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summer alpine routes - carry a waterproof or not?

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 Stone Muppet 05 May 2022

Thinking about summer alpine climbing above the snow line, if it's raining you've definitely screwed up, if it's heavily snowing then you've screwed up too, and you have a windproof already. So if all goes well the waterproof never goes on, and if you need it you're probably trying to descend rather than push on up.

Does anyone here simply not carry one - i.e. because they reckon their Big Insulated Synthetic Jacket covers the bases for emergencies and is water resistant enough to keep you warm until you're off the mountain? And your bivi bag isn't waterproof anyway?

Alternatively does anyone carry a superlight one, not very durable but hopefully never worn? If so what?

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In reply to Stone Muppet:

For a quick day hit of a an Alpine rock route near a lift etc I sometimes don’t bother if the forecast is solid and I take a wind proof. But obviously you can be caught out and you need to assess what that might mean based on your route and escape options. But outside of winter I would usually always be going for a super light in any case - Patagonia M10 anorak. 

 Jeff Ingman 05 May 2022
In reply to Stone Muppet:

I stopped Alpine climbing 4 yrs ago but always went with the later suggestion for summer. I carried a completely waterproof very light 'cag' to deal with an afternoon cloud burst. Zero breathability, 175g and £5 from Decathlon. I've only worn it 3 times but it served it's purpose. If you need goretex you should be drinking beer in the valley.

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In reply to Stone Muppet:

I would always take one.  An alpine storm can be as viscous as Scottish winter and do happen unexpectedly, as does getting caught out overnight.

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 Rick Graham 05 May 2022
In reply to MG:

I'm 100% in agreement with Jeff, light waterproof for summer alpine , one or one long day  guidebook time routes.

Even after getting stuck for two nights in one alpine summer storm at near 4000 m, (1980, when the isotherms used to be way lower), I  would rather endure that than a long night in winter Scotland.

 VictorM 05 May 2022
In reply to Stone Muppet:

It really depends on conditions and circumstances. Realistically, you're doing a lot of routes from hut A to hut B and maybe tag on hut C with something-or-other-spitze in between. In such cases, you're going to have to carry everything in the pack. 

If it is indeed a case of a quick hit with a lift and you'll be in the valley with the last lift back, you can sort of count on a good forecast and ditch a waterproof and maybe only bring an emergency bivi. I'll always bring a good waterproof though, even though I prefer to climb in softshell. 

 Mark Haward 06 May 2022
In reply to Stone Muppet:

As George says, if an easy access route with easy descent and a solid forecast coupled with my own judgement I would not take a waterproof.

    If out for longer, higher or more committing I would take a light weight one rather than the Scottish suit of armour and would usually have a lightweight bothy bag too. 

   If the weather / conditions are dubious I change my plans back to an easier less committing route, but there again I am a wuss!!

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 Howard J 06 May 2022
In reply to Stone Muppet:

I would always carry a lightweight waterproof.  Storms can bubble up very quickly out of nowhere, and despite a clear weather forecast.  One of the most terrifying experiences of my life was being caught in an Alpine thunderstorm.

 BruceM 09 May 2022
In reply to Stone Muppet:

Always.  Marmot Precip.  Used heaps in those thunderstorms that weren't expected.  Question usually is do you need the insulated jacket as well? --  or just thermal blanket, bivi bag thing etc. as backup.

In reply to Stone Muppet:

> Does anyone here simply not carry one - i.e. because they reckon their Big Insulated Synthetic Jacket covers the bases for emergencies and is water resistant enough to keep you warm until you're off the mountain? And your bivi bag isn't waterproof anyway?

The question is, what's the probability of you getting down fast enough in bad weather to reach shelter before your insulation jacket becomes useless?  Chances are that if you're having to descend in bad weather it's going to take you a lot longer than it normally would.  Even the 'simple walk out' at the base of the abseil piste is going to be horrendous in the rain. 

Then you have the 'how will I cope when I injure myself on that rushed descent in the wet?' aspect - your wet insulated jacket and damp everything else was fine whilst you were moving and generating heat, but now you're stopped with a sprained ankle in a gully with no phone signal after a long day burning all your energy......  I guess it boils down to 'how much will the extra weight slow me down and increase my risks' versus  'how much risk will be reduced by being able to stay dry'.  That risk assessment will depend on the climber and the route.

I'm not an alpine climber, but a shell jacket is always in my bag in the alps on VFs and walks.  I don't find the additional weight and packspace to hinder me, therefore my risks aren't increased and thus the additional risk reduction in the event of bad weather are worth it for me.

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 Siderunner 13 May 2022
In reply to Stone Muppet:

There’s some good writing about Yosemite accidents that highlights how quickly things go south on a big wall when it really rains. Obviously El Cap is different than most alpine rock, but worth contemplating.

I once got caught in an extreme summer hailstorm in the Dolomites, fortunately at the first, bolted, belay. Came out of nowhere at 11am from behind the cliff, literally a black cloud out of the blue. In the 10 minutes it took us to get down we were completely soaked and freezing. Water and hailstones were streaming down the slab we were on, and water ran down our arms whenever we touched the gear on the rock. Felt like a funny incident as we sat in the cafe after, but if we’d been 8 or 10 pitches up and the belays hadn’t been bolted it wouldnt have been so amusing.

 Robbie Blease 13 May 2022
In reply to Stone Muppet:

Something else to think about is a super light bothy shelter. Probably going to be lighter than the two (or three) separate waterproof jackets you'll be carrying as a team. And kind of better for the short sharp alpine storms when you'll almost definitely not be climbing anyway. 

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In reply to Siderunner:

> I once got caught in an extreme summer hailstorm in the Dolomites, fortunately at the first, bolted, belay. Came out of nowhere at 11am from behind the cliff, literally a black cloud out of the blue. In the 10 minutes it took us to get down we were completely soaked and freezing.

That's the problem with mountain stuff - you often can't see what weather's going to hit you.  I had a similar hail experience with my scouts here on our winter expedition - we saw a big squall coming and told them to put their waterproofs on, but one older lad was all "I'll be fine" and wouldn't listen so we let him learn a lesson . It whipped up to F6 and hailed & sleeted for the time it took him to walk 400m across a flat hard beach, resulting in him getting soaked to his underpants through his army surplus tunic and trousers. We then continued for another hour or two to the campsite where he was unable to tie shoelaces - a) his fingers wouldn't work, and b) his brain wouldn't work.  We put him in the hot campsite shower for 20 minutes to warm him up and fed him to fix his hypothermia.  On the hill with no ability to warm up he'd have been stuffed.

Personally, I've been involved in a misjudgement of scale - we were just coming off the VF Piz Da Lech and onto the grass when the late afternoon thunderstorm started. Our hotel was directly below so we decided to simply keep going down instead of waterproofing up as it wouldn't take us long. We were completely soaked and chilled by the time we got there because it took us longer than expected even though there were no problems with the descent - it was simply further than it looked (2.2miles, 2,200ft descent).

Post edited at 16:11
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