A year ago C.A.M.P.’s Cassin X-All Mountains were hard to come by. This season, these easy-to-spot, Home Depot-orange tools are all over the Vermont crags I guide–and for good reason. I’ve had this tool for what equates to a full season now, climbing easy snow gullies, WI5 pillars and everything in between, I’ve watched them get abused on mixed routes by beginners and fellow guides alike. When I helped paraplegic Sean O’Neill of Paradox Sports with his ice climbing system, the All-Mountains were the tool of choice. My point is, this relative newcomer to the micro industry of vertical ice tools stands out for its light weight, shaft curve and very doable price tag.
There are only so many ways of describing an ice tool. Attributes worth discussing are shaft clearance, pick angle and spike pointy-ness–the X-All Mountain excels at all of them. But in reality, biomechanics have a lot to do with matching a user to their perfect tool. And the X-All Mountain feels like a custom tool made just for me. I have climbed dozens of pitches with this tool, and put it into many beginners’ hands. Instant feedback from novices included comments about the light weight, plentiful clearance and pinky protection. An even more telling indication of their quality is the frequency that clients choose these tools over the others in my collection. My X-All Mountains are the clear favorites.
This tool falls into the realm of high-end hybrid alpine/ice tools. Side by side against the competition–Petzl Nomics, Grivel Quantum Techs and BD Cobras–these C.A.M.P. tools are the cheapest, and almost the lightest (they’re 37 grams heavier than the $279 Quantums). They boast an aggressive shaft curvature that still maintains the ability to plunge. Interchangeable grips offer three different spike/grip configurations. A low profile spike (“X-Dry”) reduces your chances of a puncture injury by eliminating one source of sharp pointy things, to be used for leashless ice/mixed climbing. The alpine spike (“X-Ice”) is your typical axe spike that allows you to use the tool in a cane position. A third grip, the “X-Alp,” not available for testing, offers a minimal pinky ledge for better plunging capability. Changing the grips is a simple task, as they’re secured with only one screw. While swapping is probably not the best idea in the field, it’s easily done the night prior. The shaft has a thoughtful swatch of grip tape that hasn’t come off yet, but is replaceable on the C.A.M.P. website if it does.
The hot-forged pick matches well with the tool. It can withstand drytooling abuse, and the factory edge holds up well with very little maintenance required. Some tools can be too light, and feel “flimsy” while swinging, but C.A.M.P. has found the perfect weight and balance without the need for head weights. The small hammer plate included with the tools is a nice touch, although, with the exaggerated shaft curve, it is very difficult to make the connection from hammer to piton. The best feature–and don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot I like about the tool–is the head’s large opening for clipping to carabiners or ice clippers. Even with both tools on one clipper, the gate closes fully and the tools lie flat so they aren’t competing for space with your screws as you’re lowering off. Absolutely brilliant!
In the end, this high-end tool marries alpine needs with roadside cragging robustness, without draining a whole paycheck.
Pros: Large head opening for easy clips; excellent combination of weight and shaft curve; low price.
Cons: Hammer upstaged by shaft curve.
Next year CAMP/CASSIN will introduce a new stock handle for the X-All Mountain, which is slightly wider than the previous leashless grips. See below for a picture of the modular handle interface.
An X-All Mountain with the new handle mounted, and the old X-Dry handle next to it.