We have announced the new Guides Choice Award winners for the 2013 spring and summer season. Through extensive testing by our professional guides these pieces of equipment have proven to exceed all performance expectations, based on all gear evaluated over the past testing periods. Congratulations to those receiving the Guides Choice Award this season, and we thank all the manufacturers that have submitted equipment for us to review.
The Black Diamond Camalot X4s are the most recent addition to the four lobe, flexible stem cam market. Our guides liked several features that set the X4 apart from other cams currently on the market. The springs are embedded inside of the cam lobes allowing for the head to be narrower. In testing the X4 guides found them great for wavering cracks, pods and pin scars that are normally difficult to protect using other four lobed cams. One feature that is unique to the X4 cams is the dual axle in the three larger sizes and the staggered axle in the three smaller sizes. These special axle designs give the X4s superior placement range. The trigger action of the X4 is similar to other Camalots, very smooth and fluid making them easy to retract the lobes even when your forearms are pumped. In our testing it appears that the aluminum beads that are threaded over the stem do add some durability and help to protect the stem if it is folded over the edge of a horizontal crack. All-in-all the X4s are what we all expect of Black Diamond, a well designed and great working of gear that will stand up to the use and abuse of any climber.
Our guides have tested numerous helmets over the course of the season, and the Black Diamond Vector has become a clear favorite. Even though the Vector was not the lightest helmet that was tested, the comfort and fit was better than all of the other helmets that were used. AAI guide Shelby Carpenter said, "I found the Vector significantly more comfortable, loved that it was lightweight for my alpine climbing trips, and thought that it provided my head with better coverage than other helmets I have worn." The Vector's high level of comfort made it less noticeable on the head than even lighter helmets that we tested. The Vector has a hybrid design which combines a foam core with a harder outer shell. This design adds more durability than all-foam helmets.
The Mountain Equipment Eclipse Hooded Zip Tee has become a favorite mid-layer among our guides and staff over the course of the testing season. It's unique hood design provides a built-in balaclava that can be pulled up over the nose, or down under the chin. The lightweight Pontetoro Technostretch that makes up the balaclava is easy to breathe through making it ideal for pushing hard in cold weather. It's slim athletic fit and long arms with thumb loops, allow the Eclipse to follow your body's every move while climbing. The Eclipse is body mapped with thinner waffle-gridded fleece panels under the arms, and around the hem for better breathability and thicker panels elsewhere for better insulation. The form-fitting athletic cut made it easy to layer over and comfortable to climb in. Our guides found the Eclipse to be a perfect year round piece. Whether it is December in South America, May in Alaska, or July in the Cascades, the Eclipse Hooded Zip Tee was found to be a perfect part of every climbers layering system
Petzl - Spirit 3D Carabiner
The Petzl Spirit was a Guides' Choice Award winner years ago when it first hit the market. It has continued to be an award holder over the years as improvements were made. By changing the profile to an "H" shape Petzl has managed to shave 10 grams out of the Spirit reducing it to 39 grams. This 20% reduction in weight makes the Spirit the number one go to solid gate carabiner for higher wear situations where wire gate carabiners won't suffice. The new Spirit is much easier to clip than older models, and now has some shape added to the either end of the major axis to help keep it straight while being used in a dog bone for sport climbing. The Spirit still features the beloved keylock nose, making it very easy to unclip from webbing without snagging. From weekend sport climbing to everyday guiding the Spirit 3D can do it all.
Tendon - Master 8.9 Rope
The Tendon Master 8.9 Rope is one of the most specialized lightweight ropes that we have ever tested. Our guides were quick to choose this rope when climbing routes that involved using a half rope for crossing a glacier combined with ice or rock climbing that would require a single rope, or a second half rope. The Master 8.9 weighs only 52 grams per meter making it extremely light compared to other single ropes, and only a few grams per meter more than similar sized half ropes. The Teflon Complete Shield treatment repelled dirt and water very well, keeping the rope from absorbing water when being used on snow or ice, and clean when being used on rock. The Teflon coating also seemed to keep the rope feeling new for longer than other dry coated ropes that we have used.