Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Z Poles

Review by Lizzie Harrington

BD Alpine Carbon Z Poles

View these poles on the Black Diamond website

After having used Black Diamond Contour Shock Flick Lock poles (at 664g for the pair) for the last eight years, the lightness of these poles was a surprise (420g). In fact, I was a bit worried that they might not be up to the job. I am recovering from a calcaneal osteotomy operation at the moment; a gruesome operation involving tendon transfer and bolts through my heel bone. I really need the poles at the moment to help with stability and take some of the pressure off my joints whilst I work on fitness after two months of immobility.

The poles look great, very minimal and well thought out. The off white and cork look is understated and professional, a big step away from some of the more ‘agricultural’ pole designs from Black Diamond that I have used in the past. When they fold up, they clip together in to the basket which is a handy feature. They came with a spare set of snow baskets too. They are definitely sturdy enough for snow shoeing as well. They were easy to assemble, however I don’t think it would be easy with gloved/cold hands. I do wonder how robust the ‘lock button’ is though… having used other kit (canoe poles and split paddles) with such buttons I know that corrosion, sand and water are the enemy. There is quite a lot to go wrong (with no ‘on the hill’ solution) when compared to ‘flick lock’ poles.

For me, the fact that you can’t adjust the length of these poles was a disadvantage. I like to shorten my poles for going uphill, and lengthen for downhill. Loosing this advantage did bug me as it affects stability over uneven ground. Also, as a Mountain Leader, I sometimes need to give my poles to a member of my group to give them confidence, or simply a psychological boost. For working with groups I would definitely choose poles that can be adjusted to suit people of different heights.

[Editor’s note: Black Diamond do two very similar adjustable length versions of these poles which have a flick lock system for adjusting the length – Alpine Carbon Cork and Alpine FLZ (aluminium).]

The cork grips were great, a really simple solution to prevent sore hands. The straps are nice and simple, they dried out easily and would be very easy to clean. I am guessing that with long term use these pole handles and straps won’t end up being smelly as cork is naturally antimicrobial.

Cork grip

So, in use… I used these poles over different types of terrain; the mush of cotton grass and heather in upper Swaledale, as well as some of the more slabby bits of the Glyderau. I was a bit scared of clattering them about at first. My experience of all things carbon (canoe poles, paddles, bike frames etc.) is that they can snap like a twig if bashed about. These poles were bashed about, jammed between rocks, dropped… generally abused in the zones between walking and putting your poles away for scrambling. They performed equally well over the moorland. The smaller baskets were brilliant for protecting the ground over the moors with very little disturbance of the ground.

They are quite expensive (£130) but for people who don’t need to adjust the length of their poles, and prioritise ‘quick deployment’, compactness and weight these would be a good choice.

Lizzie with the poles