Follow-up on Climbing gear: I used a titanium mountaineering axe made by Jim Stanley, the Helios, which was his personal axe that he lent me. It doesn't have a spike and I don't think it's necessary unless you're dealing with really hard ice, but I'm still thinking of going with that option if he can make one for me. The axe was smaller than the one I usually use, but since you always self-belay by placing your axe in the snow above you the shortness was not a problem. I'll post the dimensions and weight as soon as I get to it. It was lightweight but still usable as an axe, and as a climbing tool if you needed to get yourself out of a crevasse, although fortunately that didn't happen. It's solid.
I had a Black Diamond Alpine Bod harness, the one without the soft padding on it, weighing approx 13 oz.
My climbing partner is a friend who moved here from Nepal, where he had been the lead Sherpa (Sirdhar) for Adventure Consultants on Everest. His name is Ang Dorjee Sherpa, and with ten summits of Everest you couldn't have a better partner. He and I talked quite a bit about the lightweight philosophy, finally making last minute decisions in the parking lot at White River Campground.
His strategy is to not use a full length 9 or 10mm rope, but rather a length closer to 40 feet. The advantage is obvious- huge savings in weight. You tie two knots at each end of the rope. In each case you tie one knot at the very end, say a figure 8. Then you tie a second knot four feet or so away from the end. You do this on both ends, so you have four loops altogether. You clip in with a locker to your harness to the inner knot. You place the extra four feet over your shoulder and clip it back in to a second locker on the front of your harness.
Let's take the case of me falling into a crevasse, since it's Sherpa tradition to simply pull hard on the rope and tug someone out of a crevasse in the Himalayas, so I was in good shape. Had my friend fallen in, I would self arrest. Once I had anchored myself by digging my feet (or knees) in to the snow, I reach around to my pack, take out a picket, and clip it into the knot at the end of the rope. I slowly move backwards until the picket is weighted, all the while communicating with my partner to find out the extent of the problem. He can now climb out on the anchored rope by prussiking up if he's not close to the crevasse wall or by using his hand, axe and crampons if he's close to it. If he's having a problem I can lower myself down (most likely setting up a second anchor with my axe) or lower extra clothing down to him on the rope. The rope is short enough that he can't be that far below the lip, and long enough that only one of is likely to go in, and if we're good at routefinding neither of us should punch through in the first place. So, additional gear- each of us has one picket and one ice screw, prussiks, 2 lockers, and two extra biners. That's it. Now I can't officially recommend that you try this at home! I don't think this would not pass muster with any accrediting agency outside of Nepal, but for two people moving fast (because we're light) it's a heck of a lot simpler than the standard system, and a lot lighter.