For many Canadian climbers, the arrival of winter signals the arrival of the ice climbing season. Unlike rock climbing, where gear and clothing can last several seasons, ice climbing and all its variants are significantly harder on equipment. So rather than go out with last year’s duct-taped clothing and worn down tools, climbers should update their kit with this season’s newest offerings.
Ange L -$12
With its large proportions, light weight, rope-friendly basket and easy to clip gate, the Ange L is an ideal biner for winter climbing. Petzl’s snag-free keylock nose simplifies clipping, while the innovative single-strand wire gate minimizes unexpected gate-open loading.
Couloir Harness – $52
Older climbers might remember the classic Black Diamond Bod harness, a simple webbing rig that was light, comfortable and surprisingly versatile. The new Couloir is based on the Bod but has been updated with thinner and lighter webbing and a belay loop, making it an excellent choice for mountaineering and backcountry skiing. Simple and effective.
Delta Pack – $250
This lightweight and well-made pack is a great choice for winter climbing. Figure Four uses the waterproof and durable Dimension-Polyant fabric for the pack’s body, ensuring many years of hard use. But durability is not enough if the pack carries poorly or restricts the climber’s movements. Thankfully, the Delta Pack suffers from neither of these issues. The unique split-webbing transfers the load to the hips without restricting movement, while the removable HDPE frame sheet and contoured back panel hug the body. For the summit push, climbers can remove the lid and frame sheet for less weight. This is a great, function-driven pack for climbers.
Flask – $20
Celebrate a successful summit with a swig of high-end hooch from this classy flask. Beautifully constructed from stainless steel, the Innate Flask is a valuable partner on almost any climbing adventure. Also useful during less serious pursuits, like sitting around a fire and reminiscing about past conquests.
Fusion Photon -$182 standard 60 m, $198 dry treated 60 m
Sterling blurs the line between twin and half ropes with their new 7.8 mm Fusion Photon. This skinny cord weighs in at only 41 g per metre allowing climbers to easily switch between rope techniques: twin on less technical routes or half rope on more challenging ground.
Half Dome – $62
This season, Black Diamond updates their popular Half Dome helmet with an improved fit and lower weight. The result is a helmet better suited to long days in the mountains or short excursions to the crag. The hybrid hardshell/EPS liner construction offers excellent protection from rock fall while also providing energy absorption during impacts.
Kepler – $380
Thanks to the Kepler’s unique air-permeable Dry.Q Elite material, this softshell jacket is waterproof and highly breathable. Unlike other fabric technologies that require the climber to heat up inside the garment before allowing moisture to escape, the Kepler’s Dry Q Elite material starts breathing the moment it’s put on. It’s this instant venting that makes the Kepler so versatile when moving fast and climbing hard. And while this compelling, it would mean nothing if the jacket lacked essential climbing features. Realizing this, Mountain Hardwear includes waterproof zips, pit zips for extra venting and a helmet-compatible hood.
Lynx – $245
Climbers who enjoy climbing fat pillars, scratching up mixed testpieces and own multiple boots will love the new Lynx crampon. The two interchangeable bindings provide a secure fit on almost any boots while the highly adjustable dual/mono points are configurable for optimal performance on different climbs. To paraphrase Tolkien: the one crampon to rule them all.
Mountain Booties – $42
With their heat-trapping Prima Loft insulation and durable grippy outsoles, the Big Agnes Mountain Booties are smart footwear choice for après climbing or when waiting out extended bad weather at basecamp.
Nepal Evo GTX – $490
This well-made insulated leather boot provides exceptional fit and control during long approaches and technical ice climbs. Sportiva uses a 3.2 mm one-piece silicone impregnated leather upper for exceptional durability without compromising the flex required for walking. For even greater comfort and a more precise fit, the Nepal Evo GTX also features a removable adjustable tongue. This is a solid boot for cold weather adventures.
Potosi Jacket – $400
The North Face
The Potosi jacket from The North Face is a fully seam-sealed and waterproof shell designed to keep climbers dry and comfortable in even the worst winter conditions. Built for climbing, it features a lightweight but durable face fabric and an adjustable helmet-compatible hood. Two alpine pockets provide easy to access storage while an internal chest pocket carries smaller essentials.
Sheild II – $75
At first glance, the Shield II looks like most other lightweight EPS helmets – it’s light, has good venting and offers protection from falling rocks and impacts. What sets the Shield II apart from other helmets, however, is the sophisticated retention system that hugs the head and keeps the helmet correctly positioned regardless of the climber’s movements. The perfect choice for strenuous ice, mixed or rock routes.
Splatz and Blobz – $18
When the conditions are not cooperating, ice and mixed climbers can still get hone their technique indoors with the new Splatz and Blobz holds. Unlike traditional climbing holds that are only good for drytooling, the IceHoldz’s product allows climber to actually swing and plant a tool – just like real ice. And just like in real ice, a climber only needs a small amount of penetration for a solid stick. If the hold wears out (usually after about 12 – 18 months of use), simple return the white surface shell for credit towards a new hold. These things work and are a worthy addition to ice or mixed climber’s indoor training facility.
Stretch Neo jacket – $245
Unlike many hardshells that try to work in a variety of situations, the Stretch Neo Jacket is designed with only one thing in mind – hard climbing. Built with the new, highly breathable, stretchy and air-permeable NeoShell fabric, this jacket delivers hardshell waterproofness and softshell breathability. The result is a jacket that allows moisture to quickly escape regardless of the climber’s activity level – all without compromising protection from the elements. Other features that make this jacket perfect for climbing are two Napoleon pockets that won’t interfere with a harness and a helmet compatible hood. This is a truly functional climbing-specific jacket suitable for any ice or alpine route.
Sum’Tec – $175 52 cm or 59 cm version
The Sum’Tec is Petzl’s modern interpretation of the classic mountaineering axe. As such, it’s more suitable for steeper snow and ice than any traditional mountain axe without completely abandoning the versatility of those older tools. For example, the recurve pick and gently curved shaft provide solid placements on steeper terrain but the smooth shaft still accommodates easy plunging in snow. Other features include an easily replaced pick Trigrest hand rest that can quickly be re-positioned for optimal control.
Trion Nordwand 35 – $300
Built with robust material and fittings, this highly weatherproof pack is a great choice for alpine climbing. Mammut includes all the usual alpine pack features such as ice axe holders, three-point hauling system, full-length access zipper and an efficient suspension system, but also adds a removable internal organizer pocket and pack stays that serve double-duty as a short stick clip and a nut tool. Climbers pushing for the summit can reduce weight by removing the pack’s waistbelt, lid and stays. This is a well made and versatile climbing pack.
Typhon Glove – $150
Utilizing its unique Dry Q Elite membrane, Mountain Hardwear has built a surprisingly breathable and waterproof climbing glove. The reinforced goatskin leather palms provide excellent dexterity and durability while the removable liner can be worn separately in milder conditions.
Warrent Glove -$170
This minimalist, technical climbing glove delivers surprising warmth without comprising the dexterity required on modern M-routes. The waterproof/breathable Gore-Tex insert ensures hands stay dry while the stretchy softshell fabric provides a secure low-bulk fit. For a solid grip on tools and quickdraws, Outdoor Research uses high quality Pittards leather for the palms. This is an excellent glove for mild weather mixed climbing.
X-Dream – $300
With the X-Dream, climbers can change the angle of the shaft, which alters the way the pick swings towards the ice. This allows climbers to adjust the tools for steep hooking or more vertical ice. This construction works well and when it’s combined with the X-Dream’s aggressive pick and relatively low weight, climbers have one set of tools that can perform in a variety of winter climbing conditions.
X-Shot – $100
Mammut’s X-Shot offers climbers seven different beam and brightness options, making this lamp a great choice for almost any climbing situation. While five of these are found in the main lamp, the other two are part of the small red light on the outside of the rear-mounted battery pack. This allows climbers to follow their partner on complicated descents. Finally, Mammut also includes a built-in battery checker, which allows climbers to check, and if necessarry, swap out weak batteries before they leave on a trip.