Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Harness Gear Review: Petzl Selena and Luna

Rock climbing season is underway and Petzl conveniently released their updated harness line at just the right time. I've had the opportunity to check out the new women's harnesses on a variety of climbs this spring and I'm happy to report that Petzl has succeeded in turning a good product into a great product.  Here is the breakdown of each harness. 

The Selena:

A medium harness weighs 370 grams and is primarily designed for sport climbing given its limited padding and non-adjustable leg loops. In terms of other features, the harness is designed with an automatic double back system that has started to become the norm for newer harnesses. This feature decreases the chance of user error and makes the process just a tiny bit faster when getting ready for a climb. There are four gear loops, two are rigid and two are flexible.  The gear loops are large and sturdy enough to carry a big desert rack.  This is an improvement from the older version that had smaller gear loops.  There is also a small haul loop that works perfect for trailing a tag line or carrying shoes and extra gear. The leg loops are attached to the waist belt with elastic straps and an easy-to-release buckle that makes taking a bathroom break quite simple.  Additionally, there are two ice clipper slots on each side. 

Climbing the third pitch on Jah Man. Photo Sara Rouvinen

I have ended up using this harness for quite a bit of trad climbing, primarily on desert towers and cracks where the rack is quite heavy.  I have found it to be a great trad climbing harness as I tend to prefer non-adjustable leg loops to adjustable leg loops.  I find that this style of leg loop is less bulky and allows more flexibility and movement while rock climbing.  The material used is a combination of EVA foam padding and mesh-type material. It is quite lightweight and breathable but still offers support in hanging belays.  The harness is designed with a women's frame in mind and the waist belt is wider at the sides to better distribute the weight.  While I don't find any harness all that comfortable, this harness in particular was not noticeable uncomfortable and is quite a bit more comfortable than the previous model.

Although the material is very durable looking on the belay loop, I did notice a couple small scuff marks after climbing several chimneys and offwidths.  This does not compromise the safety of the harness in any way but I was surprised to see these scuff marks after climbing a couple desert towers.  Another issue i had with the harness is that after the waist band is tightened down there is quite a bit of extra slack that remains hanging.  There is one loop to put the slack in but there are still several inches of slack that remains hanging, ending up getting in the way of the rack.  It would be nice if there was an additional loop to tuck this remaining slack out of the way.

All and all, I will continue to use this harness for sport and trad climbing because it is lightweight and comfortable with an adequate amount of features. Plus the bright purple color is pretty sweet!

Photo Sara Rouvinen

The Luna

A medium luna weighs 420 grams and is designed for all different types of climbing.  In particular, ice climbing and mountaineering are great uses for this harness due to the adjustable leg loops.  Aside from the adjustable leg loops, the other features of this harness are relatively similar to the Selena harness.  There are four gear loops, a small haul loop and two ice clipper spots.  The material used to construct the harness is also similar to the Selena although there is slightly more padding adding some additional comfort for hanging belays.  Likewise, the harness is designed for a women's specific frame by increasing the width of the waistbelt on the sides and increasing the length of the belay loop.

Climbing the Cloud Tower in Red Rocks

I have ended up using this harness primarily for trad climbing and haven't gotten a chance to use it for ice climbing and mountaineering.  In general, it fits similarly to the Selena harness and feels similarly comfortable.  This harness is a bit bulkier than the Selena due to the adjustable leg loops and I tend not to like this feature so much.  I have also found that it is difficult to actually be able to adjust the leg loops, e.g. the buckle is difficult to maneuver.  That being said, some folks really prefer adjustable leg loops because it is easier to get the harness on over boots and crampons.  Otherwise the features are ideal for climbing long routes with a large rack given the stiff gear loops and discreet haul loop.  I haven't used this harness as much as the Luna and have not seen any signs of wear on it.

Photo Sara Rouvinen

Bottom Line

Generally speaking, I would tend to recommend the Luna harness as a better all-around harness for someone newer to climbing.  For myself, I prefer the Selena out of the two.  Petzl has made some subtle but very key changes to these harnesess and they now are even better products than the previous models. Of note, I have found that the non-adjustable leg loops on the Petzl harness tend to run a little small.  I wear a medium in Petzl harnesses and I wear a small in other brand's harnesses.  These harnesses can be purchased at your local gear store or here.   See the Petzl website for more information.

Desert Tower Tour - The beginning of the season

Photo Sara Rouvinen

I always look forward to this time of year.  The days are longer and temps have warmed.  While I love skiing, snow and wintry activities, by mid-march I start to look forward to rock climbing season.  I get antsy to stick my hands into desert cracks, grab sharp crimpers, get high off the ground and soak up that spring time sunshine.

What better way to start the climbing season than a trip to Moab to climb some desert towers with a couple of psyched friends.  After working a couple night shifts, Sara picked me up and drove us down to the desert. I was in and out of a light sleep the entire ride but before I knew it we were making the familiar turn down highway 191 for the last leg of the drive.  While my energy was sub-par after a restless 4 hour nap, it was hard to say no to a couple pitches on Potash road as a warm up for the week to come.  We climbed a couple mellow routes and then found a campsite down the road.

There is nothing quite like sleeping out under the stars in the desert.  The temps are pleasant and the sky is clear from haze.  There is no cell phone service and its easy to clear the mind from the stresses of everyday life.  This is exactly what I needed.  We built a rack for our first objective: Jah Man on Sister Superior.  Darkness came and a wonderful sleep followed.

Twelve hours later, I started to feel like myself again.  We began the long hike into Jah Man.  It was about a two hour walk, half of it on a flat road-type feature and the other half ascended a steep talus slope.  Two years ago, I walked to the base of this route but was turned around by weather.  Today was different. We were in T-shirts and there wasn't a cloud in the sky.

All smiles on pitch 3.  Photo Sara Rouvinen.

Sara lead up the first 2 pitches, a short 5.9 pitch and then a slightly awkward but then fun 5.8 chimney. I lead the reminder of the route, climbing through some excellent 5.10 hand cracks and face climbing.  On the summit we hung out for a while and took in the views of that beautiful southwest landscape.

The following day we met up with my friend Doris and introduced her to crack climbing at the ice cream parlor in preparation for a climb up Castleton.

The next day, we woke up to cold and windy conditions....


The sky was grey and rain was threatening.  Everyone was till psyched to continue and we drove to the base of Castleton for  a climb of the uber classic Kor-Ingals.  I remembered climbing this tower back in 2004 when climbing was still so fresh.  I had followed the crux off-width pitch and remembered being really happy that I wasn't leading it.  Well, today was my day to conquer my fear of wide cracks.  Lets just stay that it still felt just as strenuous as a grunted my way up the pitch.  At one point I took off my helmet ....

Photo Sara Rouvinen

On the summit, the sun came up and we laughed and jumped for joy on one of the most iconic of all desert towers.

I finished the trip with an ascent of The Lighthouse Tower via the Lonely Vigil.  This is a four pitch tower off the River Road with a very memorable and tiny summit! The tower starts with two excellent pitches of 5.10 that range from a little off-width to hand cracks to some truly desperate stemming on the second pitch.  I literally thought my legs were going to split apart during those moves!  The summit is reached by pulling an overhanging 5.8 mantle move to a tiny little pinnacle.  The exciting part is that there are no rap rings on top.  The 5.8 mantle move must be down climbed and the final piece of gear is rather far away.  Now I worked myself up for this move expecting to be terrified. It wasn't quite as bad as I expected and was totally worth getting up to that tiny point.

Lighthouse tower is the corkscrew looking tower in the center of the picture. Photo Doris Oberlander.

After we got back to the car, Doris and I drove back to Salt Lake City as reality needed to be faced.  But what a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the daily grind.