/ Kit for the Alps
I've got a pair of Trango Extreme Evo GTX which I've used in the UK in winter and they keep my feet toasty but are they going to be warm enough at 4000m+?
I tend to wear Montane Terra Pants year round in the UK with HH long johns underneath when it gets properly cold. Is this going to be suitable for the Alps or would thicker trousers be better?
For the top half I generally wear a baselayer and R1 fleece with an Atom LT and Rab Stretch Neo for when it's colder/wet and sometimes carry an Atom SV for extra insulation if it's really cold in the winter. I'm assuming this will be OK for the Alps too.
Would be interested in people's responses too - I'm in the same boat heading there for my first time too.
Questions like hardshell v softshell jackets and the feasibility of down jackets are running through my head.
There seems to be plenty of info on clothing for Scottish winter, which I have dialed in pretty well. Some info on clothing for some above snowline alpine rock climbing in July time would be good to know also!
Softshells. It'll be much warmer than you think. It's a bit nippy at the start of the day, but once the sun comes up you'll be very warm very quickly. I normally wear merino leggings and baselayer. Just the normal 200 weight ones. Then Marmot M3 softshells over the top of that. A lightweight down or synthetic jacket over the top of that, if it's a bit nippy. If you feel the cold a thin fleece might not be an awful idea. I love my Patagonia R1 hoody.
Gloves wise, something like the Chamonix Bin Men gloves (google them) will do fine. I have a cheap softshell pair of gloves however.
I'd also get Cat 4 sunglasses, with a cheap pair of Cat 3 sunglasses as backups. Also factor 50 sunscreen and good lip balm.
As for waterproofs, take the lightest ones. Or really as you shouldn't be going out in poor weather, don't bother taking them.
Backpack, should be about 25l to 30l in size. You don't need any more.
You'll spend more time too hot than too cold most likely. I would go for thinish softshell trousers (no leggings except perhaps on Mont Blanc). Thin, long-sleeved base layer, one or two fleece/softshell layers and waterproofs (insane not to have them in my view). Also sun-hat, hat, thin, grippy gloves and thick gloves. Your boots will be fine - take ankle gaiters to keep soft afternoon snow out.
While keeping weight down is a priority, personally I don't buy the minimalist rucksac line. Something around 45L works for me. While it may be largely empty when climbing, the advantages are a) You walk up to and (relief) down from huts in trainers, b) you are not stuffing everything in all the time c) you can use it on longer trips if you wish.
It's generally a lot warmer in the alps than you might think - think summer climbing on Scafell or Cloggy temperatures. There's a bigger temperature range as well - it can be absolutely baltic at 6am but by 9am if you are in the sun then it's boiling. A bigger problem at higher altitudes is the wind so you need an outer layer that is windproof.
On lower altitude rock routes you'll need little more than you would for a day on the grit (slight exaggeration but it's closer to what you'll find than Scottish winter)
Some strong suncream and decent sunglasses are also in order.
Thanks for the replies. It seems like I've massively overestimated how cold it's going to be.. I was thinking more Scottish winter temperatures with a bit more sun.
It sounds like my Terra Pants will do the job then and I can probably leave my Atom SV at home. I'll try and find a lightweight shell to take too instead of my Stretch Neo.
I've got the 40l Montane pack (Torque?) which is a decent weight and comfortable so I'll probably use that one.
I don't currently own a softshell but it seems like it would be a handy piece of kit. I'll have to have a scout round for one to buy!
My usual clothing system is:
Legs: softshell trousers or ron hills and gaiters
Tops: long-sleeve base layer, thin wool pullover, windstopper softshell jacket
That set-up has typically allowed me to stick to the same clothing from frigid early-morning start to mid-afternoon sweltering without having to stop. I find stopping to change clothes extremely annoying in the alps and try to avoid it whenever possible. Powerstretch gloves are awesome, thin neck gaiter (buff) is very useful for keeping out cold / snow / sun / dust / sweat. Good information here (Needle Sports): http://tinyurl.com/qdvn9e8
A white baselayer/t-shirt can be quite handy for slogging along a glacier in the sun. Tend to wear Terra type pants below 4000 and softshell trousers above.
The problem with summer alpine climbing is that you have have to be able to cover a huge range of temps and conditions, from very hot to very cold.
The kit that I choose depends on the route, which will dictate factors such as:
- Is it north or south facing (i.e. will I be in the sun or not).
- Is it a route I will move fast on, or a technical route that will involve long slow pitches and lots of time belaying.
- Does it involve an overnight bivi.
Typically for a single day route that doesn't involve a bivi I use:
- Merino base layers
- R1 hoody fleece
- Wind proof jacket (I use a Arcteryx Squamish Hoody which is amazing, but plenty of cheaper options).
- Softshell trousers - which kind depends on whether route is mixed or just rock (i.e. something light weight if just doing a rock route)
- Softshell jacket with hood - again which kind depends on whether route is mixed or just rock (i.e. something light weight (prob just my windproof above if just doing a rock route).
- A sythetic booster layer e.g. Patagonia Nano Puff or Arcteryx Atom Lt
- Very light weight emergency water proofs (I use a Montane Minimus jacket), hopefully they just stay in the pack so the lighter the better.
- Variety of gloves depending on route.
- Cat 4 sun glasses, + lip balm are essential.
- Lightweight pack around 25-30L
Don't be tempted to go topless. You'll get sunburn and blisters on your neck and back from the rope coils and rucksack straps.
I find that softshell / leather palmed winter cycling gloves make pretty good gloves for dexterous (read cold) winter climbing gloves.
Don't forget good sun glasses - or you'll go blind! And it won't be because you were shaking hands with your best friend!!
I agree with most of the advice in the thread. The main thing to watch out for though is temperature range.
Yep - it is likely to be pretty damn hot if you are in the sun! But like another poster said - if you need to bivvy, or if you are climbing/approaching in the night or if you are climbing a N Face, then things will get a lot colder.
Your set up will most likely see you right.
For sunny alpine rock climbing up high I usually wear softshell trousers, a base layer top, a very thin fleece/long sleeved base layer and a driclime windshirt.
For N facing mixed routes I would wear the same, but with gloves (of course!) and baselayer bottoms, and I'd switch the driclime for a full weight softshell. I'd take a thin down jacket or gillet as a back up piece too.
Good luck and have fun! And Yes, and I'd echo the sunscreen thing.
we went for the first time last year. Climbed around Saas Fee and went as high as 4100m. All I wore all week was thin softshell trousers, short sleeve base layer and a Rab Boreas wind shirt. wore a thin synthetic gillet while sitting at the summit, It was basically way hotter than I could have imagined. The softshell and water proof never left my bag. If going higher then 4300+ I can imagine that you may need something warmer but for around the 4000m mark it was surprising how little clothing we needed to wear as long as we kept moving.
Same here: Thin baselayer tee, Rab Boreas an 60gr Primaloft jacket
For north facing routes I sometimes change the Boreas for a light fleece and a Patagonia Houdini. The latter sometimes replaces my hardshell all together.
I second a lot of what has already been said here!
Feet - Scarpa Freney XT - Smart wool mountaineer socks
Legs - Mammut Base Jump Pants
Top half - Lightweight base layer, microfleece and Arcteryx Alpha Comp hoody hybrid hardshell/softshell and very breathable
Gloves - bd softshell and a couple of pairs of gauntlet gloves
42 Litre Rucsack, down belay jacket, balaclava, lightweight powershield cap, very cheap and lightweight waterproofs as they spend 99% in the pack! Plus all the other bits of kit and clothing that i have missed off
For Mont Blanc summit it will be a bit nippier but you shouldn't need long johns on under your trousers.
Best of luck!
Good advice already- buffs are really useful. Most guide lists for MB mention warmer layers than usual- a belay jacket could be useful here.
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