The American Alpine Institute is excited to announce the Guides Choice award winners for 2020! The Guides Choice has been a highly valued award for over 20 years, and truly represents the pinnacle of industry leading outdoor gear. While based in the Cascade range of Washington, testing takes place all over North and South America, from Cotopaxi and Aconcagua to Red Rocks and the Sierra, and all the way up to Denali. While these products represent innovation and engineering at it's finest, they have also stood up to heavy use, with days-on-end in the field.
The holy grail of avalanche transceivers, the Mammut Barryvox S does it all and then some! Named after the legendary Swiss St Bernard, Barry Der Menschenretter or “Barry the people rescuer,” the Barryvox transceiver dates back to 1968, and literally translates to “Barry’s voice.” Since it’s first iteration, the Barryvox has undergone many improvements in keeping with it’s main purpose: Keeping people alive and safe in the mountains.
Launched in 2017, the Barryvox S is the first transceiver of it’s kind to have a digital search radius range of 70m (90m analog), intuitive search technology, beacon to beacon firmware upgrades, and in-hand customizable features. In addition, the Barryvox S uses three antennas for pinpoint accuracy, can be used with lithium batteries for extended life in avalanche terrain, and has an easy-to-use locking mechanism. All this being said, what really sets the Barryvox S apart from the rest are it’s search features:
Dynamic screen icons give the rescuer visual cues to run, walk, or get down to surface of the snow. These icons may seem a little corny at first, but when thrown into a rescue scenario it can be helpful to see what you’re supposed to be doing rather than having to think about it.
Smart Search Mode operates in the background and keep the rescuer directed towards the victim, adjusting and correcting for sloppy search techniques. This is great for both new and experienced users as it helps to shorten the path to the buried victim.
Lastly, the Barryvox S has a rugged outer construction that is grippy and easy-to-use with gloves and it’s compact size fits great in a dedicated pant pocket or chest harness.
While there are many avalanche transceivers on the market today that have similar features to the Barryvox S, our guides place their trust in Mammut to help them eliminate as much risk as possible in avalanche terrain. After 3 years of testing in the world’s most rugged environments, we can proudly and safely say that the Barryvox S is a true Guides Choice winner.
The Abalakov thread, aka V-thread, is an ice protection technique used to create an anchor in ice. In short, an ice screw is used to drill two holes (tunnels) which interconnect in a V shape, allowing for the passage of a cord or sling. The technique of drilling holes can be done with any ice screws, however the longer the holes, the stronger the anchor. To retrieve the cord or sling from one hole or tunnel, and pull it out through the other, requires a way to snag the cord or retrieve it. This is where the magic of the V-thread tool comes into play.
The Petzl Multihook is one of many V-thread tools on the market today, and yet it stands at the top because of its superb design and engineering. At first glance you will notice that the Multihook is shorter in length than other V-thread tools. Not only does this save weight, but it’s also a design that allows for the main hook to flip out of the body like a pocket knife. The hook itself is rigid and sharp, and comes with a serrated blade for cutting cord, slings, and rope in the field. Compared with other V-thread tools, the flip of the hook is easy to use with gloves and doesn’t require any added finger strength. The Multihook is also easy to rack with a carabiner, and nests perfectly inside ice screws (and even stays put with the addition of a little cord loop). A few guides mentioned that the length of the Multihook is not long enough to clear the shaft of ice on longer ice screws, however this relatively small gripe pales in comparison when considering all of it’s other features. At $30, the Multihook is one of the more expensive tools in its category, but like most things Petzl, we expect it to hold up to years of use. After two years of testing, the Petzl Multihook is our 2020 Guides Choice award winner for innovation in mountain climbing and v-thread tools.
The Nimbus Lock has quickly and easily become a new favorite of numerous Guides at the American Alpine Institute. Many have cited the ideal shape and size as the highlight attributes that warrant the attention this carabiner has received. With a rounder cross section build rather than an I-beam construction, this build allows for a much smoother action for friction-related uses in climbing.
You will find many Guides use this as their rope-capture carabiner on their belay devices and for it’s more traditional use of belaying with a ‘munter’ hitch. The rounder cross section build has less friction than I-beam shaped carabiners, and while most I-beam carabiners hold too much friction for some specific operations, the Nimbus Lock provides smooth rope feeding. Due to its preferred shape and size, it also can serve as a lightweight ‘master carabiner’ on an anchor. Weighing in at 69g, it is currently one of the lightest options in its category and for its size. The Nimbus Lock finishes off the accolades with a keylock nose and laser etched visual warning to ensure your locker is locked.