General > Ice & Winter Climbing

how I kicked the third tool habbit..

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Way back in the days of grade 3 gullys on mt washington when I was a freshly hatched ice climber with egshells still stuck to my butt I always dragged a 3rd tool arround simply because that is what real mountaineres did. Eventually I progressed to leaveing the rope, rack, harness and 3rd tool at home.  Even on steeper stuff I am pretty sure I wittled it down to two Simond Chakal hammers.   I took a bit of a break and started climbing ice again in 1998. still had the old tools and screws, Even fit into my old IMS bibs..  graduated to  Grivel Machines, new screws and single boots around 2000ish  still no need for a 3rd tool. About 2003/4ish? I hooked up with BD Vipers and shortly thereafter broke my 2nd pick in 20+ years of ice climbing.  Suddenly a 3rd tool seemed like a good idea again.. Three more broken BD picks in the next 5 or so years kept me convinced that old straight tool hanging off my butt was a critical piece of equiptment. Twice I broke picks on the sharp end and finished up with the old Omega Venom. once leading 2nd pitch of Float like A butterfly land like a Tomato and  again soloing the 2nd pitch of Standard route @ frankenstine. Annother time  I simply stole Isa's machine to lead dracula as my BD pick broke in the first 10ft..  Finally I made the switch to petzle Quarks. the whole leashless thing made me think the 3rd tool was still a good idea even though I no longer had to worry about broken picks but now I had a Viper hanging off my butt with the hooked handle catching on everything and the extra weight pulling my pants and harness down arround my effin ankles :-[  No longer worried about broken picks w/ the Quarks so the only real reason for the 3rd tool was in case of a dropped tool.  I made teathers for the quarks last season and presto. No more 3rd tool anchor hanging off my butt 8) I feel liberated :P

Cool story bro ;)

Knock on wood, in 12 years of ice I have never broken a pick, but I have always been on Quarks, so I guess that may be why huh?

As for tethers though... and I know we’ve beat this debate here before... but I think they are silly for New England routes... maybe they are OK for soloing long climbs... I did somehow let a tool fall down Shoestring once, but for leading I think tethers are crap. You shouldn’t be dropping tools leading, but in the off chance you do you should be able to fire in a screw and lower or whatever... but you really shouldn’t be dropping tools leading....

I also think tethers belong on BIG solo routes where dropping a tool could spell RUIN

But so many beginner ice leaders tangle themselves in tethers, or let them give them a false sense of security...

I think of them like I think of leashes... un-needed umbilical cords....

If teathers  are useless in the east how come so many people lose nomics in the powder every time we have a good snow year?  I like em for any solo. Drop a tool from 10ft  off the deck steep bouldering a road cut and your looking at a possible open tib fib. i seem to have the tangles sorted out this season with a few eptions :-[   

Who are these people losing Nomics at roadside cuts and how long have they been climbing?

In 13 years of ice climbing I haven’t dropped a tool. Every tool I have seen dropped had a leash on it and it was a second climber cleaning a screw, or, most recently, very beginner climbers on top-rope somehow dropping tools at the North End when falling... it was... comical and concerning...

I won’t say they are “useless”, but I think many new climbers would be better served learning how not to drop tools then trying to learn how to use tethers and not get tangled...

I also look at world class ice climbers when deciding what’s most efficient, and outside of occasional soloing of big alpine routes I don’t see any of the masters using tethers... and many solo big stuff with out them...

New climbers are drawn to leashes & tethers regardless of how it might effect performance... I know you have been climbing ice for a long time and I respect your opinion. Let me know at the end of the season and next year if you are still into them. Maybe i’ll try them one day...

I could care less what world class ice climbers do. i do what works for me in 30+ years of climbing. heck we spent 15 panicked minites looking for a set of nomics about a month ago that dissapeared in the snow. you have not heard it much the last 2 years because there has been no snow but the 4 good snow winters before that there were multiple lost tools every winter. Friend of mine found a nomic @ the base of a serious  multi pitch 5+ a few winters ago..   way back in the day when you were still in diapers or perhaps a bit before that I had a teather on one tool and the idea was if things went south at least you were gaurenteed to have one tool. we tried it with both tools but it was too crazy  cluster with the leashes. when folks started useing them a few seasons ago i sounded off with a huge negative but I think I am a believer.. partner almost lost a tool from the belay today @ the lake.   


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