The Alpha Sport is the latest in DMM’s extensive range of quickdraws, and it stands out as the most broad-shouldered of the pack. The Alpha sport is designed, as the name suggests, for use as an all round sport climbing quickdraw so it lines up alongside the likes of the Petzl Spirit and Black Diamond Livewire. For DMM, the Alpha Sport is an update to their classic 90’s ‘draw - the Mamba, and it joins the range flanked by the lighter wire-gate ‘Alpha Trad’. At first glance it is clear that the Alpha Sport is designed to hold up to some serious wear and tear, with its chunky carabiners and variable thickness tape. For the uninitiated, in the age of the superlight and super-thin, it may seem odd that some quickdraws come with such a chunky piece of tape, but actually this is a feature of all top end sport quickdraws. Most serious sport climbers spend a good deal of time redpointing, and this involves a lot of hanging on the rope and hauling about on quickdraws, which is quite difficult if you only have the thinnest of dyneema to grab. Thick tape is therefore essential, but the good thing about the Alpha Sport is that it tapers from 26mm down to 16mm at each end so it sits cleanly on the carabiner, loading it properly without bunching. This kind of detail is what you pay for in premium gear, and it really is worth it. In the Alpha Sport, the carabiners are also highly refined. DMM have poured years of research and development into shaping the Alpha’s, and everything about them is designed to make clipping and stripping as easy as possible. They feature the innovative I beam technology that means they are burly and light, with the kind of strong backbone anyone taking on a long redpoint siege will require!
My favourite features are the notched gates that make clipping significantly quicker than the standard bent gate of old. I had high expectations, but I was bowled over with how well this guides the rope into the carabiner – as long as I got the rope somewhere near the gate I’d be confident it was on its way in with a reassuring ‘snap’. Once the rope is through the gate, it sits securely in a deep ‘basket’ which has a rope shaped groove to ensure it runs smoothly as the climber makes upward progress.
The other innovation that helps the grab and clip process run so smoothly is the ‘ribbed for her pleasure’ (!) backbone of the Alpha’s. The drawback to the modern trend of anodising carabiners is that they can be so smooth they slip out of your hand. The notches on the back of the Alpha’s help your thumb feel secure while clipping, and this is a great antidote to ‘fumbled clip’ syndrome. Another important feature is the ‘clean nose’ gate, which was originally developed by Petzl. This replaces the old style of the Mamba which (like most older snap-gates) had a drilled bar which slotted into a notch. The benefit of the new design is that it makes it much easier to get the quickdraws out, as notches often snag on the bolt and prevent the quickdraw sliding out. This can get very irritating when you’re trying to strip an overhanging route, so I wouldn’t choose a sport quickdraw that doesn’t have the clean nose feature.
There is little to be critical of, as the Alpha Sport is a near perfect quickdraw for sport climbers. At 113g it’s heavier than its two main rivals, the 104g Petzl Spirit and the Black Diamond Livewire at 106g, but for the redpointers the Alpha Sport is aimed at this is unlikely to be a problem. The grey colour scheme is professional and sleek bu t, as this features on so much of their kit, a more distinctive colourway might have been a good idea. Top Lakes dark-horse Jon Freeman told me they “look boring”, though he did concede that they were nice to clip! [NB: You might be in luck Dave (and Jon), new colours may appear in the future, as per the red image at the top of the page. R+R] My only substantial criticism would be that the loop at the bolt end of the sling is a little too wide, meaning that the pro clip can be a bit loose for stick clipping. Those who use proper clip sticks won’t find this a problem, but when we were using the dirt bag (tree branch and stone) method this got quite irritating! All things considered, I would recommend the DMM Alpha Sport highly. Above all their other great features, the smooth and reliable clipping they facilitate puts them at the top of the tree for me.