon the terrain & weather.

Avalanche Transceivers with proper training or avalanche vests It is not enough to buy these expensive life saving items. You must know how to use them. To quicken the learning curve take a class, then practice on a nearby slope with your friends you plan to climb with. Consider avalanche chords to trail from your backpacks. Like 200 feet of 2-4mm perlon wrapped tightly in your bonnet, the top of your pack, then throw it out when crossing sketchy terrain: Crude, but sometimes effective, especially when used with an avalanche transceiver and probe.

Locking carabineer & belay rappel device Backup belay device

Rock Protection: Chocks and wedges placed into cracks in the rock to provide a temporary anchor which a rope can be attached to via carabineers and webbing. Mechanical cams are expensive but can cover a wider range of crack sizes so you can bring less of them. Small tri cams are always useful. There is a wide variety of rock protections to choose from and it will take some experience to know what the minimum that you need for each climb is. Many people feel that you need at least one successful year of rock climbing in the warmer weather before attempting to climb even the easiest of climbs in winter. I usually go down several grades to compensate for the thin ice and snow which covers the holds and cracks. Also consider the need for ascenders, Gri-Gri’s, self belay devices etc.

Ice protection: If your route includes ice climbing than you will need ice screws. Titanium screws can save you a lot of weight. Sharp hook pieces such as Talons are great as temporary protection while ice climbing close to home but are more of a liability when pushing an alpine climb with a long approach. They tend to make your rack a jumbled mess and can stick you in the leg when you become exhausted.

Snow protection: Protecting snow routes is done with long stacks called pickets and shovel like objects called deadmen & flukes.


Climbing Hardware: Ascenders, Gri- Gri's, and other high such wall gear: Portaledges, belay seats, fifi hooks, chicken slings; aka altitutde anchors, daisy chains, aiders, pitons, wall haulers, webbing, some sewn, some tied with a water knot. Runners, biners enough gear for the route.

Crevasse rescue Gear: Small rescue pulleys, light weight aiders, super small lightweight ascenders, new gear recently available beats the hell out of prussik knots! Read up on this beforehand and practice crevasse rescue at home!

Rapid Descent inventory: Everything for skiing, ski-boarding or snowboarding all fitted to climbing boots. Could use some help here if we are to continue the inventory for skiers and snowboarders as they have certain needs that I am less familiar with.

Large cup/mug, & bowl and fork/spoon, water bottles that fit water filters, large team water supply bags. Water hydration systems that fit in the bonnet of your alpine pack checked beforehand for leaks.

Sleeping Bags: This is a place to save weight if you sleep with a fleece one piece or fleece pants & jacket or better yet with a down suit on if it's really cold. Sleeping bag liner,& compression stuff sack. A good sleeping bag is key to being comfortable in the backcountry in winter. A warm bag is also expensive and heavy. Get the warmest that you can afford -15 degrees at a minimum. -20 or -30 even better. A down bag is lighter for its weight. but unless it has a water resistant cover it can tend to get pretty wet and down looses its insulating value when wet.

Adding a bivy sack over your down bag is one solution but it prevents your down bag from compressing as much if you leave it on during transport. Many experienced mountaineers carry down and are just extra careful not to get it wet. Synthetic bags are not that much heavier and retain more of there insulating value even when wet. At any rate all winter bags are bulky and it is hard to climb fast over steep ground while carrying one. Alpinists who want to go real light wear one piece fleece and Gortex suits with an extra down jacket in their pack but leave their sleeping bag at home. If they have to bivy they pull out their bivy sack and crawl into it with all their clothes on. Be advised I have done this and it is a long cold night that you will be facing. A sleeping bag can turn this epic scenario into a fun weekend climb. One way to handle this is to carry a sleeping bag, 'down or synthetic,' that is rated to 5 or 0 degrees because it will feel warmer if you sleep with your jacket and a pair of fleece pants on. This will add a several degrees of warmth to your bag. This thinking works even for expedition climbing but everybody has a different sleeping comfort range. For one day alpine pushes I carry at a 5 or 10 degree bag with a Not a Tent bivy sack and a 1/2'' Thermarest. This adds only a small amount of weight and allows me confidence to bivy in any condition. For all other trips I carry my 0 degree bag and sleep with extra clothes on to stay warm.

Sleeping pad & chair kit: This stuff is gold! Sleeping Pads come in different sizes. A half inch pad weighs next to nothing and adds a lot of warmth. Many backpacks have back pads which can come out to be used as a half of a sleeping pad.'' I have to admit, I am a hedonist and often carry a one inch sleeping pad and my partner has been known to carry an inch and a half. I guess we all decide where we put our weight and these items can really cause you to sleep comfortable.

Tents, with tarps or ground cover, small individual or two person tents. Portaledges if wall climbing.

Basecamp tent – One Himalayan Hotel or other suitable large tent. Make sure its a four season tent because storms shred three season large tents easily. These tents are so important for moral, even if I lead a small trip we carry each a two person, not a tent, basically an elaborate bivy sack for sleeping. Then we carry a larger, maybe four person, or three person tent, so that we can eat together. Then we leave it at basecamp when we ascend, or go for the summit.

Food inventory: & extra food for self and a surprise munchies to share with your team when moral gets low. Test food for its ability to be palatable when cold, low on water and in freezing temps. Would love some input here! We can bring lots of Ramen Noodle Soups, pastas, flavored rice and other complex carbohydrates to save money. We professionally dehydrate certain fresh vegetables, tomato sauces and have recipes for white alfredo sauces to put in the soups and over pasta.

Maybe get some fresh beef & chicken down closer to the mountain, cook it up before the climb and enjoy them from a zip lock baggie on day one & two before they spoil: Lots of chocolate and healthy/sugary deserts. Chicken soups with extra minute rice added and lots of stoned wheat thins for added carbohydrates, Ostrim ostrich jerky for protein. Try dehydrating your own ground beef with a food dehydrator: Bagels, Peanut butter, wraps, pits bread, all my choices.

Stoves & cook sets (Be sure to test before expedition.) Hanging stoves are best in my book!

Camp footwear Down booties or slippers are luxury items but are very cool. The inner liners of plastic double boots are equally as nice and you have them on anyway.

Candle lanterns with extra matches Some stoves can double as a gas lantern and really heat up a tent. But it is amazing how a little candle lantern can also heat a tent up.

Water Bottles: Keep all your water insulated with a wool sock or an insulated water bottle holder. A wide mouthed bottle increases the chance of getting at your water when it’s partially frozen. Carry the water bottle upside down. This way it will freeze from the bottom up. Don't eat snow, as it will bring your core temperature down. If you use snow to replenish your water bottle add it before you run out of water, slowly add snow and shake your bottle to help the snow melt in. Melting snow in your stove is the way to get water in the cold.

Water Treatment: Do not trust any water from streams. Always filter it with a water filter. I used to always carry a top of the line filter until I realized that if I carry enough water and melt snow to cook my dinner in I really didn't need one. The icy cold water can make the water filters act sluggish. Still I would never resort to using water from a stream without filtering it.

More to come soon!


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-10 of 10

JasonH - May 28, 2006 8:26 am - Voted 10/10

Great Job!

A very imformative list.


iceclimb - Aug 12, 2007 2:26 pm - Hasn't voted


Sorry for the delay, I have been away, far, far away!


JasonH - Aug 13, 2007 2:40 am - Voted 10/10

Re: Thanks

In a galaxy far, far away.;)


jordansahls - Jun 6, 2006 12:46 am - Voted 10/10


I have been wondering about what I need to do to plan an Expedition, this is a good place for me to start. Thanks for all of the great information!


iceclimb - Aug 12, 2007 2:32 pm - Hasn't voted

Light is Right

Your right, this is a very complete list and I have struggled up mountains with stuff I ended up not really needing like chair kits; don't get me wrong, I love Thermarest chair kit, but it all depends upon how much technical climbing gear weight you have to carry. Sometimes luxury has to be sacrificed.

I don't like being guided, never hired one. I have hired guides for classes to learn new stuff in many areas. But guide services, local ones, they know alot of people like to self guide, they also can provide transportation, quality porters, and a whole range of assistance: Then they leave you to your mountain and meet up with you later. Just make these arrangements with them from the beginning. Any other questions, feel free to ask.


steste - Jun 17, 2006 8:51 am - Voted 10/10

Well done...

... I wait for further details. Especially the chapter concerning porters !!;-))



iceclimb - Aug 7, 2006 2:49 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Well done...

HI, I would be happy to let you know everything I know about using porters in the Bolivian Andes; Do you have any specific questions.


iceclimb - Aug 12, 2007 2:34 pm - Hasn't voted

See Above.

I think I answered your question with the one above. Hope it helped.


BigLee - Jan 22, 2007 4:12 pm - Voted 8/10


Nice page but I think it's hard to generalise what to take and what to leave. It TOTALLY depends on the objective, conditions and climbing style. The Tian Shan for example is colder so I need more layers but I can often climb without a tent knowing that I'll be able to knock out a snow cave. The Karakoram on the other hand is warmer so less layers and I can usually get by with a bivi bag. Tibet I need layers and a tent. I don't think there is such a thing as a standard checklist. There's a saying that you won't need a lot of equipment on a mountain unless you take it - then you'll need it because you'll take twice as long climbing the mountain. The Alpine-style phylosophy is very different to the commercial expedition-style phylosophy for which this article doesn't really reflect this (yet). Also! Renting is a VERY dangerous affair in undeveloped countries. I think self reliance is essential away from infrastucture.


iceclimb - Aug 12, 2007 2:25 pm - Hasn't voted

Light is Right

I just wanted to cover everything, lately I use a really small stove, never bring a tent, but always have my fathful OR Double bivy sack. When my wife joins me we get cozy, when I free solo, or Aid climb alone, theres plenty of room and the hoops take the bivy off your face. I have only a zero degree sleeeping bag and sleep in a one piece fleece & altitude suit, and if it's cold, then that I suffer a little. Sometimes alot. But everyone has personal comfort zones, when I was a youngster in the Marines, we were trained to extend ours, but don't try to sell that to my wife.

Viewing: 1-10 of 10



Parents refers to a larger category under which an object falls. For example, theAconcagua mountain page has the 'Aconcagua Group' and the 'Seven Summits' asparents and is a parent itself to many routes, photos, and Trip Reports.