I am intrigued by this binding, to say the least.
I really look forward to getting this binding on snow, and I already have a number of tests in mind to get a feel for this thing in a straight alpine scenario. Unfortunately, we are still a few snow cycles away from all of that….
But I wanted to follow up on a few issues raised in Jonathan Ellsworth’s First Look Atomic Tracker review, and clarify a few misconceptions out there about the Tracker/Guardian (henceforth referred to as the Tracker, since that’s the model in my possession).
Climbing Guide / Heel Elevator
Jonathan noted that, in Las Leñas, the heel elevator on the Tracker slipped down a couple of times while skinning. I have looked at the metal spring/heel elevator piece and popped it off to play with. One of the metal springs in this pre-production binding was slightly light. This made it easy for the elevator to pop down. It was a simple matter of removing the spring by hand, out of the track, and giving it a squeeze in a vice to add some more tension. The elevator itself is now more firm and less prone to slip and should not have any issues in the field. In the past, I have done this same sort of thing to heel elevators on tele bindings and Marker Duke bindings, without further issue. No harm no foul, in my opinion.
Alpine / AT boot Compatibility
The Tracker is obviously an alpine-boot-compatible binding. It also works with the new Salomon Walk to Ride (“WTR”) lugged outsole norm. Also worth noting is that, while Tecnica Cochise tech AT blocks are not officially WTR, I tested them in the Tracker, and they work perfectly. They do have solid plastic pads on the toe and heel that allow the boot to slide smoothly against the Teflon coated Anti-Friction Device (aka AFD). The Cochise does require that the Tracker’s toe piece be opened all the way up to the highest position, so be aware that the Cochise is the thickest boot toe that will fit into the Tracker off the shelf.
A fully rockered AT sole, however, such as a SCARPA Maestrale or Dynafit Mercury, is not compatible. (Rockered AT soles are compatible with the Marker Duke.) Such boots have massive friction against the Tracker 16’s AFD, and the toe does not fully enter the binding. If you really need a rockered AT sole to fit into the Tracker, be prepared for significant grinding to the boot sole. This is best done by a bootfitter with the correct tools.
My anecdotal results indicate that there is more friction in the Tracker with a rockered AT sole than with the same boot in a Salomon 916 binding—the 916 alpine binding has more toe height adjustment range and a toe-wing adjustment that will allow the toe of the boot to completely enter the toepiece of the binding.