/ cost V use of winter climbing kit

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sheffieldchris 07 Jan 2020

have bought loads of expensive outdoor kit over the years and always rational the high cost of some items with the amount of use I will get out of them.
For example a new jacket say £300 I get 300 days use, it works out at a £1 each time I put it on, good value. The same jacket only worn 10 times means it cost me £30 each time I wore it, not so good.

Ok so I live in Sheffield and have winter climbed up to grade IV for about 15 years and can say I have got a good return on the ice  axes/crampons/ice screws I have. Not to count the cost of driving north and staying there then sometimes getting sod all done though.

All the other type of associated climbing kit like ropes and trad gear I can use when climbing not in winter so would not fit into my next thought.
 

Here is my question would you take the exact amount of cash you paid for your winter climbing kit, only to be used to buy new outdoor kit.
For example set of Petzel Quarks would get close to the price of a good new tent.
B3 boots would buy you a couple of pairs of good climbing shoes.
A ice screw for a new cam.
Or maybe lump it all in and buy a sea kayak set up to start a new hobby.

I know winter is not dead and a couple of bad years on the trot can mean very little, I also know that locals can get out exactly when conditions give a window, guides will nearly always be able to find something to do.
 

The thought of driving 350 miles there then the same back over a couple of days and because I am not a super star who can scratch my way up some frosted cliff but has to find at least half decent conditions that my 52 year old legs can get to. I am starting to lean towards would I turn down the heap of cash to use it for other bits of kit, or leave it gathering dust in the loft like it did all last season and is not screaming at me to be used this winter so far.

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Dell 07 Jan 2020
In reply to sheffieldchris:

What an accurate, and depressing post! 

I have a £100 jacket that was a bargain at the time, but only worn once in anger. 🤔

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Basemetal 07 Jan 2020
In reply to sheffieldchris:

My greatest cost over say, 30y, has been petrol/diesel, and if I think of gear costs in "tankfuls" most of the pain goes away

The memories aren't made of costs though, and I'm happy enough if the money went where I wanted it to at the time.

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carr0t 07 Jan 2020
In reply to sheffieldchris:

I do think gear is quite expensive. Even more so if it is not getting used. It probably isn't a clear split one way or the other as to whether you should be giving up the sport or not. As you've noted, a lot of the gear is interchangeable with summer rock climbing. For the gear specific for winter, I fall into the buy the cheapest fit for purpose item. Buying a £400 arcteryx jacket is probably unnecessary if you can get one for £100 from decathlon that does the same job for the climbing you are doing. I pretty much get all my kit that way and only upgrade to something if there is a specific need for more high end gear. There just isn't a need to shell out for best of the best for much of the time, because most of us are not climbing high end stuff. Even then, the benefit is debatable most of the time.

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TobyA 07 Jan 2020
In reply to sheffieldchris:

Don't drive 350 miles each way. Wales or the Lakes is less than half that distance from Sheffield. I've had two good winter days out (1 in the Lakes 1 in Wales) already this winter, and I can only climb at weekends. https://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/features/chasing_the_very_bloody_ephemeral_scottish_winter_climbing-11510

Post edited at 18:10
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ColdWill 07 Jan 2020
In reply to sheffieldchris:

Fuel is the biggest cost for me, then specific hard wear. Axes, Boots, Crampons, Ice Screws (and other Specialised gear) and to some extent GTX salopettes are the only really specific kit. So that's £1500 est.

Only going to get 4 routes this year by the look of it as I'm away at the end of the month but gear last five years at least.

Iv'e done about 120 routes in Scotland aver 18 years so that's 6.6 routes a year. so (£1500/5)/6.6= £45.50 per route excluding fuel.

Edit - Fuel is currently £140 return so that was an additional £35 per route for this year. previously it has been less and I always go for as long as possible so its hard to work out but this years for routes were £80.5 each.  Gulp

Post edited at 19:22
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In reply to sheffieldchris:

We once drove from Sheffield to the Fort William. Climbed Orion Direct, destroyed half a grands worth of tent in a massive winter storm then drove back. It is one of the more memorable wkend I've had and definately worth the cost. 

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sheffieldchris 07 Jan 2020
In reply to Somerset swede basher:

Nice one,

I am not saying the cost of the kit has out weighed the memorable days out I have had because as many of you have said you can not put a price on those great experiences.
I would not swap them for the cost of all my climbing kit. But what has gone has gone and lives on only in your memory. 
My thought was more of a rhetorical one for for the future.

I have no intention of selling my winter kit because you never know when the stars are going to line up and that once in a life time set of conditions/fitness/confidence/ability/availability line up. I would hate to miss out.
ps also once drove to Fort William north car park, got about an hours nap, then set off with everyone else there as the forecast and conditions were so good. Climbed tower ridge, got down had a curry and set off back home that night. One of my best UK mountain days.

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didntcomelast 08 Jan 2020
In reply to sheffieldchris:

After many years of similar, buy expensive winter gear, use it maybe once or twice a year, I started to question the value for money v enjoyment ratio. Turned out I didn’t enjoy the suffering of long car journeys, sleeping in the car park at the Nevis golf course, trudging up the path to find conditions on the Ben crappy and damp and terrifying. 

Made the bold decision to sell all my winter gear and with some savings bought myself a packraft. What a revelation, the freedom to roam the highlands and then paddle across a loch or down a river, so much better than freezing my rollocks off in a north facing gully full of spin drift, even at this time of year there is beauty to find. If you really relish the winter climbing in the U.K. then winter kit is expensive but a worthwhile necessity. If you can live without the climbing then money can be better spent elsewhere.  

( If I lived in the Alps I would still be winter climbing.)

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steveriley 08 Jan 2020
In reply to sheffieldchris:

I used to climb with people with gear. A couple of winters ago I was sketching up some frozen nonsense solo surrounded by people with a full rack of screws. Something didn't feel right and I retreated off to easier ground thinking "I need to take this more seriously and get some gear". Or less seriously and pull back to winter mountaineering. I made the same shout and decided the cost v fleeting conditions weren't best use of cash.

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Basemetal 08 Jan 2020
In reply to steveriley:

There's always second hand and seriously discounted gear around. Ice screws aren't a necessity for every route. It'd be interesting to see what the minimum cost could be.

Boots are the critical element maybe - budget £200

Axes/ ice tools - say half price for second hand, or budget tools £150 a pair.

Crampons - second hand or European sales  -. £60

Rock rack, harness, helmet, head torch, etc ( dual purpose) so no extra cost for winter.

Winter specific rack-  bulldog, warthog, snargs, scrubes, dead man, older ice screws all turn up on eBay along with multi pack deals in sales. £100 worth would be generous.

Clothing - debatable.

So, if you don't need cutting edge gear,  you could get started for under £500, maybe a lot less. Not cheap, but what is?

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Michael Gordon 08 Jan 2020
In reply to sheffieldchris:

2 thoughts.

1) Amount of use is not directly related to enjoyment. You could use a pair of boots so little that it might work out at £50 per use, but might well get more satisfaction out of those few days than getting your money's worth all winter at the indoor wall.

2) The less you use kit the longer it lasts! There's always a silver lining.

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Wanderlust 08 Jan 2020
In reply to Basemetal:

> So, if you don't need cutting edge gear,  you could get started for under £500, maybe a lot less. Not cheap, but what is?

This is about what I've spent and I'm happy up to II with current kit.

Splashed out about 400 on boots and crampons. Used flys for 100. Already had climbing gear, coats etc.

I'm a winter noob, only done about 3 routes.

The bit of winter kit I regret (maybe?) is my single shiny, new BD express ice screw. I thought at the time that me and my partner should have at least one between us on our first winter trip, "just in case".

It sits there on the shelf mocking me, it being years old now and having never seen action.

I can't even see when i'll use it soon. I've never climbed ice, I don't have any mates badgering me to do so, and even if I did, I can't imagine one would suffice!

Should've bought a Warthog.

Other than that (and back to OP) I generally appreciate my gear being there ready and giving me options, even if I don't use it much.

You do get more satisfaction from stuff you've used more though.

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Dave the Rave 08 Jan 2020
In reply to Michael Gordon:

Exactly. This is a good thread.

I can directly relate to the OP with his distance from Scotland and echo with others that it’s more about the memories that you can achieve by going.

Kit is kit. It’s possibly  enhanced your experience and you still have it. Plan another trip. Have fun. Keep it real. 

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Michael Gordon 09 Jan 2020
In reply to Basemetal:

Splashing out of good clothing is indeed debatable when it comes to whether you can get out climbing or not. It's more the difference between being cold and miserable or actually enjoying your days out! 

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Basemetal 09 Jan 2020
In reply to Michael Gordon:

What's debatable is whether winter climbing needs specific clothing and, if you're on a tight budget, how much you need to spend on it. There are multipurpose items you'll get a lot of use out of, and there are non - hyped items and High Street, army surplus, and industrial alternatives to the big ticket items ( could make an interesting thread...).

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Euge 09 Jan 2020
In reply to sheffieldchris:

I also look at my climbing trips as a social thing, catching up with friends. Some of which I only meet for climbing weekends

Cheers

Eugene

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FreeloaderJoe 12 Jan 2020
In reply to sheffieldchris:

You've probably answered your own question. Just been looking at doing some winter alpine routes, and the cost is absurd when you look at it. I would need warmer boots and various other inevitable bits off kit. 

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neilwiltshire 13 Jan 2020
In reply to ColdWill:

Ok, but if you were to compare that to some other winter sport, e.g. skiing, you're paying the same amount for clothing lets say (since in fact I ski in my ice climbing clothes), then for every days skiing you have to rent skis/boots plus buy a daily lift ticket. The lift ticket is approximately 50 euro per day, plus another say 10 per day on skis and boots. On top of that you've got flights and accommodation to consider since there's no proper skiing to be done in Britain. Winter climbing is still fairly competitive price wise per route in terms of winter sports.

It helps that a year or so after you've bought the kit it starts to "feel free" in the sense that you don't have to pay anything on the day other than fuel.

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Billhook 20:34 Mon
In reply to sheffieldchris:

I always thought that the main reason for people buying winter kit was to look cool in the pub?

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Basemetal 21:40 Mon
In reply to Billhook:

> I always thought that the main reason for people buying winter kit was to look cool in the pub?


You've not seen my winter kit...

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ipfreely 02:55 Tue
In reply to sheffieldchris:

> Here is my question would you take the exact amount of cash you paid for your winter climbing kit, only to be used to buy new outdoor kit.

> For example set of Petzel Quarks would get close to the price of a good new tent.

> B3 boots would buy you a couple of pairs of good climbing shoes.

> A ice screw for a new cam.

> Or maybe lump it all in and buy a sea kayak set up to start a new hobby.

> I know winter is not dead and a couple of bad years on the trot can mean very little, I also know that locals can get out exactly when conditions give a window, guides will nearly always be able to find something to do.

> The thought of driving 350 miles there then the same back over a couple of days and because I am not a super star who can scratch my way up some frosted cliff but has to find at least half decent conditions that my 52 year old legs can get to. I am starting to lean towards would I turn down the heap of cash to use it for other bits of kit, or leave it gathering dust in the loft like it did all last season and is not screaming at me to be used this winter so far.

No - I still think winter climbing is great (sometimes horrid too), But UK winter conditions are so fickle, so if you still enjoy winter/ice climbing & the body is up to it, why not think about heading to the continent? I'm not one for massive walk ins. but there are enough places to get some great ice climbing done without the big slog in.
Rjukan, Cogne, Pitztal, La Grave , Ceillac, all can be done at a reasonable price, split between 4 works out well, then when the body finally says no, then flog the gear and take up something less strenuous with some wicked adventures under your belt.

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Toccata 07:18 Tue
In reply to sheffieldchris:

Mid 90s I bought my winter gear second hand. Plastic Koflachs, Terrordactyls, various ice screws of Russian origin and half a dozen home made ‘warthogs’. £100. I’ve never felt the need to buy specific clothing. In 25 years that has provided perhaps 200 winter days, routes up to VI. I could easily upgrade the gear but why? You don’t need all the shiny, flashy gear to get out and climb routes. Besides the cost is dwarfed by flights/diesel/accommodation anyway.

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