Monday, January 30, 2017

Guide's Pack: Multi-pitch Ice

Everything I might need while climbing a multi-pitch ice climb.
I need to bring some essentials up with me on any mutli-pitch ice climb. If the hike in to the ice is significant, I'll normally bring a larger pack with extra layers, a thermos of hot tea, and anything else I want but don't need on route. I then leave that large pack at the base of the climb and take up my smaller guide's pack with important things for the route. Here is a list of what comes up on most routes with me and its purpose.

Pack Black Diamond Hollowpoint: My well loved Hollowpoint has 22 liters of storage and is just the right size to carry everything I could possibly need up a route. Key features include the way the pack is designed to keep weight close to my back and arms free for full range of motion. I'm also a big fan of the small webbing hip belt to keep the pack very secure.

Belay Puffy - Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody: To trap in all the body heat I earned after climbing a pitch, and therefore keep from freezing at the belay. The thickness of this piece can depend upon the conditions, but the Micro Puff I use is quite thick for long cold belays. But it is really too thick to climb in on most days due to overheating. Something like the Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody is a better call for wearing while climbing fast or on warmer days so you don't overheat.

Waterproof Shell JacketArc'teryx Alpha SL Hybrid Jacket: Most days its cold and any precipitation is quite frozen so I'm using a soft-shell top and bottom. But if the route starts to drip or it begins to rain I'll want at least a waterproof top to fend off the wetness until I get back to the car. I had been using the Arc'teryx Alpha SL but upgraded to the Hybrid model this past summer. This model uses a more durable fabric on the shoulders and elbows while remaining an ultralight 12.9 ounces.

Belay Gloves - Black Diamond Enforcer Glove: The actual glove I use most days is a really old BD punisher glove that's still holding up well, before they changed that style dramatically. The new Enforcer is the closest comparison in a warm belay glove. I swap out my lead gloves for this warmer glove that has been stashed in my jacket staying warm. This protects my lead gloves from getting torn up by the ropes while belaying, and gives them a chance to dry out a little in my jacket utilizing my body heat.

Bivy Sack - Black Diamond Twilight Bivy: A 10oz emergency shelter that works well to keep someone warm and dry if injured and awaiting an evacuation, or if I have to spend the night in a remote location.

First Aid - Bandages, SAM Splint, tape, hot-hands warmers, emergency blanket, lighter: All you need for basic stabilization of an injured climber, or to attack frostbite on some cold fingers.

SPOT Device: This is something I've started to bring with me on every trip, more so for the OKAY feature than for the emergency response activation. If we get benighted out in the mountains or are running late, I want a way of telling my emergency contact that we're okay and not to activate an emergency rescue. I don't want to be the guy that unnecessarily gets all my volunteer mountain rescue friends up in the middle of the night!

Repair Kit - Crampon tools, ice axe tool, spare ice pick, headlamp, spare batteries, cord, safety pins, zip ties, ski strap, file: Not all of these things come up with me on a multi-pitch route near the road, but for anything more alpine in nature I'll want most of this to keep my gear functioning if it starts to break down. The ski strap has many unforeseen uses like adding a pinky rest to an ice tool, or holding a SAM splint on a fractured limb.

V-thread kit - 20 feet or so of 6mm cord, v-threading tool, knife, 22cm Black Diamond Express Ice Screw: Once you've finished the route (or decided to bail) you'll need to get down, which often involves rappelling the same route utilizing abalakov or "v-thread" anchors. A threading tool can be manufactured at home from a clothes-hanger like mine, or there are commercial model's available. I really like my Buck "Whittaker" edition knife I got as a kid when I was just dreaming of being a climber. I still use it because of the nifty carabiner clip and locking mechanism.

Miscellaneous - Sunglasses in hard case, Dermatone tin, water bottle: My Julbo Dust Sunglasses stay on my face most of the day due to their photocromic Zebra lenses adjusting to light conditions, but if I need to stow them away I'm going to put them in a hard case. They're just too nice to throw in the pack naked. Some sun and wind protection from Dermatone for the face and lips is always at hand in my pocket where it won't freeze.

Not pictured - Camera, food, water bottle parka, thermos: If its cold enough I'll need to keep my fluids from freezing with a water bottle parka. Or I'll need hot tea in a thermos to keep the psyche up.

There will always be the compromise between fast and light vs. slow and prepared. For any given objective this list gets parred down or beefed up based on route conditions, weather, and my psyche level. You have to decide what makes sense for you to bring on any given objective. Happy climbing!

Leading out from the 2nd pitch cave belay in early season,
wet conditions on the Standard Route WI 3, Frankenstein Cliffs, NH.
Glad I packed the waterproof shell.

-Jeremy Devine, AAI Instructor and Guide

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