Essential mountain gear
Helmet: Your brain bucket is your best friend in the mountains: Peaks shed rocks, especially when your buddy knocks them loose. Any UIAA- or CE-certified one will do. While bike helmet-style foam ones are light, they’re not as durable as the hard plastic variety. Vent holes and adjustable sizing will make keeping up with the weather easier.
Ropes: There’s an international debate about whether to carry one rope or two thinner ones in the mountains. On rock routes, the extra weight of two ropes is trumped by increased safety on the way up and faster descents. On snow and glaciers, a single thin or half rope will suffice. Either way, 60 metres is the gold standard.
Harness: You probably won’t be hanging around in your harness a lot, so opt for less weight over padding and features. Adjustable leg loops are easier to slip on over mountaineering boots and layers.
Crampons and ice axes: Any time there’s snow or ice, you need to bring crampons and an ice axe. For slopes up to about 45 degrees, choose easier-to-walk-in, less-aggressive mountaineering crampons and a longer mountaineering axe. For blue ice and steeper routes, having two ice axes and climbing crampons with long, horizontal front points will feel more secure.
Boots: Most mountaineers want a versatile performer on both rock and snow. Look for variable outsoles with a sharp inside edge and smooth rubber at the big toe for rock, and deep lugs for the approach and snow. Just climbing ice and snow? Plastic boots and hybrid mountaineering boots are super stiff, insulated and waterproof. Rock masters will want softer, lower-cut boots. Make sure they’ll work with your crampons.