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My alpine gear list

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I am currently packing for a short trip (a long weekend, really) I am taking to Chamonix, hoping to get a little bit of alpine climbing done before the summer is over (and before going to Nepal in october). The goal is a long route with two or three nights at altitude and at least one a bivy on the route. I thought people might be interested in learning what gear I am taking for such an occasion. The actual climbing rack will depend on which route we decide on once we have assessed the conditions (possibilities include Traversee des Aiguilles de Chamonix, Frendo Spur, South Ridge of the Aiguille Noire de Peuterey and a few other routes), but here’s about the rest:

Sleeping

  • Tent: The Black Diamond Bibbler i-tent: small footprint for narrow ledges, single wall but sturdier than the eVent versions and possibly more breathable, too. At 2kg, this is one of the big weight investments.

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  • Sleeping bag: Western Mountaineering Alpinlite: it’s only rated to -7C but that should be enough for summer climbs when sleeping fully clothed. The weight compromise makes it worth it.

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  • Sleeping pad: I got one of the fancy new Thermarest NeoAir in small size. It’s only 120cm but a ridiculous 260g and packs tinily, for almost as much warmth as a normal inflatable pad.

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Clothing

  • Baselayers: There is no question that now, it’s all about merino wool, the magic fabric. It is warm, it is comfortable, it breathes and it never smells. I use a Norwegian brand called Aclima, but will probably get some new ones from Icebreaker for Nepal.

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  • Fleece: A small Arc’teryx microfleece. Any would do as long as it’s light.

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  • Softshell: The amazing Rab vapour-rise. Again, warm, crazy-breathable and comfortable.

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  • Hardshell Arc’teryx Alpha LT, the rolls royce of gore-tex jackets, for the extra warmth if it’s windy or rainy. Before I won this jacket at the Sheffield festival last March, I was using 50€ Marmot precip for the same purpose.

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  • Hat: A nice Patagonia woolen one with extra fleece around the ears. It’s crazy how a good hat will make a world of difference, and how difficult it was to find one that I liked.
  • Gloves: The Black Diamond pursuit have pretty nice liners and they dry relatively quickly. They are also very dexterous for hard mixed or even easy rock climbing. Given the low temps forecasted, I may decide to bring an extra pair of mitts for comfort.

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  • Socks: One heavy duty woolen pair with liners to move the sweat away. I don’t bring spare but am careful to dry them at night.
  • Shoes: I will use the La Sportiva Nepal Evo GTX instead of the Spantik, as they climb technical ground better and I shouldn’t need the extra warmth. This will actually be my first trip with them, but from trying them and from all my experiences with La Sportiva, I am sure they will perform beautifully. I also bring a pair of rock shoes, of course.

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Personal kit

  • Axes: I bought second hand Black Diamond cobras from kickass Danish climber Kristoffer Szilas and they are the best thing since sliced bread. The carbon fiber makes them light, they are perfectly balanced and swinging them is just an awesome feeling. I have the BD spinner leash to avoid dropping them.

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  • Harness: DMM Supercouloir. Super light, plenty of gear loops and screw holders, a real belay loop and a quick release of the leg loops which allows relieveing without untying.

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  • Crampons: Simond Makalu. Good all around alpine crampons, though on retrospect, I probably should have gotten them fully automatic instead of semi-auto, as they have come undone a few times on the huge Spantik.

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  • Helmet: Black Diamond halfdome, simple but it does the job and is actually pretty comfortable. I forget I have it on until I see the photos, which is exactly what I am looking for.

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Photography

  • Camera: Nikon D90 + Nikkor 16-35 f/4 VR. After the tent, this is the heaviest thing I carry, but it’s always worth it in the end. Since the focus is on adventure images rather than landscape (which I can work on when weight is less crucial), I only bring one good wide lens.

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  • Bag: Thinktank skin belt with one single pouch. I put it on in the morning and keep it there until the day is over, which makes my camera accessible in an instant, the absolute key to bringing back good images.

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  • Consumables: 16GB of high performance cards, a spare battery, a lens cloth. That’s it.

Misc

  • Backpack: To carry all of this, the Osprey Mutant 38. I am pushing its capacity, but it can do it. This is the best bag I have ever used for climbing, as it somehow doesn’t change my centre of gravity too much.

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  • Headlamp: Petzl tikka xp2, small, light and incredibly powerful, perfect for this kind of climb.

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  • Cooking gear: Nic will take care of the stove and fuel, so I only bring one Nalgene bottle, a bowl, a knife and a plastic spork.
  • Glasses: Glacier glasses and contact lenses, my biggest pain in the morning (it can take up to half an hour to put them on…).
  • Really misc: some aspirin and paracetamol, self-adhesive patches for the mattress, a cellphone turned off for emergencies, an altimeter watch, a topo, a fighting spirit.

Add the ropes and the rack and you have an alpine gearlist for two climbers. Quite a lot of stuff but (except for the camera of course), not much that can be left out.

What do you think? Anything that you would change in that list?

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11 thoughts on “My alpine gear list

  1. @Arlo: thanks for reading. I am not too sure why I forgot the pants and socks, to be honest… I use either the Arcteryx Alpha LT bibs or the Arcteryx Gamma LT depending on whether I want hardshell or softshell. Then a pair of cheap Patagonia longjohns and some merino underwear.

  2. Hi Alexandre,

    I found your mountain photography article very interesting. I’m interested please how you find the Nikon lens compared to your Sigma 18-55mm? I am looking to upgrade from the D90’s kit lens, the 18-105mm. My general photography style is on my website.

    Many thanks,

    Colin

  3. Hi Colin,

    I find the 16-35 really awesome, mostly for the great image quality and the handy VR system. The big downside is that it is quite wide, so I often need to complement it with a tele lens (usually the 70-300 VR), especially for landscape. The Sigma is also very good, though not quite as excellent optically.

  4. Alexandre, many thanks for your reply. Interesting you use a telephoto for landscapes. I like the idea of having two lenses but I’m prone to thinking it would spend so much time in the bag it won’t pay it’s way (i can’t see me taking it out mid-walk or climb to take a quick shot). Most of my shots it appears are between the 18 and 35mm mark. I’m looking for a good low-light lense so the Sigma I think may be a good choice. And the 16-35mm is outside my price bracket :-) Cheers,
    Colin

  5. hey
    i am also french and living currently in Norway and soon back to the alps… I use my camery on the belt of my backpack while skiing but this summer i wanna try to use it while mountaineering and i seek for the proper pocket and lens. i have a D80 and a 18-135mm that i mainly use in the range from 18 to 50 for my best pictures. I am not sure to buy a new lens because of finance but i was wondering what is the main difference as on your lens, the aperture (that allow more light) is not better than on mine : yours is f4 and mine is f3,5 in the 18mm focal .

    which thinktank model do you use to carry out your camera? do you use a belt or do you put it on your harness? did you try long trad climbing ( where you need 2 rack of both cams and nuts?). Do you have pictures of you with all the equipement?
    In the morning do you use a tripod or some kind of stabilisator?

    my web site ( freshly renewed) : http://desbief.com/WpMatthieu/
    Cheers
    Matthieu

  6. Michael says:

    Hi Alexandre,

    just finished reading your book. I am now also interested in the Think Tank Slim system. Which bag are you using for the D90 + 16-35, and which one for the Olympus Pen?

    Thanks,
    Michael

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