A summary of technical equipment & clothing required for summer alpine mountaineering. The alpine style involves climbing with a small & light pack that has all the essentials, sufficient emergency equipment, and nothing else!
This is an important principle to bear in mind when packing your gear. You need all the technical items required plus a clothing layering system that will function well in both hot & sunny AND cold & windy conditions. So ditch your toilet bag, book / kindle etc but not your warm jacket or sun hat!
Please note that if you are planning on, or thinking about, climbing Mont Blanc or the Matterhorn after your Gran Paradiso trip we also have specific equipment lists for Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn so refer to those instead.
Alpine Mountaineering Equipment
Summer mountaineering in the Alps involves a mixture of weather and conditions from hot & sunny glacier travel to cold & windy climbing at high altitude. Thus the mountaineer needs to be prepared for both with a suitable mix of light & cool clothing & sun protection that can be quickly added to with other layers to deal with cold & windy conditions.
- Mountain Boot – Boots designed for alpine mountaineering and thus able to take crampons effectively (B3 or B2) and well insulated. In general, a heavier and more insulated boot than a classic light summer alpine boot is recommended. Examples of suitable boots are Scarpa Mont Blanc, Phantom Guide, Jorasses and Freney. The new Scarpa Mantas are a reasonable compromise if you have good circulation plus good weather and conditions! Sportiva Nepal Extreme’s or Evos are also suitable and popular as are many and various other good brands that meet the above specifications. Boots can be hired from us or in Chamonix if you don’t have a suitable pair.
- Crampons and bag – 12 point mountaineering crampons with anti-balling plates, essential. The Petzl Vasak crampon makes an ideal crampon, this comes with 2 different binding systems Leverlock Universal (clip for front & back) and Flexlock (plastic bale) the best combination is to have the Flexlock on the front and the Leverlock clip for the rear. When packed in your rucksack they are best stored in a bag to stop them from damaging anything else. Avoid both very lightweight walking / ski touring crampons or heavy technical ice climbing crampons.
- Ice axe – A simple mountaineering ice axe is ideal and preferable to technical climbing models. Petzl Summit Evo, Black Diamond Venom, Grivel air-tech and, cheapest but still totally fine, DMM Cirque. Any straps or leashes on your ice axe should be removed.
- Harness – General mountaineering harness ideal e.g. DMM Super Couloir / Centre or Black Diamond Bod, with 2 X screw gate Karabiners. If you already have a rock climbing harness this will be fine as long as it is large enough to wear over multiple bulky warm layers. If you are buying one specifically for Mont Blanc, choose a lightweight alpine mountaineering harness or a good general harness for both rock climbing & mountaineering like the Petzl Corax.
- Helmet – General mountaineering helmet essential e.g. Petzl Elios or other Black Diamond or Petzl mountaineering helmet.
- Hardware – This kit will be provided by the guide but, if you have your own then please bring a belay plate / Karabiners / Sling (120cm).
- Rucksack – A 30-50ltr rucksack is required. When it comes to fit it’s best to try some on before buying. Key features to look for are: adjustable waist and shoulder straps; easy to use buckles for opening/closing sack; 1 ideally 2 ice axe attachment points; side compression straps; durable/waterproof fabrics. The sack should come with either a waterproof liner or use some dry bags to keep clothing and other kit dry and separated in your pack. You should be able to get all the kit listed here inside, it’s best to avoid having any kit attached to the outside of the sack other than your axe(s) and if we give you a rope to carry! A good example of a suitable rucksack is the Arc’teryx Alpha AR 35 Other suitable rucksacks can be viewed HERE.
- Waterproof Shell-Jacket – Gore-Tex material or similar that provides a high level of waterproofness and breathability. A helmet-compatible hood, external & internal pockets and waterproof zips are good features to look for. Avoid a softshell material it is can be a gamble if conditions are wet. A good example is the Arc’teryx Alpha AR jacket available in both men’s & women’s.
- Waterproof Shell-Trousers – Gore-Tex material or similar that provides a high level of waterproofness and breathability. Side-zips on the legs are a useful feature as it makes it easier to put them on in tricky situations. Arc’teryx Beta SV Bib Pant is a good example, available in both men’s & women’s.
- Down Layer – It is essential to have a down jacket with you for colder conditions, a jacket with a fill of around 700 – 750 should do it. It should be packable, warm, and have a helmet-compatible hood. Example Arc’teryx Thorium AR Hoody available in both men’s & women’s.
- Mid-Layer(s) – It is best to have a number of lightweight layers to make up your clothing system. Fleece layers are ideal for this as you can add and remove them according to how you feel and the conditions. Stretch fleece jacket, half or full-zip options all work well, an example is Arc’teryx Kyanite LT hoody available in both men’s & women’s.
- Base Layers – this should include your underwear (pants!) and base layer top and legs. Wearing natural fibres like merino wool next to your skin is good for comfort, breathability, and warmth; not to mention they smell a lot less than synthetic fibers. Merino or a similar wool base layer for your top and legs is ideal, Smartwool, Icebreaker and other brands all make suitable products.
- Hat / Balaclava – You should bring a warm hat for cold conditions and if you have a balaclava, bring it. Neck gaiters / ‘buffs’ can be useful. You will need a sun hat or cap for warm summer conditions to keep the sun off your head / face, this can sometimes be worn under your climbing helmet.
- Gloves – Ideally a liner pair, a thinner pair for dexterity holding an ice axe, with a grippy leather palm and fingers and a pair of thicker, warmer, insulated gloves. Examples here.
- Socks – It is best to only wear 1 pair of socks inside your boots, a medium thickness pair, possibly in wool is a good choice.
- Gaiters – These will help to keep snow out of your boots and your feet warm and dry as well as your laces away from your crampons, ideally, they should be breathable. Examples can be found HERE. Boots with built in gaiters also work well and generally mean that you don’t need an additional pair.
- Head Torch – With new batteries. Petzl Swift RL as an example. Necessary for pre-dawn starts and moving around in the mountain hut at night.
- Walking Poles – you may wish to bring 1 or a pair of walking poles for walks in & out. Lightweight, foldable poles are ideal; example Black Diamond Distance Z poles.
- Sun Glasses & Goggles – Good quality dark sunglasses that form a good seal with your face and fit securely. Category 3 or 4 for use in strong sunlight with reflection from the snow. Goggles are also useful incase of windy / snowy weather. If you have ski goggles, bring them. If not you can wait and see what the forecast is and buy goggles in Chamonix.
- Sun Cream & Lip Protection – Bring both and use liberally every day regardless of the weather. At least factor 30 and factor 50 preferable. Small bottles are ideal to save weight.
- Water Bottle – A tough 1L ‘Nalgene’ style water bottle is ideal and can be supplemented with another bottle of sports drink etc. for the summit days. Hot sweet tea is sometimes available in the huts and a good way of keeping your drink warm for longer.
- Snacks / Hill food – Bring your favorite snacks for the hill, flapjacks, cereal bars, dried fruit, cake, chocolate, energy bars etc. Things can be bought in Chamonix before departure and in the mountain huts which also provide lunch.
- Personal Medical Items – Blister kit, plasters, painkillers, glasses / contact lenses as necessary
- Personal Admin Items – Mobile Phone, Cash, Passport if necessary, Insurance details – see our Insurance FAQ
Extra Kit For The Mountain Huts
- Very thin / light sheet sleeping bag / liner is required in huts (compulsory for hygiene reasons). This is a very small / light item and not a normal sleeping back (which is not required). Examples can be found on the Needlesports website here and similar or cheaper / heavier ones are also available in shops in Chamonix
- Spare socks
- Ear Plugs
- Hut discount card / Alpine club membership (e.g. BMC / Alpine Club / Austrian Alpine Club etc)
- Additional mountaineering hardware including 2 prussiks, belay plate, 8ft sling, Ice screw, 1 screw gate and 3 snap-link karabiners
- Goggles (generally only used on Mont Blanc)
- Trekking poles
Equipment Provided by your Mountain Guide (but carried by the group as a whole)
- Climbing hardware / protection
- First aid kit
- Group emergency shelter
- Map & compass
- Topo / Guide book
For More Technical Climbs
- For alpine rock climbs only – rock boots / chalk bag
- For ice & mixed climbs – 2 x technical ice tools
Pack Weight and Packing Tips
If you have packed all these items and nothing else, and have modern lightweight gear, your pack should weigh around 5-7kg. Less is fine, if you have everything. If it weighs more than this you may be carrying more gear than is required which is energy sapping and reduces performance both physically and technically.
Early summer can be a cold time in the high mountains and likewise autumn often arrives in September, thus at these fringes of the season or during unusually cold & snowy periods extra gear and warmer boots may be required.
If you have packed things that are not on this list, check with your Guide that you actually need them because excess baggage really slows you down, tires you out and can spoil your enjoyment of being in the mountains. Common items taken in to the mountains but not required are overly large wash bags, deodorant, books, headphones etc. Keep it light, neat and simple…and remember these 2 things….
- Light + Light = Heavy!
- The Only Thing That ‘Weighs Nothing’…Is Nothing!
- Pack the items in your sack according to how frequently you use them. Snacks, sun cream & hat, light gloves, water bottle all packed in top pockets or at the top of your pack followed by things like your crampons, jacket, warm hat etc. The bottom of your sack is reserved for things like duvet jacket, warm gloves and goggles. Think about using your pockets if you can for handy items like your camera and lip barrier cream so you don’t even need to stop to get them out.
- Develop a system for where items are stored in your rucksack and stick to it.
- Take some time adjusting the straps on your rucksack so the main weight of the pack sits on your hips and the shoulder straps keep it in place.
Buying New Kit?
If you plan to make some new kit purchases for this course then we recommend a few places to look online that not only provide a good range of clothing and equipment but also some excellent advice on suitable products for your chosen sport. They are:
Needle Sports – An independent climbing gear shop that supplies mountaineering, rock, ice, alpine & expedition climbing equipment. They have a shop in Keswick in the Lake District.
Facewest – with 20 years of providing an excellent online retail experience and plenty of knowledge and enthusiasm, they stock a wide range of products for climbing, skiing, running, and hiking.
Sport Pursuit – is an online retailer, mainly of clothing who sells, at highly discount prices, end of lines, and unsold stock from shops and brands. If you look carefully through their website you can find some excellent clothing items at a really great price.