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Ice Axe? Whippet? Whippets? One of each?

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  • Ice Axe? Whippet? Whippets? One of each?

    For springtime ski touring and ski mountaineering in steep/exposed terrain, I've heard arguments in various directions for a light mountaineering ice axe, or for a self-arrest ski pole (or two) like BD's Whippet or Grivel's Condor, or for some combination. I'm wondering what y'all here who regularly carry a self-arrest tool of some kind prefer, and why.

  • #2
    We beat this to death last year and there were some pretty strong opinions. I use one Whippet for anything I do. I could see using two and there is no question an ice axe would be much safer for self arresting. There are at least two big variables. One how steep are you really skiing and what are the consequences of a fall? How experienced are you in steep icy terrain? I am at a stage in my life where I am not so sure I want to ski no fall terrain any more and I also have a strong ice and mixed climbing background so I might be more comfortable then most with just crampons with nothing else or just one whippet. I got ripped in to last year for saying that I climbed a 20 foot somewhat vertical cornice with crampons and just one whippet. I found this somewhat amusing since not all 20 cornices are the same and I used to routinely practice climbing WI 3-4 with no axe and just one axe.

    FWIW I don't regularly carry a self arrest tool. I only use them in the spring from mid May on. I also do have a light aluminum ice axe and I could see using it again I just have not used it for several years.
    Last edited by James; 16 January 2014, 08:01 PM.

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    • #3
      Just say N2O! 8)
      "Nobody ever got my name right." - Me

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      • #4
        I can see the benefits of a Condor, but I only own axes and a single Whippet. Nearly every time I carry sharps I just take a single Whippet for my hands. If the terrain demands it, however, I consider swapping in the axe.

        It is nice to have the option of descending without an exposed pick. Some Whippets have a removable head. The Condor, of course, has a retractable pick. I have also seen skiers carry a Whippet upper pole section and a regular BD Flicklock upper pole section of the same tube diameter, sharing the lower section to save weight and bulk.

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        • #5
          Depending on conditions I only carry one cause that's all I own. So have three poles with me at the trailhead to have option.
          FWIW - Ramer Claw. It's a bit dull. Scar on chest from one slip on a glacier.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by B__ View Post
            I have also seen skiers carry a Whippet upper pole section and a regular BD Flicklock upper pole section of the same tube diameter, sharing the lower section to save weight and bulk.
            This is what I do. I don't like skiing with a whippet if I don't have to.

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            • #7
              I'm comfortable climbing anything I would ski with a single whippet. That will of course be very dependent on conditions, not only slope angle. If I am not comfortable climbing it with a whippet, I think that's a good indication that skiing it is something I would choose not to do on that particular day. I have axes and rando ropes too but if I don't carry one or both of those, I am probably going to dial back the risk to where I should not need them. On the rare occasion when I am kind of goal oriented, I might carry them but what usually happens--unless every circumstance conspires to create an ideal situation--is I chicken out anyway.

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              • #8
                Usually a single Whippet in spring, sometimes also an axe.

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                • #9
                  Have you considered the effects of a tumble with a whippet or an axe when the rarely successful arrest is not accomplished...

                  ... it ain't pretty.

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                  • #10
                    Been there done that. Not the tool's fault but rather my faulty judgement.

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                    • #11
                      I only ski powder
                      The usual safety device caveat applies: whatever you choose, it will be next to useless without practice.

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                      • #12
                        What Cesare says- but I'm not climbing/skiing stuff you need ropes for. I use my whippet all winter (not at ski area) as I find it useful for clearing snow out of bindings and off top of skis while skinning, as a grappling hook when swtichbacking in tight trees etc. I keep the tip duct taped to avoid having too pointy a thing around- I figure it'll wear thru quick enough if self arresting. And I don't use the pole strap so I can drop it unless actually in steep spring terrain where I might want to actually self arrest.
                        Reluctant enthusiast, part-time crusader, half-hearted fanatic

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                        • #13
                          I would not ski anything I needed an ice axe to ascend, or even anything I need a whippet to ascend. But, sometimes I need to cross an icy traverse early in the am, to get to softer snow (or maybe I will ski the icy slope once it softens). But for me, I keep off anything needing a rope or ice axe, and a whippet is sufficient. I can see how people on more challenging terrain may want something else.

                          MY whippet came with a bunge-on cover for the sharp tip, which makes skiing down with it less nerve wracking. But, it still makes me uncomfortable, so I do not usually carry the whippet at all.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Todd Eastman View Post
                            Have you considered the effects of a tumble with a whippet or an axe when the rarely successful arrest is not accomplished...

                            ... it ain't pretty.
                            IMHO most people grossly overestimate their or anyone's ability to self arrest with an axe once they start sliding. A whippet would be far worse. If I am mountaineering with an axe the axe is for balance and a quick self arrest in softer snow and sometimes as an ice axe on mellow icy sections. If I am on firm snow I climb with the attitude that if I fall I am not going to stop and my focus in on having really good footwork so I don't fall. So basically I climb not to fall. I use the whippet for ascending steep sections that are usually at the top of the climb. If I am skiing with the whippet for self arrest every part of me is on alert for the numerous bad things that can happen and to be blunt I really don't like doing this and avoid being in that situation for very long.

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                            • #15
                              I wouldn't consider the whippet a free pass to ski something terrifying, but on a mild hip-to-slope fall near the top of Mount Hood I was able to stop what would have been an unpleasant-if-not-fatal slide. To me, it's a nice tool for stabilizing yourself on icy slopes, whether traversing, climbing, or descending.

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