Outdoor Retailer

Winter OR 2019: Climbing Gear

There were a bunch of goodies at this year’s Winter OR / Snow Show when it comes to ice climbing gear! Of course I’ve already published an article specifically about climbing footwear so won’t include anything of that nature here. Rather we’ll be looking at more technical equipment such as ice axes, helmets, harnesses and the like.

Black Diamond Spinner & Slinger Leash – Update:

Black Diamond LeashReally more of a tether than a leash in my mind but updated all-the-same. BD’s Spinner, a double lanyard for ice climbing, has been updated with small screw lock carabiners in place of the snap-gate style that was used before. The idea here is of course a little more security. The color has also been changed from orange to green. Other than that, it’s all about the same with a 2kN load rating and single swivel. Of course it’s still not a good idea to use tethers for anything more than ensuring you don’t drop a tool!

The Slinger, a single lanyard designed for piolets, received the same upgrade with a new carabiner and color change.

Black Diamond Ice Picks – Update:

Black Diamond PicksBD is changing how they fabricate their ice tool picks to improve durability. The new picks will be hot forged where, in the past, they were cold forged. One of the benefits of Hot forging is that it doesn’t leave residual stress in the steel which is subsequently tempered for durability and strength. One of the disadvantages to hot forging is the additional finishing work that is required. For reference, most major manufacturers use hot forging for their technical picks while after-market companies tend to use CNC machines to cut picks from a sheet of plate steel as the set-up costs are significantly smaller.

The picks that will now be hot forged are:

  • Natural Ice+Mixed
  • Natural Ice
  • Alpine
  • Mountain Classic
  • Mountain Tech

Grivel Duetto Helmet – New:

Smurf Helmet

Grivel’s new Duetto helmet is similar in construction to Petzl’s original Sirocco in that it’s made entirely of EPP. Fortunately, unlike the original Sirocco, the new Duetto doesn’t look like a dick. In fact it’s been given the unique angular shape that Grivel introduced on the Stealth line of helmets last year.

The big benefit of the EPP construction is that it allows for an exceptionally light helmet and the Duetto doesn’t disappoint here coming in at 195g. One of only two mountaineering helmets that I’m aware of in the uber-light, sub-200g category and the only one that’s dual certified for both climbing and skiing.

Features include an adjustable nylon harness system, four headlamp clips and a small brim. Strangely, for a ski certified helmet, it doesn’t come with a goggle strap… yet. It will come in 1 size (53-61) and two colors: blue or grey. MSRP: $150 USD.

Grivel Dark Machine & Dark Machine X – New:

Demonstrating the balance point on the Dark Machine.

These new tools from Grivel look and feel amazing! Utilizing composite technology that has until now been the realm of smaller, custom manufacturers Grivel has created a line of very lightweight tools with a fantastic balance and swing… well as far as I could tell without any ice to actually swing into.

The new Dark Machine is a technical, ice climbing focused tool that weighs in at a measly 470g. The handle is very different from the Grivel tool handles of old (a good thing) with a tapered and somewhat square cross-section. Quite comfortable to hang onto, it’s designed to be wrapped with a tape or bike tubing for grip as well as a customized feel. The stock finish is quite slippery.

The handle itself is made of carbon while the shaft is made of a carbon-aluminum composite. This moves the center of balance towards the head of the tool giving it a more natural swing without the need for any pick weights. On the downside is that it eliminates handle adjustment options like those found on the X-Dream, Nomic, etc.

The handles on the tools are the main difference between the Dark Machine and the Dark Machine X.

The Dark Machine X is very similar to the Dark Machine in construction just with more aggressive geometry for steeper climbing. Designed mainly for mixed and steep, featured ice the X’s handle is set back farther and doesn’t have a spike or clip-in point.

Both tools will use Grivel’s new modular pick & accessory system (described below) which is also compatible with the current pick line-up.

Grivel Vario System – Update:

Grivel is joining Petzl in the modular pick & pick accessory game with what they’re calling the Vario System. It’s basically made up of 4 difference ice picks with 4 different accessories, all of which are interchangeable. There’s nothing new about the pick design aside from how they connect with the rear accessories. Not all that innovative but very functional.

Vario Accessories:

  • Simple Vario: A spacer for the back of the tool
  • Mini Hammer Vario: A small 37g hammer
  • Hammer Vario: A larger 67g hammer
  • Adze Vario: 57g adze

Cassin (Camp) Modular Pick & Accessory System – Update:

Cassin is also coming out with a modular pick/accessory system which will be phased into use starting next fall. The first step will be the introduction of the new modular picks with newly sold tools. Eventually, as stock on the old picks disappears, the new modular system will also be made available with replacement picks. There are currently no hard timelines attached with that second phase.

Quite a simple system, there will be 2 modular picks with 3 accessory options:


  • Mixte Pick
  • Ice Pick

The Race and Total Dry picks will remain the same.


  • Plastic Insert: just a spacer that fills in the accessory cut-out (stock on new tools Fall 2019)
  • Hammer: small 42g hammer that looks very similar to the hammer currently found on the ice pick
  • Adze: 46g adze with large cut-outs

Unfortunately they don’t have a larger, more functional hammer option yet but with the modular nature of the new hammer it’s more likely to happen.

Petzl Dart Crampons – Update:

Petzl is updating the Dart and replacing the Dartwin with a single new crampon which they’re calling the Dart. I know, you’re thinking that Petzl wasn’t at OR so why/how are they getting included. Well I had them send me some details on next years’ product line so they could be included. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos of the crampons so you’ll just have to deal with some stock images from Petzl.

The updated Dart is basically a 12 point hybrid cross of the Lynx and the Dart. The new front portion has 8 main points instead of 10, as on the Lynx, but utilizes the same replaceable front points system. Petzl also added a few small tertiary points for additional security when standing on funky ice bulges and petals. Lastly, anti-balling plates will be available. The MSRP for the new Darts has not been set for North America yet but will go for $220 Euros across the pont. Unfortunately the Lynx front points aren’t getting any cheaper at $80 USD per pair.

Petzl DartOf course, as with their other crampons, Petzl has moved to a modular design. This means that you’ll be able to just buy the front portion of the new Darts if you’re upgrading from a Lynx, Dart, Dartwin, etc.

Cassin Alpinist Tech – New:

Cassin, in a very different move from Petzl, is adding to their line of climbing crampons with non-replaceable front points. These new crampons are called the Alpinist Tech and of course expand upon the Alpinist line. They feature one permanently attached, technical climbing front point combined with a short mountaineering style front point. A kinda cross between the BD Snaggletooth and the Cassin Alpinist Pro. The result is a lightweight (810g), 12 point crampon with the functionality of a mono-point on rock but the stability of dual points on ice. MSRP will be $249.95 USD.

The Alpinist Tech will come with anti-balling plates and full automatic toe and heel bails. Semi-auto toe and heel bails will be sold separately.

Petzl Multihook – New:

Petzl HookThis new V-Thread hooker from Petzl is a little reminiscent of Grivel’s offering. It has a metal hook of course but also a small serrated blade for cutting ropes and cords.  An eye is provided on one end for clipping to a harness. A simple but functional piece of equipment.

Well that’s all we’ve got for climbing kit. Special thanks to Raf for a few photos (Camp/Cassin Products) to replace several I lost due to some data corruption.