The Perfect Kit: Alpine Climbing

The Perfect Kit: Alpine Climbing


School is out and I’m excitedly packing for an alpine climbing trip to the eastern Sierras. Soon enough I’ll be fingering my way up the white granite and clawing over rocky ridgelines. In preparation for this adventure, I’ve identified the perfect alpine kit for the trip.


A climbing harness is one of the most intimate pieces of gear you use while climbing. It hugs your hips, carries your gear, and moves with you every step of the way. This summer I’m excited to slide into the lightweight, yet super functional, Edelrid Wing Harness ($69.95). The Wing has features found on a cragging harness – such as four gear loops and adjustable leg loops – in a compact and light package that is perfect for stuffing into a backpack already laden with gear for an alpine mission.


Helmets are key for alpine climbing, which typically takes place in an arena ripe for falling rock and ice. Due to its light weight and breathability, the Petzl Sirocco ($130) helmet has become my helmet of choice when working the rock. Many companies make molded foam helmets but Petzl stripped the Sirocco down to 5.8 ounces (size large) by using expanded polypropylene, thus negating the need for the plastic shell that covers most other helmets. A nifty magnetic closure on the chinstrap rounds out the innovative features on this helmet, which is so light you may even forget you’re wearing it.


The Trango Catalyst ($259.95 for 70 meter, $298.95 for 80 meter) is a skinny 9.0 mm rope but with workhorse features. One of the first things you’ll notice about this rope is how smooth and easy handling it is as it runs through your belay device. While some prefer double ropes or carrying a tag line to pair with a fatter rope, I love being able to carry just one single rope. Due to its 80-meter length, and slight diameter, the Catalyst gives you plenty of rope to make all but the longest rappels while still enjoying the benefits of handling a single rope. If you find yourself wary of the Catalyst’s small diameter, take some confidence in the fact that Trango used Unicore technology to bond the sheath and core together, providing extra security from sharp rock and fraying edges.


Offset cams are sometimes seen as aid specific gear for flared pin scars found on big wall routes in places like Yosemite or Zion. But, if you take notice, most crack placements are not smooth, perfectly parallel formations, and protection like the Metolius Offset Master Cams ($59.95) can seem tailor made for those times when you find yourself racing up your alpine objective. I’ve come to include offset cams as a key component on every rack I use for free climbing, other than the pure splitters found in the desert. Metolius Offset Master Cams offer six sizes, great durability, are lightweight, and are easy to use thanks to their contoured thumb loops and rigid triggers. Color-coded slings and thumb loops make it a breeze to find the right piece the first time, and Metolius’ Range Finder helps users recognize the optimal placement of the cams.


Ever since FiveTen first released the Guide Tennies 30 years ago, they’ve remained a popular fixture on climbers’ feet. I still fondly remember lacing up my first pair over a decade ago. Now, the FiveTen Guide Tennie Mids ($140) represent a new look at this old standby. The Guide Tennie Mids feature the same comfort, friction and edging ability that made the original Guide Tennies so popular, but add ankle protection and greater stability for rough, rocky terrain. The Mids make it feasible to strap on a pair of aluminum crampons for easy snow terrain in the mountains while still being relatively light and comfortable for long approaches or scrambling alpine ridges. If you’re looking for more protection from the elements, FiveTen is releasing a GoreTex version ($180) of this shoe later this year.


When climbing in an alpine setting, I find myself using clove and munter hitches more than anywhere else. Often, I am tying them fast and want a locking carabiner that can be quickly handled. The Black Diamond Magnetron VaporLock ($27.95) is the lightest in BD’s line-up that still uses two magnetic arms in the gate to lock the carabiner. First time users often struggle with opening the gate at first, but with a little experience you’ll find yourself quickly tying in or belaying with this sleek locker.

These climbing products represent some of the best gear available on the market today, and working in tandem with one another, they are my choices for the perfect alpine kit.