When I hear the word Cyborg it always brings up images of things like Robocop and Terminator. Human beings with special mechanical implants and extraordinary powers. So did Black Diamond's Cyborg Pro crampons give me any special powers? Well, not quite but I did find them to be pretty damn good!
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Okay so first of all, what are they? The Cyborg Pro is a technical crampon for ice and mixed climbing made from stainless steel (more about this later!) It is modular which means you can change between having two front points or just one (mono-points). It is a semi-rigid crampon with flat rails, which means it is positioned closer to the sole of your foot. The Pro version that I tested is a clip-on (step-in) crampon suitable for fully stiffened B3 boots with toe welts. Black Diamond make a strap-on (Clip) version too which are suitable for boots without toe welts. They also feature an integrated anti-balling plate.
"...They are perfect for days on the Ben, mixing it up in the Northern Corries, busting your biceps on foreign cascades or dry-tooling at White Goods!..."
The Cyborg Pro vs tricky mixed ground on Engineers Slabs
© Kevin Avery, Apr 2010
Stainless Steel. Why?
Black Diamond are making quite a big deal of the fact that they are now producing crampons from stainless steel. So what are the benefits?
Well, firstly stainless steel doesn't rust and it is more durable so your points don't wear out as quickly. It is also lighter which is always desirable when pushing yourself in the mountains. On top of this it is apparently more resistant to balling up with snow (although I'm not sure I really noticed this) as well as being kinder to the environment.
How long have I used them for?
I used the Cyborgs all last winter on everything from mixed climbs in the Cairngorms and the Lake District, to giddily steep pillars in Italy's Val Di Cogne. I have found them to perform excellently on all of these types of terrain. In fact I absolutely love these crampons!
They fit my lightweight asymmetric boots (Sportiva Extreme Evos) perfectly and the flat frames mean that I get good levels of sensitivity when climbing on rock. Well, as much as you're going to with some metal toe extensions anyway! I suppose what I mean here is that the crampon feels more like an extension of my foot than I found with many other crampons, particularly the meccano set, vertical-railed types.
The first thing I did was change the Cyborgs from dual to mono-points. I much prefer the benefits of mono-points for both ice and mixed climbing. For me mono-points are streets ahead on mixed ground and on ice they are certainly no worse than having two. In fact I personally prefer monos on ice as well.
So what are the advantages? Well, firstly on mixed ground you can stand more securely on small edges as there is none of the rocking around that you get with two points. You can precisely place a mono and all that happens when you move around is that it pivots a little bit. This then enables you to execute "drop-knees" and "back-steps." You also have the added bonus that you can stick the single point into narrow icy cracks.
"...This was not as straightforward as I'd have hoped and involves a hacksaw..."
On ice the benefits are the same so you can climb steep pillars more smoothly and on thin and brittle ice there is less chance of shattering (as long as your points are sharp) as you're only making one hole. You can even stand in the holes that you have made with your picks! Finally, keeping your heels low enables the secondary points to bite which means you get a stable "tripod" effect in the ice.
Black Diamond Cyborg Crampons
The Black Diamond Cyborg is a high-end ice and mixed climbing crampon with a lightweight stainless steel design. Optimized for steep waterfall ice, mixed climbing or hard mountain routes, the Cyborg's semi-rigid design offers maximum control for precise placement with minimal weight. Used in mono- or dual-point configuration, the modular, hooded vertical frontpoints perform flawlessly.
The only problem with the Cyborgs and converting to mono-points is the fact that you have to modify the anti balling plates. This was not as straightforward as I'd have hoped and involves a hacksaw. The plates are very difficult to cut and the process is very fiddly. Once you have done it there is no going back and if revert to dual points then you have a hole in your plates. Surely for £150 BD could provide you with a mono and a dual section?
Climbing in the Cyborg Pros has been a joy and they tackle any terrain with ease. The aggressive front-point set up is extremely stable on ice, giving plenty of bite. The monos tackle rock with precision and don't shatter brittle or thin ice. The rest of the points give lots of stability when standing flat -footed or walking down steep neve slopes.
The Cyborg Pros are superb technical crampons that will do everything that the UK winter climber wants them too. They are perfect for days on the Ben, mixing it up in the Northern Corries, busting your biceps on foreign cascades or dry-tooling at White Goods! Apart from the anti-balling plates they are really well designed and build quality is excellent. I really can't wait to put mine on again!
MORE INFO: On the Black Diamond Website
About Kevin Avery
UKC Gear, Jul 2010
© Dave Pickford
Kevin Avery is 30 and lives in Wilsden, West Yorkshire. He has climbed obsessively for 15 years now and would like to think of himself as a bit of an all-rounder enjoying all aspects of the sport equally. He is a teacher by trade but also dabbles with writing articles and gear reviews, coaching down the local wall, and even taking the odd photograph when time allows.
Kevin can be regularly found sport climbing on the local limestone, scaring himself on trad, freezing on frigid winter belays and bouldering (or is that blundering?!) on the grit. Highlights include climbing the famous Brandler-Hasse route in the Dolomites (on-sight) last year, the beautiful ice of Repentance-Super in Cogne back in February, linking three big ridges on the Ben in a day, oh and managing to on-sight F7c+ and redpoint F8b.
UKC Articles and Gear Reviews by Kevin Avery: