OR Jan 2019: Climbing Gear

This technically being the Outdoor Retailer SnowShow, there were a lot more skis around than climbing gear but we nevertheless saw some cool bits. The Grivel tools, already covered in the Highlights, were by far and away the hit of the show amongst climbers. Petzl’s redesigned Dart looks like a solid entry into the modular lightweight crampon category, while Cassin’s Alpinist Tech takes elements of the proven Blade Runner geometry and gets lightened up by reducing its modularity in favour of reduced weight.

As I have received many questions about this, I’ll address it now: the Lynx is remaining in the Petzl lineup alongside the new Dart. Petzl are positioning the Dart as a high-end ice- and mixed-climbing crampon, better suited to those who climb with Nomics and Ergonomics, while the Lynx is designed to pair better with the Quark as a more general, all-around mountaineering system.

Now on to the new gear!

Joining Petzl in the modular ice-pick and accessory genre are both Grivel and Cassin.

Grivel is calling theirs the Vario System and will comprise four different picks and four different attachments. The picks, as I understand it, remain the same as current picks but gain the Vario moniker denoting their new-found modularity.

The new Vario System from Grivel.

Ice Vario – this is a hot-forged pick designed for technical alpinism and ice climbing. It’s T-rated and weighs 116-grams. It has the same profile and thickness as the current Ice pick.

Mix Vario – another hot-forged pick but slightly thicker and more aggressive than the ice. T-rated and 134-grams.

Cascade Vario – relatively new, it is designed primarily for ice-climbing and tapers down to 3mm at the tip. It’s B-rated and weighs 96-grams.

Dry Vario – the dedicated dry-tooler of the family, even more aggressive than the Mix and thicker at 4mm throughout. T-rated and 120-grams.

Now, on to the new attachments. These will cost from 15-30 Euros, I’ll add USD and CAD prices if and when I get them, but I’m sure you can run the conversion yourself.

Adze Vario – an adze in the typical hexagonal-shape Grivel is symbolic with. 57-grams.

Hammer Vario – a relatively large and hefty hammer, also in a four-leaf-clover shape. 67-grams.

Mini Hammer Vario – a small, four-leaf-clover shaped hammer. 37-grams.

Simple Vario – basically the second attachment hole and basic space-filler. 15-grams.

Something we didn’t see at the show but is in the works for the odd half-dozen climbers that will need it is a dedicated pick-and-shovel system called Wings. If you’re ever read about climbing rime ice in Patagonia then you’ll instantly know what this is designed for. I have no weight or price but it’s awesome to see a company creating such a low-demand item.

Apologies for the shit photo; this is a tiny image in a catalog…

Cassin has developed their own version of a modular pick, and will be introducing it as the stock replacement pick for their tools moving forward from FW19. (Though as I understand it, complete tools will still come with the ‘current’ picks until stock runs out.) There is no specific name for this system but the Cassin version utilizes a laser cut-out in their existing Ice and Mixte picks, and comes with an included plastic insert to occupy the empty space. There are new hammer and adze attachments, which is awesome as you can now have the Mixte pick with a hammer — I’ve never been a fan of the Ice pick but have sometimes wanted a hammer and now I can have the best of both worlds: a Mixte pick with a hammer!

Mixte Pick – designed for mixed climbing and steep ice (my go-to ice and mixed pick on the X-Dream). T-rated and 115-grams. (I don’t know the separate weights of the pick and plastic insert and this isn’t listed in the workbook.) $45 USD

Ice Pick – designed for technical ice climbing. T-rated and 102-grams. $45 USD

X-Dream Hammer – this hammer looks identical to the one found on the current Ice Pick. 42-grams. $35 USD

X-Dream Adze – adze with weight-shaving cut-outs. 46-grams. $35 USD

Black Diamond are swapping out all their picks to hot forged chromoly steel. The picks stay the same, just the fabrication changes. No change in price either as far as I can tell.

Aside from the above, there are a few more random bits and pieces coming for Fall/Winter 2019. In alphabetical order:

Black Diamond’s Spinner Leash gets a slight redesign, in the form of locking mini-biners, while the rest of it looks to be the same as the current model. The new lime-green colour will now match your new BD alu screws and the green on newer BD tools. Weight is 90-grams and it’s rated at 2kN (450lbf). $65 CAD (so probably around $50 USD).

Grivel Duetto is an EPP (Expanded PolyPropylene) helmet: think Petzl Sirocco-type construction. It’s a soft, somewhat squishy, helmet that is incredibly resilient to impact and should be very durable (if my experience with the Sirocco transfers over). It’s dual-certified as a climbing and backcountry skiing helmet — it also qualifies as a paragliding helmet, so it’s technically triple-rated — with a simple strap system that keeps it securely centred on your head. Weighing a mere 195-grams it’ll come in one size, fitting 53-61cm heads, will retail for $150 USD and come in an awesome blue colour and a somewhat more reserved grey.

Grivel Mistral is the latest entry into the alpine-thong category of harness: ultralight, minimalist harnesses for those super-fast uber-lite alpine missions or your regular glacier ski-tour where a harness is more of a safety item rather than functional necessity. The main construction is from X-tech sail fabric, which is inherently waterproof and incredibly strong: the fibres and construction that’s visible in the Mistral’s waistbelt is how this stuff comes from the factory. Very cool. The height of the bridge (span between leg loops and waistbelt) is adjustable between two settings. The harness has two minimalist gear loops and weight is a svelte 168-grams. $100 USD retail.

Mammut’s Bionic Crosslock belay biner utilizes an innovative design for the ‘capture bar.’ The bar/gate swings both ways to make setting and removing the belay biner from the belay loop a much simpler, more intuitive, process than most current designs. It sounds more complicated than it is in action, just check out the video:

There is also a version called the Bionic Crosslock Ultra Tough which utilizes a special coating that is 16x more resistant to rope friction and wear than regular anodizing or coating. I don’t remember the weight off-hand, but I do have the prices, and they’re rather high. And be forewarned, the Ultra Tough coating is extra pricy. Bionic Crosslock: $39.95 USD and $49.95 CAD. The Ultra Tough version: $49.95 USD and $64.95 CAD. No, those are not typos!

In addition to the new Dart, Petzl will also be introducing a whole host of winter-specific climbing accessories.

The coolest one by far is the Kit Cord-Tec, which is basically the lightweight all-aluminum heel piece from the Leopard crampon paired with the Dyneema cord. Compatible with the Irvis and Dart, the Cord-Tec transforms these crampons into ultra-light climbing machines. Plus, given the flexible connecting cord, they fold up much smaller than crampons with traditional linking bars. Weight is 120-grams (I am not sure if per pair or each, I suspect per pair, but I will verify) and price will be 80 Euros. Available October 2019. Cannot wait!

Again, apologies for the low-res catalog screenshot.

Next up is the Ultralight Pouch, which was inspired by Conrad Anker’s screw-packing ‘system’: Conrad stores his screws in a regular US Postal Service envelope as it is extremely lightweight and very durable. The Ultralight pouch is made of X-Pac composite material, which comes from the world of high-tech racing sails. It is extremely tough, reinforced with a polyester mesh, and has a waterproof film to minimize water absorption. It’s most commonly used by custom pack makers, but here Petzl have made it into an envelope for storing crampons, screws, and any other objects you’d care to stuff into an ultra-tough, 50-gram, envelope. It’s apparently even strong enough to be clipped to a belay anchor and used as a drop-pocket at stations. Cost will be 25 Euros. I think I need like half a dozen of these in my life!

Adding to specialized winter climbing kit is the Fil Small toe bail. It’s a narrower version of Petzl’s regular bail to better fit modern boot designs. They’ll be easy to identify as the black finish is in stark contrast to Petzl’s typical ‘naked’ steel look. 30-grams per pair and just 22-Euros to make your boots fit better.

The black bail on the left is the new Fil Small; the right steel-coloured one is the current version.

Finally, Petzl have refined the ice screw holder. It’s called the Octo pouch and is designed to store and transport 8 ice screws. It has small tabs in the middle that ‘lock’ against the screws’ teeth to prevent them from falling out — and it works. Check out the video below for a proper shake-test.

I’m honestly amazed that none of the screws so much as shifted in their slots. The Octo will accommodate any screw length, but will not ‘lock’ in the shortest, 10-cm, screws. It also looks like BD’s new aluminum screws might be a really tight fit, if they even go into the slots at all. There’s also a small mesh pocket for small items (file, extra pick, front points, etc.) and the Octo will fit up to 12 screws if you cram the extra 4 into the free space between the other 8. There’s a hang-tab for easy drying, and the whole thing weighs just 160-grams. Cost will be 25-Euros.

Check out our other round-ups from Outdoor Retailer Snow Show January 2019.


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