The philosophy of going fast and light through the mountains has been universally embraced by climbers. In lieu of fixed ropes, heavy packs and pound-in anchors, climbers from California to Katmandu now stress speed and agility in the vertical world.
While this trend is nothing new, climbing equipment manufacturers continue to hone the tools of the trade. C.A.M.P. USA (www.camp-usa.com), the domestic division of Italy’s Construzione Articoli Montagna Premana, is a company whose gear epitomizes the fast-and-light movement.
Take the XLH 95 harness as example No. 1. This climbing harness is made of thin nylon webbing and mesh, and it weighs a mere 3.3 ounces, making it the lightest harness in the world, according to the company.
The harness is bare bones, no doubt, with little padding, few adjustments, and no belay loop. But it provides a secure tie-in point for a rope, and the harness is certified for safety by the Union Internationale des Association dâ€™Alpinisme (UIAA) and the European Community (CE).
For rock climbing, the XLH 95 harness can be uncomfortable, especially if you’re hanging out on a rope for a long time or taking falls. But the company did not design this harness for rocks rats. It is made primarily for mountaineering, where a harness is rarely weighted, and in that situation the XLH 95 is a near-perfect solution.
It costs just $40, too, making the XLH 95 harness a bargain.
Other C.A.M.P. USA products I’ve tested this summer include the 7.4-ounce XLA 210 ice axe and the 1.7-ounce Base Twist carabiner. The axe, which costs $100 and is built for mountaineering, not ice climbing, is made of a strong and feathery aluminum alloy.
The axe has a toothy pick, an adze and a spike on the bottom of its hollow shaft — all common mountaineering fare. It comes in three sizes — 50, 60 and 70 centimeters — and includes a short nylon leash.
My new carabiner of choice — the $15 Base Twist — is the lightest auto-locking ‘biner on the market, according to C.A.M.P. USA. It weighs almost nothing and snaps shut fast and secure with a spring-loaded locking mechanism.
Beyond the gear I played with in the mountains this summer, C.A.M.P. USA’s lightweight line also includes products like the XLC crampons (13 ounces, $120); the X3 600 backpack (21 ounces, $100); and the $70 Carbon Fiber Avy Probe, an amazingly light 7.8-foot avalanche probe that will tip the scale at just 4.3 ounces when it debuts in 2007.
In the end, this kind of lightweight gear will not be the hardest wearing equipment in your closet. Comfort may be sacrificed, too. But for climbers who bank on speed and constant movement in the high alpine world these are sacrifices easily made.