Summer Alpine gear

Some readers may be curious about the gear I have been using on my recent adventures in the Alps, where most people carry a lot more and move a lot slower. Since the North Cascades are called the “American Alps,” it is no surprise that I carry Cascades gear, but warmer: a fleece hoodie instead of a wool long-sleeved shirt, a wind shell with a hood instead of one without, heavier socks, and mitts as well as gloves. In more detail, here is what I have used so far.

For my feet, I wear medium-weight wool socks and knobby trail runners. I am currently destroying some Salomon Speedcross 4’s, but La Sportiva Mutants, New Balance Vazee Summits, or Adidas Terrex Trailmakers would also work. I also bring a couple of plastic bread-bags to put between my socks and shoes if needed. This can come in handy when transitioning from a warm, slushy glacier to a cold, windy ridge.

For my torso, I wear a t-shirt (cotton or synthetic — it doesn’t matter), and carry a Mammut fleece hoodie (like a Patagonia R1, but bought on clearance for far less than $200), and a used-to-be-waterproof shell I found on a peak in Nevada. I also carry a $5 poncho if I think it might rain lower down; I cannot climb in it, and it is no good in strong wind, but it is absolutely waterproof, and can serve as a sort of emergency shelter.

For my hands, I bring loose-fitting fleece gloves and mitts. The former do not climb well, but they breathe, and do not constrict my fingers. The latter are much warmer, and waterproof in case I have to spend a lot of time pawing at snow. I have some tighter-fitting, water-resistant gloves I can bring instead of the fleece ones if I need to climb a lot of wet rock and/or snow.

For snow and ice travel, I carry an alpine tool (most recently, the Petzl Sum’Tec I found) and Kahtoola K-10 crampons. This setup is best on low-angle ice and most snow, but can be pushed to handle hard snow and even a bit of ice up to 45 degrees or so. This takes practice, though — if I think I will be doing a lot of steep snow and ice, I will still bring heavy boots.

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