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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Thursday, October 28, 2010


I suspect for the majority of those that will read this, it is preaching to the choir.

If not it is worth rethinking your game plan.

Originally there were some pretty strong opinions as to why leashless climbing was not an advancement in ice climbing. Held some of those same opinions myself in the past.

1975 Terrodactyl and a 2009 Nomic

The advancement in tool design with specifically engineered additional hand support has changed all of that.
The added option of an umbilical makes it even easier to transition to leashless with little risk.
At least two manufactures (Grivel and Black Diamond) are now producing umbilical systems that make loosing a tool *almost* impossible even if you do drop one or just as likely leave them at the last rap station. If you are interested take a look at the umbilical blog posted earlier.

Leashless climbing is easier. You are able to shake more often and it is much easier to do so, prolonging endurance and pushing the pump farther out. Your hands will be warmer because of it and you can use less effort to grip the tool because your glove system can be much, much lighter for the warmth required. All this adds up to climbing faster and reducing the strength required to do so.

The umbilicals, if you decide to use them, offer a mobile self belay. Leashless climbing is here to stay. It is a much better climbing system on hard ice and mixed as long as you are taking advantage of the newer tools specifically designed for leashless climbing. You have many really great tools to chose from today.

Black Diamond Fusion II over layed on top of a Petzl Nomic


Garrett said...

I haven't been climbing ice very long, so this is all very anecdotal. My first pair of tools were leashless. I found that all my movements, even as I climbed ice regularly, were very forced, strained and difficult. I was terrified of dropping my tools, and I pounded quite a bit at the ice to make sure every single placement was bomber.

When I climbed on a friends leashed, old-school cobras, I found that I could hook things and trust that my tools weren't going anywhere. I swung to stick them just enough instead of burying them every time.

I imagine a majority of people that are really good ice climbers today learned on leashes and then made the transition to leashless. This season I plan on using leashes and seeing how things go. I'm sure eventually I'll switch back to leashless, but I guess I want a solid traditional foundation first.

Just food for thought maybe.

Dane said...

Good insight Garret. But I'll say it again..leashless climbing is easier and warmer.

But you have to be on specifically designed leashless tools to take advantage of both.

If you worry about dropping a tool buy or make umbilicals. Anything higher than 50 meters and I don't leave home without them.

I suspect you won't believe this but if you want your own ice climbing skills to improve rapidly the best thing you can do on ice is ditch the leashes now and make a real effort to learn how to climb leashless.

A buddy who has climbed as much hard ice as anyone once told me that I wouldn't have gone leashless if I hadn't stopped climbing ice for a few years. I didn't believe it. At the time he was still on leashes. But that changed pretty quickly for him as well once the tools got better and he finally got on a pair of tools that were actually intended to be used leashless.

For the record it wasn't all that easy to make the transition. And of all my regular climbing partners I was the first. I asked for a lot of top ropes during the transition. But my change over was no where near the beginning of the trend. I didn't like it even after I had clearly seen the advantages. I forced myself to drop the leashes. I knew it was easier just from a short one day experience. I then spent a week long trip climbing easier ice than I had wanted just to get comforatble again. The 2nd trip that season I was climbing as hard as I ever had on ice..leashless.

Now? Everyone I climb with is leashless (on ice and in the mtns) and no one is going back.

grant said...

My friend actually lost a tool on Asteroid Alley last week while wearing a BD spinner leash. It slipped down a larger than fists off-width and when he went to fish it out the carabiner broke and the tool was gone for good.

The system works, but it certainly isn't a sure thing.

Dane said...

Black Diamond says 2kN (450 lb) is the break strength for the spinner. Easy enough to pull that hard.

But then there are at least two documented saves, where a climber fell full force on a Spinner leash and it held, that I know of.

Umbilicals aren't fool proof. If you drop a tool on route consider yourself lucky if the umbilical you use stays attached to your tool. And luckier yet if you stay attached to the mtn :)

carolyn Riccardi said...

last winter at the NH ice fest i spoke to some BD folks about the fusion and they were "selling it" as a mixed climbing tool. This really surprised me as I thought it would be competitive with the nomic.

Dane said...

Fusion II? I think you'll find anyone using the Fusion thinking they do compare very well to the Nomic on technical terrain and maybe a few advatages on alpine terrain over the newest Nomic.

Take a look at Shepherd and Mulkey's new video and climb. Nomics and Fusions there.

That said there are some distinct but subtle differences between tools.

I think the clasic line is, "The Nomic is an awesome tool. But the Fusion would be the all the rage if it had hit the market first."

I am a huge fan of the Nomic (and I suspect the newest Nuark (yes Nuark/Quark) as well. In this case I think it is all first impressions. BD had a lot of work to do to make a good impression with the newest Fusion compared to the Nomic which had been out a few years.

The Nomic works well for even Gumby's like me. The Fusions..both versons are specifically designed for hard dry tooling first, ice second. They both excel for what they were designed for. The hard part for BD I think is not everyone can take advantage of the design work physically even if it is a "better" tool.

There is a reason Petzl tried to up the ante this winter with the newest Ergo. That tool also let you know quickly what and who it was designed for. As did the old version of the Fusion. The newest Fusion is a bit of a sleeper that way.

May be someone from BD will jump in and answer your observation better.

a little lost said...

re. BD spinner, I had concerns about the little steel crabs and replaced them with a couple of CAMP nano 23s - slightly bulkier, but 10x stronger!

That said, I got fed up with spinners, especially seconding as they can become a real cluster with the ropes above

Dane said...

The normal strength of the commercial umbilicals is between 2kN and 3kN.

The mini biners do not fail. the nylon sling material does.

Cluster? Drop a leashless tool 800m up a 1500m there is a cluster :)

Anonymous said...

I thought I would follow up on this after two weeks of ice and mixed climbing this season. I ditched my leashes after my first climb and put the horns back on my Taakoons.

I can't believe what a huge inconvenience leashes are and am extremely impressed that anyone managed to climb on them at all. Clipping is a million times easier without leashes and so many mixed moves are more intuitive leashless. I won't be trying leashes again.