Lets face it, having the right gear for the day's objective can make being in a uncomfortable environment much more enjoyable. Technology is constantly changing, gear is getting lighter, and we have more options than ever before. Through trial and error I have dialed in my ICE CLIMBING GEAR KIT. My goal here is to show you exactly what I use on a day of ice climbing and explain how the whole system works together. I will also show you how I may slightly alter this system depending on our weather or objective. Here, in New Hampshire, it tends to get very cold and windy!
UV BUFF HEADWEAR
I swear by the UV Buff. I can wear it as a hat, a balaclavla, neck gator, neck protector from the sun or as a head band (how I use it 99% of the time.) It really is amazing. I found that when I wear a regular hat I just got too hot. By wearing the Buff as a head band, it keeps my ears warm, and lets heat and moisture escape. Besides the UV Buff protects against the sun on those hot days crossing glaciers. I always carry two.
PATAGONIA CAPILENE LIGHTWEIGHT T-SHIRT
Its a great base layer. Its super thin, breathes extremely well, drys fast and minimizes stinking. I always wear a t-shirt because some times those long approaches on a 25-30 degree day get hot and you want something that you wont be sweating in.
BLACK DIAMOND CO-EFFICIENT HOODY
I've tried a lot of mid layers and have found nothing that even compares to the BD Co-efficient (See my review HERE). For me, the most important thing about this layer is a chest pocket that fits a smart phone comfortably but doesn't allow it to bounce all over the place. Keeping my phone in this pocket, it stays warm, the battery lasts and most importantly its easily accessible and allows me to take lots of photos. When I get cold, I put the hood up and it fits nicely under my helmet.
ARC'TERYX PSIPHON AR PANT
I started wearing these pants at the end of last season and really liked them. The integrated belt fits flawlessly under your harness, thigh pocket for a map or snack and attachments for stirrups (eliminating the need for gaiters.) I also like how the pants are tailored below the knee for that slim look - thus reducing the likely hood of catching a crampon on a pant leg.
PATAGONIA MIDWEIGHT SNOW SOCK
I don't like a sock that is any heavier than midweight. I find that my feet stay warmer with thinner socks. This is all I use. No liner.
ARC'TERYX ATOM LT HOODY
I'll admit this coat was give to be my the guys at Northeast Mountaineering. At first I though the jacket wouldn't be warm enough, or it would get too hot on higher output days or the thin outer layer would rip easily. I couldn't have been more wrong. I have days when its warm and I never take this jacket off, likewise, I have freezing cold days when I never put on my puffy. This coat is amazing. Highly breathable and warm. The hood fits nicely over my helmet too! My only complaint about this coat is on very windy days. Under the armpits and down the sides is a mesh like material and when its super windy, the wind whips right through. If its this cold and windy out I will put the Patagonia Nano Puff Pullover on underneath the coat.
OUTDOOR RESEARCH FORAY JACKET
I use this Gore-Tex jacket as a water proof, wind proof shell. This coat was again given to me by the guys at Northeast Mountaineering. I admit, I am NOT a big fan of this coat. The fit is bulky feeling, the coat gets soaked quickly and generally I refrain from wearing it. Half the time I don't even carry it and it stays at home. I do NOT recommend buying this coat, I think that there are better water proof shells out there.
PATAGONIA DAS PARKA
This is my coat that goes on over everything when I am hanging out at a belay, stopping for a snack or experiencing full-on alpine conditions! I have worn this coat up to 19,000 feet, I've worn it when its -20 and the wind is howling! It packs a bit larger than a down coat, but it gives me peace of mind when the going gets tough!
OUTDOOR RESEARCH ALIBI II GLOVES
When the ice gets steep, the Alibi gloves come out. I always carry two pairs. Yes, my hands get cold, but no glove on the market gives me more confidence when hanging off a frozen waterfall by 1/4 inch of steel than the ALIBI II Glove! Last thing you want is to be fumbling around when placing a screw. Seriously ..... 5 stars!
OUTDOOR RESEARCH LODESTAR SENSOR GLOVES
The Lodestar Glove is my workhorse. I start everyday in the mountains wearing these gloves. Whether a long approach on foot, a day of instruction, a summit attempt, climbing easy ice or a day of backcountry skiing. Highly breathable and excellent dexterity. I always carry two pairs.
BLACK DIAMOND RAMBLA GLOVES
I only carry one pair and generally they stay in my pack. They are my go-to when its freezing out! I like them because they are very comfortable and warm. However they severely lack dexterity, which is necessary when I need to handle a rope or tie knots. I believe BD has discontinued the Rambla Glove.
LA SPORTIVA BATURA 2.0 GTX
This will be my third winter in these boots. I have literally been in these boots in all conditions and I love them. Comfortable, warm, light and nimble. On really warm days I might switch to a pair of Scarpa Rebel Pro's.
JULBO MONTEBIANCO SUNGLASSES W/ CAMEL LENS
This is my third season in the MonteBianco and I couldn't be happier. I can pretty much wear them all day long. On low light days I may toss a pair of Julbo Race 2.0 sunglasses with a zebra lens.
HEADSWEATS SUN HAT
Because at the end of the day I get helmet hair. I always toss mine on when we are back at the car! Its also nice to have on a long approach if it's warm and snowing. Also great for keeping the sun off your head on hot days! I got mine for free from Timex.
- PETZL NOMICS
I don't care what anybody says, or how much more money they spent or how cheap they got their "other" ice tools from. The Nomics are the best tools on the market, hands down! I tossed a little extra grip tape higher on the shaft. I customize mine with the "Dry Pick".
- BLACK DIAMOND EXPRESS ICE SCREWS
They work! I generally carry: 2-3 (10cm), 6 (13cm), 4 (16cm) and 1 (22cm). I send them out to www.icescrewsharpening.com every spring to get re-sharpened. If I am doing an easier climb with a long approach I will leave some of the BD screws behind and take along the Petzl Laser Speed Light screws.
- BLACK DIAMOND XENOS HARNESS
It's light, comfy, has 6 ice clipper slots and even an extra gear loop on the back. I only use the Petzl Caritool ice screw holders. They are WAY better than the Black Diamond ones!
- PETZL SIROCCO HELMET
Its crazy how light this helmet is. I love it. Feels like your not wearing a helmet at all!
- PETZL DARTWIN CRAMPONS
Mono point or duel point? I always get this question. Lets be honest. How often are you dry tooling vs. how often you are straight up climbing ice? The majority of us are just climbing ice with the occasional foot on rock. If that's you, go duel point. I like the Dartwin because they are sharp and a sharp crampon is like a sharp ice screw...they lead to less cursing and overall less sketchyness.
- COLD COLD WORLD VALDEZ PACK (2400 cu. in.)
I feel like 2400 cu. in. is about the standard size pack for just about anything you want to do ice climbing. If you are looking to buy a ice pack and are wondering on size just remember 2400! I like the Valdez because its light, simple and carries well! Mine has to be 8 years old and its still hanging tough!
- PETZL TIKKA XP HEADLAMP
Light, simple, trustworthy, bright, inexpensive. On days where I think that I might be out late and really want to light up the night I will also toss in my Petzl Nao +. I especially like the brightness of the Petzl Nao when walking across glaciers at 2am!!!!
*MY RACK & IN MY PACK: My rack may also have 2 quadruple length slings (pre built, for building quick ice anchors - Quad Anchor). Four Petzl Attache locking carabiners. Ten alpine quick draws, a V-Thread Tool, Sterling Hollow block on its own designated VaporLock Magnetron Carabiner, small knife and extra 6 mm cord (to buildV-Thread anchor or to leave behind at a manky looking belay). In my pack I carry about 40oz of hot tea with honey in an insulated mug, extra crampon toe bail, extra ice axe pick, multi tool, food (including Honey Stingers Energy Chews), sunblock, lip balm and first aid kit. **My ropes will vary on the objective.