In September Black Diamond and Visit Innsbruck teamed up to invite UKClimbing, plus a selection of other journalists, to the World Youth Championships (click here to read the news report). This was a big event for both Black Diamond - who are the Kletterzentrum's main sponsor - and Visit Innsbruck, who are obviously building the city's climbing credentials ahead of the big event next year, the World Championships. Perhaps most interesting of all from a gear perspective was that the event provided an opportunity to try out some of the yet-to-be-released products from BD, most notably their ATC Pilot and Momentum Rock Shoes.
ATC Pilot £40
It's a great shame that the ATC Pilot wasn't released earlier this year, because had it been it would have been good to have seen how it fared against the other products in our Assisted Braking Device Group Test. Still, having used the devices in that review - not to mention having now got our hands on an ATC Pilot - we can say that it is more akin to the likes of a Click Up or Smart than it is a GRIGRI or Matik. That is to say, there are no moving parts.
In terms of handling and functionality, it works much like a standard ATC, but with - as you might have guessed it - the benefit of assisted braking. When it comes to paying out rope, the large, curved thumb catch on the front means that (when dragged upwards) the device feeds out slack easily. For those accustomed to a GRIGRI this can take a bit of getting used to, but for those that have come from a standard ATC background - or have never belayed before - it actually comes across as quite intuitive. When it comes to lowering the ATC Pilot is best used two handed, using one hand on the thumb catch (which controls speed on one level through how far its lifted) and another on the dead rope (which is where the main control of the rope should remain, at all times).
The blend of steel and plastic means that there's a balance of durability where you need it and weight-saving where you don't. This does give the device a top heavy feel, which means it sits a little strange in the palm, but it's barely noticeable in use. The fact it is steel essentially means this is going to be a very durable device, presuming that the plastic/nylon is up to scratch (this will no doubt be something covered in our more in depth review, which will follow its release).
When it comes to diameter, the ATC Pilot has a remarkably wide range, taking ropes as thin as 8.7mm all the way up to 11mm. When it comes to lock, there's definitely a bit of give/slip to the device, but having only used it for the space of several hours - and exclusively on a single 9.5mm rope - it's hard to say whether this was a problem or a benefit. Again, we'll be able to say much more when we come to publishing our full review. Obviously slippage is annoying and forces you to hold the rope that bit harder, but we found you didn't need to hold it hard to stop it from happening. As a positive, a bit of give should make it easier to provide a softer catch. Swings and roundabouts I guess!
- Look out for our full review of the ATC Pilot in the next few months
Available through selected retail partners and on the Black Diamond Website from 1st November
Momentum Rock Shoe £80 (kid's model £50)
The new range of rock shoes were definitely the centrepiece of Black Diamond's 2017 offering at OutDoor - see here. Unfortunately, due to the fact that most of the rock boots are still in production - or on the feet of their athlete team - at Innsbruck we only got a chance to test out the Momentum, which represents their entry level shoe.
The Momentum is definitely at the relaxed end of the spectrum, having a medium/broad and flat last. It features some very interesting knitted uppers, a new fabric designed for maximum comfort and breathability. Between the construction and the fabric the Momentum is essentially a shoe very much geared towards the first time buyer, or those simply looking for something they could wear all day down the wall or out at the crag, without feeling like they're having their toes slowly crushed.
When it comes to rubber, the Momentum features 4.3mm NeoFriction rubber. Without further use I'd hate to comment on the stickiness, but with the thickness alone in mind I'd say this is a shoe geared more for durability than sensitivity and performance. That said, the soft midsole does mean you get a certain degree of feel/response from the toe.
Bring into the mix that there's not only men's and women's models, but also kids, and it gives you an idea where Black Diamond are going with these.
- A proper in-depth review of the Momentum shoe will follow in a few months.
Available through selected retail partners and on the Black Diamond Website from 15th November