The high cost of mountaineering gear?

I was shocked at the price of mountaineering gear recently as I wandered round the climbing shops . Yet much of the clothing is now a fashion item worn by many in the High Street. Many tell me good gear has always been expensive.

Of course there is lots you can buy on eBay and other sites second hand saving a lot of cash. I WOULD BE WARY of buying second hand ropes or climbing gear unless you knew the history of it.

The old days.

When I started mountaineering as a very young lad I saved my paper round cash to buy a smock jacket with a map pocket on the front. Everything else I wore was my day to day clothing. I wore shoes on the hills on my Duke of Edinburgh Award later buying Hawkins boots which cost a fortune. I was lucky to join the RAF and get gear from the Mountain Rescue team. Sadly none of it fitted so the slow process of buying gear that fitted. I must have spent thousands of pounds over the years. At least I had dry boots for a Callout after a day on the hill and a long night search or assist if we got back to change and eat.

To winter climb now is so expensive crampons, axes, ropes. Helmet and protection are so costly I wonder how many would be climbers are put of by the costs?

The Classic line “all the gear and no idea spring to mind”. The modern clothing is comfortable so light and warm huge advances have made things better. Yet looking back at the photos in the early days many had little gear. After the Second World War ex military kit was in abundance much was adapted to climbing. Things like vibrame soles made big changes in mountaineering and old MOD crampons helped improve the climbing of that era.

What is the current cost to clothe and equip a winter climber nowadays ? Has anyone got the figures? I used to have a guide but it’s so out of date now.

Is mountaineering becoming a very middle class sport? Has it always been apart from after the war when folk fled from the cities to seek adventure. Our history is full of tales of working class climbers like the Creag Dubh who pushed standards in the 50’s. Will the cost of equipment change things .

Comments welcome as always.

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Clothing, Gear, Views Mountaineering. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to The high cost of mountaineering gear?

  1. Climbing gear has always been expensive, the price of a Ventile anorak in the 50s would make your eyes water. It was a different world. I went to buy boots from an establishment , too posh to be called a shop, where the door was opened by a man in a green baize apron. You could only get the best gear by travelling abroad. Perhaps the reason for an Easter meet at the rocks at Verseille was to buy PAs in Paris.
    A popular description of the British in those days ‘Dressed in rags and camoflage’

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jim higgins says:

    I remember asking the man in tiso how many ice screws I would need roughly for the grade I hoped to climb. His answer was as few as possible they are nearly 15 quid each

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Alan says:

    There was a ‘fashion’ during, I think late 1960s and 1970s, for making your own gear, including tents – though perhaps not boots or ropes.

    Patterns and materials could be purchased if required.

    I did hear of a pair of Hawkins bendy-boots taking someone up the north face of the Matternhorn around that time – though I suppose it was the individual’s skill that helped them along.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pete Clinch says:

    I’ve been out of the climbing game a while, but a quick Google suggests I can buy a 50m rope for… about the same in raw numbers (i.e., with inflation much less) as I was paying 30 years ago. Krabs don’t seem to have changed that much either.
    Top end mountain climbing jackets seem about the same cost taking inflation in to account… but they’re much better (more breathable, much lighter but a good measure as tough) and you can get cheap stuff that still works pretty well, almost certainly better than the Sprayway Entrant cag I wore for my fist winter routes in the 80s.

    All the while I was winter climbing (before I defected to Nordic ski touring) I couldn’t afford the top of the line stuff, but I was only ever climbing up to III so didn’t need much fancy.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Alex RoddieA says:

    Surely adjusted for inflation these prices are about the same? I do agree that mountaineering gear has become heavily influenced by fashion, and there is a VAST amount more than used to be available (or considered necessary), but item to item the prices look about the same to me…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks got it wrong as usual but climbing mountaineering is becoming very middle class or is that just me!


      • Alex Roddie says:

        Yep, I think you’re right there, although I also think that’s both an economic inevitability and possibly a return to form (for 150 years before World War I it was very much a middle to upper-class pastime). And as we know, much of the gear marketed to us today is not really necessary. Perhaps it wouldn’t take much to return to an ideal where minimalism is the way forward? I can see things swinging back in this direction over the next decade or so. All you really need are good clothing and footwear, a rucksack, an ice axe, navigation tools, a rope (if climbing) and a few other odds and ends. The basic requirements of mountaineering haven’t changed since day one. Maybe people will start to remember that again…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Great reply I do fear for the future where cost stops folk. I wore shoes on my early days and slowly bought gear.

        Very true just get out there and enjoy the wild.

        Thanks again Heavy


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