This weekend’s Bozeman Ice Festival usually marks the official start of ice climbing season, but with the early season cold temps, many climbers have been getting after it for quite some time now. We will post a few different essentials lists pertaining to the sport, but begin here with the hardware required to second a multi-pitch climb or even top rope. Stay tuned for our apparel picks for the season, as well as a look at gear choices for leading.
1. Osprey Mutant 38 ($160): Our main backcountry ice climbing pack for the season is the Mutant 38. The minimalist design makes for a lightweight pack (just over 1 kg) and is roomy enough to fit extra layers, your multi-pitch pack, helmet, snacks, crampons, harness, and a rack, with a rope slung under the lid. The ToolLock system on the front of the pack is quick and easy to use, and keeps the sharps from snagging your and your partner’s gear. I personally like to keep all my gear inside the pack, but if you need the extra space, a zippered pocket near the top of the pack stows a removable stretch mesh helmet carry system to secure your helmet to the top. To make the pack even more minimalist, you can remove the side compression straps and the lid is also removable for fast and light ascents (the FlapJacket protects the main compartment instead). A rescue whistle on the sternum strap adds a nice safety touch.
2. Black Diamond Cobra ($340 each): I love these lightweight, carbon fiber tools for steep ice. If you want to do some mixed climbing, check out the new Fuel or Fusions instead–you don’t want to ruin these beauties on rock.
3. Stanley Vacuum Bottle ($25): I always bring hot tea with me when I ice climb. It’s a great way to warm your core quickly and keep you hydrated. This double-wall vacuum bottle holds 621 ml of fluid and keeps your tea hot for up to 6 hours. The insulated lid is easy to drink from and clean, and most importantly, ensures that nothing leaks out into your pack.
4. Cotopaxi Luzon ($30): This is my new favorite multi-pitch climbing pack. The Luzon packs down small, weighs nothing, and holds my belay jacket, an extra pair of gloves, snacks, headlamp, and thermos for spending all day on the ice.
5. Petzl Dartwin ($210): My personal favorite crampons for steep ice climbing and very sad to say that Petzl has discontinued this style. You can still find some, however, but the Lynx is a replacement and easily converts from dual to monopoint for mixed climbing. Unlike the Black Diamond crampons, these are not made of stainless steel. This means you need to look after your horses when you get back home each night and wipe them down so they don’t rust.
6. Easton Trekking Pole ($140): Sometimes the approach to a climb can get a bit sketchy or you may have to cross a river. At least one trekking pole is nice for a little extra balance and to save your knees on steep, slippery descents.
7. Black Diamond Lotus ($80): Black Diamond seems to be the only harness brand to get ice clipper placements right, not to mention offering four of them instead of the standard two. You can now properly rack your screws and tools without piling them on top of each other or reaching way behind your back.
8. Scarpa Phantom Guide ($599): My favorite ice climbing and alpine boots. These have seen me through -40 degrees C Canadian winters and WI5 ascents. I prefer the integrated gaiter style and climbing boots on the stiffer side.
9. Personal Gear: As a second, you may not need to bring a full rack yourself, but you at least need to bring your own personal safety gear: belay device (I usually bring two just in case I or my partner drops one 3 pitches up–it happens), two locking carabiners (one to belay and one to secure yourself in to the belay anchor), and a PAS (Personal Anchor System) for rappelling. Some people make a PAS out of webbing or slings.
10. Helmet: A given. I love my old school Petzl helmet painted by artist Jesse Croft in Ouray, CO. I know at some point I need to upgrade but I love my butterflies.
11. V-Thread Equipment: I like to carry v-thread making tools (Black Diamond First Shot, cord, 22 cm ice screw) on my harness as a second, because you never know when you might need them–plus if you rappel first, you can start making the v-thread for the next rappel while your partner is coming down.
Bozeman will be broadcasting live the UIAA Ice World Cup all day today and tomorrow if you are interested in watching. Some of the best ice climbers in the world will be competing.