Equipment and Nutrition for Modern Alpine Climbing
When climbing in Alpine style most discussion and debate are focused on the bivouac strategy. Common questions are: Do you plan to sleep? Do you plan to lie down or sit on a pack? Wear puffy pants or use a sleeping bag? Should we share a sleeping bag? Tent or no tent? Generally the food and nutrition conversation gets wrapped up in this, because your bivy strategy generally determines how long you plan to be on route for. Liberty Mountain distributes a number of products that have facilitated my success and helped me answer many of these questions climbing around the world. The convenience of being able to get all these products from one source is unparalleled in my opinion. I just got home from a trip in the Central Alaska Range where I completed a first ascent on the East Face of Mount Dickey (5,000’ AI6+M7 April 3-5) with Jackson Marvell. Below I’ll talk through some of the products we used and how they allowed us to keep things light and fast on the wall.
Liberty Mountain distributes Valandre, a high quality down manufacturer based in the Pyrenees. I use one big puffy on these routes and a half sleeping bag to cut weight and increase versatility. In the above photo I was in our first bivy using a Garmin inReach Mini to get an updated weather forecast. Photo by: Jackson Marvell
On route we ate Mountain House meals for dinners. It’s the lightest, and easiest way to get about 700 calories in. Aside from this, all food was either bars (Honey Stinger, Kind Bars, ProBars, Kate's Real Food) or GU. Our weight got lighter when a raven raided our first bivy and threw a stuff sack with 6,000 calories off the face. This was also motivation to climb a bit faster! A Jetboil Sumo made for a great on-route cook system. Since it melts water fast, we also just carried one Nalgene bottle and brewed up as needed.
Making some water to start day three on route. Photo by: Jackson Marvell
At our high bivy we had a surprise snowstorm, with about 4 inches accumulating. We had 2,000 vertical feet of steep terrain (60-90 degrees) overhead and spent the night in a torrent of spindrift. This is when we were pretty excited to have an Equinox Myotis Tarp, an ultralight sil-nylon tarp with tie-down points. We draped this over our small, chopped snow ledge and all night the tarp got hammered by blast after blast of spindrift. That 8 foot by 8 foot sheet of silicone impregnated nylon likely made the difference between discomfort and serious danger!
Jackson at 4 am in the high bivy, counting the minutes until sunrise.
Arguably as important as the bivouac and cook system, is the rope system. When climbing on steep features with coarse granite, I generally like to go a bit beefier with my rope system. It’s possible to be jugging on lines, or hauling packs and leading on one rope. Because of this we used one Beal Joker, 60 meters X 9.1 MM and one Beal Ice line, 60 meters X 8.1 MM. I also was really impressed with the new Beal Ghost harness, which has enough surface area to be comfortable but also packs down small and has minimal bulk. On our trip we climbed 11,000’ of steep climbing and the ropes look no worse for wear.
Follow the Leader.
Liberty Mountain is also the distributer for Grivel in North America. I am always happy to have their ‘hot forged’ steel in my corner. The Thor Hammer, allows me to place pitons and specters with confidence and still climb on an aggressive tool, the Tech Machine. Also, the G20 Plus is a super light, mono-point crampon with replaceable front point. A crampon like this is key for an expedition with multiple big, difficult objectives planned. Another handy tool from Grivel on this route was the ‘Carryabiners' aluminum ice clippers. I have snapped several plastic ice clippers in cold temps. Loosing your ice screws on a big route can mean a forced retreat, or worse if a safe retreat isn’t possible. The last piece I’ll mention is the Plume Twin Gate carabiner. My climbing partner was using a traditional screw gate carabiner. He had to breathe or suck on his carabiner to get it to melt enough to open most of the time. The plume twin gate, uses two wire gates to create a locking mechanism. There is no surface area to ice up, and I’m convinced it’s the best carabiner for ice and alpine climbing.
Using Outdoor Designs Denali Gauntlet gloves while vision-questing into mixed terrain. Photo by: Jackson Marvell
Alan Rousseau is an AMGA, IFMGA, and UIAGM Certified Guide, and member of the Beal and Grivel athlete teams.