Friday, December 4, 2015

Equipment Review: Camp Cassin X-All Mountain Ice Tools

As it is December and the ice season is upon us, it's time to think about ice tools. In particular, one ice tool that has slowly become one of the go-to tools for mountain guides: the Camp Cassin X-All Mountain Ice Tool.

I had the opportunity to use these tools for an entire season of drytooling and ice climbing. And I was tremendously pleased. The tool is an all purpose ice and mountain tool that performs at a high standard.

The goal of the tool is simple. It's job is to perform well on ice and alpine terrain and to be functional in drytool terrain. I used the tool excessively on waterfall climbs and on drytool ascents and felt that it would be hard to beat in the terrain where I operated.

Obviously, a tool without a double handle like the Petzl Nomic, the Black Diamond Fusion or even the Cassin X-Dream, will not work as well in a drytooling environment. The Cassin X-All Mountain and other tools like it, have an upper grip that allows for one to match and swap hands, but the upper grip can't be used for much more than that. The double handle that some of the other models sport provide more grip options for drytool specific climbing.

I found the single handle to work fine for the lower level drytool (M7 and less) routes that I like to struggle on. But I'm not a drytool specialist and many may find a double handle tool to be more legitimate for this kind of terrain.

Following is a short paragraph from the CAMP website:

The X-All Mountain tool is simply the best — and we say simply in the most sincere way possible. It is not an overly complex design. It is ‘simply’ a perfectly-balanced, fine-tuned, high-quality ice climbing machine. Due to its simplicity, it climbs all angles of ice with much more fluidity and consistency than other modern tools. The profiled pick and perfect head weight make it the best tool for thin ice where it penetrates aggressively with minimal impact on the ice. We have increased the size of the main pommel on the handles to provide an extra four millimeters in width and length for use with thicker gloves.

For climbers who have experienced the frustrations of pick bounce, ice bashing and shoulder fatigue common with the more aggressive mixed tools or more classic style tools, we encourage you to swing the new X-All Mountains. Once you do, there will be no going back.

One thing I noticed right off the bat is that the shafts up near the head are very slippery. I put some sticky tape there in order to better facilitate holding the tool in a dagger position.

Some people really dislike the "sandpaper tape" above the handles and I've heard of people taking this off because it messes up their gloves. I personally didn't experience that and felt the sandpaper tape above the grip worked fine.

There is no doubt that I put this tool through the ringer. And there were several times when I thought I might have actually damaged it. But the only damage the tool seemed to have sustained is on the finger grip. The grip began to come apart as I finished my season.

Problems with the finger grip are easily fixed. I actually felt a little dumb when I found out that this particular tool has three different grip configurations. In other words, the grip that started to wear out is easily replaced. And not only is it easily replaced, there are two other options for different types of climbing.

X-All Mountain Grip Options

In a quick internet search I found that several people have complained about problems with the grips. However, I also found at least one person who claims CAMP has replaced the damaged grips with new ones for free.

In one final note about the grips, they are only held on with one tiny bolt. I haven't been able to find any evidence of them failing and they never came close to it with me. But I did find a couple of people online who complained about the sound of the grips on the shaft moving... I never heard anything on the tools I used.

And while I didn't use the tool on an alpine route, I can easily imagine two problem with it. First, he shaft is heavily curved, allowing for nice clearance on each swing. This swing advantage comes at a price though. The curve simultaneously makes it difficult to pound pickets with the hammer or to cut out a t-slot with an adze. And second, it makes the tool harder to use in the cane position or the self-arrest position. However, if one practiced with the tool, he or she could probably make it work effectively in either orientation.

Some people who drytool a lot like to take the hammer or adze off the back of the tool in order to reduce weight. This isn't possible with the X-All Mountain because the backside of the pick is held in place by the same bolt that holds the hammer/adze in place. My argument to those who would like to do this is that the tool wasn't designed to be a high-end drytooling tool, but to be more of an ice specific tool.

I primarily used the tool for vertical waterfall ice climbing, and for that application, I honestly cannot imagine a better tool. There might be better tools for drytooling, but for someone who isn't a drytool specialist this tool works absolutely fine. I would strongly recommend the X-All Mountain to any who are looking for a reasonable ice tool.

--Jason D. Martin


Nick Drake said...

Camp makes a "plate" insert to support the pick if you want the hammer weight removed for dry tooling:

Unknown said...

"Obviously, a tool without a double handle like the Petzl Nomic, the Black Diamond Fusion or even the Cassin X-Dream, will not work as well in a drytooling environment."
This statement was so wrong, I just stopped reading

Unknown said...

"Obviously, a tool without a double handle like the Petzl Nomic, the Black Diamond Fusion or even the Cassin X-Dream, will not work as well in a drytooling environment."

This statement was so wrong I just stopped reading