Winter Climbing gear
Whilst most of the gear below will not be relevant for climbing in London, we feel it's important to have an understanding of how it all fits together. Nearly every item listed above is used in winter climbing and will be used in conjunction with the items below.
Winter Climbing Gear
-Walking Ice Axes
-Technical Ice Axes
Clearly differs from the "normal" climbing clothing and is designed to keep you insulated from elements - cold, wind, rain, snow etc. We won't go into loads of detail here but a decent down-jacket and outer windproof & waterproof shell are wise investments in our eyes. There are tons of brands out there all who have a slightly different take on things. Our favourites are North Face, RAB, Mountain Hardwear and Decathlon's own brand Quechua which is very reasonably priced and well made.
Mountain / Climbing boots are built mainly for alpine and ice-climbing and not walking! Although most climbing involves a lot of walking, these are not boots you buy to go on long hikes. The major difference from a hiking boot is the rigidity of the sole, which is designed to support a fitted crampon so it doesn't slip. Boots come in 4 ratings. B0,B1,B2,B3 which relate to the stiffness of the sole/crampon you fit and the climbing you can do - more info in the crampon section.
Crampons are designed for snow/ice conditions and in essence act as a metal claw for added grip. Rated to different levels: C1 - Suitable for walking and hiking on B1 rated boots . C2 - Designed for B2 semi-rigid boots for mountaineering and easier grade snow and mixed climbing - not for steep ice! C3 - For B3 Fully rigid boots suitable for mountaineering, ice and mixed climbing at all grades. More information can be found here.
Have a pretty obvious use, but getting the right shape, size and style has been a matter of some debate. Is bigger better, do I need all the bells and whistles? Who knows? Our preference is to travel lighter (within reason) and prefer a smaller pack as this makes us really choose the kit we put in it wisely. However, others like the choice of having more space and more stuff. One thing you should do is choose a pack thats well made, big enough for task and comfortable for you!
Walking / Alpine axes, although differing slightly in use are designed primarily for ice-axe braking and occasional assistance when walking, and are not made for continuous hitting into ice. They are much straighter than their technical counterparts and are mainly used in there upright mode (as pictured). Some say the optimal size for this type of axe is around 55cm but it's worth a check when you purchase whether this is the right height for you!
Are ideal for nearly all the higher levels of winter/ice climbing. They have a more angular shaft and are designed to be struck into the ice and act as an extension of the arms for high graded climbing. The hand rest at the bottom also protects the knuckles and keeps the backs of the hands from contacting wet ice, thus keeping them warmer too. These are amazing tools when used correctly but they don't come cheap with the average RRP per axe at around £150+.
Modern ice screws have revolutionised ice climbing and there tubular design and modern twisting handles means they can be inserted into the ice with great ease. Ice screws are a protection device which screw directly into thick (where possible) ice and are designed to arrest a climbers fall. They would be used in conjunction with other forms of protection cams,nuts and hexes etc. listed above on certain winter climbing routes.
Are used to ascend rope but also can be used in crevasse rescues. They are mainly used in long roped ascents on big expedition climbs, Everest as a rather large example. However, they do have good uses outside of this but the weight of handled ascenders (image) sometimes mean they are restrictive to carry if there use is not 100% essential. For emergency ascending sometimes a simple Prusik loop would do the job.