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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Black Diamond's Fusion 2

I intentionally stay away from writing too much on ice tools.  I am very specific in my likes and dislikes and obviously swayed by them.  It isn't fair to to allow my prejudice to blanketly sway people too far on ice tool choices.

I have been doing this stuff long enough to realise if you know what you are doing that almost any good club with a big nail through it will get you up most any ice.

You don't have to climb hard by today's standards to know the difference. (and I don't climb that hard)   But I know what I like and why and why I don't like other tools.  I continually get surprised by my judgement of the cosmetics.

Case in point.  The Petzl Nomic (old or new) looks to have been almost perfectly cloned by the now last year's version of the Green Machine, Black Diamond's Fusion.

Pictured are a Fusion (the Green Machine) and a last year's Nomic over layed.

While they are close there are subtle and meaningful differences.   Which most will readily recognise climbing on either tool and making a comparison. 

To no one's surprise who worked on the Black Diamond design effort, the new Fusion was not, even given the hammer and removable spike, an all around tool.  Its performance on pure ice could be better.   The Nomic, as much as it might appear not to be (with no spike and no hammer),  works well on ice and on hard mixed.

Black Diamond, to their credit, has from the beginning marketed the Fusion as an expert's tool for modern mixed.   Petzl did the same thing on the Nomic as well, and missed a wide audience at first.  Black Diamond in this case was well advised to "stick" with their plan.  I get asked more often about the Fusion than any other tool..."how do I make it climb ice better."

Obviously the Fusion will climb ice, as hard of ice as it comes these days.   But if you are capable of climbing that kind of ice you aren't asking me how to "fix" a Fusion.  

Where the Fusion really shines is on hard mixed.  No surprise as two of the guys intimatly involed in the design work were Roger Strong and Raphael Slawinski.  Both are known internationally for their abilities on hard mixed.

Raphael Slawinski

Roj.....Roger Strong.

So when some one asks me what I think of a Fusion as a intermediate's ice tool I suggest they look else where.   But if you want to really push your mixed climbing the Fusion is a shoo in.  One of the best no question.

I can argue the pick angle and pick design with the best of them.  But when it comes to hooking hard thin moves (which I can't do btw) I know what works and why.  One of the major advantages of the new Fusion over most anything else currently, is the rigid, hydroformed shaft.   No or less flex in the shaft means less pick shift, ie, movement and angle change. 

Again to no one's surprise, I literally can feel the flex and bending of the shaft with every pick set on some of my favorite tools.   I know the limitations of that flex and address it accordingly by using it on terrain where it isn't going to matter.  Great idea but poorly done in over all design for the intended audience. 

The hydro forming is great technology and way ahead of everyone else in the game but if I was a BD athelete I'd be asking for the next generation of Fusion with a *carbon fiber* shaft :)

No question here it is the INDIAN not the arrow....but a bad arrow will miss the mark no matter how good the Indian.

Markus Bendler won the first two Ice Climbing World Cups this winter - with the new Fusions!

Josh Warton has won three consecutive Ouray Comps on Fusions....2 on the Original orange Fusion and the last and I think the most imopressive win on the Green Machine..the newest Fusion.

If you are capable, the Fusion is a scalpel.  Just thought a great design, done specifically for one reason in the climbing community,  when so few things are, should get the credit it is due.


Geoff G said...

Hi Dane,
I was lucky to wander into REI and find a pair of the green machines in the used bin for $118 each. Otherwise I may not have tested them out so soon. I took them to Lillooet and put my new Laser picks on them for ice. Yes the shape is allot like the Nomic, the weight is comparable but different with the balance of the swing. The Petzl mixed pick seems to stick in in ice faster and better than the BD picks. I have been a fan of the file your picks with the curve over on the top near the tip and bevel for years before BD started making them this way. Now I am not so sure. The Petzl picks still have the sharper angle near the top of the tip and stick and remove great. I find that I have to keep my BD picks super sharp to get a good stick.
I added a micro hammer to my old Fusions for pins, as well as used it without the hammer for pins. I am not wild about the new Fusion hammer, angled as it is makes for awkward swinging for pitons.I do like the spike on the handle and the trigger is better than the old Fusion.

Dane said...

Thanks Geoff. More here on my first observations on the Fusion from last winter as well as some opinions of others.

Anonymous said...


The photo you've got labeled as Roger Strong is actually Chris Thomas.

Click on the little camera link in the upper right hand of the photo.

Just thought I'd mention it!

Chris E.

Dane said...

Thanks Chris, no harm intended. I actualy took that photo directly from Roj's BD employee page originally. I've changed the picture and thank you. I see it is gone now at BD as well. Thanks for the heads up. Great picture of Chris Thomas though!