What is the right kit and amount of kit to take up Mont Blanc? That’s a good question. You find when people travel, they take way more than they need, just in case. Well outdoor activities and expeditions can be the same, over pack and you have to carry that heavy weight, under pack, and you may go hungry or get cold. Sometimes it really does take a few good challenges to nail down what you REALLY need, what you can survive within that situation.
For climbing a mountain such as Mont Blanc, there are some specific essentials:
Harness – everyone needs a harness so teams can rope up together for safety when on the higher part of the mountain. Also if you have a problem and the rescue services have to pull you out, this is a tremendous aid for them retrieving your unlucky arse.
Crampons – Another must, once you hit the snow line, the ground becomes packed snow and ice making going under foot slippy. Slippy and knife edge ridges do not mix will so this will help as you make ever step to stay stable. CON, if you don’t walk like John Wayne, your crampon can sometimes catch your leg which once it happens once or twice, you will walk like your chewing a carrot with your butt cheeks.
Ice Axe – Yes please, like the Crampons, this is to aid you in walking/climbing in snow and ice. Sometimes just that extra anchor point is all you need and YES, in an extreme situation, and you start sliding down some 2000 m ridge, like a scene from Touching the Void, you can try and slow yourself down by whacking the axe into the ice. That’s f you have not shat yourself and passed out by this stage.
Helmet – Speaks for its self, rockfall is common on the approach to the snow line and rocks, ice and snow falling from climbing teams above you also happens.
Rope – For our team, we will have three ropes, a 50 m rope with the three man team and 2 x 30 m ropes for the two pairs. Being roped up helps in a situation where one of the team slips and starts to fall, the other member if acting quickly enough, can try to take his weight or try to counter weight his fall with moving back on the other edge to stop his fall, scary stuff.
Boots – The right boots is a must, getting blisters early on in any activity is a real pain in the backside. Your mind will focus on that pain and take away your focus from all the other things. Also having good ankle support is good for crossing the variety of terrains. A twisted ankle can be a game changer if not game over for completing the climb.
Warm Gear – This is where you have to remember, you are not going to Benidorm on holiday and need various outfits just in case. Having a good Punjab odour to you after three days of hard climbing is not a bad thing, you won’t attract the right ladies, but you will feel like you have worked.
A good thermal top, light weight puffer jacket or fleece and a wind/waterproof shell should be good. Lightweight trousers with maybe a thin under layer leggings, decent gloves and comfortable socks ( maybe one spare pair of socks ) I may take a change of underwear for those scary moments.
Trekking Poles – Not everyone likes to use trekking poles, some see them as a hikers zimmer frame and think it makes them look old, others do not like having things in their hands while hiking. I have gotten used to using them; it helps take the weight off the knees when going down and use your upper body to assist the legs on the way up and I am 46.
BackPack – Comfortable is the key word here, the last thing you want is the straps rubbing your shoulders and waste. Size comes down to your own personal packing skills, think about the food and water you have to fit in as well.
Food – Its a tough one, we all eat differently but we know for an activity like Mt Blanc, we need to keep pumping in some calories. Keep it small but packed with the right energy is the key, power bars, nuts and small snacks will keep you going. We will be stopping at two huts, so we are not going into a survival situation on this one.
Water – Also a hard one, people consume water at different rates and need more than others. I think specifically for this challenge and knowing we are passing two safety huts, we can top up on route. The key with water is not to let yourself get dehydrated, take small sits on regular bases will just help keep the wolves at bay.
Phone/Camera – Let’s face it, we are not just doing it for the challenge, we are doing it for that great photo with friends on the mountain. Oh and our sponsors lol. Also, having the phone can help in an emergency situation to call for the air taxi.
Mountain Insurance – Could be one of the most important cards in your wallet. For 49 euro a year, this amazing deal will pull you out of most outdoor activities in the world and save you coffing up 15+ grand.
Shades – Not just to look cool but it is friggin bright on the mountain with the pure white snow glaring you down.
Sun cream – We all like a good golden tan, but it can really leave a sting of you don’t block up; you are closer to the sun.
Sense of Humour – Might be one of the last on the list but it ranks up at the top. It’s going to be hard, it’s going to hurt, but if you can not laugh through those pains the climb will be much harder, and the guys banter much more brutal.
Beer tokens – Once again, might be down on the bottom here but a nice cold beer will take the edge of any situation.