Finally, the one you’ve all been waiting for (sorry, took me a while to get all the details): climbing hardware! Not a lot of new announcements, but some very interesting and innovative new items coming our way.
The Beal Escaper is of course the item everyone wants to know more about. The Escaper is a length of dynamic rope with a built-in dyneema sling prusik, and a ‘spring’ system that moves the prusik down the rope when tension is applied on/off. It’s hard to explain, so just check out the diagram and videos below:
The Escaper is going to retail for $50 USD and weighs around 90-grams. It is rated to 18kN, and comes with a storage pouch that also has the setup and use instructions printed on it — this seems like a very easy piece of kit to completely mess up the setup of, which would be catastrophic, so it’s nice to see this. (Though, check out that last diagram — I’m not sure if that’s a pre-production version of the instructions or not, but I want this exact pouch! I can’t believe I only noticed that when editing the photos!)
Of course, questions surrounding the Escaper and its functionality abound: will it catch easily on pulls that aren’t straightforward? What about if you bounce on rappel, will that activate the prusik? What if there’s drag in the rope? Will it ice up? I’m sure there are dozens more out there, so if you have a question about the Escaper please comment below or e-mail me and I’ll try to answer them once I have a sample in hand and can do some testing. For now, let’s just enjoy that last image from the instructions again:
Another interesting looking Beal product is the Birdie, an all-steel assisted braking belay device. The cam and friction sections of the Birdie are made of stainless steel for enhanced durability, and it’s designed so that the rope follows the braking axis, eliminating twists. It’s also compatible with ropes from 8.5mm to 11mm, weighs 210-grams and will cost $75 USD.
Mammut has redesigned the Smart, and the new Smart 2.0 has improved geometry for easier paying out of the rope and better blocking. It now looks like it won’t have that notchy action that the original Smart had. The 2.0 works with ropes from 8.7mm to 10.5mm and weighs 80-grams.
There’s also a little clip-on for the Smart 2.0, called the Smarter. It’s basically a spring-assisted arm that will tension and properly position the rope in case of a fall, triggering the blocking action.It stays out of the way under normal use, and will only engage in case the rope is positioned improperly. The Smarter clips securely onto the Smart 2.0 and adds a scant 8-grams to the overall weight.
Petzl is revamping most of their harnesses for 2018, most significantly the Adjama/Luna and the Sama/Selena. Along with improved, more ergonomic fit and shaping, the new harnesses all feature Petzl’s Endoframe Technology that combines thin foam sewn onto variable width webbing to eliminate pressure points and rub spots. In an interesting (and, for me, disappointing) move, the new harnesses do not have ice clipper slots, Petzl instead relying on the Caritool Evo to provide racking. I’m not sold on this, but I’ll reserve final judgement until I’ve had a chance to use it.
The Adjama/Luna are somewhat more trad-focused and have an awesomely large fifth gear loop on the back, along with a small haul loop. The Sama/Selena make do with the typical four gear loops, however the front loops are larger than before, and the rear loops are positioned down and out of the way. Petzl claim weight is up a few grams per harness, however price remains the same with the Sama/Selena at $70 USD and the Adjama/Luna at $80 USD. These are some of the most comfortable and affordable harnesses on the market, and I’m stoked to try out the redesigned versions (even if they lack ice clipper slots…).
Black Diamond’s Vision harness is their lightest full-feature harness to date and comes in at 224-grams for a size Medium. The Vision does have four ice clipper slots, but in typical BD fashion they’re positioned on either side of the forward gear loop, rendering the two forward-most ones useless (or, at least, I don’t know any climbers that use the forward ice-clipper slots). There’s a large cord-loop at the back for gear and everything else is similarly pared down. MSRP is going to be $150 USD / $180 CAD.
Following the lightweight trend is Beal’s Ghost harness, coming in at 250-grams for a Medium. The Ghost uses Dyneema straps throughout for increased abrasion resistance and weight savings. The two rear gear loops and the haul loop are low-profile and flexible for comfort under a pack waistbelt, while the two front loops are more rigid for easier access to gear. There are also two ice-clipper slots, one on each hip. The Ghost will retail for $110 USD.
Not quite as light as the others, but definitely the brightest harness in existence, the Edelrid Ace Ambassador weighs in at 267-grams for a size Medium. It has pretty standard features: four wrap-around gear loops, two ice-clipper slots and a haul loop. Worn by Edlerid’s athletes, the Ace Ambassador is billed as a limited edition item, so get in line now for this blindingly lime-green beauty (or is that eyesore?).
Elsewhere, Black Diamond adds a few more ropes to their lineup with Dry coverage. There are also 80m options available now, but still no double-pattern offerings.
Also in ropes, Beal introduces a 5mm Back Up Line, a tiny Aramid/polyamide cord with a minuscule 21g/m weight. It’ll come in 30, 40, 50, 60 and 70-metre lengths, and prices run from $120-270 USD.
Petzl will be replacing the venerable Elois with the new Boreo helmet. The Boreo fuses technology from the Sirocco 2.0 and uses EPP (expanded polypropylene) foam, with an EPS (expanded polystyrene) liner, encased in an ABS shell. It should prove to be an extremely durable helmet while offering enhanced protection to the back of the head, as well as increased side coverage. Claimed weight is 285-grams for a S/M and 295-grams for the M/L. It’ll cost $65 USD.
Black Diamond adds a Women’s version of their Half Dome helmet that adds a ponytail cutout, but remains otherwise unchanged.
DMM adds a size 7 and 8 to their Dragon Cams, and these exhibit the typical DMM construction: they’re like works of art. The size 7 fits from 88-148mm and weighs 353grams (BD’s #5 is 380 grams and covers 85.4-148.5mm). The size 8 covers 116-195mm and weighs 501 grams (BD’s #6 is 557 grams and goes from 114.1-195mm).
For those tired of wearing out HMS belay biners, Edelrid has a solution with the Bulletproof line of biners, which are aluminum ‘biners with a steel insert over the rope bearing surface.
Another neat ‘biner is Grivel’s Vlad, which fuses the functions of a carabiner and rigging plate into one. With a weight of 90-grams and a USD price of $40 it’ll be a specialty item, but I can see carrying one of these on multi-pitch and alpine routes just to simplify and eliminate the tangle of biners in a masterpoint. I love to see innovation and this is really cool!
For the crack climbers out there, Outdoor Research updates their Splitter Gloves with improved fit, more ergonomic finger-holes and what looks to be more durable rubber patches. There’s also a new all-leather Splitter Work Glove, a belay-style glove with goat leather construction, cow split leather palm reinforcement and that same rubber/nylon overlay on the back of the hand. As someone who’s not the biggest fan of crack climbing, I want a pair of these now! USD prices will be $39 for the Splitter and $55 for the Splitter Work.
Finally, I ran into this sweet little knife from Benchmade, the 535 Bugout. Designed for outdoors users, it uses the lightest components available to create an ultra-light knife that still has a 3” blade and a solid locking mechanism. Benchmade claim a weight of 52.45-grams (that’s right, they’re accurate down to 0.45-grams — that’s awesome!)