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Bill_r_i

Ice axe leashes?

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I'm gearing up to climb mt.hood for the first time with my roommate who has climbing experience. I've spent a lot of time reading up on different forms of ice axe leashes and a lot of people, including the Mazamas suggest attaching the Ice axe directly to the climbing harness, which I have a tether to attach the ice axe to my harness. But recently my roommate said he wont climb with me if i'm not using a wrist leash, saying that I wouldn't be able to properly arrest a fall if I didn't have one, that I wouldn't be able to maintain a proper grip on the axe while climbing the steeper pitches, and that in the event of a fall if let go of the axe that the leash would help hold it in place. It sounds like he is relying on the leash to help support weight during the ascent. In all the researching I've been doing online and in textbooks, I've yet to find anything about using the leashes in this fashion. Everything I've read says it's pretty much just there to prevent loss of the tool, not to actually act in any life saving capacity... With that being said, I was wondering if there is anyone out there that has relied on the leash to be more then just a system to prevent tool loss?

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I'm a relatively new climber so I'm not terribly familiar with wrist leashes but from my experience, the wrist leash restricts blood circulation to the hand and so while using them to support weight can work, it doesn't work very well.

 

The best thing to do, if you're getting tired, is to just sit back and use the rope (put in a screw if necessary). It works better and it's safer.

 

These days, leases are largely used to prevent tool loss (which can be a nasty problem). Wrist leashes aren't all that great for that purpose because they limit your freedom do do things like switching hands or placing a screw.

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bill_r_i: for ice climbing leashes play a role (weighted). For going up the south side of mount hood, not at all (save any ice in the pearly gates if that is the route chosen).

 

this article on the site is a relevant read for ice climbing leashes. http://cascadeclimbers.com/articles/ice-climbing-gear-intro/ice-climbing-tool-leashes/

 

but for a standard ice ax the leash is playing 1 role. To keep you from dropping the ice ax and losing it and being up the creek. Now you could drop it when you're on a mellow 25 degree slope and just stand there and watch it slide down away from you, or you could fall on a 40 degree icy slope, try to self arrest and have the ax blow out of your hands.

 

i have seen both types of attachment and have feelings about both (to harness or to wrist). If one is going up a slope and is switchbacking on it, then at each turn you want the ax to be in your uphill hand--thus attached to the harness it is easy to change hands. If you have it on your wrist, you've got to get the leash to the other hand and then back when you turn again (generally). This is a moment/space for error or mistake or a slip where with the harness leash it is much more fluid.

 

but my issue with the harness leash is take the ice ax and pull it up until the harness leash is taut. Where is the ice ax head/pick/spike..? likely all around your upper body. Now of course it is a worst case scenario but it has the potential compared to a wrist attachment where the ax would likely be further from one's body.

 

But, most of that is theoretical and if you're falling and the ice axe is out of control by your face, it is probably not the number one issue. I've never heard a definitive argument from anyone to justify either (harness or wrist) conclusively. Though the manufacturers sell wrist leashes with with ice axes, so that kind of states how they're expected to be used.

 

When there is familiarity and conditions allow, I will forgo the wrist all together. I'd love to hear some more seasoned or reasoned people contribute to this discussion.

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There are pro and cons to no-leash, waist or wrist. A lot of times it depends on the conditions and risk of losing the axe with several thousand feet to descend.

 

I have tried both (you may want to practice the traverse/ switchback discussed above), I like the wrist better - just using a 3ft or so webbing strap with a not so tight loop. Then there is room to switch hands without any fumbling.

 

One time on Adams, (waist) easy slope (icy)- I dropped my guard and slid pretty far on some icy stuff with the axe coming after me like a loose cannon. Blood on snow is not very pretty, almost gory.

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If you're going to buy a leash, get a spring leash from a reputable manufacturer. They hang down much lower than simply using a piece of cord. The BD Slinger leash comes to mind.

 

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And that's what I had found in all the reading I've done and why it didn't make any sense when he listed it as such a huge safety concern that he wouldn't climb with me if I didn't have a wrist leash. I don't have a problem using a wrist leash if it would make him feel more 'secure' but i would love to hear from the more seasoned people as well, it seems to me like he's relying to much on something that is simply supposed to prevent tool loss.

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for alpine climbing, the risk of a lost ice axe due to dropping is so overrated. In my 20+ years of climbing I have never dropped one, seen someone drop one, heard of someone drop one or even came close to dropping one. Even the consequence of a dropped is 99% of time nothing worse than bending over to pick it back up.

 

Now the risk of using a leash in the alpine while in a uncontrolled fall down a snow slope is great. If I do not have control of the axe while sliding, I do not want it anywhere around me. There will be no magical flick to regain control of the axe and perform a standard self arrest. There is only pulling the axe out of your body. Learn how to do a feet and elbow self arrest and forgo the leash all together.

 

Now of your climb has some steep ice, then a wrist leash has value and used for that purpose. When the angle lessens, the wrist leash comes off, the loop draped over the pick then adze and down the shaft to be kept out of the way.

 

Just my opinion, but the harness to tool leash is the most useless and dangerous thing you can do in regards to typical axe use. The only time it makes sense to use a harness to axe leash is on fixed lines.

 

BTW, my opinions are for alpine only and not ice climbing where the situation is different. Also may not apply for someone doing a high altitude climb.

Edited by genepires

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I always use a leash on an axe. A 4' to 5' piece of 1/2" webbing, tied into about a 3' leash. The longer (longer than just a wrist strap) allows be to switch hands with the axe, without removing and re-attaching the leash if I'm switchbacking. Yes, agree with above, rule #1 is don't drop it; but with a leash you get a little extra margin of safety and don't have to worry so much if you're using your hand for a hand hold, placing picket, etc... I seldom use a leash for more than just safety line, to prevent dropping it. Only very occasionaly will I clip it to my harness; like maybe if taking a quick break on steeper stuff.

 

Good Luck

Edited by BirdDog

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I was wondering if there is anyone out there that has relied on the leash to be more then just a system to prevent tool loss?

I got in the habit years ago of using a snug wrist leash when on steep slopes. It is certainly a hassle if you have to change hands. I try to always keep my axe in my right hand, since I am right-handed, so I try to avoid traversing up and to the left, and look for routes that allow me to traverse up and to the right or straight up. Obviously - you can't always do that. I'm sure someone will point that out (I already have) and comment that route finding should not depend on which hand you like to hold your axe in. Well, for me it does. If I have to change hands I do, but I try to optimize things so it is always securely in my right hand with pick facing out.

 

The reason I like my axe in my right hand is that I am right-handed and feel more confident self-arresting in that position. The reason I like it leashed up snug in a self-arrest position is because self-arresting can be a fairly violent and scary procedure, with the possibility of the axe being yanked out of your hand when the pick grabs. If you don't do it immediately you are toast. I want to be as prepared as possible.

 

Years ago I slipped due to dull crampon points and was able to self-arrest, bit it was a scary experience and a wake-up call for me. Now my crampons points are always sharp. Like lead climbing, the real solution is to never fall (or slip if on snow/ice). My conservative nature, however, still wants my axe as ready and as secure as possible in my right-hand, always ready for immediate self-arrest. It is a hassle sometimes, but it makes me feel more comfortable.

 

I think the correct answer depends on your experience, how you climb, and what makes you comfortable. If I was more than an occasional recreational mountaineer then I suppose I would grow more confident and change my ways, but I'm not and I haven't. I don't climb often and I don't climb hard. I just climb for fun and I'm most comfortable with this arrangement.

 

So.. different strokes for different folks. BTW this arrangement is for climbing with a single ice axe, not two tools.

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Why not to get a few feet of the 1/2" webbing and experiment? Go on a hike to place where you can safely practice self arrest. Tie in the webbing as a hand leash and then compare with the one attached directly to your harness. Compare both systems while ascending and then self arresting. When you self arrest, drop an ice axe and then try to recover it while you slide.

 

I personally prefer hand leash in most cases. Also on switchbacks, I use a trekking pole for my other hand, so I don't have to switch hands too often. But I see how direct attachment to the harness might be better option for other people. Once you know what works the best for you, you can invest and buy more professional hand or harness leash.

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My climbing partner isn't really giving me the option to experiment and use what I want, He's saying if I want to climb with him I WILL have a wrist leash. He says it's because he wouldn't feel safe if I chose to tether my axe in any other way that isnt a wrist leash. I have a tether that I made out of some tube webbing and some stretch cord that hooks to my harness so I can switch hands and he is saying its unsafe because those loops wouldnt support weight. Which, from what I understand, isnt the purpose of a leash/ tether anyway...

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I get the impression that if one of us was to lose grip and slip on steep ice that if the pick was still stuck in the ice the leash would be able to hold us...

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the purpose of a leash is many fold. the best use of a wrist leash for climbing is to support weight when on steep ground, in poilet traction, so the grip strength is not a factor.

tethers are for not losing tools.

 

Are you sure you wanna climb with someone who is so anal as to dictate that you must use a wrist leash? I run from people like that.

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so if you really want to climb with your roomie then i guess you're getting a legit wrist leash and using that. But if you want to climb mt hood more than you want to climb with your roomie you might explore other options.

 

re-reading your post now i think i know what he is saying about the wrist leash holding body-weight. Assuming you are not ice climbing, which would be a hell of an intro hood climb since it sounds like you haven't done any snow/ice climbing before. If you're self-belaying (piolet canne (cane)) and you fall, if you have a wrist leash, theoretically the downward vector with how you have your ax planted--when the tension hits the leash the ax will be driven further into the snow and stop your fall. This presumes the impact doesn't just blow the ax out of the snow and that while standing on a steep slope with only one point of anchor (your ax), if your feet gave out you would consciously fight your instantaneous adrenal response to grip the one and only thing you can as your life truly depends upon it. Like the banjo minnow, falling will trigger a genetic response to grip your ice axe as hard as you possibly can. Not to say it can't get pulled out of your hands..but you will be gripping.

 

as for the leash actually playing ANY role in self arrest--none in the original fall and possibly an additional hindrance. However if you botch an initial arrest then presumably it is at hand bouncing gently along side you as you slide down a hillside, or flailing all over as you cartwheel down the steep.

 

your choice of leash is about the last goddamn thing your partner's safety depends upon. self belay, self arrest, and cramponing skills are numero uno for your safety. a good head and willing to listen is probably number one for his safety. is he roping up to you without any protection other than to cross a glacier?

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He was fine with my tether up until yesterday, he was even going to make one too. But something changed his mind saying that anything other then a wrist leash would be unsafe. I don't mind using a wrist leash, I'm just trying to figure out his logic because I did a lot of reading across various forums, websites and the freedom of the hills book, and the only safety concern I read in any of them was the dangers of having an out of control ice axe flying around on a leash/tether while in an uncontrolled slide.

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Yeah we are are roping up, and we will have some pickets but im not sure if he intends on using them for the ascent. So pretty much if he slips ill be the one to have to catch him.

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as for the leash actually playing ANY role in self arrest--none in the original fall and possibly an additional hindrance. However if you botch an initial arrest then presumably it is at hand bouncing gently along side you as you slide down a hillside, or flailing all over as you cartwheel down the steep.

 

I agree with everything else you said, but disagree with the above. I was hit by rockfall once, and knocked down (literally). When I first realized what was going on, I was sliding feet first with my axe above me by attached by the wrist strap. If I had not had the strap, I would have been toast. I was able to arrest and slow myself to almost a stop before cartwheeling over some some rocks. Greatful ever since for that wrist strap. However it could have been any sort of tether, not a specific type.

 

Bill r_i: get some webbing and make a wrist strap.

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Bill r_i: get some webbing and make a wrist strap.

 

That was the plan I'm just going to shorten the tether and put a wrist loop on it.

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I'm not quite sure what he's suggesting, but commercially sold leashes are not rated to support weight. If you want to use the ax as an anchor do that, the best option is a sling/cord/webbing. Each has their own advantages.

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I'm not quite sure what he's suggesting, but commercially sold leashes are not rated to support weight. If you want to use the ax as an anchor do that, the best option is a sling/cord/webbing. Each has their own advantages.

 

I guess where that's where I was confused because that's what i thought as well. I have no problem making and using a leash but he was making it seem like anything i used needed to be able to support weight and really do more then just make sure the ax doesn't slide away.

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as for the leash actually playing ANY role in self arrest--none in the original fall and possibly an additional hindrance. However if you botch an initial arrest then presumably it is at hand bouncing gently along side you as you slide down a hillside, or flailing all over as you cartwheel down the steep.

 

I agree with everything else you said, but disagree with the above. I was hit by rockfall once, and knocked down (literally). When I first realized what was going on, I was sliding feet first with my axe above me by attached by the wrist strap. If I had not had the strap, I would have been toast. I was able to arrest and slow myself to almost a stop before cartwheeling over some some rocks. Greatful ever since for that wrist strap. However it could have been any sort of tether, not a specific type.

 

Bill r_i: get some webbing and make a wrist strap.

 

birddog: I should have been clearer and agree with your line of thought. By original fall I meant if one went down to arrest due to some incident on a rope team, or if a step blew out, or one is practicing self-arrest, the leash isn't playing any mechanical role in that process. But if one cannot instantaneously arrest, is stunned (like from rock in your case) and cannot immediately get on top of the ax, that is where the functionality/benefit of the leash comes in.

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Yeah we are are roping up, and we will have some pickets but im not sure if he intends on using them for the ascent. So pretty much if he slips ill be the one to have to catch him.

Since no one else will say it I will... safe practice is to NOT rope up on a steep slope unless you can place reliable pro. Pickets will be next to useless in new snow. It is not very likely you'll be able to catch him if he slips on a steep slope, meaning he will pull you off and you both will go for a ride. This is an oft-repeated tragedy on Mt. Hood.

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First rule of climbing: HANG ON TO THE AXE.

 

Second rule of climbing: HANG ON TO THE AXE.

 

Third rule of climbing: HANG ON TO THE AXE. :grin:

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