Alpine Scrounging

18 May 2014

Alpine Scrounging

Category: Q&A

Hi Andy,

Just been to your presentation in Durham! And I'm depressed... Just kidding!

Amazing presentation and a really good evening. On a completely separate note I'm writing to you for some advice. I'm a 18 year old climber and somewhat of a novice, I adopted climbing to get away from family issues and of course the dreaded exams!  This unfortunately means I have a minuscule income and little or not gear for trad climbing. Which in turn leads to me soloing some trad routes or using poor protection.

I'm on a Jonathan conville course in the summer and again I have little in a way of an alpine rack and on a tight budget I was wondering how you'd get around getting gear?

Plus how did you get yourself into trad and aid climbing at a young age since I'm finding it difficult?

All the best,


Hi Jon

Getting on a Conville course is a great idea when starting out, as for getting hold of gear when you’re starting out can seem tough, but with a little boldness it’s not so hard!  The real cost of gear has fallen a lot of the years, and so the amount of gear climbers buy has increased, as well as the gear they no longer need.  Add innovation to this, with people replacing, updating and upgrading their boots, crampons, axes etc - well most climbers end up with a great deal of old and redundant kit sitting about.  I think there are a lot of climbers out there willing to just give their old kit away rather than ebay or chuck it.  If you use Facebook, tweet or use old school notice boards in shops and walls, you will no doubt find people who are willing to help you out.  One bit of gear I’d stay clear of are old boots, as in my experience these can cause alot of problems, not least the fact that old plastic boots can shatter or break apart, and old leather boots can come apart due to rotten stitching.  I’d be happy using any old second hand kit, such as crampons, axes, hardware, harnesses, even ropes (if they look ok)  - and just use your common sense (look for UV damage, corrosion or just plain abuse).  Ebay is also a great place to pick up kit dirt cheap. 

Lastly I’d say that don’t get too hung up on the kit, and let that stop you going, as the more money you save, the longer you can climb.  Going ’80’s Eastern European style’ - wearing tracksuits, found gear, skeletal racks, and home made kit can actually make you feel even more an alpinist than someone with all the kit (making my own kit has been a big part of my climbing, as it has with many others, and often means you have better/lighter more specialised gear than your sponsored mates).  The one thing it’s worth getting are good boots though, and if you’re planning on just buying one pair, then maybe look at something that will do you for summer and winter alpine, as well as Scottish stuff.

Note: If you'd like to ask a question - no matter how dumb - then email me and I'll try and help.


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Andy Kirkpatrick
Andy Kirkpatrick

Andrew Kirkpatrick is a British mountaineer, author, motivational speaker and monologist. He is best known as a big wall climber, having scaled Yosemite's El Capitan 30+ times, including five solo ascents, and two one day ascents, as well as climbing in Patagonia, Africa, Alaska, Antarctica and the Alps.

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Unknown Pleasures Higher Education
Me, Myself & I Nutcraft - The Climbing Nut Bible
Aid Basics 1000+ Tips for Climbers
Cold Wars Psychovertical
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