Thursday, October 6, 2016

Ski Mountaineering Gear List, 2016-2017 Season

Ski mountaineering is basically anything that isn't simple "backcountry skiing". And backcountry skiing is skinning up and skiing back down, to your car. Navigate a glacier, camp out, rappel a chockstone, protect a pitch of rock or ice climbing, and your endeavor enters the realm of ski mountaineering. The racer types talk about "ski mo". That's short for "ski mountaineering", but the lycra-clad, groomer-ascending typical races don't really seem all that similar to any sort of mountaineering I know of. It occurred to me recently that "ski mo" could also be short for "ski more". Which makes a ton of sense, and fits into the above catch-all. Going for distance or time isn't your typical backcountry skiing event. As such, it fits here. In the end, this is the page where I list the specialized ski gear I might carry for specialized missions. Whether it's a speed lap on Taylor Mountain, or a sea to summit burn on Mount Saint Elias, the list below will cover it. No joke.

I've gotten in the habit of updating this every year. This is the latest, as of October 2016.

Ski mo, don't ski less. Dropping into 11,000 vertical feet of powder on Alaska's Mount Sanford. Interestingly, the gear I used there has more in common with that used on a speedy roadside mission than it does with a typical day of "normal" backcountry skiing. 

Ski Gear.  Keep it small, light and simple.  Use skill to negotiate funky snow and terrain:
  • Dynafit TLT 6P boots
  • Dynafit PDG skis (or something a little bigger. From the OutdoorGearLab test roster)
  • Contour mohair race skins 
  • Dynafit race bindings 
  • Fixed length poles. Equipped with a sweet "Pole Clinometer" 
Clothes.  Most carry and wear too much.  Keep it simple, move fast, carry an awesome puffy jacket or two. I get very cold. Colder than most. And this clothing kit is all I need to 18,000 feet in Alaska. No joke. 
  • Darn Tough Socks
  • Crazy Idea Century pants
  • Syn boxers.
  • Syn/wool t-shirt. 
  • Light fleece hoody. Like Patagonia's R1. 
  • Camp Neutrino Hoody
  • Camp Magic Jacket. Or hardshell jacket for wetter endeavors.
  • Camp Magic Pants. Or beefy hardshell bibs for coastal AK missions. 
  • Feathered Friends Eos Hooded jacket. Or the Volant jacket for the high and wild. 
  • Camp G Comp Warm Gloves. Plus Camp Hot Mitt'ns for colder trips.
  • Warm hat
  • Buff
  • Sun hat
  • Kaenon Burnet Sunglasses

Safety Gear, etc:
  • Backcountry Access Tracker 3 Transceiver, BCA B1 shovel, BCA Carbon Probe.
  • Communication
    • Almost always have a set of BC Link Radios for comms within the group. 
    • And then, in terms of talking to the outside world, sometimes as simple as a cell phone,  occasionally (mainly in Canada) a 2-meter, 2-way radio, and most often my Iridium GO Smartphone modem.  Adventure is awesome, thriftiness is noble, but failure to consider communication with the outside world is ridiculous.
  • Navigation- 80% of the time the phone, preloaded with maps and apps, is enough.  Carry a "back-up" paper map and analog compass.  In big, new-to-me, complicated terrain where visibility is likely to shut down, I'll bring the full kit:  Dedicated GPS (Suunto Ambit 2), large-scale waterproofed paper map ( is brilliant), compass, altimeter, clinometer.  
  • Emergency Shelter- Very occasionally it is as simple as the mylar (space blanket style) bivy bag that lives in my omnipresent First Aid/Emergency kit.  Usually though, I bring the 8.5'x8.5' 9 oz Hyperlight Mountain Gear Cuben Tarp.  
  • Emergency Evacuation- Sometimes it's as simple as the bivy or tarp.  Drag someone on that.  In many cases, I'll carry the Brooks Range Eskimo Sled.  I also have a little bag of bolts and drill bits that can be used to bolt skis, shovel, and ski poles together into a sort of sled. If you are not already packing a rope, carry a chunk of cord for dragging a packaged casualty.
  • First/emergency aid kit.
  • Ski repair kit.  (it should be around a pound for groups.  Less is probably inadequate.  More is silly.  Let me know if you want more detail on what I carry)
  • Snow Study:  Saw, crystal card, magnifier, ruler, documentation.  Be equipped and trained to make sound decisions for yourself and large column tests for the avalanche center.
  • Food, water. Whatever's clever.  
  • Headlamp
  • Sunscreen, TP, hand sanitizer, lighter. 
  • If I need a rope while skiing it's almost never less than a 30m Petzl Rad rope.  If I need a rope while skiing it's almost never more than a 60m half rope.  
  • Spikes.  As it gets steeper and firmer, add in this order: 
  • Also as needed:
    • Camp Speed 2.0 Helmet
    • CAMP Alp Mountain harness
    • Rack of gear.  If it requires more than 5 of anything (cams, nuts, screws, slings) leave the skis behind.  
  • Glaciers?  Crevasse rescue skills and equipment.  
  • Pack:  Maybe the BCA balloon pack, maybe an alpine pack (Camp M3), maybe the little CAMP Rapid race pack.  
Multi Day Ski Touring
This is what we live for.  Getting way out there, going out of contact.  Seeing what few get to see.  Most of the gear is the same as for day trips.  But you'll add in camping gear.  And eliminate some things.  You won't need emergency shelter if you have a dedicated tent, for instance.  
Living the good life in British Columbia's Coast Range.  April 2013.

  • Shelter.  I pick from three, in increasing weight and weather protection:  Black Diamond Betalight, Black Diamond Firstlight, and Hilleberg Nallo 2.  
  • Feathered Friends Widgeon -10 sleeping bag.
  • Thermarest NeoAir XTherm.
  • MSR Reactor with 2 oz per person per day of fuel
  • Lighter and matches.
  • Bigger Pack.  Hyperlight Mountain Gear 4400 Ice Pack
  • Food.  Just add water for dinner and breakfast.  A mess of bars and energy candy and jerky and cheese for lunches.  It should all add up to about 2 pounds per person per day.  Depending on individual metabolism and work load. You'll need some way to serve and eat this food. Lightest is to just use the first night's freeze dried bag. And a spoon. 
  • Toiletries. Toothpaste and brush, eye care, sunscreen, personal medications.
  • Water bottles.  2 gatorade bottles.  Nothing more, nothing less.  

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