Black Diamond have revamped their Punisher Gloves for 2011, are they the ultimate winter climbing glove?
If there is one item of winter kit sure to generate plenty of discussion on climbing forums it’ll be gloves. I personally have spent a small fortune on gloves and tried many different kinds of glove systems. One of the funniest being on a trip to Norway when I proudly displayed my £7.50 B&Q work gloves, I then had to endure the double humiliation of them wearing through on an abseil off Vermork Bridge and my hands being so cold on Rjukanfossen that I couldn’t unclip the screws off the rope to put them onto my harness. Not surprisingly, they were quickly relegated to, well, work gloves.
I had been using, quite successfully, for two seasons a glove system that comprised a leather outer and separate woollen inners. So I was quite excited when a pair of Black Diamond Punisher gloves arrived, would they make me change my current system, read on….
The gloves are the mark 3 2011 gloves, they came in a ‘non conspicuous’ Lime Green, but also come in Black for those of you who prefer to be more discreet. The outer is made from Black Diamonds own BDry waterproof insert, which proved as effective as GoreTex or Event, this was topped with an tough, abrasion resistant shell. The palms and work areas are made from goat leather and featured a double layer around the high wearing Thenar region (that meaty area at the base of your thumb). This was great for all kinds of rope work and gripping my axes, I have in the past worn gloves out in this region, especially on multiple abs when the gloves are wet. The leather also was capped around the fingertips for added durability. I have used the gloves for abs, belaying and even mixed climbing all winter and they have shown no signs of wear. They should easily last another season or two.
The wrist tab is also made of goat leather, this made for a beefy and easily adjustable tightening system and meant I could easily cinch the gloves tight and tuck them under my jacket sleeves for any technical work. The backs are padded using EVA foam (ethylene-vinyl-acetate, a tough foamed polythene) and were very good at protecting my hands for those types of moves where I’m reaching over ice bulges to place my axe in good ice at the back and even provided some extra warmth when plunging up those snowy approaches (did they stop the hot aches? Well no, but then nothing will when you’re plunging!). The pattern has reverted to the Mark 1 punishers horizontal bands, which provides a much better surface area. There is a middle finger tab for assisting in drying the gloves, this easily accommodated karabiners of all sizes. I found the gloves dried out really quickly using moderate heat as long as they were suspended using the finger tabs.
The inners have a 100g fleece inner, the spec said that the fleece was fixed and I assumed that the fleece was bonded to the inner. In fact it was fixed in the usual
way: that is sewn into the finger tips and the base of the gloves. This is where I felt the gloves let me down a little; when I climb I often have to take the gloves off for very fiddly jobs such as getting the ropes though the belay plate and into the screw gate, or placing small wires. When I try to get the gloves back on with damp hands getting my little finger back in place can be a real pain when the inner has twisted slightly. This has happened on plenty of glove systems and happened with the Punishers. I fully understand that there can often be a feeling of slippage if the inner is not fixed to the fingers, so I guess that Black Diamond have opted for performance.
Overall I feel the gloves are an improvement over the Mark 2 and it’s nice to have a choice of colour other than Black or Grey. The glove will fulfill most of your climbing requirements and are warm under all but the most extreme UK winter conditions; they are dexterous and durable and should last 2 or 3 seasons of normal abuse. They excel in mixed climbing situations where you will need the dexterity to place rock gear and removing ice screws, especially at that nervous point where the screw is about to come out and you terrified of dropping it. Are they the ultimate winter glove….. yes, they probably are, but you’ll need a pair of warmer gloves for belaying and seconding unless you have boilers for hands. A great improvement on a classic glove.