Forum
Buying gear? Please use these links to help 14ers.com:

More info...

Other ways to help...

Whippet good, axe better

Info, conditions and gear related to skiing or riding Colorado Peaks, including the 14ers! Ski/Ride Trip Reports

Whippet good, axe better

Postby pioletski » Wed Jun 17, 2009 1:36 pm

Greetings, y'all. I thought I would share my observations about the increasingly popular Black Diamond Whippet self-arrest ski pole with the club. While Benners and I were on Pike's a couple of weeks ago, it came up in our conversation that although we both felt warm and fuzzy and secure with Whippet in hand, neither one of us had actually tried arresting with it. Dawson describes it as being less effective than an ice axe, but there doesn't seem to be much information available.

So, the other day I was coaching a friend in ice-axe technique on St. Mary's Glacier, and tried a few stops with the Whippet. I agree with Dawson, it is harder to use and less effective than an ice-axe, but it helps a lot if you grip it like you would hold an axe. Usually, you hold it like a ski pole, and the pick points forward. This is a great position for a low-dagger technique, but makes it really awkward (i.e. slow) to get the pick into the snow for a self-arrest. Putting your opposite hand across the top of the pick only helps a little, as it is still hard to get the pick pointing into the snow. So... in future, when I'm on something that feels sketchy, I plan to grip with my hand over the top of the pick, as one would hold an ice-axe (and maybe shorten the pole 5 cm or so to compensate). I found that in this position the tool works like a clumsy axe - pick too short, shaft too long and whippy, but reasonably effective. This grip is odd for skiing, but I would only expect to hold it that way for a limited time.

Comments welcome as always... :D
The greater danger, for most of us, is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low, and we reach it.
- Michelangelo

User avatar
Posts: 2683
Joined: Mon Aug 07, 2006 9:22 am
Location: Glenwood Springs, CO

Re: Whippet good, axe better

Postby cheeseburglar » Wed Jun 17, 2009 3:15 pm

I don't feel warm and fuzzy around those things. Every time I've skiied with someone who has one (I've never used one) I can't help but think they are going to stab themselves.
I've never heard of anybody stabbing themselves with one, maybe I've just been scared by those first aid classes where they talk about sucking chest wounds.
The marmot said “Nobody is perfect and you are not nobody.”

Random FoTH Quotes

User avatar
Posts: 920
Joined: Mon Oct 06, 2008 2:50 pm
Location: Chama Valley, NM

Re: Whippet good, axe better

Postby skiwall » Wed Jun 17, 2009 3:25 pm

cheeseburglar wrote:I don't feel warm and fuzzy around those things. Every time I've skiied with someone who has one (I've never used one) I can't help but think they are going to stab themselves.
I've never heard of anybody stabbing themselves with one, maybe I've just been scared by those first aid classes where they talk about sucking chest wounds.


ditto
"A good woman knows her place is in the backcountry." - PW '08

Posts: 700
Joined: Sun May 13, 2007 12:32 pm
Location: Golden

Re: Whippet good, axe better

Postby Hacksaw » Wed Jun 17, 2009 3:29 pm

cheeseburglar wrote:I don't feel warm and fuzzy around those things. Every time I've skiied with someone who has one (I've never used one) I can't help but think they are going to stab themselves.
I've never heard of anybody stabbing themselves with one, maybe I've just been scared by those first aid classes where they talk about sucking chest wounds.


I remember an accident report in one of the older Accidents In North American Mountaineering , where a guy stabed himself in the leg with a Ramer self-arrest grip ski pole. I think he had to be helicoptered out, because it was avery serious injury.
#-o
"True love is much easier to find with a helicopter."

User avatar
Posts: 83
Joined: Tue May 30, 2006 2:56 pm
Location: Los Alamos, NM

Re: Whippet good, axe better

Postby scotthsu » Wed Jun 17, 2009 3:49 pm

I arrested myself on a small fall just a few weeks ago using a Whippet (NW couloir of "Blue Pk'" where there was about 1-2" of new on top of a very firm base, and the slope angle was probably in the high-30 degree range). I agree it was awkward but it worked. Since we got Whippets, we have left our ice axes behind on most of our ski outings, including Grizzly N chute, American Peak couloirs, as well as many other moderate 14ers (we did bring ice axe and whippet up Wilson Pk). However, we do bring crampons for the steeper stuff, and it seems that crampons/Whippet are a reasonable combination for most snowclimbs and ski descents, as long as the consequences for a fall aren't extreme. As for the self-stabbing, I can see it happening, but it hasn't happened to us yet. [-o<

edit: I just noticed that I have an ice axe in my avatar (Railroad Couloir on Pikes Peak). I didn't have a Whippet back then, but I'd easily go with the crampons/Whippet combo if I did the Railroad Couloir again.

another edit: Just to state the obvious, unless you are skiing with your ice axe at the ready, then obviously it's good to have the Whippet for arresting a fall while skiing (which is what I did on Blue Pk). I think this is its primary intended use.
Last edited by scotthsu on Wed Jun 17, 2009 4:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Re: Whippet good, axe better

Postby pioletski » Wed Jun 17, 2009 4:27 pm

skiwall wrote:
cheeseburglar wrote:I don't feel warm and fuzzy around those things. Every time I've skiied with someone who has one (I've never used one) I can't help but think they are going to stab themselves.
I've never heard of anybody stabbing themselves with one, maybe I've just been scared by those first aid classes where they talk about sucking chest wounds.


ditto


Warmth and fuzziness are relative - in this case, relative to going without a self-arrest device in hand. Agreed, however, any sharp object is potentially hazardous, especially while skiing a steep slope.

Scott, I agree that a whippet is a reasonable tool for ascending on relatively easy ground, though I doubt I'll get out of the habit of carrying my axe for most snow climbs.

I was kinda hoping for more input about how people are actually holding or using this device.
The greater danger, for most of us, is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low, and we reach it.
- Michelangelo

User avatar
Posts: 51
Joined: Thu May 03, 2007 10:38 am
Location: GJ

Re: Whippet good, axe better

Postby Britette » Wed Jun 17, 2009 5:17 pm

I love my whippet! I use one only. It's great in conjunction with an axe for climbing colouirs - axe in by the shaft and whippet with the pick. As far as skiing goes that is the main reason I have it, but have not yet had reason to use it (thankfully), at least not on purpose. I did have one scarey moment skiing the Birthday Chutes on Sneffels on a section which was steep enough that the pick caught in the slope by my side when I was making a turn - it stopped me pretty quick (when I didnt want to be stopped). But I havent stabbed myself yet - I have shields for the pick which are on except when I'm really using it.

User avatar
Posts: 244
Joined: Tue Dec 25, 2007 8:32 pm
Location: Monument, CO

Re: Whippet good, axe better

Postby bckcntryskr » Wed Jun 17, 2009 5:42 pm

I use the Whippet on most descents and hold it like a normal pole. I have played around with in firm conditions and felt that I could perform a self arrest if needed. I would by far feel safer with an axe for self arrest. Of course an axe is not a comfartable ski tool. I actually carry an axe everytime I go out. They are very useful tools to have for survival, anchors, climbing and whaking the occasional hard charging marmot. I have also used the whippet when climbing in mixed conditions. It extends your arm length and gets a fairly secure bite on rock.....
Did I mention that "I hate postholing"

User avatar
Posts: 738
Joined: Sun Apr 30, 2006 10:29 am
Location: Centennial, CO

Re: Whippet good, axe better

Postby benners » Sun Feb 14, 2010 6:39 pm

Resurrecting an old thread, the decision to ski with/without a whippet is all about the balance of risk in my opinion. If you're skiing something benign where a fall wouldn't be very dangerous, it may be better to ski without a whippet as you're arguably only bringing on more risk by using one. If on the other hand you're skiing something in which a fall would be deadly, but a small arrest could otherwise save you (like on 30-40 degree ice with a bad runout for example), then the danger of self-impalement is outweighed by the benefit of having an arrest tool in hand. In this type of terrain a fall without arrest capabilities would almost certainly be deadly, whereas a fall which includes a whippet gouge but also a successful arrest may not be. Balancing these risks vs. their rewards is up to the individual. Either way I can't see how skiing with an ice axe in hand is any safer than skiing with a whippet. Sacrificing the balance and stability that comes along with a ski pole to be able to carry an ice axe seems like a much surer way to impale yourself while skiing. I've seen people ski with a pole and an axe in the same hand, but this too seems to me like it would be more dangerous and awkward than skiing with an axe built into the top of your pole.

One last point to consider is that whippets are handy for climbing as well, so the down is not the only thing to consider here. Often times I too will leave the axe at home and rely on the whippet as my climbing tool, which reduces the weight I'm carrying and is often times more efficient than continually pulling off and re-attaching my axe to my pack.

User avatar
Posts: 1205
Joined: Mon Feb 27, 2006 3:37 pm
Location: Aspen, CO

Re: Whippet good, axe better

Postby Jcwhite » Thu Feb 25, 2010 3:17 pm

double whippets.
"Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming WOW! WHAT A RIDE."- Hunter S Thompson

User avatar
Posts: 790
Joined: Sun Mar 23, 2008 7:07 pm
Location: The High Country

Re: Whippet good, axe better

Postby RoanMtnMan » Thu Feb 25, 2010 7:17 pm

Depending on terrain I carry 1 whippet, 2 whippets, or no whippets. There is no doubt in many situations that it increases safety as opposed to decreasing it. If you are not a confident skier though, you probably shouldn't carry one. Since you brought up Lou, his son likely saved his own life a couple weeks ago because he was carrying his whippets. And that kid can ski, trust me.

http://www.wildsnow.com/2557/winchester-lookout-larabee/
Always follow the 7 P's. Proper Planning & Preparation, Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.

"An adventure is misery and discomfort, relived in the safety of reminiscence.” --Marco Polo

www.CalebWrayPhotography.com

User avatar
Posts: 738
Joined: Sun Apr 30, 2006 10:29 am
Location: Centennial, CO

Re: Whippet good, axe better

Postby benners » Fri Feb 26, 2010 11:17 am

Wow, that is one scary, yet sweet TR. I'm glad he was able to make it out of that situation unscathed, definitely a good read for bringing things back into perspective. It also sounds like a second whippet could be something to look into...

Next

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests