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The Alpinist Mountain Standards reviews apply Alpinist's tradition of excellence and authenticity to gear reviews by providing unbiased, candid feedback and anecdotal commentary to equipment tested (hard) in the field. Our panel is comprised of climbers who use the gear every day as part of their work and play. Only the gear they would actually buy themselves, at retail price, qualifies for the Alpinist Mountain Standards award. The five-star rating system is as follows:
One Star = Piece of junk.
Two Stars = Has one or more significant flaws, with some redeeming qualities.
Three Stars = Average. This solid piece of gear is middle-of-the-road on the current market.
Four Stars = Better than most comparable gear on the market. It has one or two drawbacks, but still 90% positive.
Five Stars = Is there such thing as perfection? An Alpinist Mountain Standards award-winner.
Mountain Standards Gear Review: Alpinist Digital Editor considers the merits of the oft-overlooked Metolius Offset Master Cams during a solo aid-climbing trip to Arches National Park (Ancestral Puebloan, Hopi, Navajo, Ouray, Paiute, Uintah, Ute, Zuni land). While he generally prefers the other brands, Franz notes that the Metolius design has its place on the rack. He writes: "Each design lends itself to being more suited for different situations. That's why I think it's important to 'diversify your portfolio,' as investment bankers say, and carry a variety of brands and styles. This is especially important when aid climbing because small variances can make all the difference between a solid placement and a sketchy one.... The Metolius Ultralight Offset Master Cams turned out to be the MVP (most valuable piece) during a solo ascent of the Tower of Babel (5.6 C3-, 450')." Three stars.
Mountain Standards Gear Review: IFMGA/AMGA mountain guide Mike Lewis has been using the Blue Ice Akila ice axes for a variety of missions. He writes: "The Akilas kick butt for skiing and light and fast technical mountaineering because they are light, have technical picks and curved shafts (so knuckles don't slam into ice when ice climbing), and are short and can fit either on the back of a small pack, or even in it. Whip them off the pack for some low-angled ice or even a steep bulge, and then plunge them in 50-degree snow to top out a major mountaineering objective. An effortlessly slidable plastic pinky rest makes for easy gripping on technical ice, yet can be moved out of the way, further up the shaft or completely off the axe, when sinking into deep snow." Five stars.