UKH

Wild Country Superlight Rocks

© Alpine Exposures

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A Superlight in Action
© Alpine Exposures
Wild Country Superlight Rocks

My main problem with these Superlights is that I'm completely addicted to them! I never leave for the mountains without them and they have been a real lifesaver many times this winter. In fact I can't get enough of them.

Single Cable Design

As you might have guessed they are... super light. The single cable design as well as a re-engineered head makes these Rocks so light you really wont notice them on your harness. The single stem means that you have half the amount of cables hanging from your harness and therefore a lot less clutter (and that's important on a full winter rack). When it comes to actually placing them, the nut seats much better than a normal nut, as you don't have to worry about two cables potentially levering upwards and unseating the placement. Removal is easy, as the single cable is firmly attached to the head of the nut; it doesn't slide. This means that you can actually use the cable to physically push and pull the nut out of a tricky placement (on a normal nut the head moves up and down the wire). So far so good, and that's not even the exciting part yet...

The Actual Head

This is what I got really excited about. Admittedly I was pretty sceptical about them when they came out of the box. After all, when you are minimising the head this much can you really shape them properly so that they are still very effective at seating (safely) into the rock? Well the answer is a resounding yes. Obviously you are limited to using them in small confined cracks but they seat instantly. I often come across shallow placements or pin scars when I am climbing and these are the only things that will fit. Just climbing with them over the last few months has really opened up new climbs for me. This winter has been very dry in the Alps and what are normally termed as 'mixed' climbs are really just patches of thin ice with a lot of dry tooling on the side. Even though the ice pro is harder to find this year I have rarely found myself facing a run-out due to these WC nuts hanging on my harness. I can now protect almost anything I run into, which is a great mental help. For the 96 grams that a full set of 6 weighs (yes that's right 96 grams!) they can make the difference between leading up a crux pitch with low fear factor or leading up it with meters of distance between pro on some very delicate climbing.

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Extracting a Superlight 4 with ease
© Alpine Exposures

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Old style Rock 4 vs superlight 4 vs New style Rock 4
© Alpine Exposures
If you're wondering how the heads are shaped; it is almost exactly the same as their equivalent full-sized rocks, but just cut in half lengthways (see photo). I've always been a big fan of the shape of Rocks and yes there are plenty of different shapes from manufacturers to choose from. Obviously every 'nut' shape has an advantage and disadvantage over others, but I have found that for ease of use the WC shape is the best. They are also colour coded which everyone seems to be doing nowadays but is worth mentioning.

Strength

Rated from 4kn to 6kn you aren't going to want to take a huge whipper on them but they are easily strong enough to take minor falls and hang off them. That may sound like you are hitting the realms of tenuous pro and aiding but honestly we aren't talking copper heads here. These Rocks will hold a fall and they are strong, there is no doubt about it. Don't just assume that because they are tiny that they are exclusively for hard climbing (an assumption that I used to make about this kind of gear). You have to be aware of the limitations strength-wise, and they are not going to hold huge fall after huge fall; but then you often protect more when it gets harder, so in theory you shouldn't be leaving large gaps between pro anyway when you are pushing your limit (I hope!). At the end of the day these things take up so little space when placed that it is also easy to seat more than one and equalize them.

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Superlight Set next to a 5p
© Alpine Exposures
Conclusion

Oddly enough I find that I have nothing to criticise about this gear, which annoys me a little as I like to think that I can always find some fault with any item of gear out there. It's lightweight, takes up very little space on your rack, places and extracts like a dream and so far this season, has been placed more than any other type of pro I have used. I think what's really great about it is that it's completely revolutionary. Every day we are bombarded with new shiny gear that is essentially the same but just a few grams lighter because that's the natural course - there is only a finite amount of improvements you can do to a bit of gear and very soon it always boils down to shaving off those extra few grams. I think we get a little bored about all the hype when in fact nothing much has changed. Here on the other hand is a completely new product that has not only ticked the box on cutting down weight (in a major way) but also in innovation and design.

"For me this is definitely my gear choice for 2007 and as yet I have found nothing that has surpassed it" - Jon Griffith UKC.

For more reviews of Superlight Rocks visit the Wild Country Website

 


 

Jon Griffith - age: 24 - Chamonix

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Jonathan Griffith
© Jonathan Griffith
My first climbing days were back in Bristol where the Avon gorge provided countless trad limestone routes that were great fun to get into climbing. Having no climber friends I ended up 'teaching' myself how to lead climb and thankfully I managed to get through the first few months without falling which was great since most of my gear kept falling out anyway. That summer I bivied across the high route of the Pyrenees and come that winter I decided that I wanted to head out to the Alps and see what that was like. No surprises then that I ended up in Chamonix and was initiated into ice climbing down at the Crémerie.

From then on I took advantage of the huge university holidays and tried to spend a maximum amount of time out in the Alps. I spent my first few years out in Zermatt (thanks to my climbing partner at the time Brian Birtle who put me up countless times) getting more into the mixed and alpine element rather than just rock climbing Chamonix style stuff. I finished my 'time' out in Zermatt on a high point with the Lyskamm North Face and decided I was ready to move on and try Chamonix style rock routes. I finished university last summer and moved out to Chamonix where I am currently working in photography and film work.

It's hard to pick one specific type of climbing that I prefer over the others but I think my heart still lies with big mixed alpine routes that potentially involve a couple of nights bivying. I am still getting used to the whole Chamonix 'get back in time for the last lift' style- I still include bivying as a part of any decent mountaineering experience. I am also still getting used to crack climbing- it hurts.... a lot.

Read more about Jon on his photography website Alpine Exposures.



For more information visit Wild Country Website

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26 Mar, 2008
They sound good but they are a lot weaker than normal rocks (4-6kN compared to 7-12kN). Do you know if this is due to the single wire or to the narrower head? Or something else? Just wondering if you could have the advantages of the smaller profile and single wire without the disadvantage of the lower breaking strain if you used heavier materials?
26 Mar, 2008
"I will need to use them more, but in the limited testing we did with them, it seems we all needed to use nut keys more often to get them out. Looking at the bumpf that comes with them, I also noticed they aren't as strong as DMM Wallnuts either. The Metolius sizes #1 to #5 are rated at 7kn, and #6 upward are rated 10 kn. In comparison a DMM Wallnut #1 is 7 kn; a #2 is 9kn; #3, 11 kn; and all the rest 12 kn. Does this matter? I don't really know. You almost never hear of wires snapping except on tiny micros, so maybe it's academic. What you do get is a set of ten nuts (they are virtually the same size as Wallnuts) that weigh less than the already streamlined most recent versions of Wild Country Rocks and DMM Wallnuts. The actual nut of the Ultralights is also a novel shape. Metolius claim they sit better in flared cracks which is partly why I bought them. I haven't decided yet whether I like the shape or not. More climbs need to be done before a more definitive opinion is arrived at, although this may have to wait as last night it snowed and it appears that winter is here."http://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/review.php?id=607 Andy Kirkpatrick has been steering people away from the smallest DMM and WC nuts (0, 00, 1/2 etc.) for some time over concerns about their strength, but I guess they are really quite weak?
26 Mar, 2008
Average falls are 4-7kNish, minimum is 3, max is 13 unless you do something funky. So they're not particularly tenous and as always its more likely to be the rock that fails. Don't forget that they will be 3 Sigma rated so in reality most of the nuts will fail well above the rated strength anyway. Jon - how do the sizes compare to BD microstoppers - I'm thinking of augmenting mine in terms of sizes as a light second set...
26 Mar, 2008
Surely that depends on the type of rock and the placement? Actually I'd be interested to know what affect the size of the nut itself has on this, I'd guess the less surface area in contact the more pressure on the rock and the more likely the rock is to break and the more likely the nut is to deform and pull out? I wish they hadn't called them rocks, it makes it awkward to discuss them when you are also talking about real rock! looks like microstoppers are smaller and lighter but a bit weaker (they have a bigger strength range - from 2kN to 8kN).
26 Mar, 2008
No. The mechanics of a fall never change. Ropes are designed to limit the fall force to within the 3-13kN range. Yes the size of the nut will affect the placement in terms of surface area contact. However a smaller nut may well be able to seat better and therefore have a higher area of surface contact than a large rocky nut. As you say smaller surface area = larger stress in the surface of the rock and a greater probability of failure - hence the likes of fat cams from metolius being aimed at desert sandstone climbers. However for hard generally compact rocks like lime, granite, ryolite etc (ie rocks you find in the mountains) the rock is much stronger and unlikely to break in this mode. Of course they aren't as strong as a normal nut but in my book some protection is better than none and these rocks do seem to provide placements you would not normally get. Personally I'm thinking of ditching my metolius curve nuts and going back to a set of alloy offsets with these at the bottom end...
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