Steve House Climbing Essentials

Alpine-style climbing: What’s in the bag? 

Words: Andrew Swann 

What’s does one of the world’s leading Alpine-style climbers take with him on a climb? We got the chance to peek in his bag of tricks to find out

Steve House is one of the greatest alpine-style climbers of his generation, winner of many awards, a mountain guide, and a co-founder of the non-profit program, Alpine Mentors.

Here he reveals the most important gear you need to take to the mountains:

  • First aid kit
  • Emergency clothing
  • Bivouac sack
  • Essential gadgets
  • Some form of entertainment
  • …and more
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The essentials 

What Steve takes with him on a climb depends on the length and difficulty of it, but there are a couple of things he never leaves home without. “I always have a few essentials with me like a first aid kit, emergency communications, a torch and a lighter,” he says. “This isn’t so important in the Alps, but in Colorado, for example, the trees grow very high and it can get dark quite quickly, so I always carry a lighter so you can build a little fire in case you get stuck somewhere.”

The essentials: a first aid kit, emergency communications, a torch, and a lighter

Steve House in Bivy

Pack for an emergency 

“Mountains are not 100 percent predictable, so you should also have some emergency clothing with you as well and a bivouac sack. One thing I developed with Patagonia for this is a waterproof hardshell, which only ways 229g. It’s breathable and gives you full bad weather protection. It’s so small you can even put in on the back of your harness if you don’t want to carry a backpack.”

Pack light 

How much and how heavy your backpack is depends on the length of the climb, but Steve’s golden rule is to never take more than 10kg. “Any time you get above 10kg, it starts to have a big impact on your balance and on how hard it is to move up. I always like to try to stay under 7kg, and that would be for a full day’s climb. If you’re doing something that requires a bivouac, then he takes a 1kg sleeping bag, a small amount of food and some gas.”

“Mountains are not 100% predictable, so you should also have some emergency clothing with you as well and a bivouac sack“
Steve House climbing in India

© Jim Elzinga

Reading material

If you’re going on a longer expedition, then you will want to take some form of entertainment. Books are essential on an expedition, according to Steve. “I always bring books to base camp. I used to always have my pile of books when we went to the Himalayas, and it would be the last thing I packed, and I would weigh it and shove as many as I could in there and pack the rest in my carry on, because there isn’t that much else to do at base camp.”

While things have become a little easier since the invention of the e-reader, Steve is still against taking an iPad or anything you can watch films or connect with the world on. “Being on a mountain is about escaping, I don’t want to be sitting in one of the most beautiful places in the world watching The Hunger Games on my tablet.”

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