Mike Kimmel works as the Department Head for English Language at the Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy, a public high school that works exclusively with competitive skiers and snowboarders (ranging from Alpine skiing, freeride, all forms of snowboarding competition, and nordic). He is also a climbing coach and primary routesetter for the Vail Athletic Club, and a guide for Adventure Travel Guides. He’s worked as a setter and coach for 10+ years, and has sent many young climbers to USA Nationals, and a few kids to Continental Championships.
About a month ago, I opened an impressively small box to pull out 12 of the Omega Pacific Vulcan Quickdraws. My initial reaction was that these are incredibly light pieces of equipment, and holding the package I thought I had only been shipped 6 draws – at about 70 grams/draw, the entire set of 12 (plus two additional locking carabiners) weighs less than two pounds.
The carabiners used on the Vulcan are wiregate closures and have a significantly smaller body than most of the other QDs on my rack, which is overwhelmingly comprised of the Five-O, which features very large carabiners and a slightly elongated dogbone connecting them. While I have always favored the Five-O for it’s large gate size and ease of clipping, I was excited to see how the new Vulcans would feel in hand, and felt that they would be a great addition for places with irregular bolt hangers.
The first trip with this set involved Shelf Road, onsights, repeats, and theft. I racked all the Vulcans and set off on some classic 5.12 endurance laps at Cactus Cliff – picking a few routes I had done before to be able to focus on the draws more than the moves. The Vulcans proved just as easy to drop into the hangers, and clipping the rope through felt casual at every stance. The smaller size of the carabiner made it easy to fit these into any type of hanger, and in a place like Shelf Road (which features everything from old-school, garage made hangers to modern glue-in Wave bolts), I was happy to be using something with a slightly lower profile and greater versatility.
I used a mix of Vulcans and other draws on the weekend project – a stout 5.13+ on Cactus Cliff, and apparently other people must have loved how these draws looked as well – we had to leave Shelf a day early when my dog injured himself wresting, and when I returned a few days later, someone had stolen ALL of my draws off the route (see my angry rant on Mountain Project for more details). The plus side is I only lost 3 Vulcans as a result, and the ensuing frustration with having gear stolen provided the sending motivation – silver linings, right?
Where I found these draws to shine more than any other scenario is for working with young climbers. I coach a youth competition team, and part of our training in sport climbing outside, as our climbing gym in Vail is much more well-suited for bouldering that sport climbing. The smaller size and ergonomically curved shape of the carabiners on the Vulcan Quickdraws worked amazingly well for my youth team, and I watched even the youngest of leaders feel confident in steadying the draw while clipping the rope – something that does not always happen with a 9-year-old sport climber.
The only suggestion here would be to make a longer version of the Vulcan draw, as these are definitely on the shorter side of sport climbing QDs. For adults and those willing to get into the best stance to clip, this usually makes very little difference, and if the sequence of the climb really dictates that you use a longer draw, an alpine set-up or doubled-up quickdraw is likely what you want. With that said, the Vulcans are definitely one of the best deals you can find on high-quality QDs, especially as they can be bought in packs of six with an extra locking-carabiner, when many other companies sell in sets of five – and when people steal your quickdraws because they are so damn sexy looking, you’ll be happy for the extra!