Cover Photo Winter Climbing

Winter OR 2018: Winter Climbing Gear

Well this is the last of the series of Winter 2018 Outdoor Retailer show reports but one of the more fun to research and write. The show sure had a lot of winter climbing eye candy this year with new ice tools, boots, screws, helmets, harnesses, etc. to check out. Given all the cool new technical climbing gear coming out this year you can expect an exciting and possibly expensive fall. Without further ado here’s the highlight reel.

La Sportiva Trango Tower Extreme GTX:

La Sportiva Trango Extreme

La Sportiva expanded the Trango line with the new Trango Tower Extreme GTX (black). Similar in appearance to the recently released Trango Tower GTX (blue) the new Extreme is warmer and more insulated. It has a thicker insole, 9mm insulated INI-Thermo instead of the 4mm nylon, and microfiber insulated lining. The boot has the same fit as the rest of the Trango line but a softer feel against the foot, likely due to the added insulation. And while it’s designed as a lightweight ice climbing and high alpine boot I think it’ll also make a great summer mountaineering boot where long wet glacier walks are involved.

La Sportiva Trango Extreme

La Sportiva Trango Extreme

Black Diamond Ultralight Ice Screws:

Black Diamond Ice Screws

Not to be left behind in the light-weight ice screw game, Black Diamond will be releasing their own version of a composite, aluminum-steel, screw this fall. These new screws are constructed from the ground up with an aluminum hanger and tube that’s glued to a steel cutting edge. Now the diameter of the aluminum tube is slightly larger than that used on the steel Express screws which of course resulted in a slight alteration to the tooth profile. Some testing on ice blocks in the BD booth at the show was promising as they were very easy to start and smooth to put in. Strangely, the aluminum tube extended all the way inside the steel cutting edge to the base of the teeth on the demo models at the show. If this design is kept with the production models of the screw it may limit how much they can be sharpened.

Black Diamond Ice Screws

The hanger features two large clip-in points as well as a cool and unique crank. The crank is based on the design of a wire-gate for a carabiner and so is light-weight but also has tension so it snaps open and closed. The 4-screw line-up follows the industry standard for colors with the exception of the 22cm screw which has a purple crank (not green) for some reason. Possibly because the screws are green?

Black Diamond Ice Screws

Now the culmination of all these light-weight features is an exceptionally light ice screw. Using BD’s claimed weights the numbers work out in the 42-45% lighter than the equivalent size Express screw. A huge reduction! They’re also lighter than the Petzl Laser Speed Light screws by about 18%. Of course a straight comparison is only possible on the 13cm screw as the sizing doesn’t line-up on the rest of them.

These new screws are expected to retail for $85 USD.

Black Diamond Reactor:

Black Diamond Reactor

BD is adding to their line-up of ice tools with the introduction of the new Reactor. This new tool was created to address a weakness in the current line-up and compete with some of the great tools offered by Camp, Grivel and of course Petzl (especially with the release of the new Nomic). Designed for steep, technical ice climbing the Reactor basically copies the geometry of one of the best ice tools on the market, the Cassin X-Dream. I think the color BD chose for the Reactor (envy green) says it all.

The Reactor comes with the Natural Ice Pick which has a thin, tapered design for solid sticks and easy cleaning. Of course any of the picks in BD’s 4-pick technical line-up can be used with the tool. The head has the same design as the Viper and so is compatible with the alpine hammer and adze but they’re sold separately.

Black Diamond Reactor

The handle features a very subdued spike that doesn’t have a hole for clipping tethers to. The hole in the grip can be adapted for this purpose though. There is also no adjustment setting for the handle angle, a feature that allows the X-Dream to delve into steep mixed terrain. The Reactor’s handle does feature a dual density grip that includes a soft and sticky upper grip. The main part of the handle has a removable section allowing it to adapt to different hand sizes but there were no demo models with different configurations at the show to check out.

Black Diamond Reactor

The 610g Reactor will retail for $280 USD.

Also worth noting, Black Diamond is changing the naming scheme for their pics. The new names are as follows:

  • Mixed Pick (was the Fusion Pick): a thick drytooling pick
  • Alpine Pick (was the Titan Pick): a thicker version of the Ice + pick
  • Ice + Pick (was the Fusion Ice Pick): a more robust ice pick for mixed
  • Natural Ice Pick (was the Ice Pick): a thin pure ice climbing pick


Elite Climb Axes

A relatively new player on the market, Elite Climb is using advanced composites to make some ridiculously light ice axes. In fact they are the only company making certified climbing axes using only composites in the shaft and handles. The line-up currently includes 3 axes: the Salamandra Ice Axe, Raptor Ice Axe and the Kruk Alpine Axe. Each axe features a shaft and handle made from a hybrid composite of carbon and Kevlar. Light, but still stiff and strong the composite looks cool to boot.

Elite Climb

The Salamandra is designed specifically for ice climbing and will be the lightest technical axe you’ve ever picked up. Weighing in anywhere between 360g and 450g, depending on the pick, it’s in a different ballpark than other popular ice tools such as the Nomic (605g) or X-Dream (600g). A hammer or adze options are available and would come as part of the pick. The swing on the Salamandra felt surprisingly natural for such a light tool, likely because all the weight is at the head of the axe. Unfortunately there was no ice at the show nor any area where I could hang from the tools to test them out.

Elite Climb Salamandra

Elite Climb Salamandra

The next tool in the line-up is the Raptor which features more aggressive geometry. Designed for tackling steep ice, mixed terrain and dry tooling the Raptor weighs in at a measly 430g. The moulded grip is covered with an abrasive paint and has a third ledge for really choking up on the handle. Much like the Salamandra, the Raptor has a surprisingly natural feeling swing.

Elite Climb Raptor

Elite Climb Raptor

The less technical Kruk is basically a piolet designed for mountaineering. It’s 58cm long and weighs in at 370g, not as light as Grivel’s carbon fiber Flame mountaineering axe (49cm long, 272g) but it’s also longer, has a replaceable pick with a real adze and a proper ferrule & spike. Less concept and more work horse.

Elite Climb Kruk

If you’re interested your best option is to inquire directly with Elite Climb at:

Elite Climb

Petzl Nomic & Ergo:

PetzlOne of the bigger climbing gear announcements this past fall was the new Petzl Nomic and Ergo. Now Petzl decided not to attend Winter OR and instead debuted the tools in Ouray and so I don’t have much info on them. But not to worry, our good friend Raf from The Alpine Start was at the debut and wrote a great article on these new toys. Check it out here. Photo provided by Raf as well.

Grivel Dry Plus & Cascade Plus Picks:

Grivel expanded their line-up of ice picks with the new Dry Plus and Cascade Plus so you now have 5 different pick options.

The new Dry Plus is now the burliest in the line-up with an aggressive tip, back-swept teeth and a thicker cross-section for increased strength and durability when dry tooling.

The Cascade Plus on the other hand is an ice specific pick with a slender, tapered shape and neutral tooth design that’s optimized for easier penetration and cleaning on ice. The Cascade Plus also has attachment points for an adze or hammer.

Grivel Pick

Both of these new picks come in a sexy matte black and will retail for $59.99 USD as opposed to $59.95 for the rest of the line-up.

Grivel Helmet with Recco Reflector:

Grivel’s Stealth & Stealth HS helmets are getting an optional RECCO reflector upgrade this fall. RECCO reflectors have been popular in ski clothing for quite a while. However they have experienced limited use in alpine and ice climbing equipment and have never been used in a climbing helmet before. The idea of course is to make it easier to find climbers after an avalanche. This reduces the risk to rescuers while increasing the likelihood of a successful rescue.

Grivel RECCO Helmet

Beal Ghost Harness:

Beal is expanding their harness line with the introduction of the new super-light Ghost. Designed as an alpine climbing and mountaineering harness the Ghost is constructed using Beal’s Web-Core tech. This means that the structural webbing has been cut to match the shape of the harness and so maximizes pressure distribution in a thinner and more compact package. The Ghost has 4 gear loops, a rear tagline loop and 2 ice clipper slots. The rear gear loops and tag-line loop are made of fabric and so have a lower profile to avoid pressure points when wearing a backpack. The harness comes in 3 sizes, S, M & L and is amazingly light: 220g, 250g & 280g for S/M & L respectively. MSRP is $109.00 USD.

Beal Ghost Harness