The Gear We Carried

When we went into the mountains everything, and I mean everything, was carried on our backs. Back then, there were no cell phones, pagers, personal computers or GPS, and the internet hadn’t been built yet, so the only thing online for us or anyone else at that time, was laundry. We talked about taking some sort of communications device with us but the best available was military, heavy, and probably had limited functionality in the back country. This meant any communication device we carried was probably going to be dead weight, and we hated carrying anything just for the hell of it, especially when we figured it wouldn’t work.

Our merry band of snot-nosed rangers carried about 30 to 35 pounds of gear and it was divided between personal gear like clothing, and team gear like food, cooking equipment and tents. Brad and I carried considerably more since we were responsible for the lives of the kids in our care, and our pack’s weight usually hovered in the 100 plus or minus ten or fifteen pounds range.

Brad carried 600 feet of Mammut Kernmantle climbing rope, a dynamic rope that has stretch built in, so when someone falls the force is reduced on the gear and the falling climbers. He also usually carried our two-man mountain tent. I carried the first-aid kit that included everything imaginable including a couple inflatable body splints ( one arm splint, and one leg). We each carried two canteens (water is the heaviest thing a person carries in the mountains), two stoves, and fuel containers. We really didn’t think it was a smart idea for one of the kids to carry gasoline in his pack so that was part of our kit. I carried two cameras and five lenses. Photography was a big component of our program and we needed pictures. Along with the cameras, I carried a light meter, ten roles of 35 mm color slide film and 20 rolls of black and white film (ten of Plus-X 125 and ten of Tri-X 400). If I was a glutton for punishment I'd sometimes carry a tri-pod . We also carried an entrenching tool, poncho, zero degree mummy bag, ensolite pad, flashlight, headlamp, Camillus Ranger knife, gloves, mittens, rain pants, duct tape, snow seal, gaiters, survival saw, vest, anorak, repelling and belaying gear, carabiners, webbing, harnesses, boot grease, repair rope, additional food, extra laces, toilet paper, halzone tablets, cooking equipment, bug repellant, candles, waterproof matches, head cover, and our personal clothing. We carried more clothing than we needed because somebody’s gear almost always got wet and they’d end up in our extra stuff.

We also carried medication, lots of it. Most of the SNR’s were taking some form of prescription medication and we carried all of it as part of maintaining safety and order. When I think back it was pretty comical when we prepped the meds. Before we left on a trip, Brad and I sat across from each other and packed every kids meds in individual dose envelopes and labelled them by day and time-of-day to avoid mix ups. We checked, and then double-checked each envelope before we packed it all up. On any climbing day we could have twenty-five or thirty envelopes of meds in the pockets of our fatigues that needed to be distributed that day. A phenomenon that reared its ugly head from time-to-time was that some medications didn’t work the way they were supposed to when an individual was strenuously exerting himself, burning thousands of calories and changing his metabolism out in the mountains. But that’s a story for another day.