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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Just how strong is "your" technical ice tool?

With all the comments and multiple blogs on  umbilicals I have made it is worth asking (as some did) just how strong is the next link in the chain?   How strong is your actual attachment point on the tool?

May better asked,  "how strong is your tool where you clip in?"   I use my tools all the time as an anchor (may be the only anchor) and expect them to do the job if required.  (hold a top rope fall and me)

I like to climb on Petzl tools.  But  with the exception of the newest Quark just out this season it has been a while since Petzl has made a high priority of a full strength attachment point in their design work..  I have no clue what a new Quark will hold on the spike.  But I will ask and post the results here next week.

Doesn't take much imagination to figure out what a Nomic or Ergo was designed by Petzl to hold for weight.  The answer is?  Not much.

I like how "bomb proof"  the BD tools are (just not always the picks) and use them as well.   There are good reasons climbers have a preference in ice tools.  I respect reliability.  And I also value performance.  

This from Black Diamond when I asked on the subject:

"One thing I will clarify; there is no requirement for spike ( load ) strength even though it is now used as an attachment point for leashes on some tools.  BD proof tests every tool we sell (technical and mountaineering) to 1000lbs (pulled end to end). We have an internal requirement for the ultimate end to end strength to exceed 2000lbs (we usually exceed this by a large margin).

We were the only one in the business to do this and test for it to my knowledge. I have tested many other manufacturers' tools and most do not meet it, and some tools (with plastic type spike/pommels) only went to a couple hundred pounds at room temps before they broke.

The only exception to the 2000lb internal requirement is the Fusion. Fusion spike will go to around 1500lbs with the maximum amount of spacers allowed(3) before the bolt breaks (the threads do not fail). We worked a bunch to maximize the strength of that area."

Bill Belcourt, Black Diamond

More on the UIAA and CE tests.
Tools sold in Europe must pass CE (Conformité Européenne) standards that the product has met EU consumer safety requirements. The CE standards for climbing gear were adopted from the UIAA (Union Internationale des Associations D’Alpinisme, based in Berne Switzerland) 15 years ago. For climbing UIAA certification meets a more stringent standard than CE certification. Some manufacturers require both UIAA and CE certification on their climbing gear.

Ice tool definitions from the UIAA website:

Type B = Basic,  lower strength, glacier travel use and/or ski mountaineering.

Type T = Technical type, high strength, water fall ice climbing,  M (mixed) climbing.

Ratings                                                        B                                            T

3-point bend test on the shaft            2.5 kN*                      3.5 kN

Strength of head/shaft (ourward)       0.6 kN                         0.9 kN

Strength of head/shaft (across)         2.5 kN                           4.0 kN

Torque test of pick                             127 N                                 182 N

Fatigue torque test of pick              No test                            80 N

Attachment point of shaft to spike    2 kN                              2 kN


Sean said...

Which plastic clip tools are you talking about?
I have been considering getting a set of grivel quantum techs - I had figured until now that they would have a steel section beneath the plastic

Dane said...

I don't think there is any steel in the Quantum's yellow plastic pommel other than the tungsten tip. But I could be wrong. I'll ask Grivel.

jon said...

Dane, do you know of a link to an explanation of the CE standards listed above? Without knowing what "head strength (outward)" actually means, a load capability of somewhere around a couple hundred pounds (0.9kN) sounds kind of ridiculously weak...if I just take it at face value (as in, 202 lbs of force required to pull/break the head off a tool).

Obviously I'm not getting something.

Dane said...

Try a google search on ice tool strengths I think shoudl work??

Quick answer off the top of my head which may/likely not be 100%.

But the silly CE standards for the "leash" is dismal and unrealistic as it is now being applied.

200# is not the standard that is required to break or pull a head off but iirc it is the standard for pulling off the spike where we all tie in at with our umbilicals.

Sorry for the vague answer but jammed for time this morning.

jon said...

Thanks Dane. This is what I ended up finding...although I don't know if it's current or not.

I'm no engineer but those tests don't exactly seem to say a whole lot...but I know just enough to confuse myself, unfortunately. Right or wrong...what confidence I have that my tools won't explode next time I torque a placement comes more from the "well, I haven't managed to break them yet" testing method than any CE/UIAA stamp.

Kinda scary if I let myself think about it... =)


greenezo said...

Dane, any luck with Grivel on the Quantum Tech? I've emailed them several times with the same question and never gotten an answer. Seems like solid plastic to me. I've been climbing on Matrix Techs and love them other than the dubious pommel, really wish they had some serration like the new Nomic/Ergo, plastic on ice does nothing!