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Ice Axe Leashes/Tethers

Original Post
Aaron D. · · Anchorage, AK · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 0

Summery: Leashes and Tethers are a no go. Use a Petzl V-Link if you need to.

Kyle Tarry · · Portland, OR · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 162

If dropping your tools might cause to to die or have an epic, use leashes/tethers.  Otherwise, don't bother.

Big alpine routes, long multipitch routes that are a grade that is hard for me, even single pitch leading on "difficult" ice I would consider using them.  Toproping in Ouray, single pitch moderates, mixed cragging, I don't bother.

Dharma Bum · · Glen Haven, Co · Joined Jul 2008 · Points: 585

It's really a personal choice based on your comfort and confidence. I never use leashes, but I do use a homemade tether of cord and mini-biners for long alpine routes.  I tried it for the first time in Cody last winter and the tether really did not get in the way at all.

Nick Sweeney · · Spokane, WA · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 656

Check out the Blue Ice Boa tethers - they work great. The Petzl V-Link looks good too.  Like the other posters state, I only use tethers on technical alpine climbs where losing an ice tool would severely impact my ability to move over technical terrain, leading to an epic.  For a pure ice climb, the consequences are lower for dropping a tool.  Regardless, you should never be dropping an ice tool.

Kyle Tarry · · Portland, OR · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 162
Aaron D. wrote:

Thanks man, when you do decide to use them, what leashes do you use and why?

I use the ones with two pieces of stretchy stuff and 2 carabiners.

In all seriousness, it doesn't matter that much.  BD, CAMP, Grivel, Petzl, and others all make suitable tethers, and lots of people also do DIY.

Nick Sweeney · · Spokane, WA · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 656

I own the BD Spinner leash and hate it.  The "carabiners" are very weak and come unclipped from simply climbing.  I often find the gate of the connector outside of the connector itself, rendering it useless until I fix it.  

Kyle Tarry · · Portland, OR · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 162

Haha.  I have the same one and it works fine for me.     Those carabiners are crappy though.  I found they work a lot better if you tie a little loop of cord to the hole on the axe and clip them to the cord.

I am going to try the Petzl ones, they are super light.  Good enough for Colin Haley soloing Moonflower, should work for me on AI3. 

Dharma Bum · · Glen Haven, Co · Joined Jul 2008 · Points: 585

 Here it is.  I just rigged it up with stuff I had lying around.  1 length of cord, 2 small dyneema slings and 2 mini biners.  I girth hitch the dyneema to the pommel and it holds surprisingly well (the hole in the end spike is just too small to accommodate anything else). I clip the fig 8 at the end of the cord into my belay loop.  Not elaborate but it works OK.  The key is to get the right length so it does not hinder your swing while not being too long to entangle in your feet.  I just clip the tools to the harness and stuff the loose ends in my leg loops while rappelling or hiking to the next pitch. The cord can also be used to build a thread if necessary, making it multi functional.

Clint White aka Faulted Geologist · · Lawrence, KS · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 158

Hey Dharma, that tether looks familiar...  nice work!  I'm still using what I've got/made as well.  Cheers!

Chris C. · · Seattle, WA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 321

I've lost a tool once during a long route because I clipped the pick instead of the hole. That made for a slightly more difficult day than expected. I thought it would never happen again until a month later I did the same thing (but managed to save the tool with my crampon).

Since then, when on a long route that has reasonably high conciquesnces for losing a tool, I'll clip into my Grivel dual tether. I find no need for spinners. My only gripe with the Grivel is their use of locking biners. I'll switch them out to lightweight non-lockers when I am not lazy. 

jdejace · · New England · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 5

I'll use a leash attached to my harness on anything but a single pitch climb I can easily lower off of. If you mean wrist leashes nobody really uses those anymore. 

I also dislike the BD spinner for 2 reasons. 

1. I've had them come off while climbing as well, seems to happen when the carabiner gets twisted. This happens a lot more easily on a rigid attachment (ie the spike of a Quark) than a loose attachment like 2mm cord on a Nomic. 

2. I'm tall and they're not that long. They're not "limiting" per se but I can feel the tug of the elastic when I reach overhead. 

I like the Cassin X-Gyro. They make 2 sizes and the long one is nice for me. The wire gate also clips into a notch on the carabiner nose (like a real carabiner) which I think makes it less likely to sneak out.

John Vanek · · Gardnerville, NV · Joined May 2013 · Points: 0

Made mine with shock cord inside tubular webbing. No swivel needed. Using mini biners I have had them disconnect; I'll have to try them with cord loops in the shaft ends a others mention. But I only use them for steep multipitch where losing a tool would be a problem.

beccs · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 110

I guess I'm at the point where I feel it's very unlikely that I will ever drop a tool on an ice route or easy mixed. I understand that this takes a long time to become comfortable with so until then tethers will probably give you the peace of mind on multi pitch of alpine ice, but I would work towards not needing or using them as they are kind of a pain in the butt.

Kyle Tarry · · Portland, OR · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 162

I mean, Colin Haley uses them, and I doubt I'll ever be more comfortable than him on alpine terrain.

Nick Sweeney · · Spokane, WA · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 656

I just got the Petzl V-Link and it is awesome.  The mini-carabiners fit well on both the handle and head of my Grivel North Machines, which I use for moderately technical alpine climbs. The carabiners are much beefier than the BD Spinner and the gate tension is higher. Seems like Petzl has essentially come up with the same product as everyone else, but perfected it along the way (like they always do!).

For use with my X-Dream tools, I use a Blue Ice Boa.  I can girth hitch one end to my belay loop and girth hitch the other end through the hole in the handle of my X-Dreams - no cord required.  For pure water ice, I rarely use umbilicals so these usually stay in the gear room.  

Ty Falk · · Park City, UT · Joined Nov 2011 · Points: 270

I don't use them but I can see where they make sense though. They have been related to a few accidents most recently with one last year on the rookie party where a umbilical was overloaded and snapped back once in the ice and hit the climbers leg. See page 88 of the American Alpine Club accidents book. 

Amy Krull · · Oregon · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 45

I bring (homemade webbing+elastic+Grivel spinner) leashes on alpine multi-pitches especially if you're a.) soloing (for the same reason I wear a harness, so that I have the option to create a slightly protected stance if you need to put in real pro, rope up, etc.) or b.) there are sustained steep snow or headwalls where a dropped tool would slide a long way into a schrund.  Most multipitch waterfall ice routes have such huge ledges that I climb without leashes.

Jacon · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 200

Yes, and yes.  I prefer the BD Android for steeps, and my homemade tethers (bungee through cordalette sheath, hardware store swivel) for long moderates.  If I'm climbing easy single pitches, I might use nothing—but why would I climb easy single pitches?  

David · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 30

You need to make your own risk management decision based on what you judge to be the likelihood and consequences of dropping a tool, vs having one fly at your face in a lead fall (plus other factors). Read up, know their limitations, and know what you're getting into.

For myself, it's a definite no for cragging. I use the blue ice boa for multipitch alpine.

Jacon · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 200
David wrote:

You need to make your own risk management decision based on what you judge to be the likelihood and consequences of dropping a tool, vs having one fly at your face in a lead fall (plus other factors).

Yeah, this.  But hopefully the tether breaks in a lead-fall scenario.  I started using tethers for moderates and mixed climbs after dropping a tool three times in a season: the last time was one some challenging mixed terrain, without much hope for pro.  I thought I was seriously fucked.   My partner, who managed to not get impaled, shouted "can you do it with one??"  which I hadn't really considered, but turned out I could.   

Also, am I the only one who thinks these prices are crazy? $28 dollars without swivel or unclipping functionality?  $55?? WTF?  A swivel will cost you about $9.  10' of cord sheath / bungee is like $4.  Even if you want fancy biners you're still gonna be way under $55, and in fact you'll have a more functional produce because a. it's exactly your size, and b. those biners are better than what BD/Grivel/Petzl use.   But you can also use plastic keychain biners—I did for years.  

edit: also lighter.  My homemade tethers are a solid 25-50% lighter than commercial offerings.  

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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