Sweet Gear Long Term Review: Black Diamond C3 and Oz + Petzl Reverso 3

8 10 2009

Its been little over a year now that Lizzy and I have been using our Reverso3’s, Black Diamond C3’s and Oz carabiners. I wanted to check back in and give some follow up comments to add to my first review .

Petzl Reverso 3

Looking back over the past year I’ve done over 300 pitches of climbing which is likely the reason my latest Reverso is looking pretty shabby. Lizzy’s is still going strong and she loves it. I have enjoyed mine and liked that it worked well with ropes of variable diameters and is very light weight for an auto-blocking belay device.

One important thing that I have learned with the Reverso 3 is that the ease of pulling through the rope, in top belay mode, is proportional to the size of the biner that is being used.  After getting my Arc’teryx harness I switched out my belay biners for the Black Diamond VaporLock which I usually use on my daisy chain.  I like this keylock biner since it has a pretty narrow nose, good for clipping through bolts, and weights around 50 grams. However this biner does not work well with the Reverso3 when belaying a second on a 10 mm rope and I often had to add second biner. Some interesting stats can be found at Black Diamond on the use of auto-blocking belay devices.

Climbing - Summer 09 087

The Reverso3 with a nice large round radius Omega locker. Too bad they are WAY heavy…

So when using the Reverso3 I suggest a nice round carabiner like the Petzl Attache or BD Rocklock. I just got the new Attache 3D which is a bit flatter than the Attache but has a bigger radius than the Vaporlock. I am currently using this biner for belaying since it is lighter than the original Attache and about the same as the Vaporlock.

Overall, I really like the Reverso3 and only have a few minor complaints. The Reverso 3 doesn’t top belay as well with ropes fatter than 10 mm. This doesn’t effect me that much I usually use ropes between 9.4 and 9.8 but it is worth mentioning since I have had trouble with partners’ ropes. Secondly, my Reverso3 only lasted a year before the edges became fairly sharp (like previous models) and I no longer felt comfortable using it for belaying. As I said before this is probably reasonable since I used it for so many pitches, especially for rappelling, which causes the most wear.

Black Diamond OZ Carabiners and Quickdraws.

When I first got a hold of the Oz carabiners they went straight to my rack. It is easy to drop a pound or so off your rack by upgrading to these 28 gram carabiners. So far they have done well and have been taken up many pitches, clipped directly and scraped on sharp granite. I do see the shiny coating leaving some of these biners, but that’s to be expected and I see no scary wear from the last year of use.

After my cams lost some weight, I knew that a new set of ultralight quickdraws were in order. Since getting my first round of Oz carabiners I decided to check out some of the other lightweight biners before committing fully. The Camp Nano 23 was first on my list since it is the lightest carabiner available.  A few of my friends use this carabiner and I played with it both on slings and as a racking biner. My main issue with the Nano is the size. My fingers are not that dexterous, so clipping a toy-sized biner in a tricky situation was less than ideal. As a racking biner I found it to be more acceptable but still a bit small for my liking.  A good use for the Nano is for a pre-made anchor setup. I’m thinking about buying a few to create this simple setup used by my friends:

Ultra light belay setup. ~120 grams Photo thanks to Nate at PullHarder

This year Metolius added another 23 gram carabiner to the market with the FS (Full Strength) mini. This carabiner is a bit smaller than the Camp Nano but has a nicer looking finish. Since this is even smaller biner than the Camp I think it would be pretty hard to clip in a time critical situation. I think the Camp Nano and the FS Mini have a place in the alpine realm where weight is essential. Also if you have small fingers or hands these might be a good option.

I got to play with another two lightweight biners on our trip to Indian Creek back in March. One of our friends racks his cams on the Mammut Moses, which clock in at 27 grams. This carabiner is almost as large as the Oz but has a funny feeling since it is quite thin. For some reason this biner, as well as the Trango Superfly, 31 grams, just doesn’t feel right in my hand. A combination of a slick coating and the thin metal design makes me stay away from these biners. Many of my friends swear by the Superfly since it is cheap, almost full size and lightweight. I climbed with the Superfly and the Moses a bit more recently and  got used to the shape which made me like them a bit more but not as much as the Oz.

Incredible Hulk - July 09 226

A lonely Oz quick draw on the 3rd pitch of Positive Vibrations

Also in Indian Creek, I picked up two DMM Phantom quickdraws. At 26 grams a biner these QDs are really light and weigh half as much as a Petzl Spirit draw. These got plenty of use and I liked them although they feel a bit small in my hand. I encountered a moment of truth with the Phantom when I just barely made a clip before pumping out at the anchors of Swedin-Ringle. Getting the clip proved these biners were workable and I was ready to get a few more. However, Lizzy dislikes the small size and that, coupled with the $25 per quickdraw price, kept me from buying a full set.

After all this internal debate I bought a bunch of Oz biners on sale and a handful of 20cm BD dyneema dogbones to make long ultralight draws for trad climbing. I think a long quickdraw is faster than an alpine draw and often having 20cm is enough to alleviate rope drag. Unfortunately these draws were stolen at Smith Rock back in June.  Luckily I found another sale and picked up a new set of 12 cm Ozs from Bouldering.com. These draws went up the Incredible Hulk three times and I am super happy with them. I recently bought a few more 20cm dogbones which I have used to extend my original  DMM 11cm Phantom draws so that I have four long draws to go with my eight shorter OZ draws.

The Oz quickdraws have gotten a lot of use and I am happy to have the variety added by having four longer DMM Phantom draws.  I have gotten used to the lightweight feel of the Oz biners and can clip them with ease. Having quickdraws that only weigh around 60 grams each really helps reduce the weight on longer climbs. They also help you have  a lighter pack for strenuous Sierra aproaches.

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A handful of cams!

Black Diamond C3 Micro Cams

The more I use the Black Diamond C3’s the more I like them. The initial dislike of the stiff springs has changed into a positive attribute. The added force of the springs gives me extra confidence when placing these small cams. As well the narrow head design really allows for the C3’s to be placed where no other cam would fit.  As I said before I don’t like the largest size, the #2 yellow, since it seems to be more prone to walking. I’m sure there are situations where the head width would play in but for the most part I prefer the four lobe yellow Alien or the yellow TCU. I used a friend’s Red, #1 C3 on Positive Vibrations and Darkstar and  found it to be a good alternative to the green alien even though I don’t own one yet.

Over Memorial day weekend in Zion, Lizzy really came to like the C3’s after taking her longest lead fall, 20 feet or more, on to a marginal green 0 C3. She was super happy that the cam held that real life test made her believe in the cams. One of our friends, Sara, also had a great experience with the purple 00 C3.  I think the Green  is also my favorite C3 and it got a lot of use on the SW face of Conness, fitting in one spot that was surely too narrow for any of our other small gear.  Overall these cams are still working great after a year of use and always come along when thin gear is needed.

Feel free to leave any comments or questions


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Sweet Gear Review: The Reverso3, The OZ and C3’s

26 02 2009

Wow, its new and shiny, it must be amazing! I am a consumer, I must have it!!


I try to keep thoughts like these at bay when I read through online reviews or the bi-annual OR gear show reports. Unfortunately I can’t help lusting after the latest and greatest in the outdoor industry. In my free time I read a lot of news and often hear about a product way before it comes to market. I remember 2+ years ago seeing an article about a capillary based fuel delivery system. This product, which sounded beyond cool, became the MSR Reactor. A similar story comes to mind about an ultra narrow camming device that would have longitudinal springs, a first in the industry. This information came from a BD rep and it was just a matter of time before the C3’s came to market. Lizzy was a bit skeptical about the super stiff triggers and I was thrown off by the $70 price tag. Could they really be that good? I could find TCU’s on sale for half the price. A year or so passed and I finally bought the three smallest sizes.


C3’s, made by Black Diamond, are a well polished three lobe camming unit. They have a plastic body that protects the springs and allows for each lobe to move independently. The smallest sizes, Grey 000, Purple, 00 and Green 0 fit in unique places and fill out the low end of our rack. The 0 is about the same size as a blue Alien / 0 TCU. I recently placed this piece on the crux pitch of cloud tower and it was bomber. The lobes sat nicely in the crack and the strong springs held it securely in place. Climbing the Vampire a month or so ago I had a stunning placement of the 00. It fit in a tiny crack and despite the small lobes it inspired confidence a rare thing for me when making such small placements.


Since buying these cams back in August they have been my preference for the smaller sizes. I did not buy the finger size ones since they did not seem to provide as much of an advantage. We have finger size aliens and TCU’s that work very well in that range. Also when I used a Yellow #2 C3 in Indian creek it seemed to walk more than the smaller sizes C3’s or a same size Alien.


When the Reverso3 was released this year Lizzy and I were anxious to get our hands on one. The older style reverse wears dangerously (after a few years of use) and the new design was lighter and came in sweet colors. I feel that having an autoblocking belay device is pretty essential for mult-pitching. My Reverso3 got put through the paces with 17 pitches in the first two days of use. I learned quickly that the device was a bit picky with diameter. Trying to use the autoblock with a fuzzy 10.5 rope proved difficult. Lead belaying on the other hand work perfectly regardless of the diameter. So it should be noted that you want to have a sub 10mm rope if you expect to use the autoblock mode with ease.

The Reverso3 really proved its worth when we were rapping cloud tower. The new friction slots allow for the Reverso3 to really grab thinner ropes. We were rapping with our lead line, a 9.5 mm Ion and the beal 8mm trail line and had no problem controlling our speed. The Reverso did a great job on the 8mm and we saw very little slippage a nice change for me from the previous generation. I was even able to do a single strand rap on the 8mm rope without having to redirect the rope to add friction. Also of note the Reverso still rappels well on larger diameter ropes.


The last new toy that has become part of the rack is the Black Diamond OZ. This biner weights 28g or one ounce. It is the same basic shape as the Neutrino but with less metal. As a result the OZ is not as strong at 20Kn versus 24Kn for the Neutrino.  The biner handles well and is noticeably lighter than the Neutrino. Our primary use for the OZ is a racking biner for our cams. They sit well and are ok to clip. This past weekend I doubled them up for use as alpine draws and they helped shave a considerable amout of weight. They are not the lightest on the market, bested by the Camp Nano at 23g, the Mammut Moses at 26g and the Dmm Phantom at 27g, but are still well below the average 40g biner. Overall I enjoy using these biners and time will tell in regards to their durability.




Sweet Gear: A General Rope Review

22 01 2009

Back in 2001 I bought my first rope a Mammut Tusk at 10mm 50 meter. I had been climbing on partners ropes for the previous year or so and it was time for my own rope. It’s main purpose was short sport climbing so I didn’t mind the 50m length. This rope has aged well and I still use it for occasional top roping or anchor duty. It is a bit fuzzy after almost 8 years of use but I have managed not to get any core shots. Since pitches keep getting longer I doubt I would ever buy a 50 meter rope again.


Practicing the Portuguese Bowline on Sickle Ledge on The Nose with the Mammut Tusk

My next rope was a Maxim Whippet bought the first year of college at REI. It was the only 70m rope they were selling at the time and it was on sale!! This rope made its way to Australia where I sold it to fund a bouldering trip to New Zealand. During its two years of use it was my main rope, lighter than the Tusk and a joy to use.  It was my first skinny rope, 9.5 mm, even though it was supposedly a bit heavier than average. It wore well and I would have kept it except I was able to sell it for close to what I payed for it and didn’t have to carry it home to the US.


Lizzy having fun during our short stay on El Capitan

Upon my return I purchased a 60m Mammut Infinity 9.5mm . This rope has been awesome and quite durable. While it is marketed as 9.5 it feels fairly thick and definitely fuzzed up a bit over the years, so it doesn’t feed super fast in a Gri-Gri. Regardless, I enjoy the clipping action and even though we had to cut the ends off, making it only about 155 feet,  I still like using it.  So far this is my favorite rope and at some point I will likely get a new one of the 70 meter variety. It is light enough for a hard redpoint but still durable to last on day of projecting.


The end of a fun day in Squamish with the Infinity.

Around the same time I got the Infinity I picked up a pair of Beal Verdon II double ropes. At 9mm and 60 meters they were perfect for taking multiple followers on trips to the Gunks. These are a bit heavy for doubles but have worked well during their limited use. Lizzy and I used only one of these ropes as a superlight way to simul Royal Arches and Cathedral Peak. The use as a fast and light single as well as a lighter rap line adds value to these two ropes. I would not purchase such a thick set of doubles again but would consier the Beal Ice Line 8.1 mm orthe Petzl Dragonfly 8.2 mm.  I have used my friend Hartley’s Ice Lines and they are quite thin and light, though not as durable as our current doubles.

n3802675_31410505_8253Coiling the doubles on Solar Slab in Red Rocks.

Also in 2006 I got a Beal 8mm by 60m static trail line that I use for rappeling.  Initially purchased for aid climbing I worried about its long term durability. This rope was super light (40 g per meter) and went up many multipitches before it got stuck on Cloud Tower (Red Rocks)  in October of 2008. It was the perfect small rope for stashing in the pack for when one needed to do double rope rappels.

yosemite-june-07-252Lizzy is ready with the Beal Verdon II after a fun trip up Cathedral Peak.

Also in college I got another Mammut Tusk this time in a 60m length. We found this rope at the RRG and after multiple postings at Miguels it came home with me. Wary of a used rope this has been relegated to TR and Aid climbing duty.  It has seen use and spends most of its life in our rope box.


Enjoying the 70m Petzl Fuse at Suicide Rock.

After graduating college I was anxious to get a 70meter rope again and bought the 9.4 mm Petzl Fuse. This rope was excellent until it got a core shot in the middle while descending the Incredible Hulk. We got super lucky because while we were unable to retrieve the cord, we ran into another party who hiked it down and I was able to pick it up at the Bridgeport ranger station. Fortunately I was able to salvage the pieces of the Petzl rope and kept the two parts since the rope was  still fairly new. I use the shorter section for a lead rope at the gym and the ~35 meter piece is perfect for short sport climbs such as our recent trip the Gallery in Red Rocks.

One of my ropes came to me by chance when I won a Sterling Marathon Pro 10.2 Bi-Color 60meter rope. This is the thickest rope I own and it shows. It however has been a great workhorse and accompanied me on my first 12c redpoint. Lizzy doesn’t like this rope at all and with a dry coating it is quite dirty but it has worn well despite constant use as a TR rope. It feeds ok through the Gri-Gri, mainly due to its slick dry coated sheath which is slowly becoming fuzzy. I wouldn’t buy such a thick rope but it impressed me enough with Sterling to buy one of their thinner ropes.


The already fuzzy BlueWater static line with the frog we found on El Capitan.

After chopping the Petzl rope in half I was again in need of a 70m rope. I purchased a Sterling Ion at 9.5 mm and have only used it a few times. The main disappointment was the lacking middle mark. However it runs smoothly and clips well. It is quite small and feeds fast through the Gri-Gri. You have to be a bit careful lowering which is similar to the Petzl Fuze. Once this rope gets a few more pitches I will report back on it’s durability.

We also own a Bluewater static haul line that I bought for a trip to Yosemite. During the short time on the Nose, we bailed from Sickle, it showed alarming wear. As well the rope was super stiff and did not handle well. This along with some experiences with Bucknell Climbing Club ropes in college, makes me stay away from Blue Water.


Lizzy and Rebecca and a pretty pink Beal rope at Rumney

Lizzy has a pink 60m  Beal Flyer II which is 10.2 but feels really skinny, more like a 9.8.  Lizzy loves it for its soft catch, even though I think it is too stretchy. It handles well but kinks easily due to it’s supple nature. She has had it for many years and I am anxious to turn it into a RUG…


The well loved Edelrid LiveWire

Lizzy also has an  Edelrid Livewire. 70 meter 9.8. This rope has been our long route work horse and has taken a lot of abuse since Lizzy bought it back in 2006. Despite being fairly cheap at REI this rope has held out really well and cleaned up nicely after we washed it. It is still the go to rope for the 100+ foot pitches at the Riverside Quarry. Between this rope and a 10mm Edelrid of Leah’s (I think its a Hawk) that I used I have respect for the durability and handling of the brand. Even though it is getting old I hope that we won’t have to retire it any time soon.

Overall I think my ranking is as follows:  (Top being the best, in my opinion)

Mammut – Clips well and last a long time.
Petzl – A bit on the stiff side but handles and wears well.
Sterling –  Soft and a bit kinky but durable.
Edelrid – Feeds and clips well and stands up to abuse.
Maxim – Heavier than average but clips well.
Beal – Too stretchy and seems to fuzz easily.
PMI – A bit slippery but clips well.
BlueWater – Heavy and not very durable.



Being a Better Belayer

18 07 2008

So for many this may be old news, but a recent story has made me concerned about people misusing auto-locking belay devices like the Petzl GriGri or the Edelrid Eddy. A couple months ago, Splitter Choss and the Climbing Narc fostered some discussion about the “proper” way to use a GriGri. If you’ve not seen this video, created by Petzl, and you belay with a GriGri, I suggest you watch it:

The video shows 2 ways of lead belaying with the GriGri without taking your break hand off the rope. It also shows a 3rd method, which I think the majority of people I observe at sport crags generally use, where the break hand is taken off the rope to let out slack when the leader needs to make a clip. I think this was the way I was taught to lead belay with a GriGri and I have passed plenty of lead belay tests without being reprimanded, so my impression is that this is a generally accepted method of using the device.

The problem is that it isn’t really an acceptable way to use the device. It fosters bad habits – I’ve seen plenty of belayers not returning their break hand to the rope, even when not letting out slack. It encourages the idea that it’s ok not to hold on to the break rope, which is a bad habit to pick up if you also belay with a traditional (non-auto-locking) belay device or in the unlikely (but still possible) situation that the leader falls and the auto-locking belay device does not engage.

The reason I bring this up is that I recently heard of a bad climbing accident that occurred due to similar misuse of an Edelrid Eddy, which is an auto-locking belay device similar to the GriGri (it must be “pinched” so that the cam will not engage and slack can be let out). A climber was leading a sport route in Maple Canyon when he took a fall. The belayer did not have his break hand on the rope at the time. The Eddy did not catch on the relatively new 9.2mm rope and the belayer did not manually arrest the fall. The climber therefore took a 50-foot fall to the ground and suffered serious injuries, although luckily a full recovery is expected.

The moral of the story is clear: although auto-locking belay devices are great and make the life of a belayer much easier, they cannot be trusted absolutely to catch any fall. They do not grant the belayer the freedom to let go of the break rope.

When I encountered the discussion on the Climbing Narc’s post, I was initially unsure that I even could change my method of belaying (I used to use the “bad” method, #3). I have quite small hands and I like to wear belay gloves, so I was unsure that the rope could still feed easily through my break hand while I was simultaneously pinching the belay device. However, Luke and I have both adopted method #2, which in fact works quite well, even with small hands and belay gloves. It requires a little more rope management so the rope will feed easily, but I think the increased safety is well worth this extra effort. I would never want to drop a leader because I was being a lazy belayer. I also think it’s important, since I use a Reverso (just got the new one!!!) just as often as a GriGri, to foster good belay habits (i.e. not taking the break hand off the rope) rather than bad ones.

So to make a long story short, I wrote this post and brought up the video again because I think the biggest problem with auto-locking belay devices like the GriGri or the Eddy is a lack of knowledge. People just don’t know that these devices are not a substitute for belay skills and safety. So now you know. Please think about the friends that you’re belaying and make sure you’re being a safe belayer.



Petzl Roc Trip Recap

17 10 2007

This past weekend Lizzy and I journeyed east to meet up with friends and enjoy the rock at the Red River Gorge. Friends from all over converged by plane and car to meet up relax and enjoy the wondrous sandstone. Good people along with an amazing film and the most stacked campground scene rounded out this fun trip.

A Wednesday night red eye from California got us into Tennessee the next morning. A 3.5 hour drive awaited us but that was the price for cheap tickets. With perfect temps we spent the afternoon at Roadside crag sampling the RRG classics before the crowds showed up.

Friday our crew had doubled and we spent the day between Left Flank and Military Wall. Climbing at the gorgeous table of colors wall was the highlight of the trip for me. Amazing colors and unique holds coupled with steep athletic climbing. Near by was the balancy test piece Hen-ry which played to Lizzy’s strengths. I got to climb Mercy the Huff which had excellent moves on sweet holds separated by fairly decent rests. No knee bars or ledges but good holds.

Saturday we saw maximum capacity with seven people by the end of the day. We had a perfect weather day at Drive-By crag which hosts some of the most fun climbing ever. It seemed each route had just as interesting holds as the last. I took my longest fall to date on a flash attempt on Primus Noctum. I cruised the route to the last bolt and rest spot but I had no beta for the crux which led to the anchor. With many grunts and desperation I slapped my way up getting one hold from the end; I missed the crucial knob and plummeted twenty or more feet through the air. On the way down I screamed with desperation but after flying through a tree and knocking loose some leaves I knew it was all right. Still falling I let out a yipp of pleasure and was gently caught by my belayer.

Sunday was our slow day as pizza and beer from the night before delayed our morning departure. We fought the crowds in Muir valley and climbed on some new routes. These routes, only having been established in the last few years, were still dirty and needed more traffic. I got a chance to lead a very atypical RRG line that I managed to redpoint on my second go. This line, so new it wasn’t in the guide book, was full of slopers and balancy moves. The end, with pumped forearms, required sequential crimping that thwarted my flash attempt. It was amazing how many lines are still left to be bolted and how much rock is still unclimbed. I was lucky enough to meet the equipper of this route and brave enough to climb it.

The trip was quite the success and full of fun memories. My mind is still buzzing with crux sequences and foot placements. I can still see the holds on Jersey Connection and Tic-Tac-Toe, feel the sharp jugs from Mercy the Huff and taste the scream from Primus Noctum. I love the Red and will always be excited to go back, no matter how far way it may be.