"Key Safety Kit " © Maggie Hile 2002
Click here to return to the Articles & Features Index
>

The lists below show the minimum equipment that should be carried by each member of a group when climbing in the Alps. The different environments show how versatile this equipment list is, and shows the potential uses of several of the items of equipment.

EQUIPMENT FOR ICE, ALPINE & EMERGENCY...
Harness - At all times, when climbing in the Alps, a harness must be worn. There are no exceptions to this rule. In event of an emergency there is no time to put on a harness. By wearing it you are able to protect both yourself and others in your group. Also safety equipment can be attached to it.
Helmet - Always needed to protect head from the falling pieces of ice, or in event of a fall whilst climbing. On routes where there is a low danger of rock-fall or crevasses a helmet is not a necessity. A helmet should be used at all times to protect from falling rock and in case of a climber falling. If you wear a helmet at all times, you will be wearing it when you need it most.
Crampons - On most routes or approaches in the Alps, you will encounter either a snowfield or a glacier. For these areas, crampons will be essential, especially on glaciers after it has rained the night before (as it has a very smooth and slippery surface). Crampons can even be worn whilst rock climbing, and they are very good on small holds and edges.
Ice Axe - For ice climbing you will use two axes, as this will help balance, and is safer as you move one point (crampon or axe at a time). Mountaineering is normally done with one classic shaped ice axe, as this can be used to arrest any falls, and for belays in snow. A lightweight axe is carried on many Alpine rock routes as it is needed for the approach and descent for safety & stability In emergencies, ice axes are used as belay points, and can help place ice screws. Also they arrest falls on snow slopes.
Safety Gear - For full details, see below in "Safety Gear" section, which examines the range and selection of various types of safety equipment. Each member of the group must carry their own safety gear, as there is no knowing when or who will need it, and in the event of a fall, a lot of equipment can be lost (ripped off gear loops, unclipped, or broken)
Rucksack - For ice, mountaineering and rock, the rucksack is just used for carrying gear. It can be buried on a wet glacier to be tied on to, as a protection point for crevasse rescue systems. It also can be used to put your feet into during an emergency bivouac night.
Food & Water - At altitude the air is dry, and when you are exercising, you need to drink a lot to remain hydrated. Also you should eat sugary food for energy.
Spare Clothing to Carry - Gloves / mitts tend to get wet. Spare socks & gloves needed Fleece or duvet for belay points. Keep spares in a plastic bag.
4mm Cord - Can be used for spare: laces, prussic, slings, straps, gear loops, etc.
Headtorch - Headtorches are used for Alpine starts, when it is necessary to get established on a route before dawn. Signalling for emergency help
Survival Bag - A survival bag should be carried at all times, as it can be used both in emergencies, and to sit on, as well as a bag liner or to attract attention.
Personal 1st Aid - At all times on the mountain, you should carry a personal first aid kit for use in case of either an emergency, or simply for blisters / small cuts.

 
 

SAFETY GEAR...
The key phrase that is often repeated on this page is achieving a balance. If you think that carrying all the safety equipment available will make you safe, think again; you will be carrying too much weight, will travel slower, have a greater chance of collapsing snow bridges etc. You must select a suitable collection of safety gear, that is suitable for the type of route that you are attempting. Below is an analysis of the safety kit you should carry at all times, as it has applications on all types of Alpine route, from rock to ice.
Slings x 2 - These are used at all times for belays, and in rescue situations.
Karabiners (Screw Gate) x3 - Screw gate karabiners are specified, as though they are heavier, they will not open under load and can be locked to increase the safety. This is of great importance in the Alps, where there are a lot of edges that a snap gate could accidentally open on. The screw gate also has a greater load capacity which makes it more versatile for all types of Alpine terrain. Three karabiners are recommended; one to go onto the front of your harness at all times (to attach ropes or slings to), one to be used to attach to points of security (e.g. ice screws, pitons etc), and the third to use in emergencies (such as in hoist systems, belaying fallen climbers, or as a spare).
Ice Screw - As a protection device either at a belay point, or as a running belay point on a route. In addition ice screws make holes for the Abalakov belays. On sections of ice, the screw can be used in the same method as ice climbing. Also a safety device for crevasse rescue on dry glaciers. Ice patches are often occur on rock routes in the Alps. Also the ice screw can also be used on a multi-pitch abseil mixed ground descent. Safety device in case of crevasse fall. The fallen climber can use the ice screw to make safe and the climbers on the surface use them for rescue.
Prussics x 2
- These can be used to protect descents or as belay points on Abalakov belay stances. Also a long prussic can be used instead of a sling. The prussics are useful in event of crevasse falls on wet glaciers, or climbing ropes over rimayes. Also they are a safe idea on long or wet abseils. On aid pitches the prussic can be used to ascend the rope, and also they can be used on hard routes if hauling bags up beneath you. In an emergency the prussic loops are the best known and most basic method of you climbing out of a crevasse. They are also spare boot laces.
Knife - On all types of climb, or ground, a situation could arise where a knife is needed, either to avoid an accident (e.g. cutting a length of cord to repair a crampon strap), or in event of an accident (e.g. cutting ropes, or cutting bandages in event of first aid being necessary). The most basic, and everyday use you will get out of your climbing knife is to cut up food.
Mini Ascender (optional) - The main use of this whilst ice climbing is in the event needing a section of sack hauling on a very difficult pitch. On sections of fixed rope the ascenders are easy to use even when wearing a set of thick mitts or gloves. Often ascenders are used on Via Ferrata, or on sections of fixed rope on rock where the group moves together Ascenders help minimise friction in event of hoist systems being used in a rescue, which makes it more efficient.

 
 
Facebook Icicle Icicle Blog Twitter Icicle