Gear Advice and Geeking

When planning for adventures, climbers must always wrangle with the dilemma of what to put in the pack and what to leave at the trailhead, especially for longer more committing routes. For aspiring alpinists like myself, there comes a time when you 'crest,' as it were, and find yourself more willing to part with objects of comfort in order to gain a weight and speed advantage when exposed in high alpine terrain. That strand of thought, of course, is becoming increasingly mainstream in the climbing community with famous climbers like Steve House or Mark Synnott preaching the "Light and Fast" gospel, and living up to it as well, firing some legendary lines that are only possible through nimble maneuvering through exposed and treacherous terrain.

What I hope to provide here are some guidelines that people looking to start on their journey to the Light and Fast model can use in order to start packing more efficiently when traveling to the hills. These lists will evolve with time, too, as my own experience will dictate what I can adjust over time. 

I hope you find the info here helpful. I am always open to recommendations, so drop me a line if you have bright ideas on how to improve these lists.

(1.) Mt. Stuart via the North Ridge

General Parameters:

- Alpine multiday

- Carry over

- Bivy on-route

The goal in this environment is to pack as light as possible. Since you will be climbing with your gear on you (with the possible rare exception of pack hauling), you want to minimize not only weight, but volume/bulk as well. Doing so will guarantee you the greatest freedom of motion, something that will come in handy when fishing out that critical piece of gear climbing through the crux of a pitch.

This route is often done as a carry-over starting from the south side at the Esmerelda Trailhead. Climbers elect this variation in order to avoid the heinous red tape regulations approaching from the north side, which involves crossing through the heavily regulated Enchantment Lake Basin. 

Climbing Hardware:

- Rock shoes, built for alpine if applicable (Evolv Kaos II)

- Helmet (Black Diamond Half Dome)

- Ice Axe/Piolet (Black Diamond Raven)

- Harness (lightweight such as the Petzl Adjama)

- General mountaineering crampons (Black Diamond Contact crampons)

- Half rope, folded in half to make two 30m strandes (Mammut Phoenix, 8.5mm)

- Trekking poles

- Chalk Bag

The Rack:

- Doubles in cams from #3 (red) C3 to #2 (gold) C4

- One #3 (blue) C4 cam

- One #4 (cobalt) C4 cam (for the Stuart offwidth pitch on the Great Gendarme)

- 1 set of nuts (BD set size #4-#13)

- 10 single-length runners

- 2 double-length runners

- 6 extra biners (all locking or half locking and hald non-locking)

- 2 20-ft. anchor cordelettes

- 2 single-length prussiks


- Baseball cap or equivalent sunhat

- Headband or buff (multi-use allows to insulate different sections as well as a greater area of your head in addition to absorbing sweat)

- Long-sleeve, non-cotton baselayer (Marmot, Under Armor, etc.)

- Bomber fleece/insulating layer (EMS mid-weight zip fleece)
- Rain shell (Gore-Tex ot E-Vent)

- Synthetic boxer briefs

- Quickdry pants (REI Sahara pants)

- Mid-weight Merino Wool or synthetic socks

- Approach shoes (La Sportiva Boulder X)

The Camping:

- Day Pack between 33-40L (Black Diamond Axis Pack, 33L)

- Sleeping Bag rated to 15º, if doing an open bivy (The North Face Blue Kazoo, down)

- Foam, closed-cell sleeping pad (Therm-a-Rest Sol Z Lite)

- Water pack (3L Platypus)

- Nalgene bottle (1L)

Small Goods:, Soft Goods, etc.:

- 2 large trash bags (contractor bags)

- Headlamp

- Spare batteries

- Swiss Army Knife/Leatherman

- 2 wag bags

- Chapstick

- Sunscreen
- Bugspray (optional; we did not bring any)

- iPhone with earbuds (optional; makes the monotonous overland approaches and sitting around bivying more entertaining)

- Climbing tape (enough to make tape gloves)

- Standard toiletries (get everything in travel size to cut down on bulk)

-Spoon/Fork/Spork/Knifeoon (Light My Fire)

- Camp cup (The bottoms of small Jetboil stoves make for great, low-bulk cups)

- 10L Stuff Sack (Sea-to-Summit, for food storage)

Communal Goods:


- Stove

- 1 small can of fuel (3.5 oz)

- 1 waterproof map (NatGeo, makes for a great impromptu rain cover)

- 1 bottle of water treatment tablets (Potable Aqua)

The Menu:

- 2 Pop Tarts packs

-1.5-2 MetRX Big 100 bars

- 2 Via coffee packets

- 2 Arizona Ice Tea flavor packets

- 2 packs of Clif Shot Blocks

- 6 Powerbars (vary the flavors to avoid getting sick of them)

- ~6-8 oz of trail mix

- 1 Mountain House dehydrated dinner (save the bag for tomorrow's dinner!

- 1 'cheaper' dehydrated meal (Knorr Rice sides with a single serving pack of tuna; cook them in the saved Mountain House bag; this meal combo actually has more calories than a Mountain House dinner)

- 4 energy gels

Weight Stats:

- Pack base weight, no food or water: 16.5 lbs.

- Pack weight with food, no water: 19.5 lbs.

- Pack weight with food, 4L of water: 27.5 lbs.

- Trad rack weight: 11 lbs.

- Total weight of everything on person: 38.5 lbs.

Lessons Learned:

- Always start earlier than you think you need to! It is always better to be extra early than extra late in the hills!

- ABC =  Always Bring Crampons, in the event of a glacier crossing. The vast majority of people will like to have the security and the peace-of-mind provided by having crampons crossing the glacier. Unless you are a glacier pro or the snow/ice ids so soft that you are postholing up to your knees, just bring crampons. They will be well worth the weight!

- Bring 2 trashbags in the event you are open bivying and there is a chance of rain in the forecast. They take up virtually no room in your pack and they will keep you and your gear dry in the event of an emergency bivy

- Plan water accordingly. This point is especially salient if you can get 'water beta' from previous summiteers, if they happened to have done the same route. Knowing that there are lakes, snowfields, and/or seeps on the approach or on-route can allow you to take less water while moving, hence allowing you to move more quickly!