Gear trends: 2015/16 Ice climbing

As ice climbing gains popularity, so does its lighter and more versatile gear. Check out the top gear and trends ahead for retail shelves next season.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2015 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 20 – 24. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

With the right ice climbing boots, tools, crampons and gloves, each climb is a blank canvas for finding adventure in relative comfort.

The big trend in ice gear right now is blending the functionality of leashless tools with the demands of climbing on big routes in the mountains.

“Leashless tools have definitely made their way into the big mountains and this is allowing alpinists to climb more technical terrain on bigger and more remote peaks,” said Jesse Mattner, managing director at CAMP USA. “Slowly but surely, we see the tools and accessories adapting with more ‘all-mountain’ functionality.”

Ice climbing and technical mountaineering boots continue to use high-tech materials and insulation to shed weight while still being warm. For mountaineers, the La Sportiva G2 SM is a full double boot developed in collaboration with the renowned Italian alpinist Simone Moro. The insole is 3mm of honeycomb carbon insulation, and the dual BOA closure system makes for a secure fit. Ice climbers staying closer to home have several new high performance models to choose from. The La Sportiva Trango Ice Cube GTX (MSRP $550) has a built-in gaiter and utilizes a honeycomb carbon insulation for added warmth, making it a versatile option for steep ice. Mammut’s Nordwand 2.1 High GTX (MSRP $700) is the brand’s new top-of-the-line climbing boot that uses a warm Thinsulate 200B waterproof lining and features a Vibram Teton climbing sole.

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It wasn’t long after the advent of leashless tools that alpinists started taking them into the mountains. While less versatile than traditional tools, the added performance while climbing was considered a worthy compromise. Looking to create the best of both worlds, there are several new tools looking to bridge the gap between cragging and mountain endeavors. The Black Diamond Viper (MSRP $240) has been completely redesigned into an all-around tool for those who want something they can use on everything from waterfall ice to long routes in the mountains. With an adjustable pommel and fully modular head, you can swap out picks, hammers and adzes as needed. The CAMP X-Dream Alpine takes the X-Dream and turns it into an alpine climbing weapon, with adjustable grip positions, an integrated hammer and a spike on the bottom of the handle for use in the cane position. For those who already own the X-Dream, CAMP is also offering just the X-Dream Alpine handle, which can be swapped out on its existing tools.

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One of the more innovative designs at this show, the Black Diamond Snaggletooth crampon (MSRP $210) is the answer to those who need both steep mixed terrain and ice performance along with snow climbing stability for challenging routes in the mountains. The horizontal monopoint design means precision on steep, mixed terrain, without sacrificing stability on more moderate snow climbing on the approach and descent.

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For those pushing the limits of what they are capable of, several new lightweight offerings in other categories could be the ticket to that next level. The Trango Catalyst is a new 9mm rope that features Unicore construction, which bonds the sheath to the core. A single skinny rope has always been a little dicey for ice climbing, with the possibility of getting cut easily. The Unicore feature, however, could mean a whole new era for skinny ropes on ice, given the added safety margin. With 7 UIAA falls and its Life Sheath treatment, this promises to be an incredibly durable rope for its size. The Petzl Sitta is a lightweight harness weighing in at a scant 250 grams, thanks to the Wireframe construction that uses Dyneema bands instead of traditional webbing and foam.

Several new jacket/pant combos utilize waterproof softshell fabric for those who need a wardrobe update to combat the cold and wet without sacrificing breathability, including the Outdoor Research Iceline Jacket and Pants (MSRPs $285/$245), and Patagonia Kniferidge Jacket (MSRP $449) and Pants (MSRP $379). The Mammut Trovat IS Hooded Jacket (MSRP $250) is a belay parka that uses a Pertex Microlight shell with PrimaLoft Silver Downblend (60 percent down/40 percent synthetic). The Outdoor Research Super Vert Gloves (MSRP $59) are updated with new outer fabric and goat leather palm, while their Luminary Gloves get updated with Sensor technology.

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--BJ Sbarra

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