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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C.A.M.P. Scorpio: The Half-Effective V-Threader
Posted on: April 1, 2013
Spring is the season for double v-threads: when aerated, sun-baked snice coats the good blue stuff, and small shrubs or heinous walk-offs achieve newfound appeal. It is also the season for retreating: delaminated final pillars of dubious thickness are nobody's cup of tea. Well, they're not mine anyway.
I bought the C.A.M.P. Scorpio V-Threader as a replacement for my C.A.M.P. Joker, a near-perfect v-threader that I dropped in the Alaska Range (really, it fell off my harness, but there's no excuse). The Joker was ultra-light and simple, and accomplished its few designated tasks with aplomb. At first glance, the Scorpio seemed essentially the same, but with a few notable improvements.
The Scorpio is stiffer than the Joker, which I guessed might make it more effective at clearing frozen ice screws. It also has a small bulge designed to prevent the red plastic cover from sliding up the shaft and exposing the sharp hook when you don't want it to. Like a fifi hook, a v-thread hook tends to catch on everything at the worst possible moment.
I used the Scorpio for a season of New England ice, and it proved a disappointment. Its stiffness made it less effective at its primary job: hooking a piece of frayed webbing pushed into a v-thread, the intersection of which may or may not be the full diameter of an ice screw. Let's face it: they're pretty hard to do perfectly every time, and I think the flex of the Joker was useful when scratching for that tiny confluence.
The predecessor to the Scorpio V-Threader: C.A.M.P.'s "near perfect" Joker. Since the wire maintains its uniformly thin diameter, it easily clears 22cm ice screws, while the Scorpio finds its limit at 17cm. The Joker's flexibility meant it could snake through less-than-perfect v-threads better than its successor.
But more importantly, the bulge intended to hold down the red cover is a little too effective. The red plastic cap doesn't slide up when you need it to. To make matters worse, the cap is exactly the same size as the inner-diameter of my Petzl ice screws. It repeatedly stuck in the top of my screws as I tried to clear the ice from them; at one point, as I tried to pull it out of a screw, I even ripped a hole in the cap with the hook. Moving the cap to the top of the Scorpio to properly clear an iced-up screw was a two-handed affair.
Even worse, the Scorpio's shape actually makes it impossible to clear screws 17cm and longer. It gradually widens, preventing the red cap from sliding all the way up, and reducing the useable length. The old Joker simply coiled into a circle at the end. It was thin and flexible from the hook all the way to the coil. I remember clearing 22cm screws with no issues. The width, in combination with the red cap, make the Scorpio too short to clear long screws.
I realize, of course, that many climbers prefer not to use their v-threaders for clearing ice plugs. It scratches the inside of the screws, and some say those scratches increase the screws' propensity for ice buildup. I think that has some merit. But climbing wet ice on very cold days, when every drop of water freezes your eyelashes and nostril hairs stiff, there is no choice but to slam that v-threader into your screws and force the plugs out. Melting a fist-full of razor-sharp screws inside my jacket is not a reasonable option, in my opinion.
To be fair, the Scorpio does do its primary job effectively. Though I think the flex of its predecessor was useful for finding small intersections on poorly aligned v-threads, I never had any serious issue threading webbing with the Scorpio. It would not have stayed on my harness so long if it were not capable in that regard. After snaking webbing for rappels, however, clearing ice plugs is the only purpose a v-threader serves and, at this, the Scorpio fails miserably.
I bought the Scorpio expecting the simple, effective tool like the Joker. But after a season of use, I have to come to realize that two seemingly minor changes have gutted its functionality. Though it is light, simple and still threads Abalakovs, the Scorpio is frustrating and ineffective at half its purpose. It is not a piece of kit I can recommend to ice climbers.
Pros: Lightweight; simple; bulge keeps hook uncovered; can feed webbing through a v-thread, but not as well as others.
Cons: Red cap gets stuck in screws and hung up on small bulge in the metal shaft; unable to clear screws 17cm and longer because of thickness.