CramponsHigh altitude mountaineering requires very specialized gear. Over the years, I have invested approximately $15,000 on environmental clothing, climbing tools, and other equipment for surviving in the back-country. When departing for a major expedition, my personal packing list can run to four pages in length with the corresponding luggage weighing well over one hundred pounds. Team gear (e.g. tents) and supplies (food and fuel) are in addition to this figure.

Gear selection and management is an ongoing process. Even though I’ve assembled an extensive inventory, I take note of other people’s gear selections (and modifications) and refine my choices over time. Despite the additional expense, I generally opt for the best gear I can find. In extreme terrain and conditions, my life will at times depend on it.

As you scroll over the pictures below, pop-up text will identify noteworthy items.

See also:      Everest Gear        Planning and Preparation

Seated on Sled (Branscomb Glacier, Antarctica, 9000’ elevation)


1. Insulated Hiking Poles – when you spend many hours on a glacier, much of you heat can be lost through contact with any metal object that also contacts the ice. Hiking poles are easier for balance support while moving, but don’t provide the security of the ice axe for arresting a fall.

2. Integrated Boots/ Overboots, rated for -40 degrees. The boots have a very thick sole as part of their insulation.

3. Ski goggles with transition lenses, for changes in light conditions. Sunglasses are inadequate for the light reflected from all angles while on a glacier. Glacier glasses are sufficient for the light, but don’t provide enough protection in high wind or a storm.

4. Outer layer. Windproof/waterproof shell for ease of movement and ventilation. In extreme cold scenarios, an additional down-filled parka is used.

5. Windproof pants. Typically worn over a base layer and one or more insulating layers.

6. Backpack, 65 litre capacity. May be loaded with up to 80 pounds of gear, internal and external.

7. Ice axe, with leash secured to my harness and immediately accessible if I fall in a crevasse.

8. Heavy duty cargo bag, 100 litre capacity, filled with food, sleeping bag, tent, stove, fuel, etc.

9. Plastic sled. Typically, I’ll divide my load 60/40 between the sled and the backpack. In Alaska and Antarctica, we carried 50 pounds of gear in the backpack while pulling 80 in the sled. Sleds used on steeper terrain (Denali version) are sturdier with poles attached to straps on backpack, making control easier in crevasse fields.

10. Line securing sled to climber's harness or backpack. Cargo bag is lashed to sled.

11. Line securing cargo bag to personal harness also and also secured by ‘dummy cord’ to rope tying climbers together.


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