Glaciers are rivers of ice flowing down though the mountains. They form natural pathways that can be followed though spectacular scenery. It’s possible to link glaciers together using high passes at their top and alpine tracks at their bottom, this allows you to trek vast distances though the heart of the mountains. But don’t be deceived into thinking these paths will be smooth and easy. The ice can be tortured and twisted making for fascinating route finding. At times you’ll have to walk a long way round a crevasse to make a few meters in your direction of travel. At other times you’ll have to jump across crevasses. Most of the time the team will be wearing crampons and using an ice axe. For safety we’re often roped together. In the alps nights are spent in a mixture of high mountain huts and valley hotels. If you’re willing to put the work in, glacier trekking is some of the most rewarding trekking you’ll ever do.
The haute route from Chamonix to Zermatt is the most famous glacier trek. It takes about seven days depending on the route you take. But there are many other routes in the alps. There’s also the option of using the lift system and doing day trips. World wide the choses are endless.
Here’s a general trekking kit list, aimed at European glacier trekking. It’s important to have the essentials and maybe a couple of luxury’s but remember light is right. Do everything possible to keep the weight of your kit down.
Boots;These must be stiff enough to take a strap on crampons. Some shops rate a boots stiffness using a scale B1,B2,B3 on this scale B1,B2 are ideal being flexible boots that will take a crampon.
Ice axe; It’s often possible to her an ice axe. Look for a long traditional axe, 60-80cm depending on your height. Walking poles are also very useful for lacier walking, make sure they have medium or large baskets on the ends.
Crampons; It’s often possible to rent crampons. Make sure your crampons are compatible with your boots. A strap on crampon will work with a softer (B1) boot and a semi automatic crampon will work with a boot that has a heel designed to take a crampon. Crampons should have anti balling plates to stop snow building up underneath them when your walking. Make sure you have a crampon bag as well.
Harness; It’s often possible to rent a harness. Your harness should be light and comfortable to walk in you don’t need a big heavy climbing harness. If you already have screw gate karabiners, long slings and crevasse rescue kit you should bring these along. Your guide will always be happy to have some one in the team that can help out in an emergency.
Helmet; It’s often possible o rent a helmet. Make sure it’s big enough to go over a hat.
Gaiters; Essential bits of kit in the wet and to protect your trousers from your crampons For dryer climates stubby gaiters, that come to just below your calf, will do the job. However if your heading somewhere wet and muddy its got to be fall length gaiters, just below the knee.
Water proof jacket and trousers, make sure you can get your trousers on over your boots. A breathable fabric such as Gortex will make your life more pleasant.
Sun hat;The bigger the better, sun glasses, sun shirt, sun block.
Fleece hat, neck gaiter, thermal shirt, fleece, down jacket, shorts, trekking trousers, socks plus spare socks, gloves.
Blister kit; Compeed,zinc oxide tape, small wound dressings, anti septic cream, enough for your whole trip.
Anti inflammatory, aspirin and any medication you take,i.e. asthma inhaler.
For alpine huts; sheet sleeping bag but no sleeping bag, head torch, ear plugs or music for sleeping.
Rucsac 30/40 ltrs with a water proof cover or dry liners.
Money; Don’t rely on credit cards in the hills, cash is king in mountain huts and cafes. Passport, insurance papers, Alpine club membership or BMC card may get you a discount in the huts if you have it.