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Blue Ice Cuesta | Climbing Harness Review

By: Dave Westlake

The Cuesta from Blue Ice is a sleek, modern rock climbing harness from the Chamonix-based French brand. While Blue Ice might be known more for their alpine gear, the Cuesta is very much a rock climbing harness – though the version that has adjustable leg loops would no doubt be at home in any mountain environment. I’ve been easing my way into the early season for rock climbing here in the south of the UK with the Cuesta in tow (along with gloves, hat and many layers!). 

Design

The first thing you notice about the Cuesta is that it’s very light, clocking in at a mere 285g. It makes sense that, along with comfort and durability, weight is one of the 3 things Blue Ice say they had in mind when designing the Cuesta. It keeps the weight down through a clever webbing design that gives good support and comfort without the need for foam padding. If you’ve climbed in a harness from Black Diamond or Arcteryx in recent years you will recognize this construction method – they may appear less comfy than older style harnesses but actually they distribute the weight in ways that mean you can sit on a long hanging belay without even thinking about your harness. The Cuesta is the same – low profile enough to fit into a jacket pocket (or the small zipped stuff bag supplied), but comfortable enough to take falls in all afternoon. 

The other advantage of this is that you tend to stay cooler. I had the opposite problem in late February as I tried to maintain the feeling in my fingers on Portland, but on an auto belay session at the wall I appreciated this a lot more. In the warmer months, especially somewhere like Portland, this will be a welcome feature. 

Features

I always check the gear loops when buying a harness – both their position on the waistbelt and how they cope with different racking arrangements. Some gear loops can be annoying, if - for example - they are molded and shaped so the rack slides to the front. Not enough shape, on the other hand, means everything collects in the middle. This is also sub-optimal, and used to happen with older harnesses that just had non-stiffened paracord. 

Thankfully, the Cuesta gear loops are (a) well positioned, not too far forward but easy to access, (b) a decent size, and (c) able to hold a sizable rack without everything bunching up and becoming difficult to access. The stiffened cord and slightly molded design on the front, combined with softer rear gear loops, seems to have hit the sweet spot. While I’m yet to use my trad rack in anger this season, I racked up with a large collection of cams, wires, and other paraphernalia to test the Cuesta out and it seemed to work well. The rear gear loops being more supple makes climbing with a rucksack slightly easier too, as stiffened gear loops can push the bottom of the back away from your waist (and the gear loops being sewn at the bottom of the waist belt on the Cuesta also reduces this possibility).

Other nice features include the elastic cord connecting the rear of the leg loops – this is good quality and also designed so it can be replaced easily (unlike my old BD harness, where the elastic frayed very quickly and was tricky to replace). The elastic part clips on and off easily, which can be useful. At the sharp end, the buckle (made from ‘aircraft grade aluminum’) also feels very nicely made and adjusts quickly and easily, which is always reassuring. Its also nice to see that Blue Ice have stuck closely to the brief, keeping weight down by only including things rock climbers need (and leaving out e.g. ice screw racking). 

Durability

Although the Cuesta is light, it does feel pretty tough too. The tie-in points are reinforced with high tenacity nylon sheet, and all things considered it feels like a harness that will take a bit of abuse. 

Fit

My test harness was a medium and while the fit was okay for me, it wasn’t perfect. Although the waist belt was fine, I felt as if the rise (the distance between the waist belt and leg loops) was a touch too short at the front. I might opt for a Large next time, and since I’m a medium in nearly everything this suggests the Cuesta sizes a bit small (or that middle age spread is taking more of a hold than I thought). On the other hand, the leg loops felt very well fitted on my not-insubstantial thighs.

Summary

The Cuesta is a super light  option for rock climbers, and if you get on with the fit then I would recommend it very highly. You might want to size up from your usual size. It is well specified for trad climbers, and the feather weight design will put it on the radar of sport climbers looking for marginal gains. Every part of the harness feels high quality, and it sticks well to its brief by only including features rock climbers need.