The Vertical Addiction Guide To Canmore Climbing

The Vertical Addiction Guide To Canmore Climbing was originally published on the Vertical Addiction website here, and en francis ici.

 

Canmore is a climbing mecca.  Our quaint mountain town boasts a seemingly endless quantity of high quality climbing in a vast assortment of disciplines and one of the best climbing communities anywhere.  The Canmore climbing scene is not one too be missed but the sheer quantity of options can appear daunting.  As such, we’ve compiled a list of what we believe to be a sampling of the best Canmore and the Bow Valley has to offer.  Here’s our picks for what you can’t miss if you want to have the authentic Canmore climbing experience.

The Vertical Addiction Guide To Canmore Climbing

The Canmore climbing scene offers a little of everything.  But while you can sample bouldering, crack climbing, aid and even big wall routes, the main draws are sport, alpine and adventure climbing. 

Sport Climbing

The region has become synonomous with the Canadian sport climbing scene and is home to one of the highest concentrations of hard routes in the world including Fight Club (5.15b), the first 5.15 in the country.  High quality rock, easy access and a supportive community has made the Bow Valley a must-visit for sport climbers.  Depending on the crag, there is something for everyone, beginners and professionals alike.   While there are literally thousands of high-quality options, our staff have listed a few of their favorite, must-do sport climbing routes at some of the best crags around.

Acephale – Hard Sport Climbing

If you’re looking for a hard crag to strut your stuff, Acelphale features a collection of some of the most difficult routes in Canada. Perfect blue-streaked limestone is steep, well featured and very reminiscent of Ceuse.  If you’re climbing at the grade you absolutely must check it out but come ready to pull hard as the easiest route is a 5.10c (Keys In The Car)!

 

Must-Do Routes

Hypochondriac 5.12c

The 39 Steps 5.12d

Sweet Thing 5.13c

Endless Summer 5.14a

Grassi Lakes – Something For Everyone

The unique pocketed limestone of Grassi Lakes provides options for families to top-rope and crushers to pull overhangs.  With one of the shortest approaches around, this can easily be done as an after work outing or a whole day affair. The scenery overlooking the Grassi Lakes is spectacular.

 

Must-Do Routes

The Golf Course (5.4-5.6)

Gardener’s Wall (5.9-5.9)

Memphis 5.10d

Meathooks, 5.11a

A Bold New Plan 5.11a

Dance Me Outside, 5.12a

Cougar Canyon – Close To Canmore

The most developed and deservedly popular climbing venue in the Canmore area, Cougar Canyon offers something for everyone with eighteen different cliffs and climbs ranging from 5.5 to 5.14.

Must-Do Routes

Milk Run 5.7

Shadow Of Turning 5.9

Gaia 5.9

Full House 5.10b

Talamasca 5.10c

Critical Mass 5.10c

Prime Cut 5.10d

Spite 5.11a

Incantation 5.11c

Outer Limit 5.12a

Shooting Star 5.12d

Sunshine Rock – Shortest Approach

 

By far the shortest approach at less than one minute.  This popular crag is off the road to the Sunshine Ski area and the only thing better than the rock quality is the perfect belay stances.  A few minutes up the road you can find a number of high quality multipitch sport routes as well.

Must-Do Routes

Enchanted Forest 5.7

Sunspot 5.8

You Are My Sunshine 5.9

Solar Flare 5.10a

Mountain Aven 5.11a

Thunder From Downunder 5.11c

La Muerta 5.11d

Echo Canyon –  Sport Climbing

The future of Canmore sport climbing lies in Echo Canyon.  If you brave the uphill hike you’ll be rewarded with immaculate stone, steep walls and some of the best routes around.  The potential of Echo Canyon has only begun to be realized and development is ongoing. 

Must-Do Routes

Sheep Metal 5.8

Caramel Macchiatto 5.10a

Venturi 5.11a

Phantom Ledges 5.11

Bench With A View 5.11c

Tetris 5.12a

Diamond 5.12b

My Two Bits 5.12b

Spring Fever 5.12c

Lost and Found 5.12c

Destination Unknown 5.12d

Toxicity 5.12d

Stepping Stone 5.13b

Younger Than Yesterday 5.13d

Honourable Mentions

Baatan

Another challenging crag worthy of the steep approach, Baaton gets lots of sun, dries quickly and features incredible views of the Bow Valley.  We suggest trying Only The Lonely (5.10a), Pushing Forty (5.11b), Significant Digits (5.11b) and Eyes Wide Shut (5.12a)

Barrier

Short approach and close to Calgary.  Barrier gets a lot of sun and dries very quickly making it an option almost every month of the year.  There is a mix of grades from 5.7-5.11 and you should definitely check out Front Row Center (5.7), Serial Driller (5.9), Sisyphus Goes To Hollywood (5.11c) and Sensoria (5.12a).

Kid Goat

There are a ton of great options here from single pitch sport to multipitch trad.  Getting morning sun and afternoon shade this is an excellent option for hot days or a quick burn in the evening. Popular multi’s include Gray Waves (5.8), Keelhaul Wall (5.7) and Twilight Zone (5.7, more information below).  The entire right-side sector of Kid Goat has fun sport routes from 5.9 to 5.11a.

Silver City

A longer approach but great rock quality with a nice mix of single pitch sport and trad.  The approach deters a lot of people but it is similar to Lake Louise quartzite without the crowds.  Must -Do routes include Dead But Not Gone (5.10a), Seandream (5.10c), Ruded (5.10d), Low Rent Rendez-vous (5.10d) and I Oink Therefore I am (5.11a).

 

Wasootch Slabs 

A beginner and family friendly venue with a very short, flat approach and easy climbing grades. As an added benefit, this is one of the best areas to walk-up for top rope set ups capable of handling multiple lines of low grade climbing, making it a favorite for families.  The cliffs are organized by letters and you will find an easy walk up toprope area with multiple lines of 5.4-5.6 on the D-Slab.  There are also a number of easy trad climbs for aspiring leaders.

Lake Louise – Perfect Quartzite With An Iconic Backdrop

Lake Louise is one of the most photographed places on the planet and the rock climbing is world class.  You can sample everything from single pitch trad cragging to hard sport to short multipitches. A number of areas are bolted at an easy grade so the whole family can try but everything requires a lead climb first.  

Must-Do Sport Climbs

Imaginary Face, 5.9

Public Enemy, 5.10a

Turtle Island, 5.10b

The Search 5.10b

Wicked Gravity, 5.11a

Mardi Gras, 5.11a

Mr Rodgers Smokes A Fat One 5.11b

Monkey Lust 5.11b

Back In The Saddle 5.11b

Dew Line, 5.11c

Mistaya 5.12b

 

Trad

Corner Voyage 5.6

Reclining Pine, 5.9

Long Stemmed Rose, 5.10a

Ash Wednesday 5.10b

Violet Hour, 5.10b

Standing Ovation, 5.10b

Crimson Sky, 5.10c

I Hear My Train A-Comin’, 5.10c

Air Voyage, 5.10c

Monkey Lust

Scared Peaches 5.12a

 

 

If you’re looking for inspiration you can watch Sonnie Trotter’s quest to free The Path (5.14R) on trad gear at Back-Of-The-Lake.

Bow Valley Multipitch Classics

You can find world class  trad climbs of any grade, most with a distinctive alpine flair.   The rock can range from bomber quartzite to solid, streaked dolomite to crumbly limestone.  There are entire guidebooks written for individual faces and the options are far too numerous to list but a few of our favorites are listed below.

Canmore Climbing

Mount Yamnuska

 

Must-Do Routes

Joy, Mount Indefatigable (5.6, 600m)

A long right facing dihedral unlike any other route in the Rockies. All gear, not fixed pieces and no rap stations make this a popular route for new trad leaders looking to further develop their trad skills.

Grillmair Chimneys, Yamnuska (5.6, 8 pitches, 295m)

Fun climbing through a cavernous fissure and escaping through a tiny hole at the top. Easy climbing but not to be missed.

Twilight Zone, Kid Goat(5.7, 5 pitches, 200m) 295m)

As easy outing for a half day. This well-travelled route is a great introduction to limestone trad climbing and preparation for Yam.

NE Face, Ha Ling (5.6, 12 pitches, 450m)

This classic route has an alpine feel and finishes atop the most popular scramble in the Bow Valley.

McKay Route, Tower Of Babel, Lake Moraine (5.7, 7 pitches, 400m)

Steep and juggy with great protection. A moderate grade trad route on bomber quartzite make this an excellent option for intermediate climbers looking to improve their alpine rock skills. This route stays shaded and can be very cold, making it ideal for hot summer days.

Eeyore’s Tail, EEOR (5.8, 10 pitches)

Varied climbing on excellent rock with a few sensational moves and an exciting finish.

The Fold, Mount Kidd (5.9, 11 pitches, 220m)

This unique geological feature provides exciting climbing with lots of fixed protection. A free hanging 60m rap tops off a great route.

Three Roofs (5.10c, 4 pitches)

Mostly 5.9 climbing with a bouldery 5.10c move on some of the best rock in the valley. Bring a #4 to protect the crux!

Screams From The Balcony, Saddleback (5.11b, 5 pitches)

One of the best routes around on perfect quartzite. The cruxes are bolt protected and the ambiance under the north face of Mount Temple is unbeatable.

Sport Bolted Multipitch Climbs

The Bow Valley is home to some of the best multipitch sport routes around, opening up some tremendous terrain which would be inaccessible otherwise.  Many of the routes included below require nothing more than a rope and a handful of draws.

 

Rundlehorn, Mount Rundle (5.6, 300m)

Mostly 5.5 climbing and completely bolted. This is an excellent route to practice multipitch skills and get great views of Banff.

Aftenroe, Mount Cory (5.7, 9 pitches, 220m)

A well bolted, deservingly popular sport climb on perfect slab with great scenery. Beware of crowds on weekends!

Achilles Spire, Mount Andromache (5.8, 13 pitches, 300m)

A very unique, pure sport-bolted alpine route. The climbing is moderate but the commitment is high.

Plutonian Shores, Raven’s Crag (5.9, 7 pitches, 220m)

A newer route on great rock at a scenic crag. This shaded multipitch is a great option for hot days.

Beautiful Century, Nanny Goat (5.10a, 9 pitches)

Fun climbing at a moderate grade with a single cruxy move. It gets early morning sun so bring an extra layer if you’re climbing in the afternoon.

True Grit, EEOR (5.10a, 6 pitches)

One of the first sport bolted multipitch climbs in the area. The surface is getting slick making it feel more like 10c. This can easily be linked up with other bolted sport multi’s next to it, making for a full day.

Cardiac Arete, Grand Sentinel, Lake Moraine (5.10d, 4 pitches)

A truly captivating tower. This spire is not to be missed. Get there early!

Dreambed, Yamnuska (5.11b, 8 pitches)

A "mixed modern" route, this mainly sport climb follows a great line and a selection of gear is required to supplement the bolts.

Tall Story, Echo Canyon (5.11c, 8 pitches)

Sustained, positive, powerful climbing. A must-do.

Longer Routes

The quality of Bow Valley sport climbing is perhaps only eclipsed by the incredible alpine climbing options. Many world-renowned test pieces can be found here and the prospect of outlining the highlights is far to great for a guide of this nature.  For longer, alpine style routes in the Bow Valley, the definitive source of information is the newest book from David P. Jones entitled Rockies Central.  

While not quite in the realm of alpine routes, we’ve included four incredible routes that can be done in a day and offer more of a rock climbing flair.  It should be noted that while these receive rock grades, the commitment levels are very high and should be treated as alpine routes in nature. Bring appropriate gear and plan for a very long day!

 

Must-Do Routes

Super Brewers, Castle Mountain (5.9, 20 pitches)

Linking Ultra Brewers and Brewers Buttress on Castle Mountain makes for a long day on bomber rock. Bring a large trad rack if you want to link up pitches.

Sisyphus Summits, Ha Ling (5.10d, 21 pitches)

Formerly the longest sport climb on the continent north of Mexico, this awesome line takes you straight up the face of Ha Ling overlooking the town.

West Ridge, Little Sister (5.10a, 22 pitches)

This wildly adventurous line feels like a remote alpine climb without walking distance of town and crosses over the iconic Three Sisters. Very little fixed gear makes this a committing but rewarding route.

Fluffy Goat Buttface, Goat Mountain (5.11b, 21 pitches, 605m)

One of the longest fully bolted sport route in North America. Since it’s completion in 2017 it has yet to see a one day ascent.

Important Information

Prime Rock Climbing Season

Rock can be climbed any month of the year in the Canadian Rockies but the typical season spans from April to October with July to September being the most reliable months.  No matter what time of year you’re planning to visit, be prepared for conditions to change drastically and plan accordingly.

Getting Around 

You will require a vehicle to access most of the climbing within the Bow Valley.  A number of places, such as Lake Louise, can be accessed by bus but you’ll enjoy your time much more with a vehicle.  A number of operations exist within Canmore and Calgary to rent a vehicle. 

Fees

With the exception of a National Parks Pass, which can be purchased daily or annually, you are not required to pay fees to climb in the Bow Valley.  

Camping

There are a number of places which allow free backcountry camping but within National and Provincial Parks camping is strictly control and requires a backcountry wilderness pass.  Contact Parks Canada for additional information.  Additional information for camping around Canmore can be found here.

Cell Phone Coverage

Most areas surrounding the townsites of Canmore, Banff and Lake Louise have excellent cell phone coverage but if you venture to remote locales ensure you have a means of communication should emergency arise.  It is recommended to have a  device with two-way communication like a Garmin InReach or a satellite phone. 

Local Ethics

Leave No Trace

We’re fortunate to recreate in a beautiful area and it is important to leave it that way.  Please pack out everything you bring in, including all garbage, wrappers, cigarette butts and tape.  Stick to established trails and parking spots and don’t break tree branches.  

Share The Crag

Many crags can become busy, particularly on weekends and it is important to share lines.  it is considered poor form to reserve lines by placing an unused top rope.  If you’re still using a line, please consider allowing others to use your rope for a lap or two. 

If you’re working a popular route, try to keep the hang-dogging to a minimum if others are hoping to climb. 

Noise And Music

Be mindful of your volume and profanities as many of our climbing locales are shared venues. Please be respectful of other.  

Passing Others On Multipitch Climbs

Generally, it is not advisable to climb a route underneath another party on Rockies limestone as there exists quite a propensity for rock fall.  Should you wish to climb below another party and wish to pass them, please ask them respectfully but know they are under no obligation to oblige.  When you pass another group you are potentially putting them at risk for rockfall and they do not have to expose themselves to this. If you don’t wish to climb below other parties, arrive earlier or choose another route.

Fixed Gear

At many crags you will find quickdraws and other gear left on routes.  Please do not take these!  It is common for climbers to leave fixed gear on routes they are projecting.  Unless otherwise indicated, please feel free to use them (after inspection) or clip your own but leave them on the bolts.  Likewise, you will often find fixed ropes, tools and gear buckets at the base of climbs.  These are generally used by kind volunteers generously retrofitting the routes which we so enjoy.  Please leave their equipment alone. 

Conversely, please do not alter any routes you encounter by adding or removing bolts, pitons or other fixed gear without consulting the first ascensionist or route builder.  

Cleaning Climbing Anchors

It is a widely accepted practice to be lowered off ring bolts in the Bow Valley.  In many places the hardware is set up in a manner which facilitates easy lowering off a single ring equalized with chain between two bolts.  It is frowned upon to top rope directly off fixed gear.  If you plan to top rope, please construct your own proper anchor.

Be sure to inspect any hardware before trusting it implicitly. If you’re uncomfortable with these procedures please seek proper instruction.  

Drones

The use of drones is prohibited within all Parks Canada places and many of the Provincial Parks as well.  There is zero tolerance to this rule and fines are hefty (more information here).  Should you climb outside the restricted areas, and wish to use one, please be respectful to other climbers and be mindful not to buzz anyone. 

Crag Dogs

Everyone loves a crag pup but if you choose to bring yours, only do so if you’re sure they won’t disrupt other climbers and keep them tied up somewhere shady with plenty of water and away from potential rockfall.  

Come Prepared

We’re blessed with some of the best Search and Rescue technicians on the planet and their services are free with the purchase of a National Parks Pass.  Please reserve this resource for emergencies only and plan to be self sufficient.  This means having a headlamp, proper clothing and equipment and starting the day early.  

 

Local Guidebooks

Bow Valley Sport: 2nd Edition – by Derek Galloway.  The latest and most definitive guide to sport climbs in the Bow Valley. 

Banff Rock – Chris Perry.  A comprehensive guide to routes around Banff. 

Climbers Guide To Kidd Goat – by Chas Young.  A small but thorough guide to a high concentration of excellent climbs. 

Rockies Central – by David P. Jones.  The first of four books outlining alpine routes from Kananaskis to Lake Louise. 

Canadian Rock: Select Climbs of the West – by Kevin McLane.  A selection of the best routes in western Canada. This is one of the best sources for multipitch routes.

Rock Climbs Of Mt. Yamnuska – by Andy Genereux.  A very well written guide to the most developed and iconic climbing faces in Canada.

Bow Valley Rock – Download sections of this now out-of-print guide book, including many obscure routes found nowhere else.

 

Useful Links

Bow Valley Climbing Crew Facebook Page – A useful Facebook page to join and frequent for condition reports, finding partners and staying abreast with the happenings of the local community.

TABVAR – The Association Of Bow Valley Rock climbers are who to thank if you clip a bolt around Canmore.  Their website contains loads of useful information, newly uploaded topos and relevant news.  Consider making a donation if you value their contributions.

While we aren’t a guiding company, we’d love to help you plan your trip any way we can. Send us an email or stop by the shop and we’ll do whatever we can to ensure your Canmore climbing experience is the best it can be.  And if you think we missed a must-do route, please let us know in the comments below.  We’d love to hear from you!

 

Climbing is dangerous and posses inherent risk.  It is your responsibility to seek proper instruction from qualified professionals to learn the necessary skills to participate in any of the activities described herein.  The information found here is for entertainment and general information purposes only and does not constitute advice, nor is it intended to be educational in any way.

Mixed Master (IV, WI5, 5.8) Trip Report

Mixed Master is one of the finest mixed climb of its type in the Rockies. This ultra-classic route has been on my list for a while now and I was incredibly excited to have the chance to jump on it in challenging conditions with local crusher Niall.

We attempted to get on the route a week earlier but found a jackknifed transport truck blocking the highway after getting stuck trying to illegally drive the 93 North to Jasper.  On attempt number two we were able to get on in great conditions. 

Mixed Master

LocationIcefield Parkway
DateFebruary 2018
StyleIce, Mixed
GradeIV, WI 5, M4-5, 5.8
Length300m, 4-7 pitches

 

Mixed Master
Topo from Joe Josephson's now out of print book.

The following gear photos were taken a week prior to our successful climb and we made a few slight changes based on the anticipated conditions (read: colder) but for the most part the equipment used was as follows:

Rack for Mixed Master with a few slight changes.

Climbing Gear and Hardware

  1. Screws – Expecting a lot of thin ice, we brought extra stubbies and heavily favored the shorter length of Petzl Laser Speed Light screws.  Our selection was 10cm x2, 13cm x6 and 17cm x4 plus a 21cm for V-threads. 
  2. Rock Gear – A single rack of cams to 3″ with doubles of mid sizes and a handful of nuts.  In thin conditions a few thin knifeblades would have been helpful but not required.  The rack shown here was replaced by a full collection of Totem cams with doubles of the midsizes. 
  3. Draws – Alpine draws x6 and quickdraws x6.  All were equipped with Petzl Ange carabiners, which have my vote for the best alpine carabiner on the market. We had a single Cassin load limiter draw, which was helpful on thin ice.  Could have used a few more long slings.
  4. Ropes – We climbed on my 57m Petzl Salsa 8.2mm half ropes and the length was fine.  Had we brought 70m ropes it would have enabled us to link a pitch or two differently but it would have meant more rope handling most of the time,
  5. I chose to climb with dual point crampons (Cassin Alpinist Pro) as the mixed terrain was not overly challenging and didn’t necessitate monos. The recent dumping of snow reaffirmed this choice.
  6. Cassin X-Dreams with mixed picks. I like to use the Petzl V-Link umbilicals on multipitches. 
  7. Harness – Arc’Teryx 395AR with four DMM Vault ice clippers.  This is my go-to harness for ice and i like the option of clipping my tools to a nearly indestructible clipper like the DMM’s for varied climbing. 
  8. Helmet – Petzl Sirocco (older style) – Not winning any beauty competitions with this thing but I love the weight and it trust it implicitly. 
  9. Personal Kit – Petzl Reverso with two lockers (old style Petzl Hera and DMM Phantom), two extra lockers (new style Petzl Hera), cordelette bundle and Sterling Hollowblock, a anchor kit and v-thread supplies.  This packing list can be found here.
  10. Small First Aid Kit, tiny repair kit, one liter of water, a few bars and some nuts.

Since we geared up at the car I was able to fit everything I needed to carry into a 26L MEC Alpinelite pack.  I could have gone smaller but I like the crampon straps.  

 

Mixed Master
Today's Rack: All Totems

Clothing System

It was freezing in the parking lot (-27C) and I did the short approach in a pair of synthetic puffy pants.  Being shaded most of the day with bluebird skies meant balancing cold in the shadows and warm in the sun.  I chose to balance this dichotomy by layering heavily with active insulation, in the case the Nano-Air series for the breathability.  

  1. Boots – Scarpa Phantom Tech’s.  These are my go-to for ice and mixed climbing. I threw a pair of adhesive toe warmers on first
  2. Socks – Single pair of Bridgedale Mountain.  If it was a longer, harder approach I would bring a second pair and change at the base. 
  3. Baselayer Lowers – Patagonia Capilene Lightweight
  4. Pants – Patagonia Dual Point softshells.  I typically climb ice in softshells.  It was a little cold in the wind but fine when moving.  Had there been more snow on this route I could have opted for hardshells. 
  5. Baselayer Upper – Patagonia Thermal Weight Crew
  6. Midlayer – Patagonia Nano-Air .  This piece is amazing.  It breathes, it stretches and it feels great on the skin.  A little warm at times but it makes up for that in climbing ability.  I paired with with a Nano-Air Light Hoodie (not pictured). I’m very fond of eliminating the extra zipper and pockets under my harness.  I had a tailor take in the sides for a slimmer fit. 
  7. Soft Shell – Patagonia Levitation.  Still my favorite softshell. I’ve been beating this thing up for three years and it still looks new. This lived in the pack for the day. 
  8. Belay Jacket – Patagonia DAS Parka.  I originally opted for a synthetic because I assumed the route would be snowy but ended up lending this jacket to my partner who was cold and wore my Patagonia Fitz Roy.  I was happy to have the extra warmth.   
  9. Extra Insulation – I run cold so usually throw in an extra puffy in case of emergency.  This time it was the Outdoor Research Cathode.  Mine is the older style with the stretchy side panels and it breathes well enough to wear under a shell, as well as over.  I ended up climbing in this as my shell for the day. 
  10. Glove System –  I usually bring more than I need.  Today I packed two pairs of Black Diamond Arcs for leading, Outdoor Research Aretes for seconding and Black Diamond Enforcers for rappeling.  

Mixed Master Trip  Report

We parked at the plowed roadside pullout, as per Weeping Wall, geared up at the car and walked couple hundred meters north on the road to the obvious start of the route, where we were already second in line as another party was beginning the upper pitches. It should be noted that the ravens have grown accustomed to human interactions are are extremely bold and crafty.  I wouldn’t recommend leaving anything at the base of this route, regardless of how secure you think it is.  Leave it at the car or taking it with you. 

Pitch One (WI3) – The Scottish Gully type feature was thin and rock hard.  We had no trouble finding good protection but Niall managed to warp an X-Dream pick in a manner which I’ve never seen before.  Granted, he was climbing on a set of prototype picks given to him from a team athlete so who knows what went wrong there.  He bent the pick badly enough that he lowered off and we played alpine blacksmith to straighten it enough.  That tool was henceforth relegated to the seconding tool.  After giving him one of mine, He finished his pitch to the first of the two belay stations. 

Mixed Master

Niall starting up the first pitch of Mixed Master.

Mixed Master

Not pleased with his X-Dream pick.

Pitch Two (WI4ish) – The ice was thinner in spots and climbed more like a mixed pitch with stemming on rock and occasionally hooking and torquing in cracks.  Protection was mostly 13’s with a few tens.  The second half had a really fun overhang that was well hooked out and protected with 17’s in bomber ice.  I stretched it  about 55m to the mini amphitheatre atop and belayed off bolts.

Mixed Master

Niall coming over the final bit of ice on the second pitch .

Pitch Three and Four (WI2-3) – We traversed straight right to comfortable, sheltered cave.  On arrival we realized we should have just linked these two and continued up the short section of low angle ice.  Niall put in a two screw belay in another comfortable cave. He tried this pitch with the bent X-Dream.  It was not confidence-inspiring on lead. 

Mixed Master

Second half of the third pitch and a good view of the traverse pitch above.

Pitch Five (5.8) – Traversing back left onto rock terrain was a little tricky as the sun just hit the pitch and the snow began to slide off the rock.  It was a little slabby but the protection was easy to find with a rack of Totem cams.  There were lots of little flared pockets that seemed custom made for these.  A single rack to 2″  would have been fine but since we had a #3 it got placed.  The gully above felt much more like alpine with the deep snow trudging and there were a few pins to be found.  The station was bolted and easy to find. 

Mixed Master

Pitch Six (M4) – Easy, low angled climbing on thin ice with almost entirely rock pro.  Niall was super excited about a bomber chokestone he found to sling.  Belayed from a tree high above. We unroped and scrambled up 60m of kicked out snow and a few small ice ramps to a bolted station at the base of the final pitch.

Pitch Seven – (WI5, M6ish) – The ice was non-existent on the bottom section, making for a scrappy mixed start.  There were two pins (a bomber baby angle and horizontal Lost Arrow) on route but we found a great purple Totem on the right and a perfect red pulling over the mantle to the start of the ice.  The ribbon of ice itself was thin, hooked out and insecure but Niall cruised it with ease.  He found a great green cam on the side wall which helped as the ice really only took 10’s and 13’s, 

Mixed Master

Thin upper pitches of Mixed Master

Mixed Master

Descent – Five raps easy raps brought us right back to the staging area without difficulty.  There’s a few spots with belay stations that could cause confusion but we only used the stations we belayed off on the way up.  When we reached the ground we found that the group below us had left their packs and raven had ripped them to shreds looking for food.  Another reminder not to leave anything at the base.

With the cold start, thin ice gullies, mixed protection and a spicy finish, Mixed Master has plenty of character.  Even though you can see your car from just about any point during the climb it is an excellent training day for bigger objectives and has the feel of an old-school alpine climb.  You aren’t throwing Figure-4’s off enhanced holds in a cave on sport draws.  This is an excellent way to develop your mixed climbing skills and a highly recommended route.

For a list of resources to use before venturing up Mixed Master, or other climbs on the Icefield Parkway, feel free to use the collection of links I put together organized by region on the Climbing Resources Page.

Climbing Gear Stash: Behind The Scenes for WeighMyRack.com

Climbing Gear Stash

Working in gear shops for the past four years while completing my exams to become a mountain guide has given me the opportunity to test a lot of different gear. I’ve learned what I like, what I don’t and why. While this is an ever-evolving endeavor, I believe I would be doing a disservice to my guiding clients who ask for gear advice or to the customers at the shop had I not adequately experimented with the products they’re inquiring about.  Through the years of staff discounts, pro-deals and prototype testing for companies I’ve amassed a pretty sizable climbing gear stash. Most of it I use but some of it I don’t. I believe it is extremely important to have the ability to select the correct tool for the job at hand, particularly in a high-risk activity like climbing.

Below I’ve outlined what I currently have in my climb gear stash. This excludes my girlfriend’s stuff, guiding equipment, old gear that is past its practical lifespan, and gear that is stashed at projects. There is a brief explanation for its inclusion in my collection.

Note: This article was originally published on WeightMyRack.com and many of the links included were created by them.  Check out the links and visit their site for very comprehensive reviews and detailed information on probably the best archive of climbing gear on the web.

Climbing Gear Stash

Ropes

Climbing Gear Stash

Right To Left: Flycatchers, Skimmers, Salsas, Swift, Aero, Volta, Anniversary, Boa, work and rap lines

Edelrid Flycatcher 6.9mm Twins 60m – For straightforward ice and alpine routes where every gram matters. On icy north faces or long waterfall ice climbs, these are my first choice. Note: Edelrid no longer makes the Flycatcher.

Edelrid Skimmer 7.1mm Halves 70m – I typically reserve these super thin halves for routes where I don’t want to carry the extra weight. Long, complicated ice and mixed routes, particularly when linking pitches is possible. It should be noted that both the Skimmers and the Flycatchers are so thin they require a special belay device that can handle such small rope diameters so I have three Edelrid Micro Jul’s as I can’t expect every partner to have this niche device to use my speciality ropes.

Petzl Salsa 8.2mm Halves 60m – Utility half ropes. I use these larger diameter halves when mixed climbing or for wandering alpine rock routes. When they get older they’ll be relegated to summer rock routes.

Edelrid Swift 8.9mm Triple 60m – My favorite rope and my first choice for ice. The triple rating allows for lots of different options in protection strategies, particularly with two seconds and the weight is appreciated on long approaches. I’ll often pair this with a thin tagline for full length raps.

Sterling Aero Bi-Colour 9.2mm Triple 70m – For all the same reasons as the Edelrid Swift but I opted for the 70m and duodess weave for situations where I’m only bringing a single rope.

Petzl Volta 9.2mm Triple 60m – Used when trying to save a bit of weight for harder projects or alpine rock.

Edelrid Boa 9.8mm 70m – Used mostly for single pitch climbing. I’ve had this for a while and it still handles like a dream.

Edelrid 150th Anniversary Bi-Colour 60m – I prefer a 60m for multipitch rock, paired with a tagline if the rap calls for it.

Edelrid 6mm Rap Line 60m – I didn’t spring for the Rap Line II that’s rated for two twin falls but this stuff is rated to 20kN and my 60m only weighs 1.5kg. In retrospect I should have got a 70m to accommodate rope stretch from dynamic ropes but I’m still very happy with this setup. Note: This original Rap Line is no longer produced.

40m Work Ropes – Most of these are thicker and salvaged from older, full length ropes that have needed chopping. I use them for courses, short sport crags and occasionally for minimal sections of short-roping on scrambles.

Quickdraws

Petzl Spirit Express – In my humble opinion these are the best sport climbing draws ever made. They’re light, easy to handle, easy to clip on both bolts and ropes and wear extremely well. I have sixteen of the 12cm draws and while there is times that I could have benefited from longer draws, these have served me well. I’ve outfitted two draws with the longest dogbone and a DMM Revolver and use these to reduce rope drag or when I’m projecting a route and frequently falling on the same draw to reduce wear in the rope.

Edelrid Ohm – I guess this is technically a sport draw. Edelrid sent me one a while back to test and I’ve been really impressed with the simplicity and effectiveness of this solution and recommend it for anyone who climbs with partners of a large weight differential. Note: Far more details of the Ohm have been written here.

Petzl Finesse (with Large Ange’s) – The Petzl Ange is my favorite carabiner for winter use. I prefer wire gates for ice to prevent icing up and a smooth, notchless nose is a non-negotiable for me. I love the weight of these and also appreciate that the shape allows for clipping through even the most awkward, ancient angle pitons.

Petzl Ange Alpine – For all the aforementioned reasons but for alpine draws the smooth nose becomes even more important to prevent snagging while extending. Note: These were made using Ange S and Ange L carabiners with BD Runners, Petzl doesn’t make/sell Ange Alpine Draws.

Edelrid Pure Quickdraws – For summer rock climbing I like a solid gate for the durability and I’m really fond of the shape of these carabiners. They aren’t the lightest so I consider these part of my “utility rack” that I don’t mind using hard. I made them using Black Diamond Dynex dogbones because I really liked the size of the loop on the gear end. It allows for a lot of rope movement before unseating a nut or causing a cam to walk. I also add a couple of Pure carabiners on shoulder length slings to quickly extend a cam placement without having to carry an extra carabiner on an alpine draw or fumble with the unclipping.

Edelrid Nineteen G Quickdraws – For fast and light alpine missions where every gram matters. I have a small rack of them and also keep a few free biners for anchors or on slings for extending pieces. A lot of people find these two small to operate but I’ve only had an issue if I was wearing really big gloves. After a little bit of practice they’re very easy to operate, even with using double ropes. I also take these along If I’m climbing with two seconds and want to keep the ropes separated.

Active Protection

DMM Dragons – The Dragon Cam (mix of Gen 1 and Gen 2) are the bread and butter of my rack. The holding power is fantastic and the quality and durability is second to none. The extendible sling also provides a lot of options. While I climb primarily limestone and quartzite, these are hands down my favourites for any time I’m on granite.

Totem Cams – The more I use these the more I believe they’re the cam of the future. The direct lobe loading system instantly feels better than a conventional cam and the small placements are very confidence inspiring. I foresee myself buying a lot more of these.

Fixe Aliens – Mix of Evo’s and Revo’s. I prefer the flexible stem and softer metal lobes for limestone climbing. Also, for the equivalent range, I can carry six Aliens (Black 1/3 – Red 1) for less weight than fix X4’s (Red 0.1- Purple 0.5). Most of mine have extendible slings, a feature which I rarely use as I’ll usually still extend with sling but I’ve found the extension for both the Aliens and the Dragons very helpful whist building gear anchors.

Black Diamond X4’s – These were my first micro-cams and I built up to a double rack from 0.2-0.75 with a few offsets. Over time I found the 0.5 and 0.75 (purple and green) to be a little floppy due to head weight and rarely pack them. I do love the set for areas with lots of smooth, horizontal cracks (Back-Of-The-Lake, Lake Louise or The Gunks). I’ve never owned the red as the smooth lobes and diminutive stature freak me out a little bit.

Black Diamond C3’s – These fit finicky, odd shaped features better than most and I love them for horizontal cracks and corner slab climbs. When well-placed the amount of metal contact with the rock is awesome.

Black Diamond C4’s – While they’ve long been the industry standard, I’ve gradually moved away from the Camelots in favour of other brands. I do keep a pretty sizable collection of larger sizes for Creek trips and have a single rack for cragging, as well as a single rack stored in my hometown so I don’t have to fly with them. They’re time-tested, proven and are the best way to build a first rack. And until DMM released larger Dragons this year they were the only real way to get commercially availible cams in the 5-6” range

Black Diamond Ultralights – There is no disputing the weight savings and these are great for alpine rock. I prefer the larger sizes. I consider these a specialty tool and typically reserve them for routes that are heavily gear intensive or require long approaches. I’m very quick to grab these if I have to double up a rack! I don’t use these on a daily basis as they’re expensive and I’m trying not to wear them out prematurely. 

Metolius Ultralight Mastercams – I have a few that I’ve been demoing and while I really like the weight and the action I don’t use them often enough to warrant a new colour scheme to learn.

 

Racking Carabiners

For non-lockers, I’ve gradually been making the switch to lighter, smooth-nosed carabiners wherever possible. My DMM Dragons are racked on the DMM Chimera and I have a pile of these for rock climbing as well. The majority of my other cams are racked on CAMP Nano 22’sbut I still have a residual pile of Nano 23’s, Black Diamond Oz and Neutrinos and assorted booty biners.

 

Passive Protection

Hardware and Accessories

Progress Capture Devices – I’ve messed around with them all and currently have a pile of different Wild Country Ropeman’s, couple Microtraxions, a Petzl ascender, couple of Tiblocs, and a pile of different pulleys, from which I’ll customize my rack for the objective. Lately I’ve become a big fan of the Petzl SM’D screw lock carabiner with a small hole for threading with cord and attaching to a small ascender. I’ve been racking a Tibloc and a Petzl Oscillante pulley for a lightweight rescue kit.

Aside, if you’re curious about using progress capture pulleys in hauling systems, check out this post about how to Haul for Hard Multi-pitch Climbs.

Personal Anchor Slings – I’ve tried a few over the years and firmly believe the only one worth owning is the Petzl Connect Adjust. I’ve been using the Dual Connect when I know I’ll be dealing with hanging belay stations as it has the second extension arm for a rappel device but if I had to repurchase I would get the single armed variety.

Cordage and Slings – Cordelette, tat, prussics, anchor material.  I like to customize this for the objective but I always have two methods of grabbing a rope with me and one of those is always a Sterling Hollowblock.

Pitons – I’ll occasionally bring along a couple for alpine climbs and have found medium length knifeblades and baby angles to be most useful. For winter mixed climbing the larger sizes of beaks seem to find their way onto my harness more and more. I rack four or five on a wiregate oval carabiner. Spectre hooks could be included here and they see occasional use on alpine climbs.

Aid – I haven’t done a ton of aid but have a collection of hooks, beaks and pins, daisy chains, Metolius Pocket Aiders and ascenders to play with while I refine the skills. Also included in this pile is a few accessories for hand drilling bolts and some various other hardware.

 

Belay Devices and Locking Carabiners

I’ve battle tested quite a few belay devices but usually gravitate back to the same ones.

  • Petzl Reverso for ice due to its lightweight nature and ability to handle smaller rope diameters.
  • DMM Pivot for multi-pitch rock where I’m more likely to need to lower someone.
  • BD ATC Guide for cragging because it likes fatter ropes and is very durable.
  • Edelrid Mega / Micro Jul for alpine. 

Each of my belay devices live with a full stock carabiner like the old Petzl Hera and a small asymmetrical D for multi pitching — my favourite being the DMM Phantom.

I’ve been using the Kong Gigi when belaying two seconds lately. The longer slots really improve the throw and my elbows appreciate the relief on long climbs 

The obvious industry standard for sport is the Petzl GriGri (of which I have the 1, the 2, the 25th Anniversary and the Plus) but I enjoyed the Trango Vergo until the recall and am looking forward to the replacement.

My favourite lockers are the Petzl Attache and I try to keep them organized to monitor the wear. I used the blue Hera’s (new style) for ice and the orange Attache 3D for alpine and mountaineering.

For trad and multipitch I like the Edelrid Strike because you can usually find them for a good price and the thicker top stock wears well with dusty ropes and repetitive summer abuse.

For sport climbing I grab whenever I have on the locker peg in the gear room, which is usually a few old Black Diamond Rocklocks and that have a completely round stock and a couple of Positrons for building anchors.

I often use the Petzl SM’D for the weight savings and enjoy having a carabiner with a large enough basket to allow a munter to roll. I have a bunch of D-shaped kicking around but usually opt for HMS/pear shaped because of their versatility.

Crampons

climbing gear stash crampons

Petzl Lynx – I have two pairs of these that I abuse pretty hard and they keep on trucking. Great crampons. One is equipped with toe bails, the other with straps based on the boot selection.

Petzl Dart and Grivel G20 – Mainly for mixed and dry tooling. I go back and forth between these two but I prefer the G20s on funky ice because the little secondary point adds stability. I have two pairs of these.

Grivel G22 – Fixed dual points. I like these for pure ice routes when I want to save some weight.

Cassin Alpinist Pro – I’m currently demoing these hybrid crampons from Cassin and so far they’ve been great. I suspect they might be my new go-to for alpine ice climbing. They feel bombproof and fit great on any boot I’ve tried.

Cassin Alpinist – I haven’t spent a lot of days on these yet but they’re on pace to be my new favourite mountaineering crampon. I love how they fit and the support they offer in soft snow.

Black Diamond Sabertooth Pro – These climb pure ice routes better than any horizontal front point crampons I’ve tried before and I owe that to the orientation of the secondary points, which engage better and quicker than most. I like these on warmer days in the spring when the ice is getting softer.

Petzl Vasak and Irvis – My slow uphill walking crampons. Twelve point Vaseks for technical mountaineering crampons and alpine ice and the Irvis for general mountain travel.

Petzl Leopards Leverlock Fil – These are the lightest crampons out there right now (see WeighMyRack’s crampon page for the exact list). They fold down to nothing because of the dyneema cord and weight the same as four Cliff bars. I don’t let them see rock travel but for Bugaboo glacier approaches, ski mountaineering or emergency use they are unbeatable. It should be noted that its only $26 for a new length of the dyneema cord and you can swap out the front segment and make your own hybrid crampons.

Ice Axes

climbing gear stash tools

Petzl Nomics 2018 – I just got my hands on a pair from Petzl and put them through a pretty intense demo. I was really impressed with the slight changes to the time-tested model. Note: As this post is released, the Petzl Nomics will still not be available for sale for a number of months.

Petzl Nomics – With the Pur’Ice pick these are unbeatable on waterfall ice. 

Cassin X-Dreams – With the Mixed picks I used these for dry tooling, cragging and mixed climbing. I love the huge pommel for hanging on steep stuff.

Petzl Quarks – I have three of these because I found a smokin deal on a single. I use two hammers for alpine climbing and occasionally bring a striped down adze for mountaineering.

Cassin X-All Mountain – Great tools for the same purpose as the Quarks but I rarely use them.

Grivel Nepal S.A – This was my first piolet and it has survived 100+ days in the mountains without showing any wear. It isn’t the lightest but it’s a workhorse.

Petzl Ride – 240g and fits inside an 18L pack. If you ever have the debate as to whether or not to bring a piolet for ski mountaineering, approaches, scrambles or mountaineering, this tool should make it a no-brainer.

Ice Protection

For me there is really only one viable option for ice protection: Petzl Laser Speeds. I’ve tried the others and promptly sold them, including a rack of Black Diamond Express Turbo this week. Nothing starts as easily as the Petzl screws and they’ve served me well for a long time now. I prefer the aluminum Laser Speed Lights for harder climbs and favour the 13cm variety. I included a few load-limiter slings in this collect as ice climbing is really the only time I consider them. They usually accompany the 10cm stubbies.

Packs

Black Diamond Mission 75 – A big, simple haul-all for Bugaboo trips or ski traverses.

Old MEC Ski Pack – I don’t remember the name of this 40L pack but its my only purpose built ski pack with designated tool pockets.  I don’t know why I own this thing.

Black Diamond Speed 40 – Simple and light, but durability is suspect. I use this for a lot of rock climb approaches.

Gregory Alpinisto 35 – Very comfortable pack but a tad heavy. I like this for ice climbing approaches but I’d rather not climb with it.

Patagonia Ascensionist 30L – I think this pack is damn near perfect. I love the size, weight, double drawstring closure and how it carries. I love climbing with this on my back.

MEC Alpinelite – I have these in 26L and 18L and they’ve seen tons of use. I like this design more than the new version and have gotten a lot of use from the 26L because of the crampon straps. The 18L rolls down into a small package and I’ll often use it as a climbing pack for my thermos and puffy on ice.

DMM Zenith 18L – As a multipitch climbing pack, this thing rocks. Climbs like a dream, well constructed and thoughtfully designed.

Mountain Boots

Salewa Mountain Trainer Mix – Light mountaineering, scrambling and approaches.

Scarpa Triolet – My three season workhorse. Over the last five years this boot has taken me to four country high-points and above 4000m more than twenty times on several hundred days of climbing.  I wrote a lengthy reviews of these here.

Scarpa Rebel Ice – For dry tooling. Currently equipped with Krukonogi crampons and front points.

Scarpa Mont Blanc Pro GTX – I don’t find these particularly warm so I use them for alpine climbing, fairweather mixed climbing and dry tooling. The front bail attachment is really narrow so I equip a few crampons with Black Diamond narrow toe bails if I plan to use these.

La Sportiva Trango Ice Cube – Slightly warmer than the Mont Blancs but the fit doesn’t agree with my feet so these rarely get used. I find them snug in the forefoot and as I tend to run cold, I usually reach for a warmer boot. That said, they are unbeatable on techy mixed climbs.

La Sportiva Nepal Cube – My general mountaineering boots. I use these on glaciers in the summer and for early season ice when the approaches are on rocky terrain. I love the relaxed fit of these for long days in the mountains.

Scarpa Phantom Techs – This boot is incredible. Warm, light and comfortable. I wear it 90% of the winter but avoid rocky terrain, as the orange Morflex soles wear down pretty quickly.

Arc’teryx Acrux AR – Slightly warmer than the Phantom Techs, not quite as warm as a true double boot but crazy comfortable. I’ve never had a wet foot wearing these and really like them for cold alpine climbing.

Scarpa Phantom 6000 – My cold weather ice climbing boots. Even through I usually run cold I’ve had these down to -37C (-34.6 F) while ice climbing in a down parka and puffy pants but never had cold feet. For all the same reasons as the Phantom Tech, I limit the use on these to snow and ice and always with crampons. I sized them large for altitude.

Rock Shoes

I try to alternate shoe usage to let them fully recover after use (a holdover habit from formerly wearing dress shoes in a bank daily). I think it is very importable to select the right tool for the job and have build a collection to provide options for the day’s objective. I really like…

I often buy the same shoes in different sizes based on the anticipated duration and performance required. I didn’t include a picture assuming no one would be interested in seeing my dirty shoes. 

Harnesses

Arc’teryx AR395 – Ice and alpine. The clipper slots are exactly where I want them and it is very comfortable. I like the adjustable leg loops for varying layers. I use four DMM Vault clippers and couldn’t be happier with them.

Arc’teryx R300 – Fixed leg loops and light. I like this one for sport climbing. Note: The R300 isn’t produced anymore, the SL340 is new fixed leg option. 

Edelrid Jay II – This harness is surprisingly comfortable and durable. The gear loops are well positioned, spacious and sit well under a pack. I like this one for general trad climbing, knowing that I’m not prematurely wearing out a harness three times the price.

Petzl Altitude – Although this is designed as a ski mountaineering and glacier travel harness Ive been using it as an alpine climbing harness lately if the route is not too gear intensive. It moves well, is comfortable(ish) to hang in and packs down to nothing, often letting me size down my pack for the day. I have a Black Diamond Couloir as well but since getting the Altitude, I’ll never use it again.

Helmets

Petzl Meteor – I like the shell and the lightweight for ice climbing . Very comfortable and sits well under most hoods. I have an orange one sized for summer sport climbing and a blue one sized to fit over a hat in the winter.

Petzl Sirocco – While I don’t plan to win any beauty competitions with this thing on, it’s light, durable and confidence inspiring. I use it for alpine and occasionally skimo. Note: The newer Sirocco’s, seen via the link, look much nicer. 

Black Diamond Vapor – This breaths like no other so I reach for it on hot summer days and any time I plan to work hard.

Black Diamond Half Dome – Certain crags that are prone to falling rocks necessitates a hardshell and this cheap one has lasted me years. Occasionally I’ll also use my smaller-sized orange Meteor for sport too.

Black Diamond Vector – My girlfriend’s helmet was included because it was hanging in the living room already.

It should be noted that this article was originally featured on WeighMyRack.com and published in conjunction with BackCountry.com but the opinions are entirely my own.  From time-to-time I am sent free products to test but this in no way affects my judgement regarding the merit and suitability of the product in question. 

Should you have any questions about any of the products listed in my climbing gear stash, please reach out.  I love talking about this stuff.  And if you have a product you want to see a review of, please don’t hesitate to reach out and I should be able to obtain a sample to demo.

Ski Touring Repair Kit Essentials

An often overlooked, but critical piece of your backcountry safety gear is your ski touring repair kit.  We are all so dependent upon our gear and the places we backcountry ski are usually well off the beaten path, demanding self-sufficiency.  It just takes one broken binding and several kilometers of waist deep post-holing in the dark to gain a deeper appreciation of this fact.  

As with all human-powered activities, what we carry is governed by what we’re willing to lug uphill.  We need a ski touring repair kit that is multipurpose, light and streamlined so that, if nothing else, we’re actually willing to pack it along with us.  The following is a very basic repair kit that you can work off of to tailor to your specific needs.

Ski Touring Repair Kit Essentials

Ski straps

Probably the single most important item in your kit and you should consider carrying two in addition to the ones used for your skis in transport.  The uses for these are too numerous to list fully but they can be used for major repairs to boot and binding systems, provide temporary solutions to skin glue issues or in the construction of rescue sleds.  I’ve also found them to be extremely useful in improvised splinting of injuries.

Ski Touring Repair Kit

500mm ski strap from G3

Small Roll of Tape

Everyone will recommend duct tape as the universal solution for anything that is moving and shouldn’t be. But the reality is that duct tape can’t really fix any of the serious problems you encounter in the backcountry.  It’s effectiveness is diminished in cold weather and it also loses its adhesive strength over time, requiring regular replacement.  I do carry a small roll and supplement that with medical tape from my first aid kit.  Many people wrap a few meters around their water bottle or ski pole.  For clothing repair I bring a small plastic pouch containing a few pre-cut strips of Tenacious Tape, which I find holds up better in high flex areas of garments. 

Pole Splint

This is essentially two pieces of curved aluminum, either purchased or salvaged with a hacksaw from an old pole.  The splint is placed over the broken pole and secured above and below with small hose clamps.  It isn’t impossible to ski without a pole but difficult terrain, deep snow or with a heavy pack, it sure isn’t fun.

Pole basket

A pole basket is one of the toughest things to improvise in the field and the pain-in-the-ass factor of skinning without one warrants it’s inclusion.  Be sure it fits your pole, as most brands use a different attachment method, but you can secure one with tape in a pinch. 

Ski Touring Repair Kit

Skin Tail Attachment

As it is not unusual for these to fail, consider carrying at least one.  You can make a lot of them work between brands but it is best to be compatible, particularly if your skis require special attachments like the G3 Twin Tip.  If you’re on a longer trip, consider carrying two.

Ski Touring Repair Kit

Clockwise from top left: Black Diamond Tail Clip, G3 Tail Clip, G3 Twin Tip

Skin Tip

These are much less likely to fail, but if you have weak glue on your skins or find yourself in a range of variable conditions it is not impossible.  Because they’re harder to repair you may just want to fix this with a ski strap but longer tours may justify bringing a spare and the tools to swap them out. 

Screw Drivers

Whether you choose a Binding Buddy, a small bit driver or full sized screw drivers, it is important to have tools to adjust or repair components of your bindings and boots.  Dynafit bindings require a couple of different tools including Torx bits and the common #3 Pozi-drive.  Because the G3 Ions only require the Pozi-drive, I limit my tools to a mini keychain driver from them for day trips.  On longer trips I’ll bring along a bit driver with a few bits for redundancy and to help out anyone else in my party. The Binding Buddy from Black Diamond includes most of the common sizes but I find the tool to be cumbersome in small spaces and heavy for what it offers. 

If your ski boots have special screws, its good to have the tools to prevent a loose piece from becoming a lost piece.  Scarpa has a neat little tool that adjusts pretty much anything you would require on your Gea/Mastrale boots that doesn’t add a lot of weight.  

Ski Touring Repair Kit

G3 Mini Pozi Drive #3

 

Leatherman/pliers tool

For day trips a small multitool like a Leatherman Squirt saves weight but for real repairs it simply doesn’t handle the torque.  For longer, more committing tours there simply isn’t a substitute for a heavyduty, full sized multitool.  Ideally this will include a bit-driver, a file and a wire cutter.  

Skinwax

To prevent wet snow from saturating your skins, keeping the weight down from sticky snow and keep your glide up. This is really noticeable in spring touring or during temperature inversions with a wet snowpack.  Black Diamond Glob Stopper is great and you only need a small chuck of the large bar.

Ice Climbing Repair Kit

Black Diamond Glob Stopper

Scraper

Used mostly to strip icy build up off your skins or top sheets, either a plastic or metal edged scraper will work.  These should cost no more than $8 and you can also use the edge of your other ski or some ski poles handles like the BCA Specter if you’re trying to carry one less item.

Binding Repair and Blowout Kit

The likelihood of ripping out a modern binding from a modern ski is quite low.  The quality has improved substantially, even over the last few years.  Nevertheless, should you be more than a few days walk from civilization a lightweight blowout repair kit may allow you to limp home. For this I would include a few spare screws that are compatible with both your bindings and also the tools you’ve brought along.  It is unlikely that you’ll ever blow a binding right off and lose all screws, so four of varying lengths should suffice.  A few pinches of steel wool are first inserted into the ripped out hole, filling the space torn out by the screw threads and then filled with a fast setting two part epoxy.  A “double-bubble” packet like this one from Tognar handle cold weather well and aren’t huge like most plunger style epoxies. I store all of this in a small film canister and the steel wool does an excellent job of preventing a rattle.  Unless you’re weeks away from help, you don’t need to carry a spare toe piece.

Bailing Wire

When used  with a ski strap or two, this can solve almost any binding or boot emergency.  A couple feet of stiff wire (approximately 16 gauge), coiled up nice and small will work.

Zip Ties

Used for reattaching a broken skin strap or refastening a boot buckle, these weight next to nothing.  Look for the bigger, beefier ones as the little guys are prone to breaking.


Small Pouch

The whole kit should fit nicely in a slim pouch or bag, ideally weighing under a pound or two.  There is really no need to carry more than one of these repair kits per group.  

There are a number of items not included in this minimalist kit that you may want to consider, including spare batteries for headlamps or beacons, sewing kits, extra spare parts or tools.  It should be noted that this selection is really intended to provide a supplement to your own creative ingenuity to limp back to the trail head, not fully repair catastrophic damage.  A few of the items listed may already be included in your pack, whether in your first aid kit, glacier travel equipment or otherwise.  Make sure you customize your own repair kit as needed, ensuring it is comprehensive for your unique needs without becoming excessively heavy or bulky.  Most of these items can be sourced from a hardware store and all of the ski-specific gear can be found at Vertical Addiction online or in the Bow Valley

Is there anything not listed that you would consider to be an essential piece of your ski touring repair kit?  If so, I’d love to hear what it is and your reason for including it.  Please message me or comment below.

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Ice Climbing Packing List

Ice climbing is a very gear-dependent. Technical, athletic movements in a harsh, unforgiving environment demand a delicate balance of precision and protection from the elements.  Having unsuitable equipment for ice climbing can quickly turn a great day into the mountains into an epic.  Below I’ve listed the ice climbing packing list that I follow every time I’m packing my bag.  Please note I have not included ice climbing clothing systems as this is a topic for another post unto itself.   Every effort was made to include variances and the rationale for their inclusion.

Ice Climbing Packing List

Mountaineering Boots

Warm, stiff, insulated mountaineering boots are the most essential component of your technical gear, with fit being paramount.  They must be voluminous enough so as not to restrict blood flow whilst ensuring your heel remains firmly planted.  Make sure your have enough space that you do not bash the front of your toes when kicking.  

For general ice climbing consider single leather mountaineering boots such as the Scarpa Mont Blanc or the La Sportiva Nepal Evo.  These provide a fine compromise between weight, price, warmth and durability.  The fit is considered rather neutral and they are excellent for long approaches on varied terrain.

Ice Climbing Packing List

La Sportiva Nepal Cube, Scarpa Mont Blanc GTX

For those who run a little colder, supergaiter boots such as the Scarpa Phantom Tech or the La Sportiva G5 provide additional warmth and element protection by encasing a single leather boot with a waterproof gaiter. This combination allows for a warm, lightweight boot with plenty of mobility.  These boots climb and walk fantastically while keeping your toes very warm but are expensive and less durable than a general mountaineering boot.

Ice Climbing Packing List

La Sportiva G5, Scarpa Phantom Tech

For the coldest days when you probably shouldn’t be ice climbing, double boots are often the only solution.  These feature a removable inner boot and a protective outer for the greatest combination of warmth, albeit usually with a serious weight penalty.  While double plastic boots like the Scarpa Inverno have been the standard for a long time, newer boots like the Scarpa Phantom 6000, La Sportiva G2SM, Arcteryx Acrux AR and Mammut Nordwand 2.1 now utilize lightweight materials to create a boot that is barely heavier than a single leather boot.  These are generally overkill for most days but anything below -20C and these become a very welcomed option.

Ice Climbing Packing List

La Sportiva G2SM, Scarpa Phantom 6000, Mammut Nordwand 2.1

Crampons

Your crampons must be purpose-built for ice climbing and fit well to your boots. This means a firm pressure is required to latch the heel lever, minimal space exists between the heel posts and the forefoot of the boot is in complete contact with the front piece of the crampon.  While it is possible to use hybrid style crampons, fully automatic are the standard.

The most popular choice for pure waterfall ice climbing is a dual vertical front point configuration.  This allows for ample purchase and stability in the widest range of conditions.  These can be fixed front pieces as found on the Grivel G22, Cassin Alpinist Pro or Petzl Dart.  While they are generally the lightest option, the front points are not replaceable.  Dual Points with replaceable front points, such as the Petzl Lynx, Black Diamond Cyborg, Grivel Rambo 4 and G14 or the Cassin Bladerunner allow easy swapping of broken or worn front points but that added hardware ups the weight.  Most of these will also allow you to switch to a monopoint configuration.

Ice Climbing Packing List

Cassin Blade Runners, Petzl Lynx, Black Diamond Cyborg

Monopoints are the best option for technical ice, mixed climbing or fragile conditions where the increased surface area of dual points would displace too much ice.  These offer a level of precision generally not possible with dual points but sacrifice the stability as there is less metal in contact with the ice. They will also not provide a lot of confidence in chandeliery, aerated ice.  Like the dual points, they come in both fixed (such as the Grivel G20 and Petzl Dart) or replaceable (like the Black Diamond Stingers) variations.  

Lastly, and often discredited as a mountaineering tool, alpine crampons with horizontal front points offer increased surface area in soft conditions, acting as miniature shovels.   While they require an exaggerated heels-down leg swing, with proper use they are less prone to sheering in variable snow and ice conditions.  What differentiates this style from the general mountaineering crampons is largely the orientation of the secondary points.  Crampons such as the Black Diamond Sabretooth Pro, Petzl Sarken or Cassin Alpinist are designed with aggressively forward facing secondaries to secure foot placements with easy.  These often outperform duals or monos in low angle terrain.

Ice Climbing Packing List, alpine crampons

Petzl Sarken, Black Diamond Sabertooth Pro, Cassin Alpinist

Ice Axes

One of the most vehemently debated topics of gear discussion are ice axes.  People tend to chose their favorites and argue their merits without reserve.  While all tools have their unique pro’s and con’s, generally speaking, they can be divided into two broad catagories:  All-round or alpine ice tools and steep ice tools. While both will work well on a variety of terrain they are each optimized to excel under certain conditions. 

All-round or alpine ice tools can be characterized by having a slightly bent shaft, moderate pick angle and a plunge-able spike.  It is not uncommon to see tools of this sort equipped with one hammer and one adze attachment but for pure waterfall ice it is preferable to remove the adze for safety reasons.  These make for an excellent tool for beginners and advanced climbers alike and the moderate pick angle make them ideal for lower angled terrain.  It should be noted that because these tools have a smaller pommel and a less economical grip they pose a challenge on very steep terrain.   Popular options include the Petzl Quark, Cassin X-All Mountain, Black Diamond Viper or Cobra and the DMM Apex.  

Top To Bottom: Cassin X-All Mountain, Black Diamond Cobra, DMM Apex, Black Diamond Viper, Petzl Quark

Steep ice or mixed climbing tools differ by having a steeper pick angle and generally an offset grip, optimizing the position for steep to overhanging terrain.  They offer a variety of grips for switching hand positions and are the ideal choice for complicated terrain.  These usually remove a plunge-able spike from the bottom because that same widened pommel that allows for a more comfortable resting position also increases the difficulty of plunging.  Additionally, the steeper pick angle is designed to penetrate the ice with a snap of the wrist while the handle is close to the ice.  This makes moderate terrain more difficult to gain purchase.  In recent years the Cassin X-Dream has grown exceedingly popular but other excellent options include the Petzl Nomic, Grivel Tech Machine, DMM Switch and Black Diamond Fuel.

Top to Bottom: Petzl Ergo, Cassin X-Dream, DMM Switch, Black Diamond Fuel

Giving these distinctions, does this mean you have to have two different two different tools?  Of course not.  People have soloed harder ice than most of us will ever climb on far worse tools than our modern options.  just know that some are optimized for certain conditions and choose accordingly.  Leashes have also fell by the wayside as modern tools have made it easier to hang on for long periods of time.  However, sometimes it is handy to have umbilicals to prevent your from dropping a tool, other times they can prove to be a hindrance.  As a rule, I only used umbilicals when dropping a tool would prove catastrophic. 

 

Helmet

A non-negotiable.  You must wear a helmet certified for climbing.  There is no ice specific helmet and a if you already have a rock climbing helmet it will suffice.  As there is often pieces of falling ice, a hardshell style helmet like the Petzl Elios or Black Diamond Half Dome are excellent choices.  Others prefer lighter styles like the Petzl Sirrocco or the Black Diamond Vapor. Ensure it is sized appropriately to fit over a hood or hat.  You should be able to see the front of your helmet when you look upwards and it should not move about when you shake your head front-to-back or side-to-side.

Top to Bottom: Black Diamond Half Dome, Black Diamond Vapor, Petzl Sirocco

Harness and Ice Clippers

Where a rock climbing harness and an ice/alpine climbing harness differ lies in the construction and the inclusion of ice clipper slots.  Modern harnesses designed specifically for winter use will use materials such as dyneema or spectra to reduce weight and prevent water absorption.  While these are certainly nice enhancements they are not mandatory for ice climbing and a rock climbing harness will suffice.  However, having the small loops built into the harness to allow for ice clippers is very handy.  This allows for easy access to screws, both for placing and racking.  The new Petzl Caritool clippers allow the user to place them anywhere on the harness, essentially nullifying the need.

Ice Climbing Packing List

Petzl Caritool Evo

For specific harnesses, the Petzl Sitta, Arcteryx AR395 and Black Diamond Aspect are great choices.  And for those seeking the Rolls Royce of ice clippers, the DMM Vault’s are nearly unbreakable.

Backpack

All of your gear should stow nicely inside a 30-40L backpack.  When selecting a pack, light is right.  Avoid bags that feature excessive frills, fancy attachments or heavy frames.  Packs like the Patagonia Ascensionist or the Arcteryx Alpha FL are essentially one compartment a cinch top and a light foam back from.  It is important to have ice tool attachment points on the exterior and potentially a means of attaching crampons.  Climber-specific packs will be sized shorter so as not to block access to gear loops on your harness and not ride up and impede your swing.  Make sure your pack weighs less than three pounds unloaded.  If you’re rappelling the route you could also bring a small summit pack.  This only needs to carry your belay jacket, spare gloves, a thermos and your headlamp.  It need not be any larger than 20L and should roll down to very small and fit inside your larger pack.  

Belay Device, Locking Carabiners, Anchor Material

At the very least, each climber requires their own tube style belay device with locking carabiner and a spare locker.  If embarking on a multipitch climb the gear requirements for carabiners and anchor material are similar to the that of multipitch rock climbing (read more about that here: Essential Gear For Multipitch Climbing).  You’ll need a few extra locking carabiners, slings for anchor building or creating a personal tether, a personal prusik or Sterling Hollowblock and a 5m bundle of cordelette (minimum 9-10kN strength).  essential gear for multipitch climbing

 

Personal Bail Kit

Every ice climber should have the knowledge and the means to create a safe anchor in an expedient fashion with minimal gear.  Usually this means creating a V-thread or Abalokov.  The gear required for this is a 21cm ice screw, an Abalokov hook and a short length of cord meeting the minimum standard of 10kN.  This usually means 7mm cord and requires either 1.2m of precut cordage or a small knife to cut a segment off your cordelette bundle (you do carry one, right?).

Ice Climbing Packing List

21cm Petzl Laser Light screw, v-threader, 1.2m of 7mm tat, Petzl Spatha knife

If you’re not comfortable making a V-thread, seek professional instruction from an ACMG certified Alpine or Mountain guide to make sure you’re perfectly clear on the subtle nuances of this essential skill.

Ice Screws and Draws

The number of ice screws required for any route is dictated by the nature of the pitches and your own personal comfort.  Bring along enough to feel adequately protected while not impeding your climbing with excessive weight.  Generally speaking, 10-12 screws should be enough.  Bring more if its cold and you’re climbing slowly, bring less if the ice is sticky and and you’re most confident with your climbing.  Bring four extra if you’re building gear anchors (two per station) and maybe bring less if you’re climbing a slot canyon with bolts and short pitches.  

Note: I don’t include my mandatory 21cm screw and optional stubbies (10cm) in this count.

In regards to length selection, the holding power is the same for 13cm screws and 21cm screws provided the threads are in the same contact with the same ice.  This is due to the length of the threads being equal.  For this reason, I tend to include more 13cm screws for expediency of placement and a reduction in weight.  Longer 16cm screws become valuable when the good ice is buried under a layer of crude or when building anchors.  And while expensive, the Petzl Laser Speed Light are worth every penny.

In regards to draws, you’ll need a mix of quickdraws and alpine draws and maybe a few more than the number of screws packed.  The distribution of each should be dictated by the nature of the route.  Straight forward routes will probably only required quickdraws but funky, featured or wandering routes will necessitate alpine draws and occasionally double length slings.

If you already have a rack of draws for sport or trad climbing I won’t try to convince you that you have to purchase a set allocated specifically for ice climbing.  However, if one were to ask, the perfect draw for ice climbing is lightweight, easy to manipulate with gloves, long enough to maintain a good rope line if clipped in a hole and wiregate to prevent freezing.  However most importantly to me is having a clean, notchless nose on the carabiner to prevent snagging on jacket hemlines.  In my humble opinion the three carabiners that have best exemplified these criteria at the Petzl Ange, DMM Chimera and Wild Country Helium.  This biner selection applies to both draws and alpines.

Ice Climbing Packing List

Left: Black Diamond Freewire Right: Wild Country Helium. Note the notch in the carabiner by the nose.

 

 

Avalanche Gear

Often neglected but quickly and rightly so becoming more popular, certain routes demand appropriate avalanche gear, either on the approach, on route or both. If faced with complex terrain and an unfavorable bulletin, ensure that all parties have a beacon, shovel and probe and know how to use them.  Weight is certainly a concern and you will appreciate a lighter option.  A shorter probe like the BCA Stealth 240 works well and a small shovel such as the Mammut Alugator Light are a great combination.  Many ice climbers like the Peips Micro but any beacon works, just make sure you’re familiar with yours and well trained in companion rescue.  Beacons must be checked when leaving the vehicle to ensure each one is on and the shovel and probe can be stashed on the sides of your pack’s interior. Make sure they’re stored within your bag.

Headlamp

During short winter days we will regularly begin and end a day of ice climbing in the dark.  Make sure you have a bright, reliable headlamp.  I prefer a USB rechargeable model like the Petzl Reactik because I never have to doubt the remaining life in my batteries.  Cheaper option are the Petzl Tikka or Tikkina, which are powered by AAA batteries (make sure you have a few spares packed).  These offer great illumination for an excellent price.  Because light is so important, I always keep a tiny 27g Petzl E-Lite+ in my first aid kit as a backup.

First Aid Kit, Guide’s Tarp, Emergency Communication Device

Most ice climbing locales are in remote, rugged landscapes demanding self sufficiency.  It is imperative that your group have the means to address minor medical concerns and manage serious incidents. A well stocked first aid kit for ice climbing should have the means to stop bleeding, splint a broken bone, manage pain, package a victim to keep them warm and prepare for transport and communicate with outside help.  A the very least you should have a collection of gauze and bandages, steristrips, medical tape, a small blister kit, pain medication and a way to improvise a splint.  Sam or C splints work well but with proper training you should be able to improvise with equipment you already have.  A silicone impregnated nylon tarp give you a way to create shelter, make a rescue sled or wrap someone up to keep them warm.  A small space blanket helps also.     

One of the most crucial items to have is a fully charged cell phone.  While the temptation always exists to use your phone as a camera, make sure you have enough battery life in case you need to call for help.  And should you be outside cell reception, a personal locator beacon or satellite phone can be a literal life saver.  The best options, like the Garmin InReach offer two-way communication but the value of a Spot or Fastfind Ranger can not be overstated.

Repair Kit

A small repair kit specific to your gear is handy.  Keep this streamlined and minimal.  A spare toe bail, allen keys for your tools and crampons and a small roll of duct tape is probably enough for most problems you’ll encounter.  Most of these parts can be stowed inside your first aid kit.  Avoid carrying a heavy Leatherman or multi-tool and a vast assortment of spare parts. If you break a pick on an ice climbing day trip you’re probably going to accept that fact, rappel and go home.

Food and Water

To keep your metabolic furnace adequately stoked, make sure you regularly consume high calories food throughout the day.  Take what you would normally eat for a day of rock climbing and double it.  Then add enough calories to fuel you for an emergency walk.  Consider choosing food that doesn’t freeze like nuts and hard candies and keep a few bars or snacks in your pocket, close to your body heat, for quick access.

Bring enough water to make sure you’re staying hydrated.  Hydration packs typically don’t work well as the hose tends to freeze almost immediately.   Insulating a water bottle with bubble wrap works really well. On particularly cold days a small thermos of tea is a welcomed reprieve, particularly when used as a delivery system for copious amounts of added sugar.

Personal Supplies

A small roll of toilet paper and lighter inside a sealed ziplock bag, contact lenses or glasses if you need them, any personal medications you may require.  If you’re bringing a camera bear in mind that the cold zaps battery life quickly.  Bring spare batteries or keep your camera or phone close to your body for warmth. And even though the days seem short and the sun doesn’t feel as intense, make sure you’re protecting yourself with sunscreen, lip chap and sunglasses.  Keep these near the top of your bag or in your pocket so you don’t forget to use them.

Clothing and Glove Systems

The intricacies of clothing and gloves systems extend far beyond the reach of this simple list, warranting a post unto itself. However, simply summarized we must ensure we’re wearing an “action suit” capable of regulating body temperature and moisture at a level of moderate exertion, insulation to facilitate moisture transfer, layers to provide element protection and a belay jacket to dry the layers underneath and retain maximum warmth.  A full post can be expected on this topic shortly. 

Gloves are also highly dependent on conditions and climbers will take anywhere from two to five pairs of varying thicknesses.  Some will be thin and dexterous for leading and warm weather while others will be thicker for cold conditions, seconding or rappelling. 

Ice Climbing Packing List

  • Mountaineering Boots
  • Technical Crampons
  • Ice Tools
  • Climbing Helmet
  • Climbing Harness with Ice Clippers
  • 30-40L Backpack
  • Belay Device and Locking Carabiner
  • Spare Locking Carabiner
  • Personal Climbing Equipment: Cordelette, Prussik, Anchor Material
  • 21cm Ice Screw, V-Threader, Small Knife, Spare 7mm Tat
  • Ice Screws and Draws (dictated by route)
  • Avalanche Gear (if needed): Beacon, Shovel, Probe
  • Headlamp
  • First Aid Kit
  • Guide’s Tarp
  • Communication Device
  • Small Repair Kit
  • Food and Water
  • Toilet Paper and Lighter
  • Sunscreen, Sunglasses, Lip Chap
  • Clothing and Gloves (not covered in this post)
 

Ice Climbing Packing List

Please consider this a starting point to ensure you have all the appropriate items ticked on your ice climbing packing list.  If you’re in the Bow Valley or shopping online you can get everything on this list at Vertical Addiction.

If you have any questions or feel there should be anything else added to this ice climbing packing list, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly or comment below.