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Black Diamond Alpine CF Trekking Poles
November 10, 2006
January 2, 2007
Name: Raymond Estrella
Height: 6' 3" (193 cm)
Weight: 210 lbs (95 kg)
Email address: rayestrella@...
City: Huntington Beach
I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over the state of
California, and also in Washington, Minnesota, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho
and Utah. I hike year-round, mostly in the Sierra Nevada, and average
500+ miles (800+ km) per year. As I start my 4th decade of
backpacking I am making the move to lightweight gear, and smaller
volume packs. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the
afternoons exploring. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy
hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I am usually my brother-in-law
Dave or girlfriend Jenn.
Manufacturer: Black Diamond Equipment Limited
Web site: www.bdel.com
Product: Alpine CF (carbon fiber) Trekking Poles
Year manufactured: 2006
Length (compacted) measured: 63 cm (24.75 in)
Length (extended full to "stop" mark) measured: 133 cm (52.5 in)
Weight stated (pair): 17.8 oz (505 g)
Warranty (from supplied pamphlet): "We warrant for one year from
purchase date and only to the original retail buyer that our products
are free from defects in material and workmanship."
I received the Black Diamond Alpine CF Poles (hereafter referred to
as the Alpines or poles) wrapped in the cardboard retail display
package seen above. The sides and back of the packaging tout the
wonders of the FlickLock system in three languages. Inside of the
package was a six-language pamphlet describing the use and care
I have been using Black Diamond Expeditions (with aluminum sections)
for the past three years. I bought them because of the FlickLock
system. I take them on every trip that snow is in the picture as I
have come to trust their non-slip abilities.
The first thing I noticed after unwrapping them was how light they
are. This is thanks to the carbon fiber used to make the shafts,
which come in three sections that telescope out for adjustment and
compaction. The two lower sections are just clear coated. The weave
of the carbon fiber fabric is visible through it. (This is noticeable
as the lines in the photo below.) The upper section has had silver
paint and the Black Diamond name and logo applied.
The lower and middle sections have adjustment marks applied in 5 cm
(1 in) increments from 100 cm to 130 cm (39 to 51 in). A "stop" is
printed 1.5 cm (0.6 in) above the last mark on both sections. The
carbon fiber shafts seem to be very sturdy. I have adjusted them to
my normal length and flex the poles. They seem stiffer and stronger
than my other poles.
Attached to the lower ends of the top and middle pole sections are
the FlickLocks. In the picture above one of them is in the open
position, the other is closed. The body of the FlickLock wraps around
the shaft, and when open offers little resistance. When the curved
lever is rotated in to snap against the shaft a cam action tightens
the body of the lock, securely holding the sections of shaft in place.
At the top of the Alpines is a double grip made of what feels to be
very high density foam or neoprene-like material. As I have large
hands the grip feels a bit narrow to me, but I expect to be wearing
gloves much of the time these poles are in use which may make the
point moot. A lower grip is added below the anatomical upper grip.
This is to allow use on a suddenly climbing section of trail where
adjusting the poles shorter may not be warranted. Instead I just slip
to the lower grip until that part is past, and then back to the upper
grip. A soft rubber palm-cap tops the grip. This light gray rubber
also goes across the front of the grip where my index fingers ride.
The wrist straps are made of black nylon exteriors with a light grey
open weave material on the inside. This material is covering a thin
piece of dark gray open-cell foam. The strap has been cut in a way
that the strap curves around and past itself at the top to protect my
wrists from the attachment straps rubbing. The straps feel very
A knurled locking plug is in the back of the grip. The adjustment
strap runs over and back under it. Lifting the strap upwards allows
easy adjustment. When pressure is applied to the strap downward (like
when it is in use) it holds the strap in place.
At the business end of the Alpines is a hard plastic tip with a press-
in, replaceable carbide point. The carbide is concave instead of
knurled at the tip. A set of small trekking baskets came with the
poles. It looks like they may be made to stay on even when accessory
baskets (3/4 or powder) are used.
I will look forward to getting these poles into the field in both
California and Minnesota.
This concludes the Initial Report of the Alpine CF poles. The
following constitutes the first two months of use.
Minnesota November: Buffalo State Park: 34 F (1 C), winds 18 mph (29
kmh) Maplewood State Park 19 F (-7 C), Itasca State Park 24 F (-4 C).
All of the trails in Minnesota tend to be packed dirt (or snow
covered) in hardwood forests. Itasca has some pine trees in the mix.
California December: 20 mile (32 km) dayhike with about 1500' (460 m)
of gain. Three days later was a 26.2 mile (42 km) one day climb of
Mount San Jacinto (11499'/3505 m) with 5000' (1524 m) of gain.
I used the Alpine CFs in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah for one week
in December. The temperatures there ranged from 5 to 28 F (-15 to -2
C). There was about 3' (1 m) of snow, with some fresh powder a couple
of the days.
The first thing I did with the poles was to take them on a day-hike
to Buffalo River State Park in Minnesota. One of the trails there
follows an old abandoned road, the tar of which has long since
deteriorated, leaving the aggregate exposed. I figured this would be
as good an area as any here to test the sharpness of the carbide.
There is a small rise at the beginning of it, as close to elevation
gain as I can find in this flat country.
The tips bit as solidly as any poles I have used, and better than a
couple. I did not encounter any skipping out from them.
I did not wear gloves and pushed at a fast enough pace to start
sweating after a couple of miles (3 km). The sweat on my palms was
added to by the tears I was wiping off face due to the strong cold
wind that was getting past my sunglasses. The grips of the Alpines
did not get slippery from this. It is a noted improvement to the grip
on my Expeditions. One thing that was very apparent is the small
diameter of the grips made my hand cramp a little. While my hands are
not overly large they are long and when holding the grip my fingers
are touching the other side of my palm.
Another thing I noticed is the vibration that takes place as I plant
the tip. The shaft vibrates like a tuning fork and I can feel it
quite well. It makes no noise while this happens, indeed these are
the second quietest poles I have ever used.
In Maplewood and Itasca State Parks the trails get a bit of up and
down looping around or by lakes, so I got to use them more
aggressively there. They worked wonderfully. Here is a picture of
them leaning against a bat house near Cataract Lake.
I took them back to California for a a few big day-hikes. Again I
noticed the vibration when planting on the predominately rock
surfaces of the areas I hike. The poles are very strong, much
stronger than the other carbon fiber trekking poles I use most of the
time. While climbing through a couple of scree fields on the way to
the summit of San Gorgonio I always worry that I am going to snap a
pole as it slides between the large chunks of granite. But the
Alpines do not budge. They also do not get their baskets ripped off
like all of my other poles in these situations. I love the basket
attachment used on Black Diamonds poles.
Speaking of baskets, I put the optional powder baskets on them when I
went to Utah for a week of snowshoeing with my hiker-girl. (I finally
found one, yes
) They work very well for packed snow, but for two
days I was in Utah's famous fluffy powder that the baskets just
disappeared into. I also have the optional ¾ baskets from my Black
Diamond Expedition poles that I put on for one day. The ¾ baskets
have almost as much surface area as the powder baskets, but are made
of a stiffer material and have longer, sharper teeth on the bottom
middle ring to bite into packed snow. Mine are pretty torn up from
rock as these are what I use for mountaineering trips. I will
undoubtedly put them on the Alpines for good once this test is over.
This is because I love these poles in the snow. They are going to
become my winter poles. The vibration does not manifest itself in
snow. They are lighter and seem just as strong as the Expeditions.
And with a glove on the narrow grip does not bother me as much. (The
Expeditions have a narrow grip too, as do Jenn's BD Elliptical Spire
poles.) I hit some iced over sections of trail and the Alpines bit
into it wonderfully. While I am using them right now on all hikes for
the purpose of testing, these are going to be the only winter hiking
and mountaineering poles for me once the test is over.
Check back in March of 2007 for the completion of this test. My
thanks to Black Diamond and BackpackGearTest for the opportunity to
test these trekking poles.