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HIGH ALPINE TOURING EQUIPMENT Ausrüstung für Hochtouren Ausrüstung für Hochtouren

BASIC EQUIPMENT FROM HEAD TO FOOT

Planning and preparing a high alpine tour is time-consuming and more complex than the average alpine tour as far as equipment is concerned. On mixed terrain with snow, ice and rock, your boots must be crampon-compatible, your sunglasses suitable for use on a glacier, and you should be equipped with a harness, rope, slings and carabiners for your rope team. Here we will look at the equipment needed for high alpine touring.

The equipment you need will obviously depend upon a range of factors, including the time of year, the length of the tour and the level of difficulty. That said, certain items are essential on all high alpine tours.

High alpine touring equipment: Hard goods
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HELMET
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Helmet
HARNESS
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Harness
CRAMPONS
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Crampons
ROPE
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Rope
ICE AXE
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Ice axe
CARABINER
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Carabiner
Slings
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Slings
Accessory cords
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Accessory cords
ICE SCREWS
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Ice screws
MICRO TRAXION & TIBLOC ROPE CLAMPS
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Micro Traxion & Tbloc rop clamps
Helmet

HELMET

A helmet should be worn at all times on rough, icy and rocky terrain. It offers protection from rockfall, from impact and from injury through a crevasse fall. Hardshell helmets have a hard, robust plastic outer with a shock-absorbing strap suspension system inside. Foam shell and in-mold helmets are much lighter thanks to their expanded polystyrene core and relatively soft outer surface. Hybrid shell helmets, in which the foam is encased by a hard shell, combine elements of both and are also relatively light.

Harness

HARNESS

There are harnesses specially adapted for high alpine touring. The lightweight models have a very small pack size and are easy to put on and take off – even when wearing crampons or ski boots. And the straps and buckles can be fastened while wearing gloves. The minimalist design reduces weight – a key factor on long, energy-sapping tours at altitude, particularly on multi-day trips. But for those embarking on their first high alpine tour, a separate harness may seem an unnecessary expense – a conventional climbing harness will also suffice.

crampons

CRAMPONS

Crampons are categorized by the number of points, their form, the material used and the type of binding. For normal glacier tours, models with ten points are adequate. Lightweight aluminum versions are recommended only in winter for use on firn. But on steeper mixed terrain, crampons with twelve steel points should be used, if necessary with forward-angled secondary points.
Crampons are attached using a lever binding or toe-bail and strap-on binding. The latter is suitable for a broader range of boots, but does not fit as tightly as the lever-type models. Lever bindings are also available with toe bars or toe bails at the front. The version with a toe bar works rather like a ski binding and thus only with 100% crampon-compatible, rigid, category D boots. As a general rule: Ensure your crampons and boots are compatible, particularly if you are intending to take skis on your tour, in which case your crampons will also have to fit your ski boots.

 

Seil

Rope

Various rope lengths will be required, depending upon the size of the rope team. For three or four-man rope teams, a rope length of 50 meters will suffice. Shorter ropes are used only in exceptional cases, when precise requirements are known.
Thin single ropes or half ropes are suitable as glacier ropes. The impact force and fall factor focus upon crevasse falls and rescues.
Impregnation is an important factor for glacier ropes – both the core and sheath. It prevents dirt and moisture from penetrating. Thus, the rope will stay light and pliable.

 

Eispickel

ICE AXE

A standard Category B ice axe will suffice for standard glacier tours. An ice axe provides support and grip when crossing glaciers and firn. Ice axes are also used to cut steps, self-arrest and for crevasse rescues (t-slot anchor). Category B ice axes are less suitable for steeper terrain on account of their geometry and head shape. For high alpine tours with steep ice sections it is advisable to use a combi or hybrid ice axe with a shorter, angled shaft. For ice climbs, the extreme variant is used: A technical ice tool with an ultra-curved shaft and pick.
The length of the ice axe depends upon your height. When you hold the head of the ice axe and let your arm drop, it should reach about ankle height or just above the ground.

 

Carabiner

Carabiner

Various types of carabiner are also essential for a high alpine tour:

  • 1 x locksafe carabiner: This carabiner has a high level of safety thanks to its double locking mechanism. For this reason, it is used to clip the roping-up knot to the harness.
  • 3 x HMS screwgate carabiners: A traditional HMS carabiner has a large opening and takes its name from the abbreviation of the German term for the Munter hitch (Halbmastwurfsicherung) with which it is used. HMS screwgate carabiners are locked with a screw thread and have a medium level of locking safety.
  • 2 x snap carabiners: As with HMS and screwgate carabiners, snap carabiners have to comply with a specific standard in terms of their minimum holding force. Snap carabiners have no locking mechanism and are used as protection points or for setting up a Garda hitch.
Slings

Slings

2 x 120cm slings: Slings are key items of equipment on high alpine tours, used in crevasse rescues and for protection in alpine terrain. Their uses can include setting up t-slot anchors and protection points (rock slings, anchor points) as well as personal anchoring. Basically there are webbing slings and endless round slings. Slings are made from polyamide/nylon (stretchable, slightly wider and longer-lasting) and polyethylene/Dyneema (higher tensile strength, less stretch, very lightweight but poorer knotability). Stitched round slings made from Dyneema and aramid/Kevlar (thin, low stretch and high failure load).

Accessory cords

Accessory cords

Accessory cords 5–6mm diameter (1 x 1m, 1 x 2m, 1x 4m), are used to set up pulleys and for self-rescue from a crevasse. On high alpine tours, accessory cords are used mainly to create Prusik friction knots. Accessory cords used for this purpose are generally made of polyamide. Accessory cords made of Dyneema (poorer knotability on account of its smooth surface) or Kevlar (often used in combination with polyamide) are used to pass through threaded anchors. They have more than twice the tensile strength of polyamide and are less vulnerable to sharp edges. Note: A knot reduces cord strength by as much as 50 percent.

Eispickel

ICE AXE

A standard Category B ice axe will suffice for standard glacier tours. An ice axe provides support and grip when crossing glaciers and firn. Ice axes are also used to cut steps, self-arrest and for crevasse rescues (t-slot anchor). Category B ice axes are less suitable for steeper terrain on account of their geometry and head shape. For high alpine tours with steep ice sections it is advisable to use a combi or hybrid ice axe with a shorter, angled shaft. For ice climbs, the extreme variant is used: A technical ice tool with an ultra-curved shaft and pick.
The length of the ice axe depends upon your height. When you hold the head of the ice axe and let your arm drop, it should reach about ankle height or just above the ground.

 

MICRO TRAXION & TIBLOC ROPE CLAMPS

MICRO TRAXION & TIBLOC ROPE CLAMPS

Rope clamps are small, light and extremely useful in an emergency – e.g. to set up a pulley or for self-rescue if you’ve fallen into a crevasse. For example, Petzl’s Tibloc weighs just 35g and automatically presses the carabiner against the rope so that the pulley grips directly. The Micro Traxion – also from Petzl – can be used as a simple pulley, but also comes with a reverse lock and at just 85g in weight has an efficiency rating of 91%.

The rule of thumb for any tour in the mountains: As little as possible, as much as necessary. The more thought you give to packing, the less you will have to carry and the safer and warmer you will be in the mountains.

Equipment: SOFT GOODS AND CLOTHING FOR HIGH ALPINE TOURS
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Boots
Merino shirts
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Merino shirts
Insulating jacket
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Insulating jacket
Touring pants
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Touring pants
Touring jacket
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Touring jacket
gloves
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Gloves
Beanie/headband
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Beanie/headband
Boots

BOOTS

High alpine touring boots are waterproof, have a higher ankle and a grippy, rigid treaded sole. Before buying, you should know the type of crampons and kind of terrain you intend to walk on. For crampons with a strap-on binding you will need crampon-compatible boots. If the crampon has a lever-type binding, your crampon-compatible boots must have rigid soles. The steeper and icier the terrain, the more rigid your boots and crampons should be. If you are going onto rocky terrain, you should ensure your boots have a “climbing zone” to allow for small, precise footholds on rock.

Merino shirts

As with merino underwear, merino shirts also offer the beneficial qualities of this natural fiber. Merino wool is odor neutralizing, warms even when wet and has climate-regulating properties. Merino shirts are available in various thicknesses for you to select according to how sweat-inducing your climbs are and what your personal perception of warmth is. You should bring a spare shirt to change into at the top of the mountain.

Insulating jacket (fleece, SWISSWOOL)

Insulating SWISSWOOL and/or merino jackets are ideal because of their climate-regulating properties on sweat-inducing ascents. Thanks to their excellent heat retention, they also ensure adequate comfort on summits and descents. An insulating jacket is worn under the third layer, and could be either a softshell or hardshell, depending upon conditions.

Touring pants

Touring pants (hardshell/ softshell according to conditions)

Touring pants come in hardshell and softshell materials. The conditions determine which type you wear. Softshell pants are suitable for day tours in dry weather. They are highly breathable – so wind and cold are kept at bay, whilst moisture on the inside is wicked away to the surface. However, the material is less windproof and waterproof than that of three-layer hardshell pants. These are used on day tours or multi-day tours in unstable, very cold weather, when changeable conditions are expected. Combined with long merino underwear, cold temperatures can be kept at bay. Ensure you buy pants with integrated gaiters. These create a tight cuff around the ankle and prevent snow and rain from running down into your boots. Gaiters also reduce the chance of snagging a crampon on the leg of your pants.

Touring jacket

Touring jacket (hardshell/ softshell according to conditions)

A high-performance jacket is essential in the mountains. It will protect you from the elements, provide warmth and ensure maximum comfort thanks to excellent climate management. As with touring pants, the jackets are available as hardshell and softshell versions. Although use is weather-dependent, you should always carry a hardshell jacket with a small pack size in your backpack. In shady sections, on a windy summit or if the weather changes suddenly, you’ll be glad to have something windproof and waterproof as an insulating third layer. However, a softshell jacket is ideal for climbing on account of its high breathability.

gloves

Hands are particularly sensitive to the cold, so reliable protection is essential. You should take two pairs of gloves with you: A lightweight pair for ascending, and a warm pair to put on at the summit and for the descent. This way you also have a spare pair should you lose a glove.

Beanie/headband

Beanie/headband

A beanie or headband should be among your basic equipment. A headband is useful for the ascent, as it covers only sensitive areas such as the forehead and temples, while allowing adequate temperature regulation at the top of your head. A headband will also fit under a helmet. If you don’t have a helmet with you, you might need a beanie at the summit or for the descent, as it will keep you warmer than a headband would.

Additional fluids, a pair of glacier sunglasses, special maps: The demands of a high alpine tour are different to those of the average alpine tour – not least in terms of additional, emergency equipment required.

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BACKPACK
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Backpack
FIRST AID KIT
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First aid kit
Bivy bag
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Bivy bag
cell phone
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Cell phone
Topographic maps
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Topographic maps
Compass/altimeter
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Compass/altimeter
GPS device
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GPS device
Water bottle
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Water bottle
Food
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Food
Headlamp
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Headlamp
Sunblock/sunglasses
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Sun protection
backpack

BACKPACK

Even for multi-day tours, a full backpack should not weigh more than 9 kilos. A small backpack forces you to pack with discipline! The ideal packing volume for a high alpine touring backpack should be between 30 and 45 liters. It should have the following features:
•    A stable and ergonomic carrying system in your optimum size (short, normal)
•    Bright or fluorescent colors for safety
•    Circumferential zipper to make (un-)packing easier
•    Provision for a drink bladder, ice axe, a crampon fastener and rope attachment

 

first aid kit

FIRST AID KIT

Crevasse falls, falling rocks, slips and stumbles: High alpine touring involves risk of injury. Therefore, you should always carry a first aid kit in your backpack. First aid kits are available in various designs: Waterproof, extra compact, basic models and kits for professionals. The best option for a high alpine tour is a waterproof kit with a small pack size.

Bivy bag

Bivy bag

A bivy bag is a windproof and generally waterproof sack used for spending nights in the open. A bivy bag is a piece of emergency equipment that will help protect you from hypothermia in an emergency.

mobile phone

Fully charged cell phone and charger (for emergency calls)

This is mandatory, as it is the only way you can make an emergency call. Ensure your cell phone is fully charged. Switch the cell phone to flight mode to save battery.

Topographic maps

Topographic maps

High alpine tour maps are particularly important because they show crevasse zones, gradients and routes. They’re used for orientation and to identify danger zones. But beware! Glaciers are constantly moving and crevasse zones can shift and expand. You still have to keep a constant eye on the glacier itself.

Tour descriptions

Tour descriptions can be found in tour guide books or on internet tour portals. They provide information on key tour data (altitude, length, crux, route).

Compass

Compass/altimeter

Although most people today are familiar with using GPS to get around, navigation on the mountain is an essential skill. Should a device stop working, you need to know how to use other methods to find your way. A compass and altimeter are essential tools.

GPS device

GPS device

A GPS device or GPS-capable cell phone can help with navigation and route finding. Route information for popular tours can generally be found online and downloaded to a GPS device or directly to a cell phone app. Important: Check your battery before setting off! You should also save the route offline in case there is no mobile internet.

Water bottle or hydration system

Water bottle or hydration system

On demanding high alpine tours your body needs more fluids. So always carry enough water in a bottle or hydration system.

Food

Ensure that you manage your energy intake. There is nothing worse on a long and exhausting tour than running out of energy and discovering you have no more food. This will have a serious impact on your state of mind and can result in a lack of normal physiological functioning. So always pack energy bars and a snack/sandwich.

Headlamp

Headlamp

You should always carry a headlamp in your backpack. A tour can easily take longer than planned. In this case, a headlamp will help you find your way back to the cabin or car safely. Don’t forget to check the batteries before you set off.

sunglasses

Sunblock/sunglasses

High alpine touring is done at altitudes above 2000 meters. The sun’s radiation is much more intense at this altitude, and glaciers reflect sunlight. Without glacier glasses you may become snow-blind. Sunglasses should have at least Category 3 UV protection and be sufficiently dark. They should also be closed at the sides to keep out the sun. You should also take a peaked cap with you as well as sun cream with an ultraviolet protection factor of 50+.

Find the right products for your high alpine tour.

Be prepared!

Westalpen 3L Light Jacket W

Westalpen 3L Light Jacket W

High Alpine
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Westalpen 3L Light Jacket M

Westalpen 3L Light Jacket M

High Alpine
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Westalpen 3L Light Pants M

Westalpen 3L Light Pants M

High Alpine
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Westalpen Swisswool Hybrid Jacket W

Westalpen Swisswool Hybrid Jacket W

High Alpine
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Westalpen Softshell Jacket M

Westalpen Softshell Jacket M

High Alpine
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