Layer a micro-fiber shelled synthetic insulated belay parka and pants over your entire clothing system. This system will hold-in warmth yet transfer vapor to dry inner layers. It will also have survival potential if you must dive into a bolt hole dug into the snow. The parka should be large enough to cover your legs, drawn up to your chest in a fetal position if you elect to not carry belay pants. The belay pants should have separating zips on the inseam (not the out-seam) to form a half-length bivy bag. To carry your belay system with the fastest access while on-ice, lash your belay parka (and pants) to your packs crampon carrying straps, minus the stuff sack. If your alpine pack has a sewn on crampon pouch, stuff your belay jacket inside here.
Layering a lighweight soft shell such as Wild Things Epic jacket over lightweight, midweight or expedition weight Capilene will provide the same highly breathable / water-repellent results as Marmots very popular DryClime but with more versatility to the temperature.
Through-the-crotch zippers on shell gear and under-layers expose less flesh and have no flapping fabric to hold while relieving ones-self like rainbow zips. A chest-to-tail-bone triple zipper on your shell allows you to remain tied-in while wearing a harness under the shell, allowing you to stay warmer at high-altitude or in arctic conditions.
One-piece suits and bibs that have suspenders can sometimes become baggy from the webbing of the suspenders losening as you climb. Once you get the suspenders properly adjusted, cut off any long tails of webbing and sew 3 inches or so of velcro to the suspenders to keep them snug but with enough length for minor adjustment.
Winter Head Heat: Wear a micro fleece hat for all your normal wintertime climbs. When the mercury says brrrrr, layer a stretchy powerstretch balaclava over the micro hat. This layering system is light, warm and windproof but still breathes the heat off. Carry the balaclava, spare hat or your primary hat in your helmet, between the suspension and shell, so it’s always available on ice.
Warm Hands and Climbing Gloves: The biggest factor for cold hands is death-grip on ice tools. One of the main aiding factors to death-grip and cold hands is a thick glove. The thicker the glove the more you must squeeze to firmly hold onto your ice tool. The more you squeeze the more the blood flow is inhibited, result, colder hands. Use standard fleece or wind-stopper fleece as your do-it-all gloves. When it's time for the wet-steep, throw on waterproof shells over the fleece (leave those super-thick liners at home). A simple and warm glove system with good dexterity for climbing.
Warm Belay Mitts: Pre-load your belay mitts by shoving your mitted hands into the pockets of your belay jacket then remove your hands. Now throw a chemical heat pack into each mitt. Now when at the belay, after throwing on your belay jacket you can slide chilled hands down into warmth, which will put a smile on your face. If you elect to carry belay mitts on your harness, seal the cuffs.
Fleece Gloves Hot Roddin: If you find it hard to pick-up, grab onto or hold items with fleece gloves, dabb small dots of Seamgrip down the fingers and thumb, and in the palm.
Warm Feet: Feet inside plastic double or insulated leather boots suffer the same problem, sweat. Before bouncing down the trail use a liberal amount of foot anti-perspirant. A spray is OK for one-day use but for multi-day trips, powder will not flash freeze your feet. Plain under-arm stick anti-perspirant works the best, I prefer Degre. Plus for those multi-day climbs, your feet smell springtime fresh and it serves double duty, springtime body aroma too! Freshens up just about any body ordor area. Using an aftermarket footbed such as Superfeet will support the feet to defend against the foot lengthening and decreasing the volume of the boots. A single thick sock works the best, no need for a double sock system unless you need to take-up extra room in big boots or climbing at altitude. High Ice Ak prefers low wool content socks, as warm as 100% wool but dries in half the time; overnight compared to several days; the ticket on those alpine bivys.
Un-Tangled Rack: Rack your climbing hardware on a daisy-chain separating like items and sizes. When under your climb, pull one end of the daisy out of your pack and clip to a tree, rock, ice or lay flat. This will provides quick and easy access to your hardware. Once racked, girth hitch the daisy to your harness, loop it over one shoulder from the back (under any slings around your neck) and clip it back to itself. Makes an over-the-shoulder gear sling for items like spare biners and such. Un-clip the daisy from itself, slide it off your neck and use as normal even with gear clipped onto it.
Carrying Items on a Climb: Pull the top lid off your pack and fasten the bivy extension strap buckles to each other. Pull excess webbing to make the smallest loop(s) possible. Put lunch, spare gloves, camera, extra hat, belay jacket or any light item in the top lid pockets and clip one of the buckled loops to the haul loop on the back of your harness. If you wear gaiters over pants, slipping small items down inside your gaiters is another place to carry items up the climb.
Monster Pack Syndrome: Don't over-stuff, stuff sacks so they become rock hard. Use stuff sacks for big bulky items and push soft items in the void space of your pack. Using lots of stuff sacks, large and small to organize your load will quickly add un-needed weight; if you must organize your load this way you are carrying way too much gear. Compression sacks should only be used for sleeping bags and placed in the bottom of your pack. The exception for a compression sack could be belay parka / pants but these items are needed on a regular basis and its best / fastest to stuff them in the top of your pack. Do not waste empty space with any item. Pack spare socks inside booties, soup & hot chocolate packets inside your mug, Gator-Aid packets stuffed between your water bottle and a water bottle parka, use a stove that fits inside your cook pot and use all the space inside the pot. Find and fill all empty space.
Light-Weight Cook Kit: A MSR PocketRocket stove, MSR IsoPro fuel canister, pot gripper, lighter, homemade windscreen out of heavy-duty aluminum foil, spoon, homemade fuel cartridge heater; the whole cook kit, fits inside the MSR 2-Liter Titanium pot.
While the above is arguably the lightest with full heat output, it requires the stove to used on the floor of your tent or the ground in nasty weather. This will take up space but more important, the chance of spilling your water soaking your gear and wasting fuel. The SuperFly stove used with Bibler Hanging System will hang from the apex of your tent giving more room and less chance of spilling. Use a mug /cup to dip from the pot as the water warms, immediately replacing it with snow, instead of trying to remove the pan and pour the water. This will keep a steady supply of water melting / heating / consuming to save fuel.
The main drawback to cartridge stoves are their poor performance in below freezing temperatures. Heating of the fuel cartridge will help combat this. There are many ways but the most consistant is a fuel cartridge heater: take 2-feet of 1/4" diameter copper plumbers pipe and smash flat with a hammer. Place the middle of the smashed pipe directly above the burner of the stove and form the copper pipe down and along the sides of the fuel cartridge. Bend the ends up under the bottom of the fuel cartridge and trim to fit. Take closed-cell foam and duct tape, and make a removable sleeve to fit over the cartridge and fuel cartridge heater. (The lid section of a 40 Below one-quart neoprene water bottle cover works best) Lining the sleeve with aluminum foil will help keep the foam / neoprene from melting and discharging fumes. This proceedure is very hazardous and all stove manufactures warrant against it.
Cooking With Ease: When water boils or gets hot enough, turn off the stove. Combine the water (leave a small amount in the pan) and dehydrated food inside a cooking bag. Mix and then place the cooking bag back inside your pan with the lid on. Let the pan sit for 10-12 minutes on a foam sleeping pad or the hanging system, not on cold ground. Eating directly out of the bag is for super-light fanatics (or close friends) with less chance for spills or use your cup. A bagel will clean the cooking bag for re-use or use the bag for trash. This will save fuel, time and requires no clean up.
Lay your pan on a foam pad and trace its outline then cut it out forming a round pad. Trim to fit the inside diameter of your pan so the pad just barely slides in and out of the pan. Punch a small hole in the center and thread a small cord making a handle then wrap aluminum foil around the whole pad. Place the round pad inside your pan when melting snow / boiling water to decrease boil times whilst saving fuel. This round pad can serve as the pan lid (leave the lid at home) and doubles for many other uses.
Wintertime Feast: Pre-cook meat, package it in one Ziplock bag for each meal and freeze it solid before leaving. Bury in the snow at camp to keep frozen. Add de-hydrated meals such as Hamburger Helper or Hearty Stew mixes for a great tasting wintertime feast of course leave the packaging at home. Tastier and cheaper than store bought freeze-dried meals. To keep that tasty hot meal hot, make a removable sleeve for your bowl / cup out of pieces of closed-cell foam, holding the sleeve together with duct tape.
Summertime Cooking: Leave the stove at home and purify water in the area with iodine treatment tabs. Add flavoring to rid the taste. Take food that doesn't require cooking; sandwiches, salami, cheese, pizza slices, fruit, veggies, bagels, etc. Try taking frozen food and let thaw during the day. Depending on the food and weather it can last up to several nights.
Sweetening Taste: Instead of using refined white sugar, add powered Gator-Aid or its like to sweeten coffee, tea, oatmeal, cereal, etc. Adds a unique flavor plus has nutritional benefit compared to refined sugar.
Melting Water in a Snow Camp: Dig a 2-foot deep hole with the circumference several inches smaller than a black plastic lawn bag. Place a wide mouth container in the center of the hole. Punch a hole in the center of the plastic bag and lay over the hole. Seal off the edges of the bag with large berms of snow. Place a small amount of snow at a time on the plastic bag and let the sun do its work. Increases the volume of water vs putting snow in a black plastic bag and laying on the snow. If traveling across snow / glacier, fill a heavy-duty black plastic bag with snow and drag it behind your sled while skiing. On the steeps, you can also drag a snowmelt plastic bag up the climb. All these will save you time and fuel.
Keeping Nylon Things Dry: Gear gets wet, that's a fact. Soak all slings, runners, QDs, etc. in Sterling Rope rope wash. Items made of nylon such as stuff sacks, chairs, booties, crampon straps and even Therm-a-rest air mattress, spray TX Direct on all these nylon items.
Twist Leash Hot Roddin: Girth hitch a 6-inch long piece of small diameter bunjee cord around the wrist loops and cinch down on itself very tight. Snap on a plastic pull found on many zipper pulls. Use the bunjee to secure the leash around your wrist by sliding it up and down like a slider. Once cinched tight around your wrist, the tool will dangle shaft-up next to your hand while you place pro or climb rock and will not slide off your wrist or up your arm as it dangles. The tool never has to leave your wrist. It also stays on your wrist when performing shaft plants on alpine terrain. Of course, you can elect to leave the cinch open and twist as normal, and slide the tool up around your elbow for long stretches of rock climbing.
To make a twist leash, use a standard Black Diamond Slider Leash and cut to length. Take some webbing, either what you cut off the end of the leash or something else and sew a loop just above the wrist area to form a loop around the shaft of the tool. Sewing a dart sticth into the wrist loop will keep it open when the hand is removed.
Crampon Hot Roddin: After adjusting them to fit your boots, saw off any extra length of the center bar strap or rails to save weight. Drilling 1/4" holes in the frame and down points will also shave weight.
Alpine Pack Hot Roddin: Replacing the foam back panel pad with a 48" length ProLite 3 air mattress will boost the R value of your sleep system during those cold alpine bivies. Bring along a foam pad too lashed to the outside of your pack. It adds a few ounces but those extra ounces translate to more warmth under the body, better rest and a lighter sleeping bag which all mean it saves weight. Of course if you are a light weight freak using just the foam back pad from your pack means the lightest load but this can also mean cold bivies draining the body of energy, less rest burns needed energy and produces a tired mind and body. Weigh the cost benefit of each and decide. Removing the top lid of your alpine pack gives better climbing performance and more headroom. To keep snow and spindrift out, use a coated nylon patch cut to fit over the opening. Sew buckles to match the original ones and clip on in place of the top lid. Webbing can be sewn to the buckles too if using the bivy extension. To help those flimsy frameless alpine packs carry approach loads, cut a sheet of .040 ABS plastic to match the outline of the foam pad of the pack, to include the notch for your head. Sandpaper the edges smooth. Use with or without the foam pad to add support but it still flexes as you climb.
Gear Sling Hot Rodding: Alpine climbers want light weight and most use an over-the-shoulder gear sling. Take a Black Diamond adjustable gear sling and cut the stitching holding the foam padding onto the one-inch webbing. Now use without the padding for an adjustble gear sling but without unwanted weight. In addition, sew Velcro tabs onto both the gear sling (hair) and removed padding (plastic fingers), when summer rolls around, stick the padding back on for comfort. Can be done with most over-the-shoulder gear slings but BD has minimun stitching for easier hot rodding task.
Ice Screw & Ice Tool Racking with Pack On: Install a BD Ice Clipper just behind each gear loop onto the webbing of both hip load-snuggers of your pack. Or if you can sew, a 3" strip of 3/4" flat webbing sewn verticle onto your packs waist belt. Ensure there is an open slot down the middle of the webbing to hold an Ice Clipper. This is a good place to rack your screws and will afford easy stashing of ice tools and leaves the gear loops on the waist belt for racking other gear.
Alaska Ice / Mixed Climbing Essentials: Before heading out the door to get all twisted up with action, a few things should be clipped to the rack which I never leave home without these. The crack systems in the Gach rock runs mostly parallel to the climbing line and the Gach crud Graywack fractures in thin spider web type crack systems. A Black Diamond #6 Bugaboo will always find home in these thin crack systems either to the hanger or tied off. There always is the exception to the rule and when you find that crack, a Black Diamond 1/2” Baby Angel should be the #2 essential on the rack. I choose iron because not only do I like the ringing sound of a pin going in, they are the best choice to leave for rap anchors. The #3 essential comes as a two part correlation which is the Camp #0.5 Pink Tri-Cam. I carry a pair of these with one of them filed down to a #0.3 size. A short story could be written about how spectacular these ingenious designed piece of gear have been over the years. You hear a lot about ice piton hooks like the DMM Bulldog and BD Spectre used to drive into the frozen veggies. Of course I have done this but if the turf is thick enough to hold an ice hook, I use a BD 10cm Ice Screw which is safer than a hook.
Waxless Pattern Mountaineering Skis: Several manufactures offer these now but I find the Atomic Chugach the best. The waxless base affords faster and easier movement when compared to sticking climbing skins onto the bottom of skis. Go with teh shorties length available, usually around 170cm.
Ski Pole Hot Roddin: Wrap several layers of 2” wide duct tape around both ski poles 6 inches or so down from the grip. While traversing or going up hill, slide one or both hands down and use the duct tape for an alternate grip without having to stop and adjust the pole length. Also serves as a good place to carry-fix-it-all duct tape.
Pee Bottle: Even one overnight trip in the cold and you will know why. That cold shuffle to relieve yourself sheds heat and chills. Use a pee bottle inside your tent and bag to remain warm. Don't waste the heat either, place that just used pee bottle in your sleeping bag. Your pee bottle should be of different design and size from your water bottles to distinguish between them in the dark. A Nalagene 32oz Wide Mouth Canteen works about the best. Its odd shaped and rolls up after emptying.
Tent Staking: For extreme winds like the Alaska Range, criss-cross 2,3,4 strands of rope or cord over-the-top of your tent to hold it down firmly. Gives added protection not relying on the tent fabric. To secure guy lines to the tent, tie 2 small loops about 12 inches apart, a foot from the tent in each guy line. Loop a piece of bungee cord through both loops of the guy line and tie the bungee in a loop. Stake out with the bungee loop stretched semi-tight. This set-up will relieve stress on your tent, guy lines and anchors when your tent is pitched for days and subject to constant wind.
Retaining Loft in Sleeping Bags: As soon as you climb out of your bag, turn the bag inside-out and squeeze all the air out several times, just like you are stuffing it in its stuffsack. This will expel the warm moist air your bag has collected overnight before it has time to freeze or condense in the insulation. If your ascent means extra sleeping bag time, open the zipper and start at the feet and squeegy up the length of the sleeping bag to push as much moisture rich vapor out of the insulation as possible. This action will also allow muscle movement which can warm a chilled body during the night or those bone chilling bivies. Always use a microfiber shell on your bag and get a dark color inside and out.
Fast Out-of-the-Weather Shelter: Carry your Bibler Firstlight tent on the outside of your pack lashed to side compression straps. Or stuffed in a side-pocket (leave the stuff sack at home). When the time arrives, pull only the tent body out of its stuff sack / side pocket (leave stuff sack / side pocket attached to pack with tent poles), throw packs inside the tent, jump in and erect the tent from inside. Carry a small sponge to soak up any water that finds its way inside the tent. No fumbling or digging through your pack to find your shelter while standing in the elements. If you must stake your tent, have your bud stay outside staking the tent while you jump inside and erect the tent.
Bivy Living: A full microfiber bivy sack allows you to roll the zipper off to the side or under you to protect this leak prone area from the elements. Poke your nose and mouth through a small hole in the zipper away from the elements to give fresh air. WARNING; never completely zip the bag tight sealing off fresh air. Sleeping without waterproof shell gear on will let your body moisture escape, keeping your warmer and drier. If you must wear waterproof shell gear during a bivy, open all the zippers to allow body heat to escape from the body and pass to the sleeping bag to be vented out. This will allow maxium heat yet allow under layers to dry while still wearing shell gear. A sewn-into-the-side Spectra runner helps keep water from wicking in, and a wet rope from your face and neck. Making a loop in the tie-in outside of the bivy sack and lower than the entry will let water drip off and help keep the wicking to a minimum.
Light Weight Shelter: Use a Bibler Firstlight tent sans poles as a bivy bag for two. Pinch some tent fabric above the tent door and clip with a biner. Clip this biner to a high point like a pin, cam, ice screw, ect., to pull the tent off your face for breathing room. This tip can be used for the Integral Designs Silshelter, tarps and normal tent rainflys - leave the main tent body at home.
Emergency Bivy: Duct tape a Space Emergency Bivy Bag in the bottom of each pack. Remove the foam pad from your pack, lay the pad flat inside the pack, climb inside the Space Bag and slide down inside your pack. Use the Duct tape for repairs. No matter where you are or when you go, you will have emergency shelter. To increase warmth, put on all clothing and lay maps, etc. across your chest.