All Round Harnesses
Since most climbers do a bit of everything, there's a lot to be said for a harness that does too. Over spring and summer 2016 the UKC test team has put ten all-round harnesses through their paces.
"...it's versatile enough to handle everything from a thin pair of shorts to the several layers of insulation required for winter mountaineering..."
If it's a sport climbing harness, why am I writing a review about it as an alpine harness? Well, every gram counts just as much in alpinism as it does in sport climbing, so why not use a harness like the Hirundos? What else do you need in an alpine harness that this one doesn't have?
"I need adjustable leg loops."
Do you? The Hirundos, along with several other fixed leg loop harnesses on the market, is able to accommodate variations in thigh diameter with a bit of elastication. I got this harness in my usual size, and it's versatile enough to handle everything from a thin pair of shorts to the several layers of insulation required for winter mountaineering.
"I need adjustable leg loops so I can put my harness on without stepping through the leg loops when wearing crampons or skis."
This may be the one valid argument against taking a harness like this to snowy places, but if you really want the ability to put on a harness without stepping through it, the only option that makes sense is a Bod-style harness. It's too time consuming to unthread and rethread each leg of a standard fully adjustable harness. With a bit of forethought you can make sure you always have your harness on before your skis or crampons, or that the place you choose to put your harness on is comfortable and safe enough to be able to take your skis or crampons off first.
"I need loads of gear loops and somewhere to put my ice clippers."
This one's got four gear loops, two designated ice clipper 'ports' and another place where you could fiddle one in quite satisfactorily.
The advantages of the Hirundos harness
The Hirundos harness weighs 300g (medium), which compares favourably with other lightweight harnesses on the market (the Black Diamond Ozone is 320g but only has two gear loops; Arc'teryx super Gucci harnesses are around 300g but very expensive). Adding in adjustable leg loops bumps up the weight (Petzl Adjama: 435g, Black Diamond Alpine Bod: 395g, DMM Supercouloir: 335g). You could go even lighter than the Hirundos - Cilao make a super-light harness at 82g - but not without sacrificing comfort. If you envisage doing any hanging around in your harness then a bit of padding will make life easier.
The Hirundos is probably not quite as comfy to be hanging in as a more substantial model, but it seemed pretty good for the limited amount of hanging I did in it - it's certainly more comfortable than a Bod-style harness for this - and it was comfortable to wear and climb in.
It's also super fast to put on (assuming you don't have to take your crampons off to do so), since you only have one buckle to worry about, and that's a simple auto-locking buckle, so you just step into it and cinch it up.
The Hirundos toilet system (for number 2s or girls without she-wees) is a little fiddly to manage with gloves on – instead of having a buckle at the rear to drop the legs, there is just a metal hook and a small elastic loop. With a bit of practice it's OK, but it's not perfect. You could probably solve this with the purchase of some plastic buckles and 20 min of sewing in front of the telly.
Another negative is that it might not last quite as long as a normal harness. Everything about the Hirundos has been designed with minimising weight in mind; you might therefore expect that it wouldn't last as long as a more beefy harness. Notably the belay loop is made of very skinny dyneema, so while it is as strong as a traditional belay loop, you'll probably start to be worried about the wear and tear on it a bit sooner.
Es Tresidder is an alpinist, mountain runner and environmentalist. He lives a semi-nomadic lifestyle, travelling between mountain regions to climb and run while studying for an MSc and earning a crust as an environmental building consultant wherever he can get an internet connection.
Es supplements this with lectures about his climbing and running. He is currently the record holder for running the Cuillin ridge on Skye, and climbs and runs to a high level in a variety of disciplines.
Es is currently in the Pyrenees representing the UK in the ski mountaineering World Championships.
His personal webpage is: Es On Ice
You can find out more about his environmental consultancy at leangreenconsulting.co.uk
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