Do you enjoy hiking uphill for a really long time? Have you thought about mountaineering, but are unsure where to start? Just outside of Bellingham, in the North Cascades, we have access to some of the best mountaineering in the lower 48. Stark and dramatic, rock and ice environs are a perfect place to enjoy being alive. Here are some tips for the basic hardware: axe, crampon, and harness.
Ice axes are work horses and while weight is always important in mountaineering, these tools are designed to be abused. A proper length axe when held in hand, standing upright, with your arms relaxed at your side, should hang down to the top of the ankle. I also recommend finding an axe head with flat “T-shaped” stock between the pick and adze, like the SMC Kobah ($99), as that is more comfortable on the palm.
Crampons have variations in frame orientations, number of points, materials, and attachment style depending upon your boots. The most basic crampons are steel or aluminum, 10 points, horizontal frame and front-points, with a universal strap-on design, like the Camp Stalker ($109). If you think you’ll do a lot of mountaineering or want to climb steeper routes where a second ice tool comes into play, than a 12-point crampon, such as the Black Diamond Serac ($169), will be better. If you have questions about compatibility between boots and crampons,
bring your boots with you.
Harnesses for basic mountaineering should be lightweight with adjustable leg loops to allow for various clothing layers. A rock harness will do if you already have it, but will weigh twice as much as something like the Black Diamond Couloir ($64).
Chris Gerston owns Backcountry Essentials, an outdoor specialty shop located at 214 W. Holly in Bellingham, WA.