Ski touring and climbing are different activities, but there comes a point where knowledge of both is essential for a safe and successful day in the mountains. Mountaineering, glacier travel, rappelling and roped rescue scenarios all require knowledge of basic knots, rope handling, anchors and hardware, and are often encountered while skiing in the alpine. The problem is - all that gear is really heavy. Behavioural psychology research says that if safety equipment is inconvenient, the user is less likely to carry it. Contrarily, if the equipment is convenient, most users will carry it even when it may not be necessary. In this review, we'll take a look at several new lightweight products from Petzl that make the choice to carry them a no brainer. Continue reading to learn more about the Petzl Meteor Helmet, Petzl Sitta Harness, Petzl Volta Climbing Rope, and the Petzl RAD System.
Portions of the RAD System can be seen on the Petzl Sitta Harness below.
Price: $340CAN / $255US
Weight: 1045g / 37oz
Petzl designed the RAD system to meet almost all of the equipment needs one would have for a complex alpine ski tour in just over 1000 grams (2.2lbs). The entire kit is compact and lightweight to encourage more recreationalists to carry the proper safety equipment and actually use it. This review includes the RAD system, as well as other pertinent gear made by Petzl.
The RAD (rescue and descent) system consists of a 30m long 6mm cord, 3 locking carabiners, 1 tibloc (prusik), 1 micro-traxion (pulley/ascender), and a 120cm Dyneema sling. All of the equipment fits inside the storage bag, which attaches to a harness or a backpack via one or both of the webbing loops sewn to the outside of the bag. The storage bag also includes a sleeve for an ice screw (in the case that a snow anchor is unavailable). The hardware components of the kit can be worn on the user's harness or attached to the bag along the webbing loops inside of the cinch top.
The RAD line is a hyper-static dyneema 6mm cord designed specifically for the Petzl micro-traxion and tibloc. The RAD line and the micro-traxion + tibloc are theoretically incompatible due to the diameter limitation stamped on both pieces of hardware, however, Petzl has done several tests with the RAD line and the results are within the 4kN (~900lbs) force requirement. Therefore, the RAD line is ONLY COMPATIBLE with the micro-traxion and tibloc; other brands of ascenders show inconsistent and unsafe results. The RAD line is not designed to arrest falls “unless another element of the system is able to absorb some energy of the fall” NOTE: Belayer displacement and rope friction (knots in the rope) qualify as a form of energy absorption, however, large falls can be very dangerous on a static line.
Despite technicalities with the certification of different components, the RAD line functions within the system when used as intended. For demonstrations of intended use, check out the video posted here.
Price: $124CAN / $100US
Weight: 240g / 8.5oz
Sizes: S/M, M/L
Colour: grey, orange, violet
The Meteor helmet is designed for climbing, mountaineering and ski touring. The first helmet specifically CE-certified for ski touring, the meteor protects the user from top and side impacts, unlike traditional climbing helmets that focus on protection from strictly overhead hazards. Vents are strategically placed to allow airflow from the back of the head and neck but shield the front the from wind or airflow while skiing. The helmet has a strap on the back for goggles and two clips on the front for a headlamp and is compatible with a visor. The suspension is easily adjusted in the back and neatly folds into the helmet when not being worn, preventing the bending and kinking that occurs with rigid plastic suspensions. The chin closure is magnetic as opposed to a plastic three pronged buckle, allowing the wearer to buckle and unbuckle it with one hand. The materials consist of an expanded polystyrene foam liner injected inside a polycarbonate shell, reducing the total helmet’s weight to just 240 grams (8.5 ounces).
Price: $230CAN / $200US
Weight: 270g / 9.5oz
Sizes: S, M, L
The Sitta Harness is an incredibly compact harness but still has the capacity to carry a large amount of equipment with two forward rigid gear loops with moveable separators, two side flexible loops which allow for comfort when wearing a backpack and a fifth back loop for belay gear and a tail line. Two additional smaller loops in the back integrate with the Petzl caritool system. The waist belt and leg loops are extremely thin and flexible, utilizing a wireframe of high-modulus polyethylene strands over traditional webbing and equally distribute the load for more comfortable wear. The leg loops are closed with elastic allowing a comfortable and flexible fit. The Sitta weighs just 270 grams (9.5 ounces).
Price: $156CAN / $110US
Lengths: 30, 50, 60, 70, 80, 100m
The Volta is a versatile and lightweight rope suitable for a variety of mountain sports. UIAA certified as a single, double and twin rope and dry treated with Duratec Dry treatment, the volta handles smoothly and feeds well due to its smaller diameter. The core strands are thermally treated to decrease the stiffness that usually develops in used climbing ropes, and the core and sheath are bonded together using an ultrasonic process which prevents sheath creep. The volta is available in orange in 30, 50, 60, 70, 80, and 100m lengths and in grey in 50, 60, 70, and 80m lengths. Weight is 55g per meter, putting a 30m length at 1650 grams (3.6lbs).
A note on specifications, since they become relevant in this review: Climbing and mountaineering gear is certified by CEN (European Community) and UIAA (Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme). For more detailed information on the actual testing criteria, click here.
Petzl has always made thoughtful climbing equipment and the RAD system is no exception. The micro-traxion and the tibloc are fan favourites in most crevasse rescue kits. The effort to make glacier travel and crevasse rescue gear compact and easy to assemble will increase access to more technical mountain objectives, however, there are limitations when using something like a RAD system. The RAD line will not be useful with other ascenders and camming devices (no issues with belay plates and pulleys) and does not include additional equipment necessary for self-rescue if travelling in a rope team of two. Also, its limitations arresting falls makes it less of an ideal choice for situations where a large roped crevasse fall is a possibility. That being said, it's an excellent tool for ski tourers who occasionally encounter these hazards and want to carry a compact kit that is easily thrown in and doesn't take up a ton of space inside a pack. When combined with the lightweight and compact Sitta Harness and Meteor Helmet, one could carry a complete complement of safety gear for under four pounds (>1800 grams). It's worth noting that the total cost of a micro-traxion, tibloc, three locking carabiners and a 120cm dyneema sling is around $220US / $295CAN, so if you throw in the cost of a 30m Volta you can assemble the system with a fully rated climbing rope for a similar price, foregoing the convenience and carrying an extra 1000 grams.
See above in review.
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