Much as I love ice climbing, placing screws is not something I relish: there have been more than a few times that I wish I had some sort of drill to get those things in faster. (Note to self: it exists!). But with Black Diamond’s new Ultralight Ice Screws, the act of placing a screw has become pretty quick and painless.
These things are incredibly light, sharp as $#!%, and super smooth as you twist them in.
First the weight: BD bills these things as the lightest in the world. Is it true? They are almost half the weight of Black Diamond’s regular-issue Express Ice Screws, and we haven’t come across any lighter in our research. At 2.6 ounces for the 13 centimeter, 2.9 ounces for the 16 centimeter, 3.1 ounces for the 19 centimeter, and 3.4 ounces for the big ol’ 22 centimeter, the BD Ultralight Ice Screws vary between 15% and 23% lighter than the next lightest models out there.
The weight savings come from the construction: the screw’s body is made of a green-tinted, forged aluminum, while the tip is stainless steel. The tip is essentially a sleeve that overlaps with aluminum body by about a centimeter. So feel free to bring an extra couple of stubbies or one long V-thread-specific screw without worrying that you’re packing on the gear pounds.
The steel tips have held up great. My first outing with the Ultralight Ice Screws involved ice as hard concrete, but I had no complaints. BD also debuted a slightly new shape on the teeth of these screws and you can tell: While some screws require lots of turns and precious pump-inducing seconds before they are truly established in the ice, the Ultralights needed just a couple of twists before they had bored into the ice enough that I could let go.
They go in super quick the rest of the way, too, thanks to the Express handle. This little colored dowel improves upon the older system employed in BD’s classic Express screw by extending further, thus providing more torque and better efficiency. The Express handle snaps open a bit more violently that I’d prefer, but it hasn’t been a problem during a climb thus far. The dowels are also color-coded to make selection when they are racked on your ice clippers a no-brainer.
The Ultralights are $25 more per screw than the standard BD Express Screws. Despite how light they are, they have the same 10 kN strength as their heavier counterparts. At $84.95 a pop, they aren’t cheap, but the price-point is on par with other offerings on the market. When your forearms are flamed on that gnarly, delaminated WI 5, and you can place an Ultralight Ice Screw super quick, you’ll be happy you shelled out that extra little bit!
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