Gear Review: Petzl Leopard LLF Crampons

I picked up a pair of Petzl Leopard Crampons towards the end of last winter for a back-country ski trip to Iceland. While I had been happy with my Petzl Vasak’s I wanted to shed some weight from my back-country touring kit and the Leopards do just that! I pair them with the Arcteryx Procline Boots which happen to be 45% off right now (just sayin’) Let’s take a closer look at these crampons to see if they are right for you! First the manufacturer’s deets!


Manufacturer Description

Petzl Leopard Crampons Review

Ultra light crampon with LEVERLOCK FIL binding, for ski touring and snow travel

Extremely light due to their aluminum construction, LEOPARD LLF crampons are perfect for ski touring and snow travel. The CORD-TEC flexible linking system minimizes bulk for ease of carrying.

Description

  • Very lightweight:
    – crampons made entirely of aluminum, optimized for snow travel
    – very lightweight (only 330 grams per pair)
  • Very compact:
    – CORD-TEC flexible linking system optimizes volume of crampons when packed in their bag (included)
    – tool-free length adjustment
  • Binding system especially adapted to the usage of these crampons:
    – self-adjusting elastic strap around the ankle
    – strap for good handling and easy removal
    – compact heel lever facilitates crampon installation/removal

Specifications

  • Number of points: 10
  • Boot sizes: 36-46
  • Certification(s): CE EN 893, UIAA
  • Material(s): aluminum, stainless steel, nylon, Dyneema®
  • Crampons come with protective carry bag

Alright, that’s out of the way so let’s breakdown the good & bad starting with…

Weight/Pack-ability

Petzl Leopard Crampons Review

This was the biggest reason I chose these for my ski mountaineering kit. When your crampons only weigh 11 ounces it is hard to justify not packing them “just in case”. The CORD-TEC adjustment system lets them pack up into the smallest stuff sack I’ve ever used for crampons measuring about 7 by 4 inches.

Petzl Leopard Crampons Review


Sizing/Fit

First make sure you select the right model! For ski boots you want the “LeverLock Universal” (LLF). The regular “FlexLock” (FL) model is suitable for hiking boots with or with out front and toe welts.

Petzl Leopard Crampons Review

I’ll admit I was skeptical about sizing a crampon that joins the heel piece to the front piece with string! Ok, maybe “string” is not the right word. The “CORD-TEC” is actually a woven 100% Dyneema cord. I measure it just shy of 5 mm (3/16 inches). That would give it a breaking strength around 6000 pounds… so not “string”. Dyneema is also highly resistant to abrasion.

http://phillystran.com/product-catalog/12-Strand-Braids-Spectra-Dyneema
3/16 Woven Dyneema CORD-TEC
Petzl Leopard Crampon Review
Joined with bar-tacking, this cord is replaceable but unlikely to need replacing

Petzl does sell a replacement for it if you ever wear it out somehow. I have a hard time imagining how much use it would take to requirement, but the option is there.


Adjust-ability

Petzl Leopard Crampons Review
Toe piece fits my Dynafit boots perfectly
Petzl Leopard Crampons Review
Slight gap between the heel level and boot but they haven’t come off yet!
Petzl Leopard Crampons Review
Perfect balance of security and comfortable walking!

I found the CORD-TEC system to be very easy to adjust for both of my ski boots. No tools required an quite intuitive. Do not be intimidated by the instructions, once in hand you could pretty much size them without looking at the instructions, but if you are having any issues give them a look!

Petzl Leopard Crampons Review

Petzl Leopard Crampons Review
Solid fit on my Arcteryx Procline Carbon Lite Boots

DEAL ALERT!

Arcteryx Procline Boots Review
Light and comfy enough for a steep volcano scree field in blue jeans- photo by Matt Baldelli

Backcountry has almost a full size run of the Arcteryx Procline Carbon Lite Boots at 45% off right now!

Buy on Backcountry

Petzl Leopard Crampons Review
Syncs really well with my Arcteryx Procline Boots!

Ok, sorry about that, back to the crampons!

Performance

These have been tested over a few thousand feet of snow climbing in on neve, spring corn, and classic NH “windboard”. For an ultra-light aluminum crampon they perform great! They have not, and will not, be tested on waterfall ice or mixed rock routes. They are not designed for that and I’m sure such uses will shorten their life-span. So far they have only been in contact with snow but I’m not too worried about walking over short sections of granite to get to the next patch of snow this Spring. It’s gear. It should get beat on from time to time! These will be my choice model for my next trip to climb in the Cascades.

Summary

These are for ski mountaineers, back-country skiers, and riders who have found themselves on a steep slope wishing they hadn’t left their crampons in the car. These could also be a nice step up for many winter hikers who sometimes rely on Kahtoola MICROspikes in terrain where more aggressive traction would be more appropriate. Just make sure you get the Flexlock model.  Skiers should get the LevelLock model. Finally these are for anyone who is looking to shave ounces off their total kit while still having the tools they need to reach the places they want to play. If that’s you then you should consider checking these out!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

These crampons were purchased with my own money. Affiliate links above support the content created at Northeast Alpine Start. 

Gear Review- Petzl GRIGRI+

Can the new version of the iconic Petzl GriGri really be the belay device for “all climbers”? What makes it different from the current GriGri 2? After a few weeks of testing it turns out the differences may very well make this the one belay to device to rule them all. I’ll start with a three minute video highlighting some of the biggest changes then get into the details below.


Buy on Backcountry.com

Buy on EMS.com


Belay Selection Knob

Petzl GriGri+ Review
Petzl GriGri 2 next to Petzl GriGri+ with lockable belay mode selector knob- Petzl GriGri+ Review

Probably the most talked about feature of the new Petzl GriGri+ is the belay mode selection. A knob can be twisted to adjust the tension on the cam to be more suitable for either top-rope belaying or lead belaying. A seemingly slight adjustment in the tension of the internal cam spring here makes a very noticeable amount of belay ease and comfort. New climbers sometimes struggle with belaying a leader with a GriGri 2 or older model because the cam would engage while trying to quickly pay out slack for either clipping or a fast moving leader. When set to “lead belay mode” the cam spring is “stiffer” which allows you to feed rope out quickly and with less effort than previous models. This is easy to see if you skip to 1:30 on the above YouTube video.

This feature makes me feel much more comfortable having a less experienced climber lead belay me with the GriGri+.

Additionally the option exists to “lock” the selected belay mode. This feature is handy for using this in climbing gyms and outdoor group top-rope sessions further increasing the versatility of the device.


Anti-Panic Handle

Petzl GriGri+ Review
Petzl GriGri+ Anti-Panic Handle- photo by @alexandraroberts

The second most talked about feature of the Petzl GriGri+ is the anti-panic handle. We’ve all heard stories of climbers being dropped in the gym and while sport climbing when a new belayer clamps down hard on the handle preventing the device from camming and letting a climber deck. Petzl has engineered a solution. If a belayer pulls too hard on the handle the cam will re-engage! It was a little un-nerving to test this but I wanted to feel how it worked so out came the GoPro and down I went, check it out here:

video being edited, will upload soon

Petzl GriGri+ Review
Smooth lowering and a fail-safe anti-panic handle make the Petzl GriGri+ great for many different types of climbing- photo by @alexandraroberts

This anti-panic handle adds a lot of safety in quite a few scenarios. First, while being lowered off a top-rope or from a high piece, if a new belayer pulls too hard on the handle and the climber starts to fall the cam will automatically re-engage. Second, while rappelling a single rope if you crank to hard on the handle and are going to fast the cam will re-engage preventing a fall. Once re-engaged you can either apply considerably more pressure to start descending again or “re-set” the anti-panic handle as I demonstrate in the video.

Durability

Less talked about than the above two features is the overall durability of this device. Petzl has fortified it in so many ways! First they added material in high wear areas and strengthened the design. They’ve closed off the non-handle side opening around the cam pivot which helps keep dirt and grime from gunking up the inside of the device. Let’s take a close comparison look between the Petzl GriGri 2 and the new GriGri+ below.

Petzl GriGri+ Review
Reinforced- Petzl GriGri 2 next to Petzl GriGri+

Petzl also included stainless steel plating in high wear areas.

FullSizeRender (1)

They’ve added a stainless steel stopper that prevents the rare rope snag sometimes experienced in previous models.

Petzl GriGri+ Review
Reinforced- Petzl GriGri 2 next to Petzl GriGri+

This reinforcement comes at the price of weight and bulk, but only about one ounce (30 grams). As far as “bulk” I’d estimate it feels only about 5-10% larger than a GriGri 2.

Petzl GriGri+ Review
Petzl GriGri+ enclosed casing helps keep the inside cleaner when climbing in manky conditions and on soft desert rock- photo by @alexandraroberts

Versatility

One of the last things I want to mention that makes the Petzl GriGri+ suitable for such a wide range of climbers is its ability to work with any single rated rope on the market! That’s right, this device can go all the way down to a 8.5 mm rope! It is “optimized” for ropes between 8.9 mm and 10.5 mm but can actually handle 8.5 mm up to 11 mm. For reference the GriGri 2 could only go down to a 8.9 mm and was optimized for 9.4 mm to 10.3 mm. This is kind of a big deal considering many of us, especially climbing guides, are climbing on skinnier and skinnier single ropes. Being able to use this with absolutely any single rated rope is just more icing on the cake!

Summary

I’m a bit of a skeptic of the “latest and greatest” gadgets in climbing but the Petzl GriGri+ has surpassed the GriGri 2 in so many ways. There is definitely a small weight/bulk penalty but the added durability will be a boon when this device is well suited for so many types of climbing. I would consider it a great choice for gym and sport climbing, traditional climbing, guiding, big walls (especially in the desert where aluminum wears quickly), camp and school groups, and for my growing list of adventure photographer friends!

Buy on Backcountry.com

Buy on EMS.com


Disclaimer: Petzl provided a demo unit for the purpose of this review but all opinions expressed are my own. Affiliate links help support this blog. Climbing is DANGEROUS! Attempting anything in this review requires training and experience. Seek qualified instruction and climb at your own risk!

Please carefully review Petzl’s technical documentation and instruction here before attempting to use this device!

Petzl Hirundos Harness Review

This Spring & Summer I climbed almost exclusively in the Petzl Hirundos and would like to share my opinion on this well received harness by Petzl. The Hirundos is a solid option for any climber looking to shed a couple ounces and gain a bit of comfort. Let’s have a look.

Petzl Hirundos Harness Review
Stock photo from Petzl.com
Petzl Hirundos Harness Review
Exploring Middle Sugarloaf whilst wearing the Petzl Hirundos harness- May 2016

WEIGHT/PACK-ABILITY:

I prefer lightweight weight harnesses that pack up small. My home scale weighs my size XL Hirundos in at just over 11 ounces.

Petzl Hirundos Harness Review
11 1/4 ounces

This is a full pound lighter than my Petzl Corax that I used last winter and if there is a slight loss of comfort in the design I have not noticed. I also prefer harnesses that collapse neatly and fit easily inside my climbing helmet as I usually pack my helmet towards the top of my climbing pack. Since I usually don my helmet as soon as I get to the cliff it is most convenient to pack my harness with it.

Petzl Hirundos Harness Review
Efficient use of space

SIZING:

According to the official size chart I would have fit a large with 6 cms to spare but a similarly built co-worker suggested I purchase an XL and his advice was spot on.  My 5’9″ 180 lb frame with a 34 inch waist and thicker thighs definitely needed the XL despite the Petzl size chart.

References C36AO XS C36AO S C36AO M C36AO L C36AO XL
Color(s) orange orange orange orange orange
Size XS S M L XL
Waist belt 65-71 cm 71-77 cm 77-84 cm 84-92 cm 92-100 cm
Leg loops 48-53 cm 48-53 cm 52-57 cm 55-60 cm 57-62 cm
Weight 250 g 270 g 280 g 300 g 315 g

While this harness is marketed towards sport climbing (and alpine climbing) I would suggest anyone that has muscular thighs to consider sizing up if you can’t get to a gear shop to try it on. If you have more than a 36 inch waist you will want to look at other options.

COMFORT:

The Hirundos uses something called “Fuseframe” technology. A fancy word for a pretty straight forward idea. Instead of just adding padding around the structural strength of the waist belt Petzl splits the support with “thermo-formed foam” in a way that reduces pressure points and aids in weight distribution. It is extremely comfortable for a harness that weighs less than a pound! I also found the mesh to be breathable and quick drying even when the humidity was high.

Petzl Hirundos Harness Review
A day in July on Cathedral Ledge

The stretchy fitted leg loop material is more comfortable to me than any “adjustable” metal buckled leg loops I have ever used, and has enough range of movement that I have no concerns about adding some long underwear and some soft-shell ice climbing pants to this outfit for some ice climbing this winter (is it winter yet?).

Features:

The “DoubleBack HD” buckle provides quick secure on/off adjustment of the harness. While double-back  buckles have become standard in this category this small profile buckle adjusts more smoothly than larger style buckles that are in common use.

Petzl Hirundos Harness Review
Slim buckle- stock photo from Petzl.com

As typical of this style harness there are 4 gear loops but Petzl has put more thought into them then just adding 4 loops. The front two are rigid, allowing easier clipping and un-clipping of quick-draws and protection. The rear two are flexible and soft which makes wearing a full size backpack a bit more comfortable (and aids in the compress-ability of the harness for packing).

Petzl Hirundos Harness Review
Well designed gear loops- photo from Petzl.com

There are two integrated CARITOOL screw/tool holder slots so I’ll definitely be using this harness once the ice season starts (is it here yet?) If you ice climb you should definitely pick a couple of these up:

Rounding out the features are detachable rear buckles that can help with sorting a tangled harness (and answering nature’s call) and the inclusion of high-tenacity polyethylene (instead of just regular nylon) at the tie-in points that helps reduce abrasion and wear at a high stress point.

Petzl Hirundos Harness Review
Detachable butt straps- photo from Petzl.com

 

CONCLUSION:

After 4 months of climbing sport, trad, and alpine I can give this harness a hearty endorsement. It’s light, pack-able, comfortable, and well thought out. If you’re looking for a new rig check this harness out on Amazon here!

 

If you liked this review or want to plug YOUR favorite harness please do so in the comments below!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Disclaimer: David Lottmann bought this harness with his own money. This post contains affiliate links.

Petzl Hirundos Harness Review
Cannon Cliff

Petzl Connect Adjust Review

The Petzl Connect Adjust has been out for a little over a year now but many climbers haven’t really had a chance to be exposed to it to determine whether or not it would be a helpful addition to their kit. In this review I’ll go in depth on what this item is, how it is different from other products in this category, and what purposes it might be best suited for.

Petzl Connect Adjust Review
Petzl Connect Adjust

So what is it? Simply put it is an adjustable lanyard for conveniently attaching to an anchor. There are a few applications where using a lanyard while climbing can be quite useful. To name just a few; cleaning an anchor at the top of a sport route in preparation for lower/rappel, multi-pitch rappelling where you want to stay anchored without using the main climbing rope, route development/maintenance. It’s probably best to see it in action before we dive into the details.

There are other options in the “tether” arena, and to fully understand the advantages of this piece of equipment it must be held up against what is already out there. So let’s take a very brief look at the two most common solutions climbers use a tether.

  1. The single/double length sling. Cost effective multi-purpose item with the distinct disadvantages of not being adjustable or shock absorbing. Care must be taken to ensure there is no fall potential on generated slack within that attachment. Not redundant.
  2. The Metolius Personal Anchor System (PAS). 93.5 grams. More expensive than the first option, some limited adjust-ability, options to make the situation redundant. It’s no surprise this item has gained a solid following over the last few years for both sport and traditional climbing climbing.

What does the Connect Adjust achieve that these other options don’t? In my opinion there are two distinct advantages of the Connect Adjust:

  1. It’s CE certified for personal fall protection. Its design incorporates the use of the Petzl Arial 9.5 climbing rope. This adds considerable strength (over 15Kn) and durability, along with some dynamic elongation, to your tether. This option does weigh 32.5 grams more than the PAS and is a bit bulkier to rack.
  2. It’s a fully adjustable tether. Other options simply don’t have the ability to fine tune your adjustment length like this device. Sure, there’s the Purcell Prusik, but that can have limitations based on what you build it with.

Before I dive into a couple drawbacks lets get this out of the way right now.

There is no piece of gear that is perfect in every single situation. So don’t look for that. But there is a great piece of gear for every application out there! In this case the Connect Adjust shines in a few arenas;

  1. Cleaning a sport route. Yes, you can continue to link quick draws together with non-lockers to attach yourself at the top of that sick on-sight you just sent. But you know there are better ways. This could be one of them.
  2. Multi-pitch descents/canyoneering. There are some great reasons to bring this along for these type of trips, mainly, the additional “fall protection”. Before I get into explaining “fall protection” here is a clever solution to be able to use this as a rappel extension while still maintaining the tether option (note you lose a bit of length with the girth-hitch and the resulting tether is about 10 inches shorter than a knotted double-length sling.
Petzl Connect Adjust Review
Petzl Connect Adjust Review

Fall Factor at its essence means how much force will be transmitted to the climber/anchor in the event of a fall. You could connect yourself to an anchor with a 4 foot nylon sling, climb up 4 feet, fall 8 feet, and be seriously injured or killed. That’s “Fall Factor”.

Ok, back to “fall protection”. This device is meant to protect against that in climbing situations in two ways.

First, it’s dynamic in nature. While not considered a “shock absorb-er” the technical specs allow for falls up to FF1. That means you could be futzing about trying to adjust something on the anchor with 2 feet of Petzl Arial between you and your anchor point. If you create two feet of slack but don’t go above the anchor point, and fall directly on the anchor (a fall of 2 feet or less), this attachment will dissipate the energy enough to not scramble your organs. The nylon sling/PAS options will not accommodate this type of mistake.

Second, it’s easily adjustable in both directions. You can shorten or lengthen this with consider-able ease increasing the chance of not having unnecessary slack in the system to worry about generating any high fall factor forces. Granted, adjusting it to be longer takes a little bit of practice, especially if you want to do it one handed, but with a little bit of practicing it becomes second nature, and is definitely easier than the Purcell Prusik which pretty much requires two hands for both tightening and loosening.

With that point addressed there is only one other consideration I want to bring up, and that is in redundancy. The materials throughout are more than enough strong for the application, but when confronted with a double bolt anchor without chains this device doesn’t allow you to be clipped into both without building a quick sling anchor (Magic X) or the like. In this regard the Metolius PAS starts to show some advantage. However, the Petzl Dual Connect Adjust solves this issue quickly, though picks up some more weight & bulk in the process.

L35ARM-Dual-Connect-Adjust_LowRes
Petzl Dual Connect Adjust

I’ll be testing the Dual Connect for the next month or so, and plan to update this post with more info related to that. Specifically I have some ideas for how I will rack/store these items on my harness in a more efficient way. While I admit I won’t pack these on trips where I am shaving ounces everywhere there are plenty of times I can see this making my day easier. Off the top of my head guiding 3 clients half-way up Whitehorse before rappelling, cleaning/bolting new routes in the outback, and as a personal tether for Mountain Rescue Service applications (especially as a litter attendant, this device has great potential due to its specifications).

In summary Petzl has created something unique and innovative here. It’s not the Holy Grail, but it’s functional and serves purpose. It does not replace the PAS, double length sling tethers, or clove hitches, but gives us another option of how we secure ourselves in the vertical world. It’s definitely worth checking out.

So what do you think of it? Have you tried it? What’s your personal tether system look like? Let me know in the comments below!

Disclaimer: Both the Connect Adjust and Dual Connect Adjust are being loaned to me from Petzl for this review and I’ll be returning them shortly. My opinions on the device(s) are solely my own.

Champney Fall Ice Climbing 2/9/16

Yesterday I had the opportunity to re-visit an area I haven’t been to in quite a few years. Champney Falls, (Pg 138, An Ice Climber’s Guide to Northern New England, 3rd Edition), a beautiful if not somewhat overly crowded top-rope area at times. On a Tuesday, after a busy IceFest weekend, we found some solitude on the mellow walk in while breaking trail in a few inches for very light powder that fell the night before.

EMS Climbing School
Quiet 40 minute walk in
EMS Climbing School
EMS Store Employees from New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.
EMS Climbing School
Falls are in great shape with the 3+ line to the right of the falls ripe for some climbing
EMS Climbing School
A fun lead to set up our ropes
EMS Climbing School
Still had the place to ourselves for a few more minutes
EMS Climbing School
Thanks for the pics Mark!
EMS Climbing School
Gerald shakes it out while demoing a pair of Petzl Nomics
EMS Climbing School
Alan tries out the Petzl Quarks
EMS Climbing School
Alan almost topping out
EMS Climbing School
iPhone Panaroma

This was just the first day of a 2 day regional Eastern Mountain Sports training involving about 40 EMS store employees from over a dozen stores, organized in collaboration with EMS Schools and Dave Karl of Petzl/Sky Ambitions. More than just an “ice climbing lesson” discussions throughout the day were focused on what products were best for what customer. From crampons to helmets, experienced EMS Schools Guides shared their opinions on the best climbing equipment EMS sells in an effort to continue the tradition of having some of the most knowledgable and authentic outdoor retails sales staff in the country.

While I’m not joining the effort today I’m working on the final touches of my talk tonight at Salt Pump Climbing Co. in Scarborough, Maine. If you’re in the area tonight come on down if interested in “Avalanche Awareness for the Northeast Climber“.

Thanks for reading,

See you in the mountains,

-NEAlpineStart