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.
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Black Diamond C3 Camalots: Four-Season Approval
Posted on: August 27, 2007
Weight: 55-66 grams
I was looking forward to getting a set of Black Diamond's new C3 cams since I first saw the prototypes, and when I did, they were everything I expected them to be. They've been on my rack for a year now, and have been put to the test in just about every condition imaginable. From the misty summit of Torre Egger to a first ascent on Mt. Alberta; from greasy Squamish finger splitters to Bugaboo wall routes; and from overhanging quartzite trad routes at the back of Lake Louise to the mixed desperates of the Icefield Parkway, these cams have served me well. Despite the abuse, they're still working like new. They've held my repeated whippers, inspired the confidence I need when it comes time to run it out, and have shaved precious grams off the weight I've carried.
Most importantly, these cams are bomber, easy to place, and confidence inspiring. Other standout features that impressed include a great balance between stiffness and flexibility in the C3 stem, and thirty percent less head-width than any other cam due to interlocking lobes. This slim profile was noticeable especially in the smaller sizes. When stuffing them in tiny cracks and seams, they've been the best I've tried.
One minor complaint I have is that the plastic sheath covering the cable and springs on the #000 occasionally gets in the way, but the #000 does make up by being a hair smaller than its competitors. As far as micro cams in winter conditions, they're the only ones I'll use, as they resist freezing much better than the other leading brands. The C3s definitely get my four-season approval. There's nothing worse than reaching for the cam you need to find it has been rendered useless, simply because it was placed in a snowy crack on the previous pitch.
As far as price ($65-$70 retail) and weight go (56 grams for the #000 through 66 grams for the #2), these fall right in the middle of their competitors. Strength was comparable, too, with other brands—the #000 holds 4 kN, the #00 holds 6 kN, the #0 holds 7 kN, and the #1 and #2 both hold 10 kN.
Other pros and cons include the most comfortable thumb catch I've tried, perfect spring tension on the four smaller ones, and a little bit too much tension in the #2 (yellow)—it's just a bit hard to pull. One interesting thing is that the C3s come in five sizes, rather than four in the other brands, to cover approximately the same range. This might be seen as good or bad. If you're climbing with a single rack, you have one extra piece. However, it also means that each cam has a smaller range, and requires a better eye to choose the right one on the first try.
Right now I have eight of these units on my rack. My bag is packed for a five-day adventure in my favorite part of my backyard: the Bugaboos. Hopefully tomorrow will be the day to send my ongoing project, and the C3s will be the key to protecting its tricky fingertip cruxes. I can't wait to be climbing above them again!
Pros: Great balance between stiffness and flexibility; easy to place; interlocking lobes offer a slim profile; stellar performance in winter conditions
Cons: Plastic sheath on the #000 can get in the way of a placement; stiff tension in the #2