Yeah, in the long run any big sport or hobby is going to be expensive. But the goretex jacket, long underwear, socks, and other clothing items are stuff you need for any outdoors activities. Compare to the expensive ski suits and you come out about the same. How about horse sports, sailing, boating, kayaking. All cost. The cost of mountaineering can be low in the beginning and you can buy just a few pieces of equipment at a time. Ice axes and crampons are usually found at used equipment sales. So I still don't see cost as making mountaineering an elitist activity.
Did these guys have to have the latest parka at REI?