Safety Kit " ©
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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.
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
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.
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.