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Gear for Adventure: AMGA Ice Instructor Program

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When I’m out guiding, I’m often asked what I’m carrying or what gear is in my pack.  This question seems to be asked more in winter months. Because it can be difficult to generalize a pack for winter climbing, I am going to share with you the gear I carried when I took the AMGA Ice Instructor Course based in Ouray, Colorado.

[Also Read Jason Antin’s Gear For Adventure: Cassin Ridge, Denali]

In this course we had to select, assess and guide fellow students and an AMGA Instructor Team Member up various multi-pitch routes around the San Juans mountains in a 2:1 capacity.  During this five-day course we were evaluated on our ability to safely move through and effectively guide technical terrain up to WI 5.

A well-rounded arsenal of gloves can make ice climbing so much more enjoyable. Photo: Marc Bergreen.

Here’s a list of the routes my class was assigned to guide during this course:

Ames Ice Hose (WI 5)

Stairway to Heaven (WI 4+)

Whorehouse Hose (WI 4/5)

Tangled Up In Blue (WI 4)

Le Pissoir (WI 5)

Charmin Tube (WI 4)

Skylight (WI 4+ M4/5)

Choppo’s Chimney (WI 4+)

Slippery When Wet (W I4)

Slip Sliding Away (WI 4)

Mile 4 (M6)

Horsetail Falls (WI 4/5)

The list below contains the gear I carried with me for most objectives listed above. That being said, please take this list as a recommendation and tailor your pack appropriately for your objective at hand. You may notice a high quantity of some items (for example 12 Ice Screws).  The kit list required for the AMGA course must accommodate 3x climbers, the potential for 2x Ice Screw anchors, etc. There were also some small adjustments made each day appropriate to the selected route.

[More photos below the table!]

Client Care is key, and the combination of warm electrolyte drink and summit charcuterie board can keep energy levels and stoke high.! Photo: Marc Bergreen.

AMGA Ice Instructor Course Gear List
Gear Item Specifics  Details
Mountain/Ice Boots La Sportiva G5 These boots happen to fit my feet well, and I love the integrated gaiter and ability to frequently adjust the boot with the BOA System on the fly.
Active Socks Darn Tough Hiker Boot Full Cushion Sock These socks provide a good balance between warmth and performance. I can also wear them several days in a row with out getting too funky.
Crampons Petzl Dart (newest version) I love how these crampons interface with the G5 and have the ability to run as mono- or dual-point depending on the objective
Apres Footwear Merrell Jungle Moc A comfy appraach (drive) and apres shoe is key for a winter mountain mission!
Upper Layers
T-Shirt Base Layer Merrell Tencel Short-Sleeve T-Shirt A thin layer with Tencel/Wool is key to keep odor down.
Long-Sleeve Base Layer OR Echo Hoody Sometimes I use this as my base layer alone and like the thin hood for protection on windy days.
Softshell/Wind Jacket OR Ferrossi Hoody I run hot and prefer to climb in a thin or mid-weight softshell on most days in Colorado.
HardshellGore-Tex Jacket OR Archangel GoreTex Stretch Jacket I’m a huge fan of Gore-Tex Pro fabric for a bombproof hardshell when I actually need the hardshell. I’ve used various models, but lately I’ve been using the OR Archangel Jacket. (Note: this Jacket will not be available until Fall 2020.)
Insulated Vest Merrell Entrada Insulated Vest I often carry an insulated vest on guiding days with minimal movement or very low temps for added insulation.
Down Parka Puffy HIMALI Altitude Down Parka A good belay jacket is crucial to comfort on winter climbs and when standing around on long guiding days. In Colorado, the 850 down fill is plenty warm and I’m not concerned about wet weather.
Lower Layers
Underwear 2XU Run Compression Shorts I typically only wear a single layer under my pants for climbing at typically alpine elevations. The tight weave of a compression short blocks wind, but allows for proper temperature regulation on most climbs.
Softshell Pants OR IceLine Versa Softshell Pants Whenever I can get away with it, I’m wearing softshell pants for movement and breathability. The OR iceLine Versa are the best ice/alpine pants I’ve owned.
Hardshell/Gore-Tex Pants OR Archangel Goretex Stretch Bibs When I need hardshell pants, I’m usually using bibs. This season I’ve been using the Archangel Hardshell Bibs. (Note: these pants will not be available until Fall 2020.)
Puffy Pants Black Diamond (BD) Stance Insulated Pants I don’t think thhey make this model any more, but they’ve been up above 6,000 meters and are perfect for long days belaying ice climbs!
Head + Neck + Face
Helmet Petzl Sirrocco II I like a very light helmet, but something durable enough to handle daily guiding use and abuse. This helmet seems to handle the workload and provide comfort.
Warm Hat Merrell Thin Beanie A thin, microgrid hat is key for approaches or for wearing underneath your helmet on cold days.
Neck Gaiter Bright Orange Buff – AMGA Branded A buff is key for wearing around your neck, or underneath your helmet. I also use this to clean my glasses.
Sunglasses/Eye Protection Zeal Big Timber w/ PhotoChromatic Lense These glasses have worked really well for ice climbing. The photochromatic lenses blocks heavy sun on the approach, but lighten up so I can use them in shaded areas and still have eye protection if desired.
Hard Glasses Case Zeal Blue Soft Case I’ve learned the hard way: If I don’t protect my glasses they’ll get crushed under a my thermos and ice screws.
Lip Balm + Sunscreen Dermatone Tin Duel purpose, and typically on ice climbs exposure to the sun is minimal so there’s no need to bring much.
Liner + Approach Gloves OR Gripper Sensor Gloves A thin approach glove is so important. Breathable enough to keep your hands dry on the approach and dexterous enough to rack up and fasten your harness and crampons without exposing your hands to the elements. I use these gloves as ‘burner’ gloves and they typically go into the bottom of my pack once we get to the climb – or I lend them to guests who forget or don’t have access to a thinner glove for climbing.
Thin Climbing Gloves OR Alibi II Gloves I use these gloves for challenging leads where dexterity is of the utmost importance.
Medium Thickness Climbing Cloves BD Terminators These gloves are my go-to when dexterity is crucial on cold days. I’ve been using these for years and haven’t found a better balance between warmth and dexterity yet.
Thick Climbing Gloves BD Enforcers Warm and dexterous enough for Colorado, Alaska and Greenland
Work/Belay Gloves Kinco 101HK-L Gloves Any glove that’s warm enough to keep your hands alive and durable enough to handle constant rope work. I’ve found this model in particular to be warm, and dexterous enough to climb well in.
Glove Pro Value Tip
Showa 282 Temres I learned about these gloves from AMGA Instructor Team member Pat Ormond. These gloves are cheap, super grippy and incredibly warm. Since the course I’ve added these into the rotation as my winter work/toprope/belay glove.
Emergency Shelter Brooks Range Ultralite Guide Tarp The UL Guides Tar is incredibly light weight and is very versatile. It can be integrated into rescue sled or be used as an emergency shelter or wind block.
1/2 Length Closed Cell Yellow ThermaRest Z-Light, 1/2 Pad (pack insert) I cut a yellow z-rest leaving 4-sections. This is the perfect size for a back panel insert into my back pack, can be used to sit on while putting on crampons, or integrated into first-aid splinting use.
Packs + Portage
Guide Pack Hyperlite Mountain Gear (HMG) Prism 40L Pack I’ve been using this pack for a few years and have been very happy with the Volume (40L) and perfect amount of features this pack has to offer. It also feels comfortable for when Need to climb technical terrain with the pack on.
Small Pack HMG Compressible 30L Summit Pack I often run the big pack-small pack system, and carry the small summit pack while on route. Even for smaller 2-pitch routes I carry a med kit, thermos, warm layers and GPS Messenger. When empty, this pack is hardly noticed when stored in the bottom of my big pack.
Crampon Case HMG Prism Crampon Case Light and sturdy crampon case, that often doubles as a on-route ditty sack that get’s thrown in my summit pack.
Ice Screw Case HMG Prism Ice Screw Organizer It has a very high price point, but this is the best ice screw organizer if ever owned I’ve carried up to 14 screws in it, but 10 fit perfectly in individual protective sleeves.
Stuff Sacks (2) HMG Pod Stuff Sacks I use stuff sacks to organize smaller items like Glove and food so they don’t get jumbled around my pack.
Stuff Sack Organizer Patagonia Black Hole Cube – 3L The Black Hole Organizer has separate compartments. This is where I store my med kit, repair kit, wag bags and electronics. The Separate compartments allow me to grab common items like hand warmers or wags bags without yard-saling the entire kit.
Hard-Sided Case Medium-Sized Tupperware Container I put fragile foods Like a sandwich or leftover breakfast burrito in here so it doesn’t get crushed in the bottom of my pack
Personal Climbing Gear
Harness Arc’teryx AR-395a
Ice Clippers  (2) Petzl Caritool Ice Clipper

(1) DMM Vault

Belay Device Black Diamond ATC Guide
Second Belay Device Petzl Reverso 4 I sometimes bring a 2nd device to mitigate ropes splitting while bringing up two followers at once.
Third Belay Device Mammut Smart 2.0 (ABD) The Mammut Smart 2.0 is a great Assisted Braking Device I will give to guests to use for belaying me on lead. It’s also a great device for belaying guests on long top-rope sessions.
Locking HMS Carabiners (3) CAMP HMS Compact Lockers Great all around, round-stock carabiner. I use these on the rope end of my belay device and as my clove-hitch carabiner for anchoring.
Small Locking Carabiners (3) CAMP Photon Lockers More compact locker, I use this biner on any point that needs a locker but that the rope isn’t moving through.
Extra Wiregate Carabiners (2) CAMP Dyon Carabiners I carry 2 extra carabiners to integrate into ice screw anchor systems.
Locker Draw (2) CAMP Guide Lockers + (1) Thick Medium Length Dog-Bone I am using the locker draw more frequently these days. Typically for crucial directional placements, during split-rope technique and as a rappel extension.
120cm Dyneema Runner Mammut Dyneema Sling For protection, anchor building and as a rappel extension for guests
120cm Aramid Runner Edelrid Aramid Runner My favorite sling for creating a rappel extensions. Strong and compact, but most importantly easy to untie after being heavily weighted.
240cm Runner (2) 240cm BD Dynex Runners Great length for various anchors, especially the quad.
Cordelette 21-foot Sterling PowerCord Light and strong, Is an important part of my self-rescue system and in a pinch can be and left behind on a bail anchor.
V-Thread Tool J-Snare V-Threader With rope diameters being so skinny (standard guides rope is 8.5-9.2mm) naked v-threads are the preferred method of descent if there is no walk-off available. The J-Snare has recently become my favorite tool for the job.
3rd Hand System (1) 13.5-inch Sterling Hollow Block + (1) Trango Locker My go-to set-up for backing up rappels and lowers
Self Rescue Kit (1) CAMP Photon Biner

(1) CRKT NIAD Knife

(1) Petzl TiBloc (old style)

(1) Spare V-threader (FirnLine Designs)

 I just use a small locker to keep the kit together and hang it off the back of my harness.

(I don’t think 2 V-threaders are necessary, as you can improvise with other slings if dropped, however I was still getting used to the J-snare at the time of the course and carried the old style V-threader tool as a back-up.)

Ropes (1) Petzl Volta Guide (60M, 9.0mm)

(1) Mammut Serenity (60M, 8.7mm)

The Volta is my primary rope, and the Serenity is my 
secondary rope for 2:1 guiding.
Ice Tools (pair) (2) CAMP Cassin X-Dream (w/ Mixte Pick & Headweights) The X-dream has become my favorite tool for most ice climbing objectives with vertical ice.
Quickdraws (6) BD Wiregate Quickdraws Nothing too fancy here, I use wiregate draws with a skinny dog-bone
Alpine Draws (4) CAMP Dyon Carabiners + (4) CAMP Nano 22 Carabiners +
(4) CAMP (60cm) 10mm Express Dyneema Runner
This is the alpine system I’ve been using for a few years. The Dyon carabiner is easy to clip with a gloved hand.
Ice Protection (12 screws) (6) Petzl Laser Speed Light 13cm (yellow)

(4) Petzl Laser Speed Light 17cm (blue)

(1) Petzl Laser Speed Light 21cm (green)

(1) Petzl Laser Speed 10cm (red)

The Ultralight Ice Screws are incredible. They make placing screws effortless for the guide and easy and less likely to drop while cleaning for the guest. I place mostly 13-centimeter screws while leading on good ice and save the 17-centimeter screws for anchors. O save the 10-centimeter screw for thin conditions and the 21-centimeter is my V-thread screw.
Rock Protection (Cams, Chocks, Pins) (1) BD .3 C4

(1) BD .4 C4

(1) BD .5 C4

(1) BD .75 C4

(1) BD #1 C4

(1) BD #2 C4

(1) BD #3 C4

(1) BD #4 Ultralight C4

(8) CAMP Nano 22s (matching colors of each cam)

(2) Black Diamond Oval Wiregates for racking stoppers and pins

Single set of assorted nuts

(3) Knifeblade pitons of various sizes

The rack will certainly change to accommodate the objective, but this is the rack I carried for the course. A single rack of cams and stoppers and I couldn’t leave the pins all alone at home while I was out in the San Juans. For the routes we climbed in this course, minimal rock gear was used.
Ice Tool Tether CAMP X-Gyro Leash A good idea for guide security on committing routes.
Wag Bags (2) Restop 2 Wagbag I typically carry 2x WagBags on most days.
Food + Hydration
Thermos 36-ounce Yeti Insulated Thermos Very often I leave the standard water bottle at home and just bring a thermos. Depending on the intensity of the day, I find that 36 ounces is enough liquid to keep me hydrated and offer a warm drink to my guests.
Ultralight Cup Snowpeak Titanium Mug For sharing hat drinks with my guests.
Water Bottle + Koozie Standard water bottle + HMG Bottle Koozie I’ll bring extra hydration for longer, more involved days in the mountains.
Electrolye Mix Gnarly Hydration Drink Mix (Ruby Red Grapefruit) I add this mix directly to the hot water in my thermos. It’s great hot, and has the added benefit of electrolytes.
Food Various Lots of choices here. Sometimes I run on bars (RX, epic) for days on the go, other times I’ll grab a second breakfast burrito for lunch.
Summit Food Anything to surprise and delight! I’m a huge fan of a little surprise near the end of the day to fuel my guests mentally and physically. The food also helps keep the body sharp for the descent/hike. My favorites are the summit charcuterie board and gummy bears.
Personal Electronics + Other Gear
Watch/Compass/Alitmeter COROS Vertix GPS Watch I’ve been using the COROS Vertix for about a year now and it’s my go-to watch for training, climbing and guiding. It has a massively huge battery life and a built in pulse-ox.
Phone iPhone 11pro + Otterbox Case Such a versatile tool, an iPhone is a communication device, map, compass, GPS and takes great pictures.
Sat Device/GPS Garmin InReach SE+ One of my favorite pieces of gear for communication in remote areas. Also a phenomenal emergency tool to provide my guests, should I become unable to assist them.
VHF Radio Baofeng UV-FR Radio I use this as an emergency communications tool, obtaining weather updates.
Camera Sony RX100 MV1 I like to capture images of the experiences with my guests. Sometimes I use my iPhone, sometimes I use my Sony a7, but often the RX100 is a good compromise.
Headlamp Petzl Nao Older model, but this thing has been great!
Spare Headlamp Battery Petzl Nao spare battery
Phone Charging Cable and Portable Battery/Power Cell iPhone 11pro Compatible + Anker PowerCore II 10000 When relying on electronics for navigation and communication, I often carry a spare battery and charging cable.
GPX + Beta Gaia and Mountain Project downloaded
Avalanche Rescue Gear
Transceiver Backcountry Access (BCA) Tracker 3 My go-to transceiver for most outings
Shovel BD Deploy Shovel This is a real, robust shovel with a smaller handle and blade.
Prove BCA Stealth 270 Probe Small, compact probe.
Other Gear
Trekking Pole BD Distance I often carry a single trekking pole to the base of the climbs. It’s a good tool if I’m the one breaking trail or in case one of my guests could use a little assistance for the hike back to the car. A trekking pole is also an incredibly versatile piece of first aid splinting equipment.
Guide’s Notebook (1) Brooks Range Field Organizer

(1) Rite In The Rain Notebook

(1) Mechanical Pencil

(1) Rite In The Rain Pen

This is a real, robust shovel with a smaller handle and blade.
Medical Kit
Athletic Tape
Latex Gloves
Alcohol Swabs
1.5″ Leuko Tape
Large Safety Pins
Triangular Bandage
3′ of 3″ Coban
4″x4″ Guaze Pads
Surgical ABD
Perscription Meds
Ibuprofen (200mg)
Prednisone (20mg)
Pepto Bismol
Cough Drops
Repair and EmergencyMedical Kit
20-30 Feet of Duct Tape
3′ Bailing Wire
6′ of 3-4mm Accesory Cord
Small Mill Bastard File
Multi Tool Trango Ice Multi Tool
Spare Parts: Extra Nuts and Bolts that are compatible with my gear
Extra Toe Bail 
Spare Pick
2x Extra Long Ski Straps
A quick glance at Antin’s tools, medical and repair kits. Photo: Marc Bergreen.
Heidi Wirtz gets ready for the AMGA Ice Instructor Course with some warm-up laps in the Ouray Ice Park. Photo: Jason Antin.
Antin racking up with his preferred guide’s kit. Photo: Marc Bergreen.

Jason Antin is sponsored by Merrell, Gnarly Nutrition, Hyperlite Mountain Gear, Go Pro, Bentgate Mountaineering, Zeal Optics, and COROS.

Feature Image: Jason Antin with his typical kit for multipitch ice climbing in Colorado. Photo: Marc Bergreen.

Jason Antin, a native of New England who now calls Colorado home, focuses all of his time striving to achieve the ultimate work-life balance. He also spends much of his time working as a climbing guide for Alpenglow Mountain Guides, as a strength and conditioning coach at The Alpine Training Center in Boulder, Colorado, where he prepares his athletes for the physical and mental rigors of the mountains. Off the clock, Jason shares his home in Golden, Colorado, with his wife Jenny and 2-year-old daughter Avery. He enjoys moving quickly in the mountains over all mediums that mother nature shares with us, whether that be trails, rock, ice or snow.

Read more about Jason’s adventures at his website!

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