What’s in My… Ski Touring Bag.

Miage Aigle Dave Searle-9

In Chamonix I often see a lot of folk out and about with some pretty monstrous bags!  I rarely take a bag bigger than 30l into the mountains and I often prefer to have a bag around the 25l mark for day tours.  What’s goes into my bag? Here’s a basic list of what goes into my bag and some thoughts/ideas on what to take with you when ski touring/mountaineering.

The Salewa Pure 30 Pro is my current bag of choice.


Avalanche Kit. We all take it into the mountains when skiing and only very rarely don’t I carry it whilst ski touring/ mountaineering. Some I don’t take it like when I’m by myself or when I’m climbing to ski a steep line.  In this case I might leave my shovel and probe at the bottom of a route. And collect it on the way down.  I’m talking about routes where it’s steep enough that an avalanche would either be highly unlikely or fatal.

Skins- No surprise there. If your touring you’ll generally need them!

Glacier Kit?

Obvioulsy only needed if you have a glacier to cross or you’re doing any abseiling/climbing.  90% of my days in Cham I’ll have glacier kit with me.

Rope- If you’re skiing on a glacier everyone in the team should have a rope.  I either take a 30m half rope (8.1mm) for rescuing/roping up through crevasses or if I’m doing a route that involves abseiling I’ll take a 60m 6mm kevelar rap line.  If the route involves technical climbing then 1 person in the group might carry a 60m 8.1 and the other carry a 6mm.

Harness- This should be as light as possible. BOD style harness are great for getting on and off with ski boots on but I rarely take my harness off between leaving my house and getting back so the ability to take it off easily is pointless.  I  often find I end up using a super lightweight sport climbing harness as it has proper leg loops which I prefer.

Crevasse rescue kit-  slings, crabs, prussic loops, pulley , Ice screw etc. Know what you need from practice and keep it light.  Consider clipping your kit to your rucksack shoulder straps if you don’t have gear loops or your gear loops are difficult to reach.

Spare Clothes.

This is a hazy area. Some feel like they need a lot of extra cloths in the mountains.  Experience and the ability to suffer the cold can mean you save a lot of weight and space in the bag.  Spair gloves are a good idea. Hands are very important in the mountains and normal life and it’s pretty easy to drop a glove.  I normally take a super lightweight puffy jacket as my spare layer and I’ll often be wearing that in the morning if it’s cold.

Crampons/Ice Axe

Crampons -  If I take them I’ll more often than not take a real pair. Lightweight crampons have shorter points and are prone to breaking.  Not ideal if you really need them.

Ice Axe-One or two?  Am I just climbing snow or will there be black ice or mixed climbing? My choice of axe/axes depends on the route but I generally take the lightest possible.

Accessories/smaller items.

Repair kit – ducktape, multitool, knife, tat, bandages, painkillers, any screws that might be useful to fix bindings or boots.

Suncream – Slap it on and rub it in! Oh please rub it in!

Head torch – Just take it. You’ll want it if you need it.

Food and Water.

Water- Some days I know I can get away with 500ml some days I know I’ll need 1500ml. Know how much you’ll need and take the right amount. Large water bottles eat up space but flexible pouch type bottles are fragile in my experience. Experiment with what works for you.  Good tip is to put boiling water in in the morning. After your first drink fill the space in the bottle with snow and give it a shake.  The heat from the water should melt the snow and give you a few extra mouthfuls.  I do this a lot!

Food – light is right IMO. I often take just a few snickers bars with me when touring.  I’ll have a good breakfast and I can live of my reserves until a big meal in the evening. Big lunches are ok if you’re on for a slow day. If you want to be faster then take less food…it’ll make you get down from the mountains quicker!

Anything Else?

Not that I can think of! For most days in Chamonix we’re back before you’d need anything else!  For multi-day trips the huts normally have blankets and provide food so no extra kit is needed. Sometime a light pair of trainers is a good idea for the spring but only when the snow has melted out of the descent routes.

Final thoughts

Keep the weight down by any means!  It will make a huge difference to your day and make you quicker in the mountains meaning you can go further and do bigger objectives.  Before you pack it think about whether or not you will need it/use it!  certain Items are needed just in case but if your willing to suffer you can cut the weight down a fair bit.

Need more help?

Got any comments or ideas? Add them at the bottom!

Morning Mallory Run.

If your a skier you shouldn’t get all excited.  I was there to climb! A route with so much mystique both up and down draws the attention after a while…. Especially when it staring you in the face from your balcony!  Over the past few seasons I’ve been keen to ski this route but never been here on the really good day’s to drop in.  With poor snow conditions abundant in Chamonix right now the appeal of skiing is somewhat dwindling.  I really just wanted to go out for a fast solo today and the Mallory route on the North face of the Aiguille du Midi provided me just that….1hour 55mins from the “bergshrund” (the start of the first couloir) to the Snow Cave. Super nice to be moving with almost nothing on my back or harness again and the conditions were pretty good so it made for some fun climbing in some places.

The Mallory on the North face of the Midi

The Mallory on the North Face of the Midi

Never alone on the Mallory...

Never alone on the Mallory…



Web Design… Help me live the Dream

Hi All.  I’m offering my services as a website developer to help me fund my lifestyle out here in cham!  I’ve already made a few different websites including chamonixtopo.com.  I’d love to help you out with your project or offer some help/advice for improving your existing site. More infomation here.

Maybe you need a site or you have a friend you could pass this contact onto? If you don’t need a site the please consider helping if you can by spreading the word for me. I’m offering a competitive and personal service offering the full package of hosting/development/design/email/etc.

Grande Charmoz North Face. A Day To Remember.

The Grande Charmoz North Face seen from Montenvers. Current Conditions.

The Grande Charmoz North Face seen from Montenvers. Current Conditions.

For years I’d looked up at the Grande Charmoz north face and never seen it in “good condition”.  I’d heard that the first third needed good cover to make it viable and in the past it always seemed that the crucial ice was never there.  This year however it has been “in” and some of my friends had already been and climbed it earlier in the winter and in the past week. No chance of a true onsight as we had some beta from them about the descent and the conditions on the face but we still wanted to do the route despite the adventure being mostly taken away.  With snow conditions deteriorating out here and motivation for skiing dwindling it didn’t take much persuading from Mr Psyche himself, John “spoon” McCune to give it a punt.  Johns been tearing it up in the past few months with ascents of the Eiger, Droites and Petit Dru to name a but a few so I knew we was going to be fit for it.

We meet up the day before to discus our plan of attack. We both decided we like our beds so quickly came to the conclusion we’d rather try and go from first cable car at the Midi than from the Plan d’Aguille refuge.  I toyed with the idea of borrowing some approach skis from some more dedicated climber friends but pretty soon convinced myself it wouldn’t be the best time or place to try and learn how to ski short skis in my climbing boots.

After dealing with the usual Aiguille du Midi morning clusterf*#K we were soon skinning our way over to the bottom of the Col de la Buche where we ditched our skis and ski boots  and raced up the ladders and snow. Down climbing and wading through knee deep (in places) snow from the col to the bottom of the face was pretty hot work with the sun beating down on us pretty much the whole way.

Once we passed the bergshrund (not difficult) we were on our way and both feeling pretty good.  We moved together through the first two thirds minus 1 short “chimney pitch” where we decided it would be a lot easier to haul our bags as it looked pretty tight from bellow.  It was pretty tight and it was and well worth the extra few minutes of faff. After the long snow field and some more perfect neve, 4x60m pitches brought us to the summit Col of the Grande Charmoz.  Not perfect conditions on these pitches but enough ice to cover the loose rock and some run out sections.  That said it was pretty fun mixed climbing and in a cool situation with the clouds starting to bubble away in the valley bellow.

The descent was pretty straightforward abseiling down to the Natillons Glacier with mostly 55m abseils.  We walked, down climbed and abseiled our way back to our ski’s that were waiting for us at the bottom of the Glacier.  A 1000 vertical meters of slush and the plan track brought us back to the valley and naturally straight onto Midnight Express for a much needed Steak, Frites, Fromage and half a liter of Coke….as a starter.

It’s been a while since I’ve done any big routes in the mountains not counting the Courturier.  I’ve either not been in Cham or I’ve been more psyched on skiing which is my poor excuses for not doing more big routes in the past years. I also haven’t mixed climbed much in the last year so yesterday was the perfect shake down for another season of climbing! Psyched!!  We were also pretty pleased that we manged to climb the route in 5 hours and complete the whole trip from car to car in 13.  All in all a super fun day to remember. Cheers John for the good company and banter.

…days like these… Trappier and NE Couloir of the Tricot.

More days like these..please.


NE Couloir of the Tricot taken from the hike up the Trappier.

With the much needed return of the pow at the end of last week we were all ready to hunt out the goods. After a few days squeezing midi laps between the clouds we had a hankering for something a bit bigger and less crowded. Sometimes the amount of people out skiing the midi astonishes/frustrates me.  It’s great to see so many psyched people, don’t get me wrong, but its not fun to have them all pilling in on top of you into a couloir sending down rocks and snow. Anyway…rant over!

The last few days ski touring have been super fun and it’s been great to get away from Midi lift for some mini adventures from the Bellevue cable car in Les Houches.  Still with a non-splitter forecast on Thursday we managed to fit in a lap of the Trappier Couloir in pretty epic conditions.  I’d done this line a few weeks ago but It was good to go back and ski it in near perfect pow. On the way up we had scoped an awesome looking couloir in the Bionnassay Basin and decided that it would be the objective for the day after.

The access to the NE couloir of the Tricot was fairly straight forward. A short skin from cable car up the train tracks brings you to a point where you can ski down onto the lower glacier. From here another 1.5 hours worth of skining up the glacier floor (on the left bank/lookers right) leads you up to the base of the couloir.  The basin itself reminds me of my time in the Himalayas (except with more snow) with towering glaciated faces all around which gives you a feeling of insignificance compared to the massive mountains.  We changed to crampons and booted our way up the couloir marveling in the quality of the snow and the stunning surroundings.  Here’s some shots of the Trappier and The NE Couloir.  (Click on a shot to take you to a slideshow format).

All told this was one of the best descents of this season so far for me.  Good friends (Ross Hewitt, Liz Daley and Davide de Masi) good powder, good surrounding and above all a good sense of adventure. It was super nice to feel really comfortable ripping GS turns down steep snow again.  Looking forward to more big days in the hills soon but for now I need to give my legs a rest!

The last week.

Has been a blur of fun days hanging out with good friend climbing and skiing. Nothing of any major note but always fun and always interesting… For me at least anyway!

About a week ago we headed up to the Minaret in the Argentiere basin to have a look at a route called Versant Satanique. This amazing and completely splitter 9 pitch 6b+ which forges its way up through some impressive terrain has some amazing climbing and damn near perfect red granite.  Myself and Liz managed to get 7 out of the 9 pitches climbed before the sun left us for day. I’m super keen to get back on this amazing piece of rock to finish of the route. Unfortunately along the way I managed to drop my faithful and trusty Canon S95 camera which took the 200m fall down the cliff and onto the glacier. Needless to say I have no photo’s from that outing or subsequent outings, Everything happens for a reason though and I decided it was high time I got an upgrade so I’ve splashed out on the S100 which I’m currently waiting for to arrive. Luckly Liz snapped a few shots of us as well as doing a bunch of filming for her Epic TV series The Daley Splitter. Keep your eyes peeled for it on Epic Tv.

On Versant Satanique

I’ve had to resort to using my go pro for the last few days to capture some stills from a few fun runs down the West Face of the Midi. Its good to see some fresh snow out here again and it makes a welcome change to ice, slush and sastrugi.  Touring should be good in the next few days/weeks so hopefully they’ll be some more good days soon!   Here’s some shots from the last few days.