Sometime last year I read this really cool little feature by Colin Haley about what’s in his pack when he’s busy dancing up sweet Patagonian lines. Not only is it kind of geekily cool to see what gear gnarly alpine wizards take on a route, it’s also a nice way to pick up some little tricks of the trade.
I’m a long, long way from being the authority that someone like Colin is, but I know what I like to take on a route and what I can leave behind. So I figured I’d do my own ‘What’s In My Pack’ series, kicking off with Scottish winter climbing.
1. Petzl Nomic – an incredibly solid feeling tool for it’s weight, and as the name suggests, immensely ergonomic. I actually use Black Diamond Fusions more these days since these have developed the notorious creaking problem and Petzl’s customer support was next to useless.
2. Grivel G20 – these are the dopest crampons I’ve ever used. Moving over to mono points revolutionised my climbing and these are super lightweight and incredibly low profile, meaning there’s no excuse for poor footwork. The catch is that they have no front anti balling plate, and once you blunt the front point you have to shell out £80 for a whole new pair of front sections.
3. DMM Torque Nuts – the feeling you get when you’ve welded a beefy hex into an iced up crack is borderline orgasmic. Good good good. I managed to get the smallest size stuck on a mixed route last season but so far I haven’t missed it – after all, it’s the same size as a size 11 wallnut.
4. Belay plate, screwgates & slings – I take 2x120cm sling (1 pictured here), 4 locking biners and a loose snapgate. I’ll also carry an extra locking biner with two prusik loops, a knife and a pulley on it (not pictured). Enough to get out of most sticky situations.
5. DMM Wallnuts 1-11 – I’ve used a lot of nuts but always find myself coming back to these. Bombproof.
6. Quickdraws & extenders – generally I’ll take 7 longish fixed length draws and 5 60cm slingdraws. I might take a couple of extra slingdraws if I’m leading at my limit.
7. DMM Dragon cams – I’ll only take these for early season mixed when I’m fairly confident the cracks won’t be too icy. Always feels a bit continental placing a cam on a Scottish route, though…
8. Black Diamond Momentum harness – nothing special about this one, had it for years. It needs replacing actually. Nevertheless, it’s been a solid workhorse for the past 5 years. Doesn’t have clipper slots which is a pain in the ass but I’ve just stuffed them on the side anyway.
9. Scarpa Phantom Guides – an absolutely rad pair of boots. The primaloft lining means that your feet are nice and warm all day, the integrated overgaiter keeps your feet dry on soggy highland walk-ins, and the lacing system means that you can really lock down your lower foot for dancing around on tiny edges on your front points in comfort.
10. Bothy bag – I picked this up for £2 at a car boot sale years ago. In fact I’m not really sure I knew what it was at the time, and thankfully I’ve never had to use it. However, I’ve heard so many stories of people being saved by these little nylon bags, so it always gets chucked in the bottom of my pack.
11. ‘Shit-has-hit-the-fan’ bag – this is another one I fortunately haven’t had to use recently. I keep a very rudimentary first aid kit, an emergency head torch (Petzl e+lite), some chemical hand-warmers and a couple of energy gels inside. I also have a laminated section of map and a compass. If something bad happens, the contents of this bag should be enough to keep you alive.
12. 1l Nalgene
14. Petzl Sirocco – I will probably never stop going on about how great this helmet is. I wrote a bit more about it here.
15. Petzl Myo RXP – reliable and bright. Burns through batteries like an absolute bastard though. Here’s a tip kids, never skimp on batteries. Energizer Ultimate Lithium are the best you can get – true story!
16. Beal Cobra II (not pictured) – at 8.6mm these are on the chunky side for a pair of halves, but sometimes that helps you feel a little bit more comfortable when you inevitably have that moment where, gripped, halfway up a route, you glance down at the belayer, swallow, and think “normal people just have a lie in and go to the cinema”.
1. Gloves – I usually take three pairs of gloves. The first is a pair of SkyTec Argons, which I’ll use for the approach. They’re just £5.99 a pair and amazingly warm and dextrous. If they’re not soaked by the time we get to the route, I’ll climb in them until they are. The second is a pair of Black Diamond Punishers, which are the best glove for Scottish winter I’ve used. Really waterproof and a great compromise of warmth and dexterity. This is my third pair in the last 12 months, which might make you think they’re a bit delicate, but I’ve really been abusing them, rappelling and pulling ropes in them a lot of the time. The last pair is an old pair of Rab Latok gloves that I’ve had for ages. They’re slightly bigger than the others and have a longer cuff – I’ll use these as a pair of belay gloves, or to climb in if the Punishers get soaked.
2. Patagonia R1 Hoody – this is something I (and everybody else) have raved about extensively. Just an immense bit of kit.
3. Powerstretch leggings
4. Long-sleeved Merino top
5. Patagonia Nano-Air Vest – this is the new guy in my system but I’m a convert already. This provides a really nice boost to your core warmth but leaves your arms free and unrestricted. A really good alternative to traditional mid layers. Also breathes like an absolute muh’fucka.
6. Mountain Equipment Tupilak – I like Gore Tex Pro. It’s almost impervious to the driving Scottish wind and rain, and it breathes surprisingly well in spite of its waterproofness. The Tupilak is a real fortress against the weather, but this is the old version which had 40d Gore Pro on the body and so had some durability issues. The newer versions are 80d throughout. Mine’s actually delaminating quite extensively on the chest so is currently getting returned to Mountain Equipment under warranty.
7. Black Diamond Front Point Bib – let me just say that the full price tag on these is eye-wateringly steep and I didn’t (and wouldn’t) pay it. £500 for a pair of hard shell pants is comical! Luckily I got these for trade price. At first I wasn’t convinced by them as they’re baggier than I’d hoped (they’re designed to be used for skiing, as well as climbing) but I’ve got used to them now and never found them too obtrusive. In fact, I really like the design of them. The pockets are in all the right places (chest zip on the bib, and two thigh pockets for topos/keys/phone/whatever), the bib provides an extra layer of insulation over your chest and torso and so provides some warmth, and the cut means that they never feel restrictive when you’re stretching for footholds or attempting to jump across the 19th unfrozen peat bog on the walk out. They also have one of those snazzy Recco reflectors.
So there you have it. Scottish winter climbing places a largely unique set of demands on you and your equipment so this is the most recent of many different iterations of kit, but I feel like I’ll be sticking with this one for a good while yet.