Despite my obvious lack of excitement for ice climbing, (ok let's be honest here . . . "lack of excitement" could be translated as "I don't ever want to go ice climbing again") I went ice climbing last Sunday. The sport is beautiful, cold, captivating, and terrifying. The episodic streaks of ice which grace the cliffs of Hylatie Canyon appear invisible to even the trained eye. For among the complex fortress of crumbling rock bands contained within the canyon, a lifetime of frigid adventures wait. For the dedicated, those who continually contend to breach the fortress walls are remunerated with the required skills to climb any frozen summit they choose. In my case, last weekends excursion to the ice solidified one major difference between the dedicated few and myself. Those dedicated few have the mental fortitude to slam ice screws into hanging curtains, travel massive vertical distances without any protection, and scratch their tools through pure choss seeking the perfect hook. I do not share this similar capability. Regardless of how comfortable I feel climbing far about small cam, micro nuts, or no gear . . . I cannot seem to fathom how to translate this to ice climbing. Furthermore, ice climbing has always given me a vehicle to ascend large peaks somewhere else, and with no such trips on the horizon my motivations are running thin. Thank goodness we are so lucky to live in a state rich with ice climbs of moderate difficulty which can take one to some of them most impressive places Montana has to offer. Thus, I feel this will be the focus of my ice climbing season this year. I'd like to repeat Cali Ice and Leaning Tree, and expand my long route vocabulary to Ice Dragons, any one of the Cody classics, or perhaps some climbs on Barronet Peak. I better get comfy in the driver's seat of the Bronco. Thus, with ice climbing as my inspiration, I offer these words in relation to my experiences with the Black Diamond Fusion Ice Tools.
Black Diamond did it right when they released these tools a few years ago! While they don't hold a candle to weight savings of the Cobras, they sure do perform well. I personally prefer a heavier tool, believing it swing easier when I'm pumped. (how much of this is true is up to much debate). I've climbed with tools on every grade from WI 2 - WI 5/6. However, the upper end of the grade is where they really start to shine. The extreme aggressive curvature of the tool renders nearly zero pick shift. Thus, whether your coping a rest of the lower grips, or bumped up the higher pommel making a technical move . . . it all feels the same. Enough about water ice, let talk about the terrain these tools were designed for. Mixed climbing . . . while I haven't done an extreme amount on these tools, what I have done is a dream. Again, the zero pick shift allows for technical lock offs at your waist on the smallest of edges. On extreme overhangs, go ahead and cut those feet! These tools support your whole body like a big girl lookin for some lovin' on a Friday night. As far as durability is concerned . . . these tools do great. I've dropped them, left in the sun for many days (they are now more yellow than green), and had to perform little maintenance to keep them in working order. My only complaint . . . they shatter ice compared to the Cobras.
Pros: Excel on all types of ice, especially steep ice and mixed terrain. Durable as a Swiss made watch. Heavy, for easy momentum carry when your pumped.
Cons: Solid heavy shaft tends to cause more ice shattering than the other similar tools