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Gear Review



Page Type: Gear Review

Object Title: Viper

Manufacturer: Black Diamond

Your Opinion: 
 - 9 Votes


Page By: Erik Beeler

Created/Edited: Nov 25, 2003 / Nov 25, 2003

Object ID: 887

Hits: 3560 


This tool features the same balance, clearance and feel of Black Diamond's event-winning Cobra, but has a narrower, hourglass grip for smaller hands.

New Laser pick has a thinner taper and lower-volume tip that penetrates easily, with less displacement of ice

"Minor axis" aluminum shaft orientation springs from the original all around COBRA design that adds "liveliness" to each "stick" as well as dampening the impact of each swing.

Aluminum shaft is lightweight yet strong, and bent to provide a natural, solid swing; dampens rebound and vibration as the pick enters the ice

Torsionally-balanced design for controlled swings and less wobble on dicey tip hooks

Curved shaft has increased head and shaft clearance for more security on placements, less wobble on dicey tip hooks and greater torsional control

Hammer head component drives ice pitons and clears loose ice for solid anchor placement

Molded, hourglass grip is easy to grasp; contoured pinkie-rest supports the hand, reducing fatigue and adding control

Available "Fang" for leashless climbing and Viper Android Leash (pictured) for integrated leash design. Also accepts standard leash designs.


Viewing: 1-7 of 7

Erik BeelerUntitled Review

Voted 5/5

Like these tools. They don't have any harsh vibrations that I have noticed even when climbing on hard ice in below 0 temps. The new pick goes into ice well and I like the swing.

What I really like about them though is the leash system. Easy to use and allow you to get the leash off the tool fast and back on with little fuss.

I have the viper fangs and they are a bit narrow for people with thick hands and big gloves. The fang is nice for keeping the back of your knuckles protected as well as allowing for leashless climbing. I have climbed mixed through a few two and three foot wide roofs and found the leashless climbing style really aided my climbing. The fangs do allow for extended leashless climbing but may not be as good as a tool designed for leashless.

The Viper's grip is a bit smaller than others and so far I like its feel.
Posted Jan 5, 2004 9:57 am

STWUntitled Review

Voted 4/5

Great for ice and mixed. Pretty much useless for alpine.

These have a similar swing and feel to the legendary BD Cobras -- but are not as 'damp' when sticking into the ice. This is due to the fact that the Vipers are aluminum vs. the Cobra's carbon fiber. On the plus side, they have a slightly smaller hand grip, which makes them easier to wield for people with smaller hands. However, these minor differences aside, when it comes down to actual climbing, these Vipers -- like the Cobras -- are great tools.

Be prepared to own a separate set of tools if your winter climbing pursuits extend beyond waterfall ice (and modern mixed/ice routes). The bend in the shaft, and the protruding guard at the bottom of the grip pretty much rule this tool out for use as an alpine ice tool. Also, the viper android leash -- which is awesome for waterfall ice -- makes it impossible to grip this tool in piolet mode.

Starting in 2003-2004, this tool comes with the new BD Laser pick. This is similar to the old Cobra pick but is a bit narrower for less fracturing of the ice. I love it. I don't notice a huge difference vis a vis the old Cobra pick, but it is a bit of an improvement over an already excellent pick. Friends of mine who use CM tools felt that the CM picks were superior to the BD picks because they were thinner; well, now BD provides a pick as thin as the CM models.

The optional viper fangs are an interesting thing to play around with. I am not a good enough climber to be pushing the standards on serious modern mixed routes. But I doubt whether these 'fangs' provide enough of a hand system to really climb leashless. They do provide some extra protection against knuckle-bash and a bit of extra purchase even when climbing with leashes -- not unappreciated for gumbies like myself.

The only reason I don't give these 5 stars is the fact that they are not versatile enough for all-around use. However, if you just climb waterfall ice these Vipers warrant serious consideration.
Posted Feb 6, 2004 9:45 pm

RModelliUntitled Review

Voted 3/5

The tools are nice, however the grip is very small. Apparently that is supposed to reduce hand fatigue, in my case it was not a good fit.

The tool is light and fast, to be used on vertical WI, not really suited for AI.

I did not like the fact that the tool bends as you torque it somewhat sideways
Posted Sep 18, 2005 11:05 pm

GCutforthA Solid Tool

Voted 4/5

I have three seasons on these tools and they have served me well. They are really designed for vertical ice as you need to apply a sharp wrist flick on lower angle ice. This can take some getting used to. It can also be a challenge when you are pulling over the top of climbs working with a full pump.

On dead vertical ice they are exceptional. I have been truly impressed at how well they swing and place in certical ice. The fangs and the viper android leashes are hands down the best accessories that I have had for ice tools.

I have some limited mixed climbing experience and for my needs they climbed well leashless with the strike attachment.

I have broke two picks this year which was disconcerting. One was on easy terrain and the other broke in the midst of more challenging terrain...not fun. The picks were 3 years old and had likely 100 pitches of ice on them so I shouldn't be too disappointed.

All in all they are a solid tool and have climbed some pretty manky ice with them. That said if I were buying today, I would honestly say that I would be looking to the new Cobras.
Posted Mar 31, 2008 10:10 pm

WMLJah provide!

Voted 5/5

Excellent tools. Light, amazing swing, great purchase....I really have nothing negative to say about this tool.

The factory picks do dull pretty easily, so I guess that's my negativity for the review...

Great on vertical ice, haven't tested it on AI yet, we shall see! hopefully it performs well, as another set of tools would not be a fun investment.
Posted Apr 26, 2010 2:27 pm

Brian CSolid!

Voted 5/5

These are much lighter and feel much more solid that I was used too. I'm still on the fence if I would take these alpine but was very impressed on waterfall routes.
Posted Feb 20, 2011 9:35 am

DanielWandsneidersolid tools

Voted 5/5

Just upgraded to these bad boys after using some really old school tools. I climb a lot mixed routes, and they work well. The only noticeable change from my past tools, is I have found that my knuckles aren't slamming into the ice with my swings. but above all else, I still believe that a carpenter can't blame his tools. hopefully these will hold up for awhile!
Posted Feb 17, 2012 6:17 pm

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