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The Red Helmet

Black Diamond Fuel Ice Tool Review

29-Apr-2014
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The Black Diamond Fuel, for ice and mixed climbing.Black Diamond Fuel | $259.95  blackdiamondequipment.com  ★★★


They say that all of us are only six degrees separated from anyone in the world. The new BD Fuel ice tool takes that premise and nudges it even closer—it is only two degrees away from the BD’s own Fusion, a technical mixed and ice tool launched about four years ago.

To start, the Fuel is about .75 of an inch shorter than the Fusion—it’s the same cobra-shaped shaft, cut down. Shortening the shaft reduces the arc of the Fuel by two degrees, opening it up to a more natural swing where the very tip of the pick, instead of the top of pick’s bevel, is most likely to contact the ice first.Black Diamond Fuel set on top of the Fusion to show the difference in length.

While I never had a problem with the Fusion bouncing off of placements due to its more aggressive shaft angle, other climbers have bemoaned this tendency. They will find that the Fuel, especially when paired with the Fusion Ice Pick (stock), which has another two degrees less angle than the regular Fusion pick, is more to their liking. Both the Fusion and the Fuel ice climb perfectly fine for me, but the Fuel did do it a bit better. It stuck with more authority when I was pumped and my swing got sloppy.

Noticeable, too, is the grip. Here, the Fuel is the same as the Fusion, but it is covered in much stickier rubber. This makes it easier to hold onto, eliminating the need to wrap the handle in friction tape, as I have always done with the Fusion.

On the end of the grip, BD has given the Fuel a shorter, blunter spike than the impaler found on the Fusion. I like this. I also like that the spike is still removable, and still has a hole for easy clipping. In case you are interested, The Fuel’s spike fits perfectly on the Fusion.

I have heard of other climbers removing the spike, to lighten the tool and prevent a face stab. I say "nay." Besides using the spike for planting the tool in firm snow, I clip it for quick pro when I'm setting an ice screw, and this past winter, on an otherwise unprotectable lead, I slotted a Fuel into a crack, clipped the spike and left it as pro.

As with the Fusion, the Fuel uses plastic spacers to custom fit the grip. For my average-size hands, I use three spacers to accommodate a thick glove. The Bladk Diamond Fuel, on the right, has the same grip as the Fusion, but uses stickier rubber and a less aggressive spike.

On the scales, the Fuel is an ounce lighter than the Fusion. This is due to the Fuel being shorter and because it lacks a hammer head. Most people probably won’t miss having a hammer for old-school gyrations such as pin testing or driving, or to hammer-start screws, but I did. Such is the price of an ounce.

Being a bit shorter, a bit lighter and with less weight in the head, the Fuel feels snappier than the Fusion, and this is what most people will notice and like straight away. That, and the more open shaft angle, make the Fuel a more refined, higher performing ice tool. For rock dry-tooling, literally take your pick. The steeper inclined Fusion is probably a tad better at hanging on delicate edges and it gives you a bit more reach; the Fuel is easier to hold onto and will climb the exit pillar with more aplomb.

The Fuel lacks the hammer surface of the Fusion, but note how the Fusion has been dented and bashed because its hammer is awkward to use, causing frequent misses. 

Interestingly, although the Fuel is shorter than the 50cm Fusion, it is nevertheless listed as a 50cm tool. How can this be?

Answer: Most technical ice and mixed tools are “50cm” regardless of actual length, because climbers expect 50cm tools. Adding to the muddle, most tool lengths are adjustable, and different companies measure length using different reference points. So 50cm is it. Be happy with that.

ABOUT THE RATING
The Fuel got four stars instead of five because it lacks a hammer. A hammer might seem old school, but if you ice or mixed climb you will need the feature at some point. The Fuel does have a small flat surface on what would be the hammer side. This is barely usable, and hard on the tool in any case.

• High-performance technical ice tool
• 1 pound 7 ounces (with three spacers in handle)
• 50cm
• Adjustable, sticky grip.
• Less aggressive shaft angle than the Fusion

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