lists below show the minimum equipment that should be
carried by each member of a group when climbing in the
Alps. The different environments show how versatile
this equipment list is, and shows the potential uses
of several of the items of equipment.
FOR ICE, ALPINE & EMERGENCY...
Harness - At all times, when climbing in the
Alps, a harness must be worn. There are no exceptions
to this rule. In event of an emergency there is no time
to put on a harness. By wearing it you are able to protect
both yourself and others in your group. Also safety
equipment can be attached to it.
Helmet - Always needed to protect head from the
falling pieces of ice, or in event of a fall whilst
climbing. On routes where there is a low danger of rock-fall
or crevasses a helmet is not a necessity. A helmet should
be used at all times to protect from falling rock and
in case of a climber falling. If you wear a helmet at
all times, you will be wearing it when you need it most.
Crampons - On most routes or approaches in the
Alps, you will encounter either a snowfield or a glacier.
For these areas, crampons will be essential, especially
on glaciers after it has rained the night before (as
it has a very smooth and slippery surface). Crampons
can even be worn whilst rock climbing, and they are
very good on small holds and edges.
Ice Axe - For ice climbing you will use two axes,
as this will help balance, and is safer as you move
one point (crampon or axe at a time). Mountaineering
is normally done with one classic shaped ice axe, as
this can be used to arrest any falls, and for belays
in snow. A lightweight axe is carried on many Alpine
rock routes as it is needed for the approach and descent
for safety & stability In emergencies, ice axes
are used as belay points, and can help place ice screws.
Also they arrest falls on snow slopes.
Safety Gear - For full details, see below in
"Safety Gear" section, which examines the
range and selection of various types of safety equipment.
Each member of the group must carry their own safety
gear, as there is no knowing when or who will need it,
and in the event of a fall, a lot of equipment can be
lost (ripped off gear loops, unclipped, or broken)
Rucksack - For ice, mountaineering and rock,
the rucksack is just used for carrying gear. It can
be buried on a wet glacier to be tied on to, as a protection
point for crevasse rescue systems. It also can be used
to put your feet into during an emergency bivouac night.
Food & Water - At altitude the air is dry,
and when you are exercising, you need to drink a lot
to remain hydrated. Also you should eat sugary food
Spare Clothing to Carry - Gloves / mitts tend
to get wet. Spare socks & gloves needed Fleece or
duvet for belay points. Keep spares in a plastic bag.
4mm Cord - Can be used for spare: laces, prussic,
slings, straps, gear loops, etc.
Headtorch - Headtorches are used for Alpine starts,
when it is necessary to get established on a route before
dawn. Signalling for emergency help
Survival Bag - A survival bag should be carried
at all times, as it can be used both in emergencies,
and to sit on, as well as a bag liner or to attract
Personal 1st Aid - At all times on the mountain,
you should carry a personal first aid kit for use in
case of either an emergency, or simply for blisters
/ small cuts.
The key phrase that is often repeated on this page is
achieving a balance. If you think that carrying all
the safety equipment available will make you safe, think
again; you will be carrying too much weight, will travel
slower, have a greater chance of collapsing snow bridges
etc. You must select a suitable collection of safety
gear, that is suitable for the type of route that you
are attempting. Below is an analysis of the safety kit
you should carry at all times, as it has applications
on all types of Alpine route, from rock to ice.
Slings x 2 - These are used at all times for
belays, and in rescue situations.
Karabiners (Screw Gate) x3 - Screw gate karabiners
are specified, as though they are heavier, they will
not open under load and can be locked to increase the
safety. This is of great importance in the Alps, where
there are a lot of edges that a snap gate could accidentally
open on. The screw gate also has a greater load capacity
which makes it more versatile for all types of Alpine
terrain. Three karabiners are recommended; one to go
onto the front of your harness at all times (to attach
ropes or slings to), one to be used to attach to points
of security (e.g. ice screws, pitons etc), and the third
to use in emergencies (such as in hoist systems, belaying
fallen climbers, or as a spare).
Ice Screw - As a protection device either at
a belay point, or as a running belay point on a route.
In addition ice screws make holes for the Abalakov belays.
On sections of ice, the screw can be used in the same
method as ice climbing. Also a safety device for crevasse
rescue on dry glaciers. Ice patches are often occur
on rock routes in the Alps. Also the ice screw can also
be used on a multi-pitch abseil mixed ground descent.
Safety device in case of crevasse fall. The fallen climber
can use the ice screw to make safe and the climbers
on the surface use them for rescue.
Prussics x 2 - These can be used to protect descents
or as belay points on Abalakov belay stances. Also a
long prussic can be used instead of a sling. The prussics
are useful in event of crevasse falls on wet glaciers,
or climbing ropes over rimayes. Also they are a safe
idea on long or wet abseils. On aid pitches the prussic
can be used to ascend the rope, and also they can be
used on hard routes if hauling bags up beneath you.
In an emergency the prussic loops are the best known
and most basic method of you climbing out of a crevasse.
They are also spare boot laces.
Knife - On all types of climb, or ground, a situation
could arise where a knife is needed, either to avoid
an accident (e.g. cutting a length of cord to repair
a crampon strap), or in event of an accident (e.g. cutting
ropes, or cutting bandages in event of first aid being
necessary). The most basic, and everyday use you will
get out of your climbing knife is to cut up food.
Mini Ascender (optional) - The main use of this
whilst ice climbing is in the event needing a section
of sack hauling on a very difficult pitch. On sections
of fixed rope the ascenders are easy to use even when
wearing a set of thick mitts or gloves. Often ascenders
are used on Via Ferrata, or on sections of fixed rope
on rock where the group moves together Ascenders help
minimise friction in event of hoist systems being used
in a rescue, which makes it more efficient.