Lightweight Alpine Harnesses

File_001 (1)Lightweight Alpine Harnesses

CGR reviews three lightweight(ish) Alpine/winter harnesses suitable for snow, ice, rock or mixed at all levels.

The days of Alpine and Scottish winter climbing being dominated by the classic Troll Whillans harness have, thankfully, long since passed. Today there is a dazzling array of winter/alpine harnesses many of which even forgo the once sacred adjustable leg loops and all weigh a fraction of what the old harnesses did. What makes a harness an ‘Alpine’ harness is open to debate and in reality almost any harness could be used for many types of alpine climbing but the ability to cope with varying layers (adjustability), sufficient gear loops for racking more than a few quick draws (I know if you’re doing a classic dangerous walk then a you won’t need much of a rack but for more technical routes and Scottish mixed…) and lightweight packability would all probably feature on most people’s lists. Most modern alpine/winter harnesses will now come with ice clipper slots to accommodate those nifty plastic krabs to organise precious ice screws.

As we wave farewell to the Scottish winter season this mini buyers guide looks at three harnesses from a few of the less well know manufacturers, all were supplied as being lightweight (or reasonably so) and suitable for winter and alpine climbing.

Grivel Poseidon

poseidon

04-CGRstar

  • Four semi stiffened cord gear loops
  • Two Ice Clipper Slots
  • Adjustable leg loops
  • 363grams (Size 1)
  • Stockists
  • RRP £70.00
File_001 (1)

My top winter harness 363 grams – funky ‘G’ buckles and remedial stitchs visible

The Grivel Poseidon has rapidly become my favourite winter harness. It’s unique feature is that it has been ‘waterproofed’ via a dry treatment the same as that used on ropes to make it impervious to the drips and dampness of ice climbing or your typical Scottish winter route. Now I’ve never considered this a big issue but it does mean the harness dries very quickly in the drying room and would likely be a boon if you were involved in multiday ‘adventures’. But it’s not this that has endeared it to me rather it is its excellent fit, lightweight and packability. Unusually for a modern harness the Poseidon has simple webbing leg loops but these proved more than comfortable enough with typical winter or alpine layers and they are easily adjustable with the compact mini buckles. If you were choosing this as your quiver of one harness to wear for Scottish winter, Alpine summer, British trad and a bit Euro sport climbing then those leg loops might cause a rethink in shorts if you’ve grown accustomed to the more luxuriant feel of modern harnesses!

File 28-03-2016, 14 45 28

The Grivel Poseidon became my favourite #scotwinter harness.

The waist belt is a lightly padded affair with stiffened cord gear loops, two ice clipper slots and a double mini-buckle fastening which I love as it means you can keep the belt centred no matter which end of the size range you fall into. Overall the Poseidon’s construction looks very durable and promises many seasons use. The buckles were smooth and adjusted easily with gloves on. In use the harness just disappeared, it was comfortable on hanging stances, I found the gear loops easy to locate and clip gear to and it never constricted or hindered movement whilst climbing or walking. The Poseidon has become my favourite Scottish winter harness. Having said that there was one small niggle -the rear leg loop straps are attached by a very stylish ‘G’ for Grivel hook buckle (not the fastex buckles shown in the manufacturers product shot above) but on my harness the tape loops they hooked into were a little too loose and to begin with they constantly fell out when donning the harness or when it was in the pack which was most irritating. A couple of stitches to narrow them sorted the problem and hopefully this will be rectified by Grivel in the future. Size wise the Poseidon comes in two sizes:

  • Size 1: 67-87cm
  • Size 2: 80-106cm

I got the size 1 and this fitted my 30″ waist perfectly – though there was not much adjustment left to go any smaller.

Edelrid Leaf

leaf

05-CGRstar

  • Four semi stiffened cord gear loops
  • Two Ice Clipper Slots
  • Elasticated (semi-adjustable) leg loops
  • 297grams (Small)
  • Stockists
  • RRP £65.00
File_002 (1)

The lightweight winner – 297grams of svelte versatility.

The Edelrid Leaf is only non adjustable leg loop harness in the review but it does incorporate a cunning elasticated system that allows some tolerance for different layers. This harness has had the longest review period and been used for everything ranging from British sport and trad, alpine rock, mountaineering and Scottish winter – this truly does it all and is especially good for the more summer orientated activities. Though the leg loops provide some adjustment their tolerance for different layers it is limited. As one of the ‘larger legged’ fraternity I found that although I could tighten my size small all the way to its minimum waist size (I’m a 30″ waist) the leg loops were opened to their maximum and I couldn’t comfortably wear thick softshells (like Backcountry guide Pants) with a baselayer underneath. Edelrid also produce the Wing Harness which is basically the Leaf with adjustable legloops which would circumvent this issue for more wintery work.  Other than that it has performed brilliantly and has seen more use than any other harness that I own this last year.

P1030490 (1)

The Edelrid Leaf was the perfect harness for multipitch alpine granite.

I reviewed Edelrid’s Orion harness awhile back and commented that it was the most comfortable harness I’d ever used. Now while the ‘Leaf’ doesn’t quite reach the same level of comfort it is close and completely trounces the Orion in terms of weight and packability – important considerations when sorting that sack for a long day in the hills.In fact the Leaf proved the lightest of the harnesses on review. If you want a harness that does everything with perhaps more of an emphasis on the summer rather than winter Alpine pursuits then this is it. An interesting design point is the tie in loop has a textile abrasion protector which includes a wear indicator. In the event of excessive wear a red thread will become visible providing a warning. Size wise the Leaf comes in four sizes

  • XS 61-75cm
  • S 71-85cm
  • M 75-90cm
  • L 81-96cm

I took the Small which fitted my 30″ fine but was struggling leg wise a bit with thicker layers.

Edelweiss Strato

strato

04-CGRstar

  • Four rigid plastic covered cord gear loops plus small rear tag loop.
  • Two Ice Clipper Slots
  • Adjustable leg loops
  • 429 grams (Size 2)
  • Stockists
  • RRP £60.00
File_000 (2)

The reliable all-rounder – built for the Alpine environment.

Another master rope maker producing harnesses the Edelweiss Strato is a lightly padded adjustable leg loop harness with a double mini-buckle waist belt that allows you to keep the belt ‘centred’ as per the Grivel Poseidon. The Strato is the top harness in the small Edelweiss harness range. I mainly used this harness for summer Alpine routes both rock and mountaineering for which it is ideally suited, in fact the Strato probably best fits most people’s idea of what a traditional alpine harness should be. The first thing that struck me about the Strato was the gear loops – I know that’s sad but they bear an uncanny resemblance to another famous harness manufacturer’s design. Basically a cord gear loop covered with a rigid plastic outer they are relatively low profile yet are extremely easy to clip. The four loops offer sufficient space for a full on mixed rack of wires, hexes, cams, pegs and screws (if you use ice clippers) together with a dozen quick draws.

P1030533

The Edelweiss Strato was a traditional alpine harness and a competent allrounder.

The Strato was noticeably heavier than either the Poseidon or the Leaf and it didn’t have any standout features (other than the gear loops) yet it was a great all rounder. On alpine terrain it was comfortable and unobtrusive, quick to put on or take off it fitted over a variety of layers easily and the gear loops remained easy to clip no matter how billowy the layers got. The Strato come in just two sizes reflecting its extremely wide range of adjustment:

  • Size 1 legs = 50-60cm, waist = 55-75cm
  • Size 2 legs = 60-70 cm, waist = 70-95cm

Now going by this I reckoned on my 30″ 76cm waist being best suited to the size 2 which did fit but I had some fairly long ‘tails’ on the waistbelt and I don’t think it could have realistically gone down to a 27.5″ 70cm waist so if you’re less than a 30″ waist go for a size 1. The huge size range that this harness can accommodate is pretty impressive so if you need a harness that can cope with climbing in sporty lycra through to high altitude down suites this could be the one!

 

RiCGR_RichMugchie is the enthusiastic amateur of the team. Enjoying all aspects of climbing but especially alpine, winter and his local grit . Having managed to survive the vagaries of both fluorescent Koflachs and rainbow tights in the 80s he looks forward to an even more stylish future. A shady past in mountain marathons and adventure races, including the Marathon des Sables, means he’s an advocate of fast and light. Though the former is debatable if you’ve seen him on a tricky lead!

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3 thoughts on “Lightweight Alpine Harnesses

  1. Pingback: Edelrid Gambit Harness Review | Climbing Gear Reviews

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