I was recently introduced to black, a tool that formats your Python code for you. It is very opinionated, which I find very helpful, because there are so many choices. The same is true for ice climbing gear. Here is my particular system. In aggregate, it’s rather expensive, but I use the layers all year round.

I’m going to include my sizes for reference. I am about 145 pounds and 5’ 8”.

Note: I was taught how to ice climb by Kevin Mahoney, Bayard Russell, Sean Isaac, and Mark Synnott. My choices here have been influenced a lot by them, but I’m not sponsored and I don’t get any free gear. This post was updated on Jan. 23, 2020.

Let’s get psyched for the upcoming season!


This area has changed a lot in the past few years, so my choices may be a bit out of date.

  • heavier-duty ice climbing/mountaineering boots: La Sportiva Nepal EVO GTX (mine are still fine after 13 years)
  • lighter, warmer boots for ice climbing: La Sportiva G5 (43.5)
  • ski boots that I can ice climb in: Scarpa F1 (26.5)
  • summer mountaineering boots: La Sportiva Trango S EVO GTX

I recommend trying boots on with realistic socks. I used to wear thick socks in my Nepal EVOs, but now I have switched to using lightweight crew socks in my G5s. For ski boots, you will want ski socks.

I also recommend replacing factory inserts with aftermarket ones. I use Superfeet (green). These can be transfered from boot to boot. You can also get custom-made ones, and I have these for my ski boots. These can generally be transfered from boot to boot.

I’ve noticed the G5s press into my ankles uncomfortably. However, wearing special socks with gel pads completely fixes this problem for me.


  • baselayer: any polypro-type layer works
  • fleece: Arc’teryx Rho AR (small)
  • additional fleece when very cold: Arc’teryx Delta AR (small)
  • softshell: Arc’teryx Gamma AR (small)
  • hardshell: Arc’teryx Alpha AR (extra small, runs large!)
  • puffy: Feathered Friends Helios (small)
  • hat: any light hat that will fit under a helmet (Arc’teryx used to make a marvelous hat called a “bucket liner,” but this is, sadly, not available anymore)


  • thermal underwear: Arc’teryx Rho AR (small, boot cut)
  • softshell: Arc’teryx Gamma MX (small)
  • hardshell: Arc’teryx Alpha AR (extra small–this jacket runs very large)


  • for climbing: Black Diamond Punisher (small)
  • for belaying: any warm ski gloves
  • if it’s really really cold: Black Diamond Mercury Mitts

sharp things

  • pure ice: Black Diamond Cobras (with standard hammers)
  • ice or mixed: Petzl Nomic (I have the old ones and they’re fine)
  • mono-point crampons: Petzl Darts (I climb almost everything in these)
  • dual-point crampons: Black Diamond Cyborgs (way lighter than they used to be!)
  • ice screws: Black Diamond Turbo Express
  • V-thread hook (Kevin has convinced me to thread the rope through the V-thread directly instead of using cord; works great in dry conditions)


  • crampon bag (or a crampon pouch on the outside of your pack; I actually store my screws in this)
  • big pack: Black Diamond Speed 40, S/M (has nice accessories for mounting ice-related gear on the outside)
  • harness: Black Diamond Xenos, medium (now called the Technician, but harness sized for winter clothing and equipped with ice clipper slots will work)
  • ice clippers (absolutely essential; I prefer the Petzl version to the BD version because they seem more secure)

rope stuff

With ice climbing, my assumption is that falling is unlikely and I like to save weight. So I use a very light rope:

  • lead line: Sterling Nano (70 m, not dry treated)
  • tag line: Sterling (75 m, and only if I have to use it)
  • belay device: Petzl Reverso

(I’m not going to include all the other climbing stuff like draws, trad gear, etc. That’s a topic for another post.)