Frequently Asked Questions
CLIMBING | SKIING | PIEPS | HIKING/TREKKING
Here you'll find a few of our most popular questions, indexed by the categories above. If you can't find what you're looking for, please contact us:
Call: (800) 775-5552
Monday - Friday 8am-5pm, Mountain Time
Fax: (801) 278-5533
If you're in Europe and have a question, you can reach us at Black Diamond Europe by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also reach our European office via phone or letter:
Black Diamond Equipment AG
p: +43 1253 74 59 333
f: +43 1253 74 59 334
Q: How can I find all of the QC Lab posts?
A: QC Lab entries are part of the Black Diamond Experience. Select QC Lab on the filter criteria in Experience to see all existing QC Lab posts.
Q. Is it okay to use carabiners that have been dropped?
A. Unfortunately, the only way to know if “dropped” carabiners are fit for use is to test them to their breaking point. This doesn’t do you much good, now does it? It's best to inspect dropped gear for dings and significant trauma. If only light scratching is visible and gate action is still good, there is a good chance it is fit for usage. Remember, only you know what your gear has been through and if there is any doubt, it's best to retire the gear rather than take a risk.
Q. When should I retire my carabiners?
A. Here are our suggestions on what to look for when retiring aluminum carabiners:
1) Check for good gate action: The open-gate strength of carabiners is roughly 1/3 of the closed-gate strength. If a biner has a gate that rubs or sticks open, it should be cleaned and lubed. If this does not improve gate action, the biner should be retired. The same holds true for any gate locking mechanism.
2) Check for excessive wear: If you can feel that the rope-bearing surfaces of the biner are significantly worn (wearing off the anodization is normal after a few uses) the biner should be retired.
3) Check for deformation: If a biner has been loaded such that the body or nose has deformed—or the carabiner gate rivets have been bent (this usually results in poor gate action)—the biner should be retired.
4) Check for nicks or deep scratches: If a biner has nicks or deep gouges beyond the normal light scratching that occurs in use, it should be retired. Carabiners are more susceptible to surface damage near the nose hook or within an inch of the bending radii of the body.
5) Has the carabiner been exposed to extreme heat? If a biner has been exposed to "extreme heat" (i.e. a fire) it should be retired and destroyed due to possible negative effects to the heat treatment the carabiner underwent when it was made.
6) Has the carabiner been exposed to harsh chemicals or excessive corrosion? If your carabiner has been exposed to aggressive chemicals (like battery acid, petroleum-based fuel, ect.) it's a good idea to retire the biner. Likewise, any corrosion beyond the normal thin gray/white oxidation layer that forms on exposed aluminum should be grounds for retirement, especially if it starts to affect gate action (see #1).
In closing: Keep in mind that only YOU know what your gear has been through. If your instincts tell you that the gear is dubious, retiring it is a good idea. Confidence in your equipment is not only key to climbing at your limit but helps you stay relaxed and having fun.
Q. The axles on my new C4 Camalot seem too long—what’s up?
A. On your new C4 Camalots it may appear that the cam axles are longer than you're used to seeing. This can be noticed by the amount of play, or the amount of side-to-side movement of the lobes on the axles. The play is there for a reason—to allow the lobes to move freely during use. This is intentional in the design and allows the cams to function properly in all conditions.
Q. How far should I retract my cams for the most solid placement?
A. In almost all situations, provided the placement is sound (good rock, not too slick or flared), a Micro Camalot of size .3 and above, will likely be reliable when fully retracted (only problem here is that the unit may be hard to remove) to 25% retracted. With the .1 and .2 Camalots being so small, they start to lose the ability to hold a fall at about 40% retraction.
Q. How can I get my Black Diamond cam slings replaced and trigger wires repaired?
A. We offer trigger wire repair and sling replacement on Black Diamond cams: $15 for trigger wires and $8 for new slings. More information here:
You can purchase Trigger Replacement kits at this link, which will save you time and money: Trigger Kits
Q. Can BD retro my old Hexes with cable?
A. Sorry, but we don't offer this service. Aramide 5.5 mm cord that is perfect for reslinging Hexentrics.
Q. What is the difference between a B and T rating on BD picks?
A. In general, T-rated tools are usually defined as "intended for steep ice." Think Viper, Cobra, Fusion, Reactor—tools for climbing waterfalls and mixed climbing. B-rated are usually defined as "Ice tools other than technical ice tools." These are more along the lines of piolets for mountaineering, etc. Think Raven, Raven with Grip, Raven Pro, Raven Ultra, Venom, etc.
It gets slightly more confusing because, over time, the ratings and requirements have slightly shifted, so now it is possible, and common, to buy an ice tool that has a T-rated shaft, but a B-rated pick as well as a tool with a B-rated shaft and a T-rated pick.
So what do all these ratings mean, and why are they different? For simplicity's sake, consider that all tools have to go through the same regimen of testing to be certified:
- • 3-point bend test on the shaft (to simulate rappelling off an ice tool as a dead-man)
- • Strength of head/shaft interface in use direction
- • Strength of head/shaft interface perpendicular to "use direction"
- • Torque test of pick
The difference between a shaft or pick attaining a rating is that the T-requirements are higher, so in general a T component is more durable and stronger.
So which tool and pick is right for the job? A lot of that is personal preference. For mountaineering, we recommend the Raven, Raven with Grip or Raven Pro; for ski mountaineering, perhaps the Raven Ultra. For a combination of mountaineering with some gully climbing or moderate vertical ice, the Venom is a really versatile tool.
For technical climbing one of our tech tools is the obvious choice: Cobra or Viper with leashes, Fusion or Reactor if you want to go leashless. T-picks are tougher and can take more abuse (Titan and Fusion). B picks (the Laser) are intended for steep ice, and generally perform really well but would be less durable, increasing the likelihood that they could bend or break. Your mileage may vary depending on competence and technique.
Q. How do I sharpen my ice picks?
A. Get yourself a round 1/8 inch chainsaw file and a good ski-tuning file. Have a good pick on hand to use as a reference. Don't use an electric power grinder, as they can overheat the pick and ruin the temper.
File the pick end first, trying to restore the original bevel angle, while not making a half moon shape out of the tip. Make sure you don't make the tip angle too steep as it will be very fragile; if it isn't steep enough, your placements won't be as secure. File the flat hook on the bottom, stroking outward from you.
Repair damaged teeth using the chainsaw file. Use the flat side of the chainsaw file to return the original bevel of about 45 degrees, but not on the first tooth. Go slow, and use the reference pick, as filing off too much is worse than filing too little. The pick will need to be retired when you start filing past the first 3/8 inch tooth.
Q. How do I sharpen my ice screws?
A. Use wooden blocks in a bench-mounted vise. Get a small flat file (6" flat mill bastard) and a four inch "ignition file." It's a good idea to have another screw that's in prime condition for use as a reference.
Work on the worst tooth first. The outside round radius isn't super important, but make sure that it doesn't have any burrs. The vertical part of the tooth should be free of burrs as well, but make sure to keep the beveled edge intact and trending inward. This should be sharpened inward to crush and force the ice shavings inside the screw. Your goal is to restore the teeth to their original shape, with the tips in the same plane. Remove as little material as possible and avoid removing the radius in the corner. Touch up any burrs on the threads and pay particular attention to the starting thread. Finally, give the inside diameter a quick shot of WD-40. Always dry your screws with the protective caps removed and use the caps for transit.
Q. Will the Viper Fang fit on my other BD tools, or just the Viper?
A. The Fang was built around the spike and pommel of the Viper for strength and durability, and will not work on any other BD ice tools, or tools from other manufacturers.
Q. The toe bail on my crampons doesn't fit my boot—what should I do?
A. Some very minor manipulating of crampon toe bails is acceptable to help it fit your boots better, but you have to be very careful not to weaken the bail by excessive or repeated bending. In most cases, it's easier and more effective to carefully modify the boot toe-welt with a file.
Q. Dear BD, I'm a student/climber doing a research paper on design, manufacturing, marketing or something similar and I'd like to speak to someone in your company about this. Who can I talk to?
A. Black Diamond receives several inquiries every day from students and researchers requesting detailed information on everything from manufacturing processes to product development. We are honored that so many would consider us for these individual projects and research papers, yet due to staffing constraints and the proprietary nature of the majority of this information, we are not able to fulfill these requests. While many of these projects are undoubtedly worthwhile, we simply do not have the resources to address the majority of these requests. A good bit of info on our Quality Control and Testing can be found in the Experience section of our website, under the "QC Lab" filter.
If you would still like to pursue your request, you can submit a proposal in writing. Your request must be accompanied by the following information:
1) Your name, address, phone number and email address.
2) School/educational institution name and address.
3) Instructor(s) name and contact phone number.
4) Detailed outline of your project, including what SPECIFIC information you require, why you require it and what it will be used for.
5) Original projects on questions that we may not know the answer to generally have a better chance of receiving support.
We will review all requests for information and decide on a case-by-case basis which ones we can help with. Others will be returned with our sincere apologies. Requests should be sent to:
Black Diamond Quality Assurance
2084 East 3900 South
Salt Lake City, UT 84124
Thank you for your interest in Black Diamond Equipment and our sincere apologies for any inconvenience this policy may cause you.
Q. How do I trim my skins?
A. Good Question. Click here for downloadable instructions or watch the video clip below. Also, each skin page now has a short instructional video on skin trimming.
General questions regarding PIEPS transceivers are below. For specific information on your PIEPS model, please visit that product page on our site, listed on the PIEPS category page.
Q: What frequency do the PIEPS transceivers transmit on?
- 457.00 kHz for all of the PIEPS beacons & the PIEPS Backup Transmitter
- 456.00 kHz for the TX 600 Transmitter
Q: Do PIEPS beacons work with all of the other beacons on the market?
- Yes, all avalanche beacons on the market today have to meet the standard frequency put into place by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) that standard is 457kHz in send and receive mode.
- The TX 600 does not fall under this category, it transmits on 456.00kHz and is designed to be a secondary search tool for dogs and equipment, thus preventing a dog or a piece of equipment being found before any human 457kHz burials.
Q: Can a PIEPS beacons pick up a signal from an older analog beacon?
- All PIEPS avalanche beacons are capable of processing a signal from an older analog beacons that were originally set to transmit on the 457.00kHz frequency. The further away from 457kHz an older beacon gets, the harder it is for any beacon to detect a signal.
- The PIEPS Digital Signal Processing (DSP) models are the most advanced beacons on the market for dealing with signals from older analog beacons. DSP Models are capable of picking up a -150Hz to a +100Hz deviation from the 457 kHz frequency. After the release of version 2.8 (Summer of 2005) DSP models were updated to cover the entire -500 Hz to +500Hz from the 457kHz frequency when using the SCAN function.
Q: Which batteries should I be using in my avalanche transceiver?
- It is important that PIEPS users do not use Lithium or rechargeable batteries in the DSP models, Freeride, the Backup transmitter or the TX 600 transmitter.
- Even though Lithium batteries are designed for electrical equipment and resist cold much better than alkaline batteries, lithium and rechargeable batteries have a relatively unpredictable discharge curve. One minute your beacon could say 99% and the next minute it could say 1%.
- The capacity of an alkaline battery degrades much more predictably, and the circuitry in the avalanche beacon can detect, and display this effectively.
- Unless otherwise stated by the manufacturer, all avalanche beacons should use alkaline batteries.
Q: Why does my beacon display 49 meters when I am actually at 39 meters?
- Distance displayed on a beacon can be only an approximate distance. The distance is determined by the signal strength, which is dependent on the strength of the sending beacon, and any environmental conditions that may be present. The distance indicator on the PIEPS DSP is designed to display the maximum possible distance.
- In most cases this number will become more accurate as you get closer in range to the transmitting device.
Q: What is a Smart Transmitter?
- Different beacons transmit signals that vary in duration of repetition period, and pulse. This can cause for overlap of signals. Think of stopping at a traffic light in the turning lane and watching the blinker in front of you—although it had a consistent on and off pattern, this blinker will come in and out of sync with your blinker (varying in duration of repetition period and pulse). In the event of a multiple burial overlapping signals pose a potential confusing situation of picking up one or multiple signals. The PIEPS DSP models are able to figure out what other signals are nearby and then produce a completely separate signal, which does not overlap with the other signals nearby, thus clearly indicating to any searchers, the presence of two unique victims.
- In The DSP and DSP Tour models the smart transmitter is consistently checking in with your group.
- In the DSP Pro and DSP Sport the Smart Transmitter is activated by a lack of movement when the device is in send (transmit) mode.
Q: What is a firmware update and why do I need one?
Firmware update is the software that makes your beacon operate properly. Many beacons on the market today offer updates to the higher end devices to allow the users to have a consistently competitive beacon over a longer span of time. Many upgrades make adjustments to small items, but some updates will change functionality or performance of the device. These are important and should be carried out whenever available.
Q: Where can I get my beacon updated?
- Download our list of PIEPS Update Centers
Q: What if there is not an update center near me?
Contact the Black Diamond Warranty Department; they will update your beacon and get it sent back to you ASAP.
Black Diamond Warranty and Repair
2084 East 3900 South
Salt Lake City, Utah 84124
Q: Every time I turn on my beacon it shows me an E. What is this?
This is an error code; this could be something very minor to a major issue with your beacon. Please check the attached sheet to find your code and see what the proper measures are that need to be taken.
Most of the time these codes come up due to surrounding interference. If you turn off your device, move away from any interference, and restart your device, any error codes should disappear.
If you do have an error code that continuously appears when the device is started, contact Black Diamond Warranty and cease use of the device until it can be checked.
Q: What should I do with my PIEPS devices over the summer?
Any time a PIEPS device will go for an extended period with zero or little use the batteries should always be removed. Store your device in a cool dry place.
Q. Can I replace the LED bulbs in my BD headlamp?
A. No. LED bulbs have no filament and are made of a super-strong resin, so the likelihood of them breaking or burning out is slim. However, if they do fail we encourage you to send your bulb in to our Warranty Department:
Black Diamond Warranty and Repair
2084 East 3900 South
Salt Lake City, UT 84124
Q. Which 6-volt batteries can I use for my Ion or SpaceShot headlamp?
A. Duracell 28L (lithium) , Duracell 28A (alkaline), Black Diamond 6-volt replacement (silver oxide), Radio Shack 2cr 1/3 N (lithium) , Kodak K28L (lithium).