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Gear for basic alpine programs

General recommendations for choosing the equipment for the mountain programs of the Basic level (Classics Bezengi, Adyl Su School, Ak Oyuk, Krestovsky Volcano, Brighthorn, Mont Blanc, etc.)

I'll start from the fact that the set of equipment is determined by the nature and complexity of the mountain program, while at the core it depends on the altitude and the season of this program. If we talk about the summer programs of the entry level, which are held in the Alpine zone at relative altitudes of up to 4,500 m (Caucasus, Alps, Altai, Kamchatka) and the absence of technical difficulties, the basic requirements will be for clothes, shoes and sleeping gear. The requirements for the clothes used in the alpine class climbing programs suggest its comfortable use at the temperatures down to -10, keeping in the mind that mostly, the set of clothes will be used in the temperature range from +15 to -3-5. In addition, the specificity of these programs during the summer season implies a higher risk of rain than snow.

In this case, we will talk about a three-layer set consisting of an upper membrane layer (Shell) or something replacing it (windbreaker, wind pants), an average insulated layer (Middle), and thermal underwear (Basic).

So, a set of clothes is, first of all, a windproof and waterproof pair - a jacket and pants, ideally membrane ones, because, under intense loads, it is desirable not only to prevent moisture from outside, but also to remove it from the inside. There is a lot of solutions to this problem, ranging from super-expensive membrane jackets from the top manufacturers of North Face, Arcterycs, Mountain Hardwear, Marmot, Haglofs, etc. and ending with the most ordinary canvas jacket, which will cope with the task of protecting you from the cold and provide ventilation under load. Although it will not save you from the rain, but this is not the biggest problem. Even with a good membrane jacket, the rain poncho must be there in your reach. As an example, our climb to Kenya a few years ago, when a continuous rain for several days left no dry spot in any owner of the most expensive jackets. But the owners of ponchos and umbrellas remained relatively dry))) But this is Africa. With reference to the Caucasus and the Alps, an umbrella will be a bit superfluous, but a good raincoat, with a backpack valve (for example Tatonka) will come in handy. Do not take cheap raincoats, because the practice shows that they became totally destroyed after the first two days of use. Summary on the upper layer - if you want and have the opportunity to spend 1000-1500 euros on a beautiful jacket and pants - go ahead to the well known retail outlets. If you do not want to - do as you wish. The top layer can be represented by any light windbreaker + raincoat. For myself  I use a pair of Haglofs jacket + Sivera (Russian made) membrane trousers and feel like a real cowboy.

The most practical solution for the top-layer trousers will be a version with full-length side zippers, but in general, this is not critical for basic programs, you can get by with ordinary wind pants. Yes, I should add - do not take for the mountain programs insulated jackets and pants intended for other purposes - for skis, snowboard, winter fishing, etc., because the top layer should be single, light and compact.

Further. Average insulated layer. As a rule, on the programs of this category, lightweight insulated jackets and pants with synthetic insulation (thick fleece, sintepon) are used. This layer can be used as the top layer under adequate dry, but cold conditions. In case of precipitation or strong wind, Shell is to be put over the insulated layer to protect against blowing and / or snowing. The options for this layer are numerous, for every taste and budget - the basic requirement, as well as for all mountaineering equipment - its weight. Do not take your favorite woolen sweaters with deer, quilted wadded caftans and other archaisms. However, please note that this layer will be the main insulation in your clothes kit, so try to keep a compromise between weight and thickness.

As the Middle layer, I use a combination of the Haglofs sintepon jacket and the Lowe Alpine Outerlimits sintepon pants - in combination with the already mentioned Shell package, this option worked at the temperatures down to -20 and heights of up to 6400 m. As a Middle layer for the mountain programs of this level, down jackets are not to be considered! The fact is that down products are extremely vulnerable in case of wetting or even dampening, losing if wet all their thermal insulation properties. So, for especially freezing people, a light down jacket (500-700 g) can be kept in stock (in a waterproof bag), but in no case should it be considered as a main working middle layer.

Base layer or thermal underwear. The basis of the whole kit. Practice shows the effectiveness of a warmed kit - jacket + pants from Polartec 100, for example, the Sivera Asb (Russian made) model or similar to it. A thin, fitting fleece, dressed directly on the body makes you not only sexy, but also allows you to keep the heat at the level closest to the skin, to some extent working as a wet diving suit for a diver. Work well tight fitting options for insulated underwear, on the tightness of which depends their effectiveness - so it's better to carefully try these products before buying, paying attention to their fit to all the bulges of your body. This layer can work as a running layer - that means that you can put nothing on it under heavy load and relatively comfortable temperature outside. On top of the Basic layer, you can immediately put on the Shell layer in case if the conditions become quite uncomfortable, but at the same time, if they are not cool enough to use the Middle layer. To take or not take an extra set of light thermal underwear - it's up to you. But in my own practice, I came to the optimal decision to abandon the excess items and confine myself to the necessary things, because from seemingly light, but numerous items, additional kilograms are added, from which then your knees pop and the back aches - in the set of the mountain climbing equipment, weight decides everything.

Footwear. The element of the top importance of your equipment, on which depends the level of comfort, safety and success of the whole event. I will not talk about black frostbitten fingers, about broken ankles turned up and other unpleasant stuff. But believe me, even the blisters on your heels on the route can lead to a failure of a whole climbing trip and to the risk of gangrene. For the mountain programs of the basic level, you need good four seasonal, strong trekking boots - there are lots of examples of this category, there is no point in listing it, as any well-known manufacturer of climbing shoes produces a large number of models for the mass consumer. Suitable for you will be light mountaineering shoes, but there will be a different price of the product, and, frankly, for the programs in which you walk 99% of the route, the sense of killing good and expensive specialized shoes, in my opinion, is missing. Most likely you will not need to attach crampons to your shoes during this program - otherwise for good trekking boots, if necessary, crampons with soft fastening are quite reliable - this will be more than enough to solve all possible difficulties on the routes of the basic level, including even the iceclimbing module.

The size of the shoes is a very important point in the entire process of the selection of equipment. Boots in no case should be even close to be tight. When you put your shoes on a thick sock, there should be a stock of at least 0.5 cm to ensure the mobility of your toes.As well the boots must effectively fix the ankle, excluding the mobility of the foot forward and backward - otherwise, it can lead to the blisters on the heel and black nails when after your descent down to the base camp. Byv very careful in the selection of the shoes - you should measure exactly on the sock with which they will be used and after you buy your new shoes must be worn before the trip.

In addition to еру shoes, you should always have on the route replacement footwear in the form of a very light sneakers or just slippers - the pleasure of changing the situation for your feet will surpass all expectations, believe me!

Socks. That is also quite serious element of the mountain climbing equipment. No knitted woolen socks made for you by your grandmother! We go to the store and buy expensive, thick, medium height (15-20 cm) socks for trekking or mountaineering. From ordinary socks they this category differs by the improved thermal insulation properties, resistance to wear, they quickly dry and warm even is wet. Manufacturers - Lorpen, Sivera, Icebreaker, Jack Wolfskin, etc., there are already quite a lot of options on the market. If the shoes you have are new - do not be lazy to walk around in them,  along with your socks, to get a full footing of your foot to the shoe form to avoid annoying misunderstandings along the route.

Ok, for the wearing clothes my inspiration is over. However, do not hesitate to ask if got something on your mind - I'm always ready to improve my manual on the selection of the equipment!

Now we pass to another very important items - sleeping bag and mat. From the important section of clothing we move on to an even more important section relating to your sleep and recovering. The most important condition for the success of the whole program, acclimatization, and even pleasure from the route - is your ability to fully recover after the load. And this ability is directly related to the comfortable conditions for your rest and sleep. Therefore here we will save only weight, but not money to buy a good sleeping bag and a good sleeping mat as well. By the way, the cost of this equipment directly depends on its weight - the lighter the sleeping bag - the more expensive it is. For programs of basic alpine class, it is enough to have a sleeping bag with a synthetic filler with a comfort temperature of -5 -10, which implies the critical temperatures of use (Extreme) to -20. In this case, the weight of the sleeping bag should not exceed 2 kg. In general, in this segment you can find many models in almost all manufacturers of camping and climbing equipment, while in the top of the price / quality ratio will be North Face, C.A.M.P., Marmot, Mammut, Alexica, etc. A down sleeping bag is not desirable in case if you do not have experience  of use of down equipment - the reasons for the undesirability are indicated above, it is enough to say that if you soak a down sleeping bag during the climbing program, then you are no longer expected to spend the night with a group. But with a synthetic sleeping bag it's much easier in case of wet misadventure, although it loses a bit in weight and compactness to the down ones, but it's more unpretentious and reliable.

Mat. Do not treat your body as your enemy, take an inflatable mat with you. It will hardly be self inflatable even if indicated so, but it will give you a full-fledged sleep and comfort, regardless of the surface on which you lay. In contrast to the traditional, but almost gone into the past polyurethane foam mats, inflatable mats provide a completely different level of comfort and compensate for any irregularities, even if you sleep on the cones in the pine wood. The minimum thickness is 3-4 cm, the length is according to your height. It's up to you to decide, but I will share my experience. For myself, I already settled on the model Prolite 4 of the manufacturer Thermorest, in its short (120 cm) version. This is a rather expensive solution, but the quality of the product justifies all costs. A short mat takes considerably less space than a long one, it is lighter and more compact. A shortage of length can always be solved by placing your backpack in the legs, the main thing is that the mat protects you from the head to the buttocks, the lower part is not so critical. Please consider one more moment about inflatable carpets. With all their advantages, they have two drawbacks. The first I already mentioned - that is the price. Secondly, these things, irrespective of their quality, are extremely vulnerable, and you need to handle them very and very carefully - do not carry them outside the backpack, avoid the neighborhood of any sharp objects, not to smoke or place them near the burner, do not leave them in the sun and lay on the mat with your buddy ... In general, this carpet should be protected as the apple of your eye. And if you are too careless person?! In that case better sleep on the foam mat and consider the bruises in the morning.

Suppose you have collected all of the above mentioned set. What else is left? Clearly, the volume, in which we'll stuff it all - a backpack. Here, as elsewhere, there are some nuances. The backpack should not only contain everything you need, but be at the same time as easy and convenient as possible in carrying. To date, choosing a good backpack is not so easy due to the incredible number of different models and designs. But if you do not go deep into the backpack market, then for this program you need a strong backpack with a waist belt, weighing preferably not more than 2 kg, with a capacity of 70-90 liters. The volume of backpack - that is a very relative concept - in reality, the capacity of a backpack depends not on its volume, but on your ability to pack it. For example, on the mountain programs of the basic level, I put everything in a 50L backpack... And some place is left for all sorts of unnecessary things like a mirror camera or even a quadrocopter))) But this is an experience. And for starters, I consider the optimal volume of 70 liters, for programs that do not involve carrying a large number of climbing equipment and with the duration of an autonomous part of no more than 4 days. On the question of the need for a second smaller rucksack, I can say with confidence - no. Not needed. The main backpack of reasonable volume (if it is not a monster for 120-150 liters) on the simple routes performs all the functions of the smaller one - to carry the excess cargo is absolutely to nothing.

From the personal equipment, you will also need trekking poles - any telescopic sticks. When you learn to use - you will understand that without them it is almost impossible to walk confidently on the snow, on the ice, or on scree slopes. Even when walking along the trail, the sticks greatly simplify the process and make life easier for you. Be aware, the stick, especially at first - it's consumables, take those that you do not mind to break and throw away - then the question is purely financial - there are sticks for 30 euros, there are over 300 - they will have some difference in weight, but for the first time the difference in use you will not feel.

Perhaps, on this - that is all I want to say. I will not go into the nuances of flashlights, knives, watches, glasses and other trifles - that is already quite a long article. And about all the rest of the equipment - tents, helmets, ropes, ice axes, cats - do not worry - as a rule, the use of this equipment is included in the cost of the program and, accordingly, the organizer is responsible for its quality. However, if you want to have your own - no one minds! Just inform me in advance to take this into account when calculating the amount of communal equipment.

Text — Alexey Trubachev, founder of the MCS AlexClimb mountaineering and climbing school.

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Our Principles

AlexClimb Rule #1 - Safety First

From the very beginning of our activity, here nearly 16 years, the first Principle of work of School of mountaineering and rock-climbing of MCS AlexClimb is the Safety Priority. On the basis of this Principle all process of training is based, all programs and rounds are developed and carried out only within this main principle. We consider that at professional approach to development of programs, at personal discipline and correctly put motivation - occupations by mountaineering and rock-climbing are COMPLETELY safe. And from the return - all troubles and accidents in our sport come from nonprofessionalism, from ignorance or neglect by elementary standards of safety, from irrational motivation, from revaluation of own forces and opportunities. All these prerequisites we COMPLETELY EXCLUDE in our work - ours Rock-climbing, Ice climbing and Mountaineering are based on one Principle - the Safety Priority. In rock-climbing, mountaineering and ice climbing, the Priority of Safety of MCS AlexClimb-is your personal security and comfort irrespective of, than we are engaged - we train muscles and we work technology of the movement in the sports hall and on the rock climbing wall, we make the way through snowstorm to top or we relax on golden sand of the Caribbean beach after hot day of trainings on rocks. The Safety priority - the main credo of School of mountaineering and rock-climbing of MCS AlexClimb.

AlexClimb Rule #2 - Leave No Trace

Closely interacting with Nature, working with the active programs in mountains, woods, lakes and rivers, we perfectly understand the importance of carefull and respectfull bahavior towards the Nature, for its resources. From the very beginning of our outdoor-activity we adopted rules of  Leave No Trace technique - the standard of behavior of the person accepted in all the civilized world in relation to environment and especially - to the wild nature. After all on the relation of people to the nature near which they exist, itself can draw dalekoidushchy conclusions on the relation of these people to... Where and as we didn't travel - we don't reserve any garbage, we try to reduce whenever possible our influence on environment to a minimum. We clear earlier zagryazyonny tourist parking of the left garbage, we take out and we take out to utilization places that to us other people left there. We consider that only thus, at personal individual consciousness of each citizen, each tourist, climber or autotraveller, we will be able to keep the nature surrounding us in its state, natural, suitable for life, - in it pledge of the healthy future for ourselves and our children.

AlexClimb Rule #3 - Sober Concious

The position of AlexClimb Mountain and rockclimbing School regarding healthy lifestyle is quite clear - we consider that only sober consciousness is capable to fill sincere emotions,  to sympathize, to enjoy life in all its variety. Bright various enjoyable life is possible only on condition of keeping the absolute sobriety and purity of consciousness. Any way of obscuring our perception of reality is intended to do harm to our consciousness and bring harm to our physical health, to replace the true values by false ones, to destroy us physically - to turn us into flabby, weak, senseless, gray herd with empty hazy eyes. We don't force anybody to our point of view, everyone has a God's gift of making his own choice and to destroy himself if that is what he wants... But in AlexCilimb Mountain Climbing School we accept quite certain and very simple set of rules: neither alcohol, nor drugs.