Let’s go scale the heights of the Eastern Sierras!

Mammoth Lakes has some of the world’s best destinations for mountaineering. Whether you’re just starting out or you’re a more seasoned rock-jock, the locale has all sorts of scenic summits and challenging climbs for your upcoming expedition.

Main Considerations For Any Climb

Before we talk about gear, let’s talk about knowing what you’re getting into. There are all sorts of expeditions you can take up at Mammoth Lakes– they can range from backcountry rock climbs in a mountain environment, to full-blown winter adventures involving scaling steep icy slopes and camping in the snow.

So for purposes of preparing for your trip up the Eastern Sierras, the gear you’ll be packing for your mountaineering kit will depend on these main factors:

  • When will you be climbing? Summertime? Winter months?
  • How long do you plan to stay up in the mountains? A couple of hours? A couple of days, perhaps?
  • What kind of goals are you going for this expedition? Are you looking to climb up a certain path? Are you trying to achieve a particular height? Is there a specific peak you’re trying to conquer?
  • What kind of terrain are we looking at? How much snow, rock, or ice will be in your way?
  • How are you traveling to the approach? Will you be hiking? Skiing perhaps? Will you be needing snowshoes?
  • What kind of weather forecast do you have for the next several days?

Your Alpine Pack

On most climbing missions, parties typically spend one to three nights, so the contents of our pack work with this consideration.

  • Your pack should allow you to carry all your overnight equipment and shrink down for you to carry on climbing days that involve technical movement. You’d want to go for something lightweight, durable, and comfortable (even when you’re lugging around all your gear).
  • On summertime single night missions, your alpine packs would likely be a 35L capacity bag, and a 65L bag for a multi-day mission (to carry more food and supplies) or a winter climb.
  • When purchasing a bag for your trip, go for something that can give you the lowest pack-weight possible.
  • Your pack should also let you securely stow ice tools or axes on the outside of the pack, as well as have a readily accessible zippered pocket you can easily reach from the outside.
  • A good pack should be able to be reconfigured into a more streamlined version (via compression straps and removable top lids) to be used while climbing.
  • Your pack will also be used as part of your sleeping system.
  • Consider the straps on your pack– can you easily manage the buckles and zippers even if you have gloves on?

What’s in Your Pack?

Here’s a list of gear you’ll likely be packing along with you on your mountain expedition:

  • A small assortment of nuts and stoppers
  • A single set of camming devices.  Although on winter climbs, you might rely less on cams (these are actually quite heavy, and also don’t provide protection in icy cracks)
  • Lightweight trekking poles. Especially when your approaches involve trails or snow. They’re not very useful though in places where you will be needing your hands more for travel. Try getting the ultralight fiberglass trekking poles that collapse to just a fraction of the extended length!
  • Ice ax with an aluminum shaft and a steel head
  • Water-resistant, wind-proof shell
  • Lightweight alpine harness (Black Diamond Couloir, Mammut Zephir Altitude harness, or similar)
  • Minimal first aid and repair kit: headlamp, tape, lighter, and multi-tool
  • Foam pad for sleeping
  • A lightweight stove (jetboil) and small fuel cans (2 oz per person/day)
  • A water bottle; even a reused Gatorade bottle will do
  • For food: minimal bars, gel, or goo (1-quart ziplock bag OR 2 lbs per person/day)
  • Heat blanket or siltarp type shelter
  • Depending on your climb, you might also be bringing along:
    • Pitons
    • Ice screws
    • Aluminum crampons (if you’ll be using them exclusively on snow)
    • Pickets (For snow protection)

Clothing for Climbing

On your mountaineering trips, you’ll want to choose clothing that will keep you mainly warm and dry, but don’t forget to consider weight as well.

  • Headwear: bring a warm hat or a buff that fits under your helmet and gloves
  • Foam polycarbonate helmet
  • Top: include a base layer, a puffy insulating layer, and a lightweight rain/wind shell.
  • Lower body:  include a long underwear base layer and a pair of softshell pants.
  • Lightweight climbing boots: you will want light but strong, sturdy footwear that climbs rock well and works great with crampons.
  • Other clothing considerations:
    • Bring your rain pants when there’s rain in the forecast
    • Bring gaiters when you’re expecting to do post-holing in deep powder snow.

A Final Word on Packing Your Mountaineering Gear

Remember: there’s a reason why it’s important to prepare and organize gear for your climb. It’s a matter of prioritizing equipment that will be of best use to you while you’re up in the mountains, all while considering weight, durability, comfort, and most importantly, safety.

As Mammoth Lakes is a popular destination for climbing enthusiasts of all types, you’ll find no shortage of mountaineering gear and equipment shops in the locale. They’ll most certainly have all the supplies you need for an awesome trek up the Eastern Sierras.

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