When going on expeditions to the highest peaks you will need specialist clothing and equipment in order to make a successful ascent.
A lot of what you need will be similar, if not the same, to you standard mountaineering kit. Some parts will needs to be more technical however.
What clothing you need will depend on what mountain you are doing. The higher you go, or closer to the arctic or antarctic, the colder it will be and this will help determine what items you need to take.
On any mountain you will need, at least, three layers all of which serve a different function.
Your base layer, which is next to your skin, is mainly there is provide Breathability. This basically means in moves the sweat from you skin to the other side of the clothing keeping you dry. Synthetic materials or Merino Wool are good choices here while cotton is an absolute No.
This is your primary thermal layer and made to keep as much warmth in as possible. Options include fleeces, softshell and down jackets. Down jackets will be your warmest option but fleeces make a good backup or additional layer depending on the temperature you are going to encounter.
Your bunker against the elements- Wind and waterproof and made out of durable materials. Mountaineering versions have additional features such as helmet compatible hoods and a double zip for access to your harness.
A B3 rated boot is strongly recommended as they are generally very warm and allow you to climb at all winter grades while providing strong support. You will need to match you crampons to you boots so make sure they are compatible. Check out our guide below for more detail on picking mountaineering boots and crampons:
Hats, gloves, socks
Gloves- Like so many other parts of your kit you match your gloves to your mountain. A liner glove under a warmer, waterproof glove that still allows you to manipulate tools are your best bet. If you are going to encounter extreme cold then look at a pair of down mittens.
Socks- Thick trekking socks will often be fine but there are dedicated mountaineering socks that have a very technical construction to them. These are generally longer and warmer much like a ski sock.
Hat- You lose a huge amount of heat through your head so an insulated hat or balaclava is a must.
Crampons- Nice big spikes to attach to your boots. These are needed when on snow and ice to actually get grip and stop you falling down the mountain. Follow the link to learn more about fitting your crampons:
Ice axe- What axe you will need depends on the mountain itself. A standard walking axe will be fine for most, and some expeditions like Kilimanjaro requires no axe, but other will involve more technical mountaineering and so you will need one or even two of those axes. More details on the type of axe you need for different types of mountaineering can be found below:
Some mountains are more technical than others and some expeditions offer different routes up each mountain will different levels of technicality. How much climbing gear you need will depend on these factors.
Harness- Chances are you are going to be roped up at some point following a fixed line so you need everything to attach to you. Not every expedition requires them but most do.
Acender- If you are on a fixed rope you will need this to make progress. One hand on this, the other on you axe.
Cord- Depending on your chosen mountain and root you might be moving together and to secure those rope coils you will need cord to make Prusik loops along with….
Carabiners- In order to attach to rope when moving together or a fixed line you will need locking carabiners to keep yourself safe.
Helmet- Ice and rocks falls can kill you very easily. Make sure you are wearing one when you need one.
Finally for the other bits of kit you need that don’t fall into the above categories:
Backpack- While Sherpa/Porters will carry most the kit you still need to carry the essentials with you. A 35-45l sack will be fine for you to carry on the actual climbing days
Dry bags- Waterproof and used to separate your different types of kit. Pick the number you want based on how many items you want to carpmentalise.
Sunglasses + Goggles- The snow glare and thin atmosphere will easily send you ‘snow blind’. A Category 4 pair of mountain sunglasses along with a pair of goggles for bad weather are essential.
Sunscreen- It may be cold but that doesn’t mean you can’t get sun burnt. The Highest sun factor you can find and applied liberally on all exposed skin.
Head torch- you will be starting in the dark and you may well finish each day in the dark. Being able to see where you are going is a big bonus here.
Sleeping mat and bag- Your bed for the next few weeks. Make sure you get one whose temperature matches what you expect to encounter.
Water Bottle- Make sure it is wide mouthed and easy to open with big gloves on.
Oxygen and mask- If you are going above 8000m then your guide company will provide this.
Written by Joe