Mountain climbing is a popular pastime with millions of people heading up various peaks on all seven continents year-round. While there are many factors to take into consideration when heading out on a mountaineering expedition – such as fitness, time of year and technical skill – it is always imperative to bring the correct equipment.
To ensure that you are properly prepared for your first (or next) mountaineering expedition, we’ve compiled a list of the necessary gear. Technical equipment is what you will use to help you climb the mountain. It can come in the form of things you wear and use to assist you in the performance of various climbing tasks.
A belay device is a mechanical piece of equipment that assists the user in exerting tension on a climbing rope, so as to prevent a fellow climber from falling. Belay devices are usually made out of metal and allow for minimal effort to be used in feeding out appropriate amounts of rope for climbers to use. They are generally required for climbing up rock or ice faces.
Many guides who provide group climbing equipment will provide belay devices for the climb. Otherwise, they can usually be rented. A carabiner is a metal loop – usually steel – with a spring-loaded gate, which can be used to quickly connect and disconnect parts of a system, such as a harness to rope.
Pear/HMS carabiners are most frequently used for belaying and rappelling since their size and shape accommodates the need to hitch with two strands of rope. Any type of climbing expedition that requires roped travel or rock climbing will require the use of carabiners. These can generally be purchased at most outdoor sports stores and are useful to have for other purposes as well.
Crampons are traction devices that are usually attached to the bottom of mountaineering boots. They are generally made with a steel alloy and have spikes on the bottom that help the wearer climb ice falls and keep traction on glaciers. Crampons are generally attached to boots via a binding system, which differs depending on the needs of the user. The most common one for mountaineering is the step-in system, which fits well on most types of mountaineering boots.
These can generally be rented from outdoor sports stores, although some guides will provide them if they include personal gear in their fee. Crevasse rescue equipment is essential when traveling on glaciers or over any other surface that might have holes or faults into which a climber could fall.
Basic crevasse rescue kit includes a lightweight pulley, locking, and non-locking carabiners, nylon cord, sewn slings, snow and/or ice anchors and ice axes. Many of these will usually be provided by a certified mountain guide on an expedition.
Harnesses are generally required for mountaineering expeditions that include rock climbing or abseiling. They secure people to either a rope or an anchor point and are usually made from a combination of cloth and nylon, which loop around each leg as well as the waist.
Harnesses can be improvised and made out of rope, however, it is much more common to use commercially provided ones, which generally have padding and attachment loops. Harnesses can generally be rented from outdoor sports stores, although some guides will provide them if they include personal gear in their fee.