I have just returned from my second visit to the Norwegian ice climbing venue in Rjukan. Equipment on such trips is of course massively important and it all needs to cope with a variety of cold, wintery, icy conditions – uphill walk-ins, belaying, abseiling and of course the ice climbing itself. So here is my list of my preferred clothing for ice climbing in Rjukan
I needed a system that would keep me warm, be flexible enough to climb in and be breathable enough to cope with active use without overheating. The climbing varied from single pitch up to five pitch rotes with abseil descents. Temperatures were down to approximately -10 and the winds were fairly light. The list below is what I wore everyday.
The Aeon Long Sleeve Tee
I have used these Aeon Long Sleeve Tee’s all over the world in a vast array of different conditions, from the jungles of Borneo, the deserts of Utah and Scottish winter climbing. They are nice and silky next to the skin, wick well and dry very, very quickly. In Norway I wore the Aeon Long Sleeve Tee next to the skin under the PS Bib.
The PS (Power Stretch) Bib
I have always liked the idea of bibs or salopettes as a insulated layer for winter climbing. They stay up,they are warmer, adding some extra insulation to the body and they provide protection where normally there is a clothing gap at the waist. I have been using Polartec Power Stretch as leg-ware in winter for years but these are the first Power Stretch salopettes I have owned. They are tight fitting and very stretchy. Excellent under Gore-tex, eVent or NeoShell.
The Rab Baseline Hoodie
I used this as a mid layer over the Aeon Tee and the PS Bibs. This thin gridded fleece is cut long in the body and sleeves, has a high neck and a great hood that fits under a helmet. The cuffs have thumb loops and a chest pocket for stashing phone or camera and a Clif Bar or two.
The Baltoro Guide Pro
Soft shell is an overused term for just about anything that is vaguely windproof and isn’t a traditional waterproof jacket made from Gore-tex or eVent (often called hard shell). However the two Rab jackets, the Baltoro Alpine and the jacket I used, the Baltoro Guide Pro fit my definition of soft shell. Stretchy, breathable, fairly windproof and usable as an outer layer in non rainy conditions. The Baltoro Guide Pro has grid pattern pile lining and a helmet compatible hood. I used this exclusively as my outer layer, just adding a belay jacket for extra warmth when static.
The Stretch Neo Pant
I have been using the Stretch Neo Jacket since Rab introduced it in 2011. The fabric is stretchy and very breathable and I reckoned a pair of over trousers in the same fabric on top of Polartec Power Stretch would be an almost perfect winter leg-ware combination. These pants have the essential 3/4 side zips, belts loops and unusually zipped pockets. They are the best over trousers I have ever used and will be using these most days in Scotland this winter.
The Photon Belay Jacket
A synthetically insulated belay jacket is fairly essential on these type of ice climbing trips. Used as the name suggests this insulated belay jacket provides extra warmth while static. Just chuck it on over everything. A lighter weight belay jacket alternative would be a Rab Generator Alpine Jacket or a Rab Photon Jacket.
The Latok Glove
I have had these gloves for over a year and have used them for Scottish winter climbing and on the summit of the 4,095m Mount Kinabalu in Borneo. I have been fairly indifferent about them, generally preferring a leather palmed glove. However In Norway I used these throughout a five pitch ice climb and on the abseil descent. They kept my hands dry, warm and gripped my leash-less ice axes extremely well.
Thin soft shell and leather palmed gloves. They aren’t as warm as some other gloves but very dexterous and great for using with leash less ice tools on single pitch routes. If using on longer routes I would carry a warmer pair for using while belaying.
I initially carried a Rab Xenon Jacket as a possible extra insulation layer and a Rab Stretch Neo Jacket for more extreme conditions, but these proved unessessary, so later in the week I confidently left these behind. I also had a pair of Rab Baltoro gloves as spares. The same kit would work well in Scottish winter but would definitely require the addition of a hard shell waterproof jacket to cope with the harsher weather on Scotlands mountains.
Find out more about Alex at http://alexekins.co.uk/