ProView – Backcountry Access Scepter Carbon Poles
I was initially skeptical of Backcountry Access’ (BCA’s) new Scepter Carbon Poles. With the backcountry ski industry ramping up we see new designs and changes popping up every year. After my first ski tour with the Scepters I was sold this was not a gimmick. I have always toured with adjustable aluminum poles. They are cheaper, more durable than carbon and stand up to use as an “Idaho Chainsaw” when clearing a skin track through dense forest.
Carbon poles have the advantage of being lightweight and not freezing your hand when you pick them up mid-winter without gloves on. Stoked to test out the BCA Scepters, I headed out into the Boulder Mountains of Idaho during a spring storm.
After only a few strides using the Scepters, the difference in swing from most poles is apparent. They have a carbon upper and aluminum lower, reversed from most other similar poles. It did not take long to get used to this difference. I would not say that it has a better or worse swing than other poles, just different. We started in a snow storm after a warm morning and the handle scraper came in quite handy. While skinning, it was easy to flip the pole over and use the scraper to remove what felt like pounds of snow from each ski.
The scraper has also helped to preserve my ski’s top sheet. I tend to tap my ski tips with my pole to remove snow, and this has left a few dings and dents over the years. The scraper easily removes snow without banging up my skis.
Another awesome use of the hand scraper is for palming down on it while steep skinning. I like to lock out my arm and press down on the top of my pole in steep and firm skinning conditions. The scraper provided a comfortable and stable platform for this. I have, on a few occasions, dropped other poles while palming down on them, but the Scepter’s scraper gave me a much better grip while doing this.
The handle also makes locking out toes of tech bindings and flipping heal risers up and down very easy.
I am not particularly gentle on my gear. I generally go by the “tools not jewels” mentality when it comes to equipment. A few days into my testing while doing some difficult spring skinning, I snapped the pole while trying to get snow off of my ski. Instead of scraping, I went back to my old habits and whacked my skis, missing the handle and hitting the carbon upper of the pole. I believe the break was due to user error. With a bit more care these poles could have lasted much longer. Also BCA recently thickened the carbon in the upper pole, so the newer models should be more sturdy.
Instead of a lower handle for use in your uphill hand, BCA uses a textured material. I believe this was to help shave weight off the pole. I use leather palmed gloves and they work great with the pole. I move my hand position quite a lot while skinning and had no problem using the texture as a lower grip.
The handles have easily removable wrist straps, which I really like. For skating out of tours on the flats the handles are really nice, but for most ski tours I find that wrist straps just get in the way.
The Final Word
Overall I am impressed with the BCA Scepter. The handle has come in use not just for scraping my skis, but for palming down on in difficult skinning terrain and in easy lockout of binding toe pieces and flipping up and down my heel risers. The piece of the pole I broke is being replaced with the newer and thicker carbon upper, and I will continue to use these poles as my go-to.
More info on these poles here.
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Niels Meyer is a guide with Sun Valley Trekking and Mountain Madness. Read his pro profile here.