Mountaineering Buyer’s Guide

August 18, 2015

  • by
  • Lydia Tanner

Would you rather hibernate in a down sleeping bag than a bed? Do you like to wake up in the dark, ready to suffer?  You might be a mountaineer, where, thankfully, it’s not all frostbite and crevasses.  The sport takes you to the most stunning, rare places on earth with a sense of unlimited possibilities. Prepare physically and mentally for your new passion (and stock up your gear closet at the same time) with this condensed Active Junky Buyer’s Guide.

Physical Preparati​on

Two Ways to Train:

Most mountaineering objectives are difficult to reach. Prepare to carry a heavy pack (sometimes well over 50lbs), pick your way through alpine terrain, deal with altitude and sleep at irregular hours. In the past, enthusiasts promoted “doing” as the only effective way to train.

Read Your Way Up:

Steve House and Scott Johnston’s Training for the New Alpinism includes reams of valuable information and insights from dozens of alpine luminaries. To achieve big objectives: 1) get your nutrition dialed, 2) explore periodized training and 3) adapt odd exercises like carrying backpacks full of water up your local steep hills. Get prepped with New Alpinism on the nightstand next to perennial classic Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills.

Mental Preparation:

Some view mountaineering as a war of attrition; you’ll wear the objective down through repeated losses rather than aggressive tactics.

Be Both Stubborn and Humble:

Stubbornness and humility both contribute to success. Be ready to tough out some challenges while remaining ready to throw in the towel when odds aren’t in your favor.

Attitude Check:

First, keep a good attitude. When a storm rolls in, be the first to break out the whiskey and cards. When the whiskey’s gone, be the one with the jokes, impressions and maybe even a song to sing (depending on your voice and group dynamics).

Sum of the Whole:

Break things into digestible pieces. Can’t fathom the next twenty miles? Focus on the rock 20m ahead. Or simply the next step.

Risk and Reward:

Be objective about risks, knowing remote places make for difficult extraction or rescue scenarios. Mistakes are costly. Sometimes it’s best to plan on returning next season. Separate success from your ego and get used to turning around.

7 Essential Pieces o​f Mountaineering Gear

La Sportiva Trango Extreme:  The toes know

La sportiva trango extreme005 La Sportiva Trango Extreme Evo Light GTX

Look no further for a do-it-all mountaineering boot. Trango is highly regarded for superior rubber and versatile climate control. Gore-Tex laminates keep toes dry while this model has wells for nearly any crampon system. Strap in to La Sportiva for glacier walking and long ice routes.

Petzl Vasak Crampon: Bring on the ice and snow

Petzl vasak crampon Petzl Vasak Crampon Starting at: $157.46

With a classic, versatile 12-point design, find superior control in snow and on ice. The orange rubber plates under heel and mid-foot prevent balling snow and multiple strap configurations ensure compatibility with nearly any boot. Horizontal front points are solid for glacier travel and function well on non-vertical ice as well. 

Black Diamond Venom Ice Axe:  Pull your weight

Bd venom ice axe Black Diamond Venom Adze Ice Axe

With a straight spike for use as a piolet and an angled head for steep ice, the Black Diamond Venom is a hybrid between a technical ice tool and traditional mountain axe. Carry it at your side for self-arrest and balance, then climb with confidence when the terrain cranks up.

Black Diamond Speed 40 Alpine Pack: Heft it higher

Black diamond speed 40 pack003 Black Diamond Speed 40 Alpine Pack

With useful loops and zippers combined in a svelte package, Speed 40 is your new, second-favorite alpine companion (hopefully behind your climbing partner). A removable hip belt, lid and frame sheet allow customization while ice tool attachments, rope and crampon straps secure your gear. To top it off, the sophisticated reACTIV suspension system distributes the load for more effortless climbing.

Patagonia DAS Parka:  Weather beater

Patagonia das parka001 Patagonia DAS Parka

When it’s time to switch leads, stay snug and happy on belay. This parka is warm and nearly weatherproof thanks to synthetic fill. DAS packs down relatively small and light to quickly become a trusted companion. Get a size bigger to warm up your frozen gloves.

Brooks Range Drift 30 Sleeping Bag:  Mini and mighty

Brooks range drift 30 Brooks Range Drift 30 Sleeping Bag

Incredibly light and warm, Drift 30 compresses to the size of a Nalgene and weighs even less. Hydrophobic down and DWR treatment fend of the elements, while vertical baffles and a halo collar keep drafts out.

IceBreaker Everyday Baselayer:  Closer encounters

Icebreaker everyday leggings 003 Icebreaker Everyday Leggings Icebreaker everyday longsleeve 004 Icebreaker Everyday Crew

For multi-day trips, layers must remain warm when it’s chilly, cool when it’s hot—and not get ripe when you do. Itch-free Merino wool is magic in the mountains; your partner will appreciate it’s funk-fighting abilities. Icebreaker makes durable, affordable, flattering base layers to keep wearing even when you’re homeward bound.

Arc’teryx Alpha Comp Climbing Pants:  Two legs up

Arcteryx alpha comp pant003 Arc'teryx Alpha Comp Pant

Stretchy, abrasion-resistant and weatherproof, this pant promotes mobility without abandoning durability. Fully seam-taped Gore-Tex panels protect knees and butt, while breathable softshell dumps heat and moisture from crotch and thighs.  Consider this part of your upgraded above-tree line kit. 

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