Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles Initial Analysis

This morning, I received a set of Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles. At £88 from Ultralight Outdoor Gear, delivered, they are a bargain. They were ordered Sunday. Good job, Mark. I have already posted on Trekking Poles and my analysis of them generally, and now I'm going to set down my initial thoughts of these, my new winter poles.



My only other experience of trekking poles are the Leki Makalu Carbonlite trekking poles used by a friend on the Tour du Mont Blanc. They, inter alia, got me considering poles in the first instance.

At 492g for the pair, with small trekking baskets on, they are not the lightest poles available - Gossamer Gear manufacture the LT4 which is less than half that weight and Titanium Goat have the AGPs. There are others. I know Phil Turner uses AGPs, so he's the man to contact for advice about them. However, the characteristic that sets the Black Diamond poles apart is the fliplock system which are far less likely to fail in wintry, freezing conditions. Therefore, the extra weight may well be justified. Perhaps, if I get on with poles, I'll have a 3-season set - time will tell.

Black Diamond have a well deserved reputation for manufacturing high-quality, durable gear and specialise in climbing and mountaineering, as well as ski touring, kit. Handling these poles leads me to the inexorable conclusions that, firstly, the Leki Carbonlite were demonstrably lighter but, secondly, these BD poles are very well constructed indeed. The carbon fibre feels strong, stiff and extremely reassuring. They are 63cm (25") when collapsed and 129cm (50.5") fully extended. My 'level-terrain' setting for them is 120cm and I am 6' tall with a 21" torso. They come with a small clip to keep them together and two snow baskets. They also have a set of instructions.

The cork handles and wrist guards feel very comfortable. The wrist grip is a wicking mesh on the fabric coming into contact with the hand, with a small buffer where the wrist guard is attached to the handle. The other side, embossed with the BD logo, is a smooth velvet material. Durability of cork should be interesting but the talk is that they are better for sweaty palms. They grip well enough and feel nice against the skin but I'll not know until I've used them for 8hrs. Just below the grip is a hard, foam secondary grip for easy ascending over a short, steep distance where adjusting the poles may be unnecessary given the short distance. It's a nice feature in a pole clearly designed for winter ascents. The bottom of the cork grip, which would be the top of this foam grip is even angled so that, when reaching up with the poles, they feel comfortable. It's intelligent.


That said, the fliplock system is simplicity itself to adjust, even with gloves on - I tried. It can be adjusted via a phillips-head screw which I would suggest turning quarter turns and trying for tightness. The fliplock itself is quick and easy to use, which means a user is far more likely to make adjustments during ascent and descent, gaining maximum benefit from the poles themselves.


The baskets are easy to remove and fit via a threaded screw-on system - although the dirt baskets are quite small. I may not even have them on at all as the benefit of them seems limited. In snow, the snow baskets seem as if they will be fine, if flimsy. The ends are capped with a concave metal tip.

4 comments:

  1. The locking system is superb. Pity Pacer Poles don't have it. Hope they work out for you on the hill. I do like my BD poles a lot.

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  2. I have a pair made by Outdoor Research that have a similar locking mechanism. They were a gift, and I've never used them yet. I meant to take them with me this past weekend when I climbed to 14er's here in Colorado, but somehow left them sitting on my basement floor when I loaded up the car! I'd really like to see if they make a difference in terms of fatigue. I'll be interested to hear updates on your experiences as you continue to use them.

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  3. I'm looking forward to using them! Brave New World...

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  4. I have a pair made by Outdoor Research that have a similar locking mechanism. They were a gift, and I've never used them yet. I meant to take them with me this past weekend when I climbed to 14er's here in Colorado, but somehow left them sitting on my basement floor when I loaded up the car! I'd really like to see if they make a difference in terms of fatigue. I'll be interested to hear updates on your experiences as you continue to use them.

    ReplyDelete