Wild Country Superlight Rocks
My main problem with these Superlights is that I'm completely addicted to them! I never leave for the mountains without them and they have been a real lifesaver many times this winter. In fact I can't get enough of them.
Single Cable Design
As you might have guessed they are... super light. The single cable design as well as a re-engineered head makes these Rocks so light you really wont notice them on your harness. The single stem means that you have half the amount of cables hanging from your harness and therefore a lot less clutter (and that's important on a full winter rack). When it comes to actually placing them, the nut seats much better than a normal nut, as you don't have to worry about two cables potentially levering upwards and unseating the placement. Removal is easy, as the single cable is firmly attached to the head of the nut; it doesn't slide. This means that you can actually use the cable to physically push and pull the nut out of a tricky placement (on a normal nut the head moves up and down the wire). So far so good, and that's not even the exciting part yet...
The Actual Head
This is what I got really excited about. Admittedly I was pretty sceptical about them when they came out of the box. After all, when you are minimising the head this much can you really shape them properly so that they are still very effective at seating (safely) into the rock? Well the answer is a resounding yes. Obviously you are limited to using them in small confined cracks but they seat instantly. I often come across shallow placements or pin scars when I am climbing and these are the only things that will fit. Just climbing with them over the last few months has really opened up new climbs for me. This winter has been very dry in the Alps and what are normally termed as 'mixed' climbs are really just patches of thin ice with a lot of dry tooling on the side. Even though the ice pro is harder to find this year I have rarely found myself facing a run-out due to these WC nuts hanging on my harness. I can now protect almost anything I run into, which is a great mental help. For the 96 grams that a full set of 6 weighs (yes that's right 96 grams!) they can make the difference between leading up a crux pitch with low fear factor or leading up it with meters of distance between pro on some very delicate climbing.
If you're wondering how the heads are shaped; it is almost exactly the same as their equivalent full-sized rocks, but just cut in half lengthways (see photo). I've always been a big fan of the shape of Rocks and yes there are plenty of different shapes from manufacturers to choose from. Obviously every 'nut' shape has an advantage and disadvantage over others, but I have found that for ease of use the WC shape is the best. They are also colour coded which everyone seems to be doing nowadays but is worth mentioning.
Rated from 4kn to 6kn you aren't going to want to take a huge whipper on them but they are easily strong enough to take minor falls and hang off them. That may sound like you are hitting the realms of tenuous pro and aiding but honestly we aren't talking copper heads here. These Rocks will hold a fall and they are strong, there is no doubt about it. Don't just assume that because they are tiny that they are exclusively for hard climbing (an assumption that I used to make about this kind of gear). You have to be aware of the limitations strength-wise, and they are not going to hold huge fall after huge fall; but then you often protect more when it gets harder, so in theory you shouldn't be leaving large gaps between pro anyway when you are pushing your limit (I hope!). At the end of the day these things take up so little space when placed that it is also easy to seat more than one and equalize them.
Oddly enough I find that I have nothing to criticise about this gear, which annoys me a little as I like to think that I can always find some fault with any item of gear out there. It's lightweight, takes up very little space on your rack, places and extracts like a dream and so far this season, has been placed more than any other type of pro I have used. I think what's really great about it is that it's completely revolutionary. Every day we are bombarded with new shiny gear that is essentially the same but just a few grams lighter because that's the natural course - there is only a finite amount of improvements you can do to a bit of gear and very soon it always boils down to shaving off those extra few grams. I think we get a little bored about all the hype when in fact nothing much has changed. Here on the other hand is a completely new product that has not only ticked the box on cutting down weight (in a major way) but also in innovation and design.
"For me this is definitely my gear choice for 2007 and as yet I have found nothing that has surpassed it" - Jon Griffith UKC.
For more reviews of Superlight Rocks visit the Wild Country Website
Jon Griffith - age: 24 - Chamonix
My first climbing days were back in Bristol where the Avon gorge provided countless trad limestone routes that were great fun to get into climbing. Having no climber friends I ended up 'teaching' myself how to lead climb and thankfully I managed to get through the first few months without falling which was great since most of my gear kept falling out anyway. That summer I bivied across the high route of the Pyrenees and come that winter I decided that I wanted to head out to the Alps and see what that was like. No surprises then that I ended up in Chamonix and was initiated into ice climbing down at the Crémerie.
From then on I took advantage of the huge university holidays and tried to spend a maximum amount of time out in the Alps. I spent my first few years out in Zermatt (thanks to my climbing partner at the time Brian Birtle who put me up countless times) getting more into the mixed and alpine element rather than just rock climbing Chamonix style stuff. I finished my 'time' out in Zermatt on a high point with the Lyskamm North Face and decided I was ready to move on and try Chamonix style rock routes. I finished university last summer and moved out to Chamonix where I am currently working in photography and film work.
It's hard to pick one specific type of climbing that I prefer over the others but I think my heart still lies with big mixed alpine routes that potentially involve a couple of nights bivying. I am still getting used to the whole Chamonix 'get back in time for the last lift' style- I still include bivying as a part of any decent mountaineering experience. I am also still getting used to crack climbing- it hurts.... a lot.
Read more about Jon on his photography website Alpine Exposures.