Get a System!

I’ve stressed elsewhere that alpine climbing is about efficiency - efficiency of movement, timing, gear selection, etc. Something that can help in that efficiency is being systematic about your approach to the endeavour. For example: fumbling around in your rucksack for a piece of equipment or perhaps lipsalve or a water bottle has two effects:

  • It slows you down.
  • It increases the sense of uncertainty - you become increasingly flustered.

Being systematic may not completely eradicate these negative aspects but it will considerably lessen their effects. Of course, being so dogmatic in your system can also end up being a negative force - what if something isn’t in the place you thought it was? You will just end up getting flustered.

The Approach

Alpine approaches can vary from simple walks along dry paths to low grade rock-climbs equipped with chains. Indeed, some hut approaches are climbs in their own right and should not be taken lightly. Fortunately these are the exception rather than the rule. Global warming has had its part to play - many previously simple hut approaches now require some shenanagins to get off the glacier and up to the hut.


Some people look forward to bivouacs, others dread them. I suspect the latter would at least get to appreciate them if a little planning went into them. Lying out on a mountainside with only the outline of the nearby mountains and the stars for company is one of the great experiences of life.

Tidyness is next to Godliness

Or something like that. Being organised on a bivvy is essential, especially if it is actually on a route. Knowing where everything is so that you can find it with your eyes shut in the dark just makes life so much easier. If you cannot keep that sort of information in your head overnight then at least remember where your headtorch is as without that, in the middle of the night, you will struggle to find anything.

Here again getting into a system makes bivvies much more bearable, though any system will have to be modified to suit the particular bivouac site, it is possible to generalise.

The Route