For many Canadian climbers, the arrival of shorter daylight hours and the increasingly colder temperatures signal the start of ice climbing season. Rather than use last season’s tired old tools and beat-up outerwear, climbers should consider updating their kit with some of this year’s latest gear and clothing.
This sleek and beautifully made tool is perfect for climbers transitioning from lower angle snow to steeper ice faces. Unlike simpler straight tools, the Sum’Tec’s gently curved shaft provides clearance and an easy swing on technical terrain without compromising the plunging performance necessary on snow. An innovative adjustable trigger provides stability and added grip and can be moved up or down the shaft with just a simple flick of the lever. A durable hot forged pick is reassuringly secure in both ice and hard snow and replaceable with the removal of a single screw. This exceptionally well-made and versatile tool is ideal for many Rockies’ adventures.
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Despite the leashless revolution, there are still situations where a dropped tool can be disastrous and some sort of leash system is necessary. Rather than revert to traditional leashes which often can’t be affixed to modern leashless tools, consider using the Spinner Leash. Elasticized webbing accommodates the longest reaches while minimizing tangles and an unobtrusive swivel ensures twist-free matching and tool switches. At $55 this is cheap insurance against catastrophic tool loss.
Black Diamond’s redesigned Fusion is one of the top tools currently available for mixed climbing. The most innovative update is the one-piece hydroformed shaft that improves stiffness, reduces weight and offers a smooth swing perfectly suited for difficult mixed climbing. The tool’s performance can be further modded with an adjustable grip capable of accommodating large or small hands and a removable spike which can be left at home during those pure drytool cragging sessions. A simple one-bolt head allows for easy in-field pick changes and accepts all current BD picks.
V-threads or Abalakovs are a simple and secure anchor for ice climbing. But getting the two ice screw holes lined up so that a piece cord can be threaded and tied into an anchor is not always as easy as it sounds. The new First Shot simplifies this process by providing a template to guide the screws. The result is first-try perfect V-threads every time. A built-in cord puller and mini-saw further simplify the cord threading process.
Ice climbing demands handwear that’s warm without compromising the dexterity necessary for clipping biners and placing screws. Realizing this, Outdoor Research created the Alpine Alibi. Based on its successful Alibi mixed climbing glove, the Alpine Alibi provides total waterproofness and the increased warmth critical for ice climbing in the Rockies or Quebec. Durable leather palms are grippy enough for extended rappels while heat-pack pockets at the back of the wrist and hand increase warmth and comfort during extended belays. Easy-to-use gauntlet drawcords assure hands stay protected from snow and wind. A great option for the serious winter climber.
With the sling and biner attached to the screw, the Speedy simplifies the daunting process of placing of ice pro on steep terrain. Climbers can now clip in as they place the screw, which helps calm frazzled nerves and conserve valuable energy. The screw itself is remarkably sharp, starts easily and screws in fast thanks to the coffee grinder handle. Not only is this system faster to use but it’s also up to 15 percent lighter than traditional screw and draw set-ups.
Petzl’s sticky Griptape improves a climber’s grip on slick mixed tools while insulating the hands from cold aluminum shafts. This simple after-market tool mod is effective and mandatory for climbers venturing on any extreme mixed routes.
The challenge of deciding between a hardshell or softshell for ice climbing is over – just wear both. Or, more accurately, wear Outdoor Research’s new Alibi Jacket which combines the weather protection of a waterproof/breathable hardshell in the hood, shoulders and arms with the stretch, soft hand, abrasion resistance and excellent venting of a softshell in the torso. An innovative two-piece hood includes a thin insulating layer that covers the head beneath a helmet while a larger more traditional hardshell hood fits over the helmet for extra weather protection. Low profile wrist gaiters minimize drafts and add warmth while full-length hem-to-pit zips offer extra venting during long approaches. This is another great outerwear piece from OR.
By using Sandvik’s new Nanoflex steel, Cassin creates the industry’s lightest technical dual point crampon – just 920g per pair. Used in the crampon’s body and heel, Nanoflex is 60 per cent stronger than conventional steel alloys, allowing Cassin to use less material without compromising strength. The result is a surprisingly light crampon without the fragility of aluminum. The frontpoints however remain beefy and forged for added durability when climbing hard water ice or scratching up desperate mixed lines. A refreshingly intelligent use of materials
Quantum Tech – $ 255
Climbers spending time on steep ice or technical mixed terrain will love the performance of the new Quatnum Tech. As an originator of forged picks, Grivel employs its vast knowledge in the manufacturing of the Quantum Tech’s durable X-Monster pick and the results are unrivalled durability without compromising ice penetration. The shaft also reflects Grivel’s commitment to innovation using a sophisticated carbon composite construction, which delivers low weight, high strength and exceptional vibration damping. An excellent tool for difficult climbs.
The G20 is the world’s lightest mono point crampon. Thanks to its innovative mono rail construction, th e G20 sheds weight and assures the crampon points are properly positioned under the heel and ball of the foot. For challenging ice and mixed terrain the G20s are a joy to use but climbers should remember that all this performance and low weight come at a price – the front point is not replaceable requiring climbers to switch the entire forefoot when the front point is worn. A minor compromise for such extreme performance.
Conventional sewn seams are a softshell jacket’s weak link. Not only does every needle hole compromise the softshell fabric’s weatherproofness but the seam’s overlapped fabric also reduces the fabric’s inherent stretch. This is why The North face developed the new Magnus jacket. With its unique sonic-welded seams, stretch adhesive and stretch seam tape the Magnus maintains the softshell fabric stretch, minimizes bulk and improves durability creating a jacket that’s ideally suited for ice and alpine climbing. A roomy fit accommodates extra layers while the harness compatible pit-zips and generous helmet-fitting hood assure performance and comfort during difficult climbing.–
Exclusive First Preview
Everyone knows that heavy boots negatively affect climbing performance but reducing weight at the expense of warmth is not a realistic option for most ice climbers. After all, there’s not much point in saving a few grams if the result is frostbitten toes. It seems that Scarpa understands this important concept because their new boots, the Phantom Guides, weigh-in at just 1.8 kg per pair while retaining all the toe-saving warmth of the previous model. But weight and warmth are only on part of the equation – comfort during long approaches with heavy packs is also a critical component in any alpine and ice climbing boot. Which explains why Scarpa created a unique, shock absorbing PU midsole for the Phantom Guide. Consisting of a series of vibrant orange inserts, these PU plugs deliver 30 per cent greater shock absorption than conventional boots. This proprietary PU formula remains plush regardless of temperature, is resistant to compression forces and significantly lighter than most PUs – a winner on all fronts. At the back of the boot, the PU insert runs uninterrupted from the outsole into the heel, adding extra cushioning on the most challenging terrain. The system works, delivering noticeably softer landings with each stride and protecting fragile knees. When climbing on rock the Phantom Guides are similarly impressive. Edging is secure thanks to the thin closely cropped outsole, which ensures the climber’s weight is concentrated on the hold. Frontpointing on ice is just as inspiring thanks to the supportive sole and the tensioned heel rand which prevents disconcerting heel lift. On routes where the climbing is on ice and rock, the soft uppers are agile enough for complex gymnastic footwork. For extra weather protection and warmth, Scarpa includes a built-in zippered gaiter that protects the inner boot from moisture and abrasion. And while they may not beat the performance of single-purpose fruit boots for ultra-steep bolt protected mixed routes, the Phantom Guide’s versatility, warmth, low weight, cushioning and climbing performance make them a top choice for any modern ice climber. Highly recommended.