Since our hands are so integral to climbing, it stands to reason that climbing gloves should be tough, warm, grippy, dexterous, sexy and functional. Enter Black Diamond's Punisher gloves...they fit the bill. When in doubt, the Punisher gloves are my go-to glove because they excel in a variety of conditions and uses. Gloves, unlike mittens, aren't designed for uber-cold conditions and yet I've used my Punishers for below-zero climbs in Rocky Mountain Nat'l Park for years. As long as you're hydrated, well fed and active, these gloves provide ample protection from the cold. When leading on ice, it can be downright dangerous to climb with a bulky glove: carabiners are hard to open, screws are easily dropped and the rope is fumbled. Not good. However, too-thin gloves sacrifice the warmth for their nimbleness and for most of us frostbite just isn't an option. The BD Punisher gloves strike a near-perfect balance between these two worlds of warmth and dexterity, in my opinion. My test? If I can't manipulate a small, fickle zipper with my gloves on, they don't pass.
The Punishers have a thin plastic membrane built in that keeps the gloves functionally waterproof. Although this membrane inhibits breathability, it’s also crucial to have in cold, alpine environments. The palms are grippy leather that usually take some time before they saturate and freeze. My trick is to have two pairs of Punishers, one for the climbing/belaying and another pair zipped inside my jackets, close to my body. When one pair gets wet, I swap them out for the dry pair and at least warm up the first pair, and so on. Other features include a small-but-effective gauntlet to keep snow and ice from pouring into your jacket's sleeves while your arms are overhead and a finger loop on each glove. This finger loop functions as a quick way to remove the glove one-handed in a pinch (it helps to have a BD ice clipper on your harness: just hook the finger loop on the clipper and pull your hand out of the glove). Again, this little feature isn't something I use very often but it sure helps when you're hanging by one arm, need to get your other glove off and your mouth/teeth are incapacitated for some reason.
These gloves excel in the worlds of cold, snow and ice. With near daily use, my Punishers typically last me a few seasons. Again, they're my go-to glove from ice to moderate mixed climbing, from heinous alpine to easy mountaineering. They do almost everything perfectly. Oh, and they're sexy.
Andrew CouncellColorado Mountain School Guide