Blue Ice are a fairly new company in the grand scheme of things and they were formed in Les Houches in the Chamonix Valley by a group of passionate alpinist/mountaineers. They specialise in lightweight products that are both functional and minimalistic with a range of products from harnesses and backpacks to ice axes, and crampons.
Last month Blue Ice very kindly sent me the new Choucas Pro harness which is described as “an ultralight harness for technical alpine climbing”. I heard a lot about Blue Ice from many of my colleagues in the industry so I was keen to see if the quality and durability of the product would live up to its reputation.
Fit and comfort
First, let's talk about the fit. The Choucas Pro comes in 4 different sizes from Small to XL and with no floating waistband, it's essential you get the right fit so your gear loops are spaced evenly on each side. I'm a 30inch waist so went for a small one that fits me perfectly.
I used the harness for mountaineering and climbing work and I found it was neither really comfortable nor uncomfortable. For the vast majority of my mountaineering work, I wear a harness all day but the only time we sit in the harness is when were abseiling. If I was using this harness to climb in and work a route then I may get something more comfortable but for mountaineering and abseiling I found it works great.
The main strength part of the harness is made from UHMW polyethene or Ultra High Molecular Weight Polythene. I had to do some digging to find out what that means but it’s a very modern material that is on the same field as Dyneema and has the strength of steel while still being able to float. It's basically an abrasion-resistant super material that's incredibly strong.
the harness conforms to both CE standards and UIAA
The Choucas Pro weighs in at 134g which is less than half the weight of my climbing harness and 100g lighter than my Black Diamond Couloir harness that I normally use for mountaineering work. While the 100g saving may not translate to huge benefits on the hills it certainly does when you start using lighter gear for all your other equipment. Over the past year, I’ve managed to save around a kilo of weight on my working pack which will certainly help my knees.
You don’t normally get lightweight and durable in the same sentence, I was however surprised to see the harness put up with a lot of wear and tear and the 30+ days of use it had over the past two months have had little impact on its appearance or durability.
For me, it's really important that I have more than two gear loops as I often need to separate my gear and on bigger routes I need extra wires and slings which you just can't fit onto two loops neatly. The Choucas Pro comes with four gear loops which are perfect for technical mountaineering and it's nice to see they have positioned them a bit further back so the gear isn’t hanging all around the front.
The Choucas Pro is aimed at high-level alpinists which is why the leg loops open up so you can fit the harness while still wearing skis. If you're into ski touring or Skimo this will be a big plus.
Abseiling down Milestone Gully in North Wales
I really like the Blue Ice Choucas Pro. I found it perfect for those fast and light raids in the mountains or days when I'm hanging around on a belay working with clients. It’s super minimalistic and fits into a small bag which makes it perfect if you want to keep the pack size down. So far it doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of wear and I’ve probably used it more in the last two months than most people will over a year. On the whole, it’s a great product and I think it will be my new go-to harness for mountaineering and fast and light days in the mountains.
About the Author
Matt Cooper is a full-time Mountaineering Instructor (MCI), Montane Ambassador and owner of The Mountaineering Company in North Wales. Matt spends the majority of his time instructing and guiding in the mountains and is a full member of The Association of Mountaineering Instructors (AMI)
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