Let’s be honest: while mixed climbing, when most of us get to the next gear placement, we really really want it. In those delicate moments while maintaining a stance and reaching for pro, nothing can be more frustrating or terrifying than floppy glove material fumbling in your harness loop and getting caught in carabiner gates. These are the moments where I’ve cursed my gloves to the skies, and this is why I will wear the thinnest glove that conditions allow on mixed pitches.
The Alibi II from Outdoor Research (Retail: $80.00) is a very well-designed glove and accomplishes its purpose: a thin, highly dexterous winter climbing glove. It is definitely thin and has less warmth than a 200-weight fleece glove, but if all you care about is dexterity on a hard pitch, these do the trick. Not only do they fit snugly, but the Pittards Oiltac leather palm is extremely grippy on tools and rock.
To test out these gloves I brought them up a late-March ascent of the classic Black Dike at Cannon Cliff, New Hampshire. We were enjoying a lovely “wintry mix” of snow and sleet, so I kept these warm inside my jacket and pulled them out for my lead, a pitch of mostly rock with intermittent ice. The temperature was in the mid 30s and I expected to be pulling out my warmer gloves mid-pitch, but I kept these on the whole time and was glad to have them. Glove annoyance is usually part of my mental dialogue on every pitch, but this time I didn’t notice my gloves at all; my hands just did what I told them to do. Amazing! These gloves kept my hands warm, gave me a reassuring grip on rock, and let me manipulate gear with no clumsiness.
I can’t vouch for their performance in colder temperatures; this will vary with each person, but I imagine for myself these will be useful down to mid 20’s for short, technical pitches.
Dexterity: Excellent fit. The fingers are perfect, but there is an extra 0.5 cm in the thumb. I can do most tasks (place gear, operate zippers, eat…) with these about as fast as bare-handed.
Grippy palm: Whereas lots of leather gloves feel slick (and spooky) on rock, these grip very well. Major confidence boost.
Rock climbing performance: Slim fit and well-designed Velcro cuff keep these tight to your hand. They hand jam and fingerlock securely, without slippage or bunching.
Padding on lateral pinky/palm edge: I tend to bash my screws around for the last couple turns with the side of my fist, the padding keeps my hands happy.
Medium Weight: These are heavy for their thickness due to durable construction. They weigh in at 5.8 oz, similar to the Black Diamond Punisher (which I find to fit baggy). They are heavier than the OR Lodestar (4.9 oz), a warmer glove, and much heavier than the Rab M14 (3.4 oz), a truly light dry-tooling glove.
Quick-drying: On a wet pitch these will get wet, so at least they will dry pretty well inside your jacket.
Durability: The palm is heavy-duty and will take a lot of abuse. There is stitching in the index finger/ thumb crease which will wear out rappelling, but most people bring a second pair of gloves for belaying/rapping anyway.
A durable, dexterous, grippy glove for hard technical winter climbing. Perfectly designed for the rigors of mixed climbing. If maximum dexterity and grip are not critical, wear something lighter, but if they are, this glove is a great choice.
For what it’s worth I think these would work for XC mountain biking too…