August 11, 2016
The Metolius Ultralight master cam has impressed me more than any current piece of ultralight active protection for traditional rock climbing. Having been an owner of the Master Cams, I was super excited to test out the new Ultra Light Mastercams. As with all ultralight pieces of equipment, I was slightly skeptical about the cams strength, and overall resilience. I soon came to find that it had surpassed all of my personal expectations, and proved to be, in my opinion, the best active piece of equipment that you can currently buy for traditional free climbing.
The cams average at an incredible 20% lighter than the original mastercams, yet they feel surprisingly stronger and more ergonomic. They have extended the length of their stems, while increasing rigidity to prevent the stem from bending when the trigger is pulled. This was one minor issue I had with the mastercams, and it is seemingly non-existent with the ultralights. While decreasing weight, they also managed to increase the size range of the mastercam family by adding two larger sizes. This puts them into competition with other brands who offer a large range of sizes with certain camming devices.
The ten different sizes that are offered can protect everything from a tiny micro sized crack all the way to a full hand sized crack. However, their weight had to be one of the most amazing features. It is hard to even notice them when you have the full set on your harness, almost as if you have a set of quickdraws instead of cams attached to you. The new inconspicuous thumb loop has eliminated a lot of extra cable and the plastic sheathe. Rather it is now a small lightweight piece of aluminum that creates a seamless connection between the stem and sling. Aid climbers may be slightly upset with this feature, as it lowers the high clip in point, but for free climbers, this cam just gets better and better. They also took some of the metal out of the trigger wings to decrease weight without decreasing function. All of the weight reduction was done to areas that do not compromise performance.
The cam lobes have remained the same for the most part, with a small addition to the teeth. The new “shark fin pattern” is designed to grip softer rock such as sandstone. This allows the cam to be extremely versatile for various environments. Whether it be the polished rock of Yosemite, the hard crystals of Joshua Tree, or the sandstone mecca of Utah, this cam will do the job on almost every climb. This added security adds a little more insurance that a perfectly placed cam will stay put, allowing confidence to increase dramatically.
I personally had the pleasure of being able to test these cams out during a week of climbing in the High Sierra. My partners and I dragged them up several alpine climbs in Tuolumne Meadows and surrounding areas. We quickly noticed how much lighter our packs felt during the approaches, and found it hard to believe that we were carrying a full set of cams during our leads. This weight reduction made everything easier. Along with the weight reduction, the bright colors used to identify the different sizes made it extremely easy to pick the right size in time of need. I had the pleasure of falling on the midsize orange #3, and to my amazement the cam did not move even a little. With the flexible stem design, and sharper lobes, the lobes stayed exactly where I placed them. We beat them up to the best of our ability, and they still looked brand new. They have an extremely low profile design that keeps them from cluttering up your harness. With a lighter feel, the increased ability to organize, and stronger design, the Metolius Ultralight Mastercams are a must have for any aspiring traditional freeclimber. You will not be disappointed should you decide to invest in a set of these beauties.
FS Mini II Carabiner
The perfect ultra light carabiner to go with your Metolius Ultralight Mastercams would have to be the Metolius FS Mini II carabiner. Metolius has redesigned this carabiner with a lighter feel, wider gate opening, and brighter colors for easy gear size selection. Once holding it, you will find it very hard to believe that it is a full strength carabiner before you read that it is rated to an astounding 22 Kn on the vertical axis with a closed gate. A strong “snap back action” with the gate gives you the confidence that the rope is not going anywhere. Being one of the lightest and smallest full strength carabiners available, the FS Mini II is the obvious choice for your next freeclimbing adventure.