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Andy Kirkpatrick is Doctor Gear
© UKC, Jul 2008
In this interactive article series, gear guru and mountain funny man Andy Kirkpatrick will answer your questions on gear. From the basic to the bizarre, if you need to know something then just Ask Andy!
Forum Thread for posting questions: Premier Post
Read Doctor Gear Part 1 - Bivy Bags vs. Bothy Bags
Almost! If you have that system, and carry an extra pair of over trousers as a 'storm layer', then I think you will be well prepared.
Getting a good alpine climbing leg-wear system isn't too hard these days, what with the vast selection of tough trousers, thermal leggings and lightweight over-trousers.
The basic needs of an alpine climber are:
Power Stretch Tights
© UKC Gear, Aug 2008
Soft Shell Trousers - lots to choose from
© UKC Gear, Aug 2008
An Ideal alpine leg wear system:
The first item that I would have in an alpine leg wear system would be a pair of quality lightweight running shorts. These serve several purposes; primarily they give you a cool layer for walk-ins (don't forget the sun cream), and something to wear when drying off gear in huts or bivouacs. They also give some added wind proofing to the nether regions and they dry quickly.
Power-stretch is the ideal insulation layer for alpine climbing, as it is totally non-restrictive, light, warm when wet or damp, and it dries quickly. R1 style fleece also works very well, being lighter, but not quite as close fitting, meaning it loses some warmth when wet.
Mammut Base Jump Pants
© UKC Gear, Aug 2008
This is your primary layer, and is worn almost all of the time, providing a tough, breathable, wind and weather resistant layer. Stretch woven fabrics work best (Scholle and its copies), and it's vital to get a good fit, with decent pockets, double fly (put some cord on the zips so you can find them with cold fingers), and reinforced crampon patches. Lighter colours will feel cooler, but take longer to dry in the sun.
No matter how good your pants are, they will get wet and allow cooling of the legs if the weather gets really bad, meaning it's vital that you carry a pair of storm pants in reserve. These will protect you from rain and snow (worn over your shorts, or just your power-stretch as well as over everything), and give some added warmth (testing by the British Army showed that wearing a second pair of trousers significantly improved a soldier's heat retention). The ideal leg wear would be a simple pair of Gore Packlite trousers, with either full length side zips, or half zips. These should be rolled up tight and stowed in your sack until you need them.
About Andy Kirkpatrick:
Andy Kirkpatrick is the third best climber ever to come out of Hull (John Redhead and Joe Tasker pipping him at the post), and is as well known for his nerdy knowledge of gear, as his ability to climb slowly up hard routes. His knowledge of the finer points of climbing gear comes from ten years in the trade (running the rock room in Outside Hathersage), as gear editor for magazines such as Climb, Climber and High, and twenty years of climbing, often on routes where only the right gear would see you home safe (gear that very often he'd neglected to bring...or dropped!).
© Mick Ryan
Having spent two years in the wilderness writing his first book, Psychovertical (published by Hutchinson in September), Andy is returning to climbing gear writing here at UKClimbing.com with Doctor Gear, an irregular surgery for all gear and strange technique questions. If you would like to book an appointment, then please submit any questions to the associated Premier Post (please note Andy will not treat your questions confidentially in any way!).
Andy Kirkpatrick is sponsored by Berghaus and Lyon Equipment.
UKC Articles and Gear Reviews by Andy Kirkpatrick: