Ally Swinton climbing. Photo courtesy of Dave Searle
I get the, "which ice tool and which umbilical," question at least a couple of times a week.
My 2 cent on the subject.
It is ridiculous, silly really. As in dumb, dumb and dumber.
Not the question or those asking, but the guys building this stuff.
Like crampons there needs to be a norm in the industry. Best system yet I have seen? An incidentally the most fail proof system to date?
Petzl Nomic (or Ergo) with a Blue Ice Boa leash. And I have climbed on most everything available. From 30+ year old home made umbilicals to the first Grivel clip on versions to the latest versions from Grivel and BD.
Here is why I think the Nomic/ Boa combo should and could be the norm if the manufactures would simply *think* about the process for a minute. Huge disservice to us not to IMO.
Hole in handle and full strength? Easy to do in any axe during production. Check
Eliminates any issues with dropped/disconnected biners. Check
Easy and quick on and off the tools. Seconds in fact. Check
As strong and as simple as you want to make the nylon. Check
Cheap to manufacture. Check
Grivel made the first commerical umbilicals I am aware of. At some point early on they offered a wire gate biner with a really stiff gate as the attachment method. Wire gate biners will not reliably stay attached to a fixed clip in point on a tool They will eventually unlatch and lever off. Common occurance now.
Grivel solved the problem quickly by adding a locking screw gate biner instead of the wire gate.
BD simply copied the earlier and faulty Grivel system. Prone to failure from day one. Stiffening the wire gate is not the answer. Just a band aid actually.
I know of one fatal fall ice climbing last season where umbilicals were in use. I've been told that on inspection after the fall one tool had disconnected entirely from the tool and both gates on the umbilicals were on the wrong side of the biner gate opening.
One has to wonder if a more reliable attachment system might have resulted in a shorter, more controlled initial fall, with less tramatic results.
The current commercial umbilicals are not designed to hold a leader fall. But everyone knows that is how they are being used. And have been now for decades. Insurance for the leader to avoid a potential fall and security so a tool isn't dropped.
Easy to solve this problem on any tool with a little redesign of the shaft. Easy to up the strength on the umbilicals by ditching the "biner" of any sort and building from a better and stronger webbing. There is a lot of room for improvement here with both the tool attachment point and the umbilicals themselves.
I've climbed on almost every modern tool. And on every commercial umbilical since the early preproduction and production models from both Grivel and Black Diamond. With the resulting minor failures as the umbilicals snapped off mid route on many of those combos. It is just happen stance that I like the Nomic and have used he Blue Ice Boa leash. I didn't plan this. It was a first time ice climber (thanks Jim) that showed me a better and cleaner way to lash up the Nomic with a BOA leash. Not the technique I was originally using
But there are lots of ways to do this and several decades of history behind it:
Then there is the "Best" way.
This is not an endorsement of "just" the Nomic or "just" the Boa leash. It is only a statement on an "easy fix". This is the umbilical style that will works well on that particular style attachment point. It is so simple. Why isn't everyone doing it?
the initial loop in the umbilical leash and a full strength hole milled through the handle of a Nomic
Webbing flattened and threaded through hole, very easy
Same picture different angle, seconds are all that is required here
Pull the loop through and spread it
Turn the loop back and circle the handle just below the hole
Pull the long side of the leash snug...you are done. This tool is set up for a right hand to keep the webbing bulk to a minimum
"Right hand" tool again, showing the "smooth" side of the Umbilical that the palm of your hand would go in.
This shows the "bulk" side of the tool. Not all that bulky, really.
Easy on and off in just seconds even after being fully weighted.
Blue Ice Boa leash is currently sold out world wide. Check your dealer's shelf in the EU.
None in North America at the moment.
Seriously, I couldn't make this stuff up! (Thanks Charlie)
Check out the video below: