Photo courtesy of Dave Searle. Ally Swinton high on the Colton/Mac
I get asked all the time, "what do you wear?"
Easy answer generally for all my alpine climbing. Likely little different from Ally's or Dave's (any Dave) outfit. Two layers on the bottom, 3 layers on top. Add and subtract as required.
Here is my list for a typical alpine ice climb in late fall conditions through much of the winter.
singles or more likely doubles
2 pair of liner socks or simple mid weight if the approach is short and my feet tough
long under wear base layer (maybe two pair depending on weight)
uninsulated soft shell pants or salopettes
OR/and insulated soft shells, ltw insulated hard shells or water proof shells as needed
base layer (generally a lwt hoody but may be two base layers stacked on each other if it is really cold)
mid layer (soft shell or Atom Lt or a simple wind shell, all choices temp dependant)
OR/and shell jacket or belay jacket (again size and volume is temp dependant)
all the various hoods
"Buff" style headband
as required by temps and expected moisture on route.
Hardware, harness, 35L or *smaller* pack, tools, crampons and various other bits as required by planned time on route.
I could take any one of a dozen photos from Colin's or Jon's blog or mine and little will change. Nothing really going to change much if you climb fast and in control. . Layers change as the temps, your energy and your speed go up or down.
Until you end up loooking like this!
Yes that is actually 7 layers I've got on trying to keep warm in a Loo bivy mid winter on the Midi. Move fast, dress light to stay dry and hopefully just warm enough. And if everything goes right.....pass every ass you come across and avoid the bivy all together ;)
It is always a horse race. Jon makes some good observations and suggestions here:
Hard shell pants are still very popular in the Alps in winter...because it can be really cold there up high even compared to the Canadian Rockies. You can get high and stay high so easily in the Alps.
Down works in dry climates. In my experience down doesn't work if you have to climb hard in it or you have a moist climate. Much of any one's suggestions for clothing will depend on where they actually do climb and when.
It was pointed out to me recently that the Atom Lt makes a good belay jacket for a early fall ascent on the Grand Wall @ Squamish. "But it is too warm for anything else". Several of us use the Atom Lt as our primary mid layer climbing in winter. Use an Atom Lt as a belay jacket there and you might just die. Different environments and different uses. In our case a down verison of the same garment wouldn't work at all, as the down would eventually get wet from perspiration.
What works for me may not work for you. Pay attention to the details, make your own decisions, trust no one.
I often wonder why I keep repeating this stuff past wanting to put a cool picture to good use. I just took a few minutes to reread a part of Twight's "Extreme Alpinism: Climbing Light, Fast, and High"
Mark covers it all better and in more depth than I ever do here. The specific gear selections might be out dated ten years on but the ideas behind the gear are not. Try Chapter 7 pages 82/103 If you are reading this blog and don't have your own copy of " Extreme Alpinism: Climbing Light, Fast, and High" and use it as a reference your beta is seriously fooked up.