Forums Splitboard Talk Forum ice ax or whippet for self arrest ?
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  • #570111
    jjue
    14 Posts

    I am a tele skier , and my teenage son is a snowboarder who is joining me now on spring backcountry trips .. I always ski with a whippet when descending steep spring drops … I am thinking of having my son board with an ice ax or a whippet and teaching him self arrest … when do you guys decide to use a self arrest tool and which do you ride with ? My son has resisted this idea as he is used to descending resorts , of course , without any self arrest tools and doesn’t like the idea of going down with anything in hand …

    #606016
    96avs01
    875 Posts

    I have used both. First and foremost, he needs to learn all the methods of self arrest with an ice axe with both hands. Then practice the same methods with a whippet, as you can’t get as much leverage and pick clearance so it has a slightly different feel. Once you are comfortable with his abilities to self arrest then the decision on which tool to use on descent is more dependent on the conditions and the descent route.

    I typically use my Whippet, as I personally think there is less chance to impale yourself with it versus an axe. But for anything greater than 40 degrees with any possibility for ice patches I would likely use my axe. I also like to have my Whippet to push along any flat or low angle stretches.

    My $0.02

    165 Venture Divide/Spark Frankenburners/La Sportiva Spantiks
    163W Jones Solution/Phantom Alphas/Dynafit TLT5s
    162 Furberg

    Chris

    #606017
    gregm
    79 Posts

    I mostly use a whippet splitboarding because if it’s steep enough for an ice axe I’m usually on skis. Even on skis I usually have a whippet in hand and the axe on the pack in case I want it. What a whippet will do for you is give you enough drag to get your edge or edges below you which is the better way to stop or slow down anyway.

    I’ve mostly actually mostly arrested with the whippet while skinning firm snow. I’ve developed a lighting fast whippet reflex that can be amusing when I just have a regular ski pole.

    A big thing your son will learn is that is OK to ride with a pole or two, even just holding one or both like a baton. Snowboarders can be resistant to using poles but they’re quite usefull in the backcountry: little things like stopping standing up in soft snow, staying out of trees wells, or ginving yourself a little push.

    In space no one can hear you scream.
    In the backcountry no one can see you use poles and think you’re a skier.

    #606018
    jjue
    14 Posts

    Thanks guys ! very helpful info !

    #606019
    Ecobrad
    2068 Posts

    I know very few splitters that ride with an ice axe or whippet. I can think of a few instances where I’ve seen it on extremely steep and/or ice slopes but 99.9% of the time it would be overkill. I’ve been told that the risk of impalling yourself is greater than the fall hazard most of the time. Take a look at all the riders riding the super steeps in the Sierra the last few weeks. No self arrest tools.

    The uphill is a different story.

    All the being said, the cover of Backcountry Mag. a few months ago was a picture of John Griber riding with an axe.

    My .02 with aknowledgement that I’m a relative newbie and do not ride gnar gnar lines.

    I’d be interested in what Scott Newsome thinks.

    #606020
    mtnrider
    740 Posts

    Nor am I a Pro rider but I tend feel that if you need to ride down a steep w/ an ice axe or whippet you might want to hone your skills a little more at the resort.

    I’ve been out in the bc w/ many a rider who could use some more practice actually making turns. Well I tend to feel responsible for people I am w/ and hopefully like wise w/ me – I’ve been nervous on occasion.

    I just don’t see anyone stopping themselves while making a heelside turn down something steep enough to need and ice axe. How do you flip your board over so that you’re on your stomach after you fall while hauling ass down the mtn?

    #606021
    96avs01
    875 Posts

    @mtnrider wrote:

    Nor am I a Pro rider but I tend feel that if you need to ride down a steep w/ an ice axe or whippet you might want to hone your skills a little more at the resort.

    That’s crap IMHO, the resort is a controlled environment for the most part. Perhaps the people you feel are in need of more practice are in fact overreaching their abilities, as backcountry and resort riding are two completely different beasts. You need to have a much greater level of knowledge for the terrain and snow conditions, and properly assess what is within your abilites.

    I ride with an arrest device in my hand, in most conditions, in case I unexpectedly hit ice I am not expecting with too much speed and lose an edge. That has nothing to due with the slope either, as one could also lose an edge on moderate terrain and need to quickly stop prior to a terrain trap. Arresting a heelside slip would definitely be quite difficult, but I will gladly take the ability to have a chance to limit a slide and the small risk of impalement vs. having no chance to control/slowdown/stop an unexpected slide. To each their own, but I personally would never consider someone a better rider because they opt not to descend with a self arrest device.

    165 Venture Divide/Spark Frankenburners/La Sportiva Spantiks
    163W Jones Solution/Phantom Alphas/Dynafit TLT5s
    162 Furberg

    Chris

    #606022
    Mumbles
    753 Posts

    I really have no idea, and I’m new to splitboarding but not riding. I have long snowshoed into places, but the split opens up a world of terrain that I had never reached. I pondered the whippet vs axe thought after seeing many photos in TRs here of various riders with one or the other. Having used an ice axe for years doing some light climbing I worried about self inflicted injuries with the point of the axe, not with the pick or adze. I thought that the shaft lenght of the axe was more of an issue in free space or in minor tumbles. After discussing it with many veteran members of a local mountaineering group I decided to try the axe option in a modified fashion. I purchased a used axe from a local shop then shortened the shaft to approximate the length of my forearm. I feel, but still don’t really know, that this makes me less likely to puncture my own thorax, belly or legs. I have only ridden a couple of days with it but for now I think that it is light enough to merit carrying it along, safe enough to not be a risk to myself and still an optional tool to assist when somethign unforeseen causes me to loose my edge. The geek in me has even laid on the floor, boots in bindings and twisted around to see if I can begin to make any solid contact while sliding heel edge and ass down the hill. For this, due to the angles I ride I think I could do this safely turning from right to left enabling both hands to grip the axe, but I doubt I could do so from left to right. Those are my inexperienced thoughts and why I chose this option, who knows the right answer, maybe only you for your own situation.

    #606023
    BGnight
    1382 Posts

    I ride w/ an axe in many occasions. In fact I’ve used them gaining entry into the ripper and powerhouse chute (featured in the dana plateau threads) when conditions are firm. This entails dropping in toeside plunging the axe for self belay. Then I start making turns w/ the axe where it is steep and i feel i can use it for self arrest if my edge gives out. Once I get comfortable I stop and put it away so I can ride faster. And I will honestly say I am more solid on steeps than most here, but have no shame riding w/ an axe. The whole deal about impaling yourself is stupid. Sure, once your hauling ass on lower angle slopes an axe becomes a detriment, but on the upper steeper sections it just makes you safer. A lot of skiers are jealous because they cannot drop in w/ one effectively. And to say that if you need an axe you shouldn’t be on the slope is silly too. That’s like saying if you’re climbing a 5.6 you shouldn’t need a rope. And I’ve self arrested myself on my heel edge before. It’s very easy. If I didn’t I woulda went for a long ride too.

    Bottom line is dropping in on something steep w/ somewhat firm/good self arresting conditions w/ an axe is safer than w/out one given that you know how to use it and know when to put it away.

    #606024
    Shep
    525 Posts

    I’ve never been on stuff where I thought an ice-axe or whippet was necessary, but I have found myself riding with my poles in hand. It’s a good skill to get used to for runouts and honestly just to get yourself back up in powder (make an X with the poles and push off the center). It definitely feels way weird if you are not used to it, but if you and your son are out and he gets stuck on some flats, I think he’ll appreciate the utility of it pretty quickly (hint hint) 🙂

    As to which to use, it’s a tough call. I learned the hard way that 3-piece poles are pretty much a necessity for splitting, but the whippet only comes in a two-piece pole. On the other hand, an ice-axe is a lot of extra weight if you aren’t in a situation where you need a real mountaineering tool. 🙄

    Shep

    #606025
    TEX
    2486 Posts

    Well jjue …as you can see this seems to be a matter of opion. I travel uphill with a whippet as one pole. Im using poles anyway so one may as well be a whippet. Ashep pointed out they come as a two piece so they are long but what you want to do is buy another set of BD poles that are 3 piece and use the lower half to make your whippet a 3 piece.
    I have used the whippet at least 4 times on an Icy skin up where I slipped . No I was exposed to a cliff or anything hugely steep, but it does stop you in an instant and you can get your shit back together. It also gives up a secure point to hold onto while you get you shit together.And the biggest thing is you dont slide down and loose that 500 feet of elevation you just skinned
    I will change over to an Ice axe for climbing anything above ….oh 45 or 50 degrees as its nice to have a good handle to hold onto as you climb.
    I have rode down with an Ice axe on steep Icy slopes but I feel just as confidant riding down the same slope with a whippet.
    I think my problem with my ice axe is its smooth handle and the fact that Im wearing thick nylon gloves. However Im looking into getting a new axe with a handle.
    If I had to choose between the two I would go with a whippet, Again thats just a personal choice for me based on the fact that the whippet just feels more stable in my hand.

    #606026
    brg
    141 Posts

    I ride with an axe when the exposure is great on steep lines. I find the axe to be more useful than a whippet. My bd poles work fine if its not to steep once it gets steep I like the axe. If the snow is soft enough that I can edge if i were to fall then I don’t ride with the axe if I think i could slide for life 2000′ i have my axe in hand. Its really all about comfort level.

    #606027
    jimw
    1421 Posts

    I have 2 Whippets, and I use them on every trip. I find them to be indispensable for the uphill, especially when you’re skinning across some frozen traverse and you slip. The whippet can stop you pretty much instantly before you really start sliding. They are also great for climbing steep stuff. I, personally, don’t really bring the axe much anymore, but YMMV!!!

    Poles are also very useful in general in the backcountry as people have mentioned, for helping get across flat sections, keeping balance when riding with a large overnight pack, getting up when you fall in deep pow, etc.

    As far as using it as a self-arrest device, I don’t think it’s generally as effective as an axe, but it’s still useful. I use one (collapsed) on really steep stuff. It can also be helpful when maneuvering around in a tight steep chute entrance, similar to what BGnight was talking about.

    I think it is most useful when you are going slow. Think of when you’d use an axe when climbing, you are basically standing still and then you slip. Your chances of successfully arresting are greater the slower you are going.

    When you’re riding, you’re usually already going somewhat fast unless you’re picking your way around the entrance to a chute. Once you get in a slide for life situation, I think the utility of an axe or whippet is questionable, versus just trying to get upright enough to use your other main arrest tool – your board edges. Not that I don’t think the axe/whippet can be helpful, as I mentioned I will carry a whippet in steep areas, and it gives me a little more peace of mind.

    In any case, you will want to practice self-arresting with whatever tool you use, so that it is second nature if you need to do it. Note that the typical climbing self-arrest moves may not apply, especially if you’re heelside, so you might need to adapt the techniques somewhat. (…which reminds me, I need to do more practicing…)

    The one time I was in a serious slide for life, I had the Whippet out, and I was sliding heelside, and my only thought was getting that heel edge dug in enough to stop, which is what eventually happened. Nowadays when I’m dropping steep stuff, I usually drop in toeside since I feel I have a little more edge control on that side, and I’m already in position to arrest if I need to.

    You can mod the Whippet to attach to the lowers of the Expedition, so that it’s a 3-section pole. Most people here who use a Whippet have done this mod. You just have to make sure that you have the right diameter lowers (BD have changed pole diameters over the years, so depending on which year’s Whippet you have, you may need different Expedition lowers). There are some comments on this here.

    Oh yeah, and wear a helmet! 🙂

    #606028
    mtnrider
    740 Posts

    @96avs01 wrote:

    You need to have a much greater level of knowledge for the terrain and snow conditions, and properly assess what is within your abilites.

    I ride with an arrest device in my hand, in most conditions, in case I unexpectedly hit ice I am not expecting with too much speed and lose an edge. That has nothing to due with the slope either, as one could also lose an edge on moderate terrain and need to quickly stop prior to a terrain trap. Arresting a heelside slip would definitely be quite difficult, but I will gladly take the ability to have a chance to limit a slide and the small risk of impalement vs. having no chance to control/slowdown/stop an unexpected slide. To each their own, but I personally would never consider someone a better rider because they opt not to descend with a self arrest device.

    You’re entitled to your opinion, but I’ve ridden w/ plenty of folk on this board that SHOULDN’T be out riding Powerhouse or some other epic chute. They may have a excellent grasp on terrain and avi conditions but they couldn’t link turns w/o skidding. Right Eco? j/k

    FYI, they resort may be “controlled” but accidents always happen. I’m pretty sure there was a avi inbounds @ Mammoth last year as well as one @ mtn. high that actually killed people this year. SO IMHO, your theory on resort riding is crap too. I never said anyone was lame for riding w/ an axe or whippet for that matter. I just think people can improve their skills a lot more before they venture out. Getting impaled seems kind of silly, I too would rather get stabbed than have a death fall.

    Ride whatever slope you want, have what ever gear out you want. Don’t let it give you a false sense that your skills are a better rider than you really are though.

    #606029
    96avs01
    875 Posts

    @mtnrider wrote:

    You’re entitled to your opinion, but I’ve ridden w/ plenty of folk on this board that SHOULDN’T be out riding Powerhouse or some other epic chute.

    I’m sure that is indeed the case, so the error falls in their ability to properly assess their skill level for the given conditions/route and the added risk they place on their fellow riders.

    @mtnrider wrote:

    SO IMHO, your theory on resort riding is crap too.

    I never said in-bounds avy/accidents don’t happen. My reference to a controlled environment at resorts is that the snow pack has a much greater level of maintenance (grooming, avy control, etc…) that provides a more consistent riding surface than one typically finds in the backcountry.

    Nevertheless it still remains the riders responsibility to choose lines within their ability for the given conditions and then to ride them under control…with or without an arrest device. Cheers

    165 Venture Divide/Spark Frankenburners/La Sportiva Spantiks
    163W Jones Solution/Phantom Alphas/Dynafit TLT5s
    162 Furberg

    Chris

    #606030
    Ecobrad
    2068 Posts

    They may have a excellent grasp on terrain and avi conditions but they couldn’t link turns w/o skidding. Right Eco? j/k

    You talking about my shitty decent of that ice invested couloir on Leavit peak? Man, that sucked. I remember skidding out 4 or 5 times on that fucker. I wish I could have seen you and PJ ride that cause I could definitely use a lesson on riding boiler plate.

    PS Ice axe or whippet would have been no use, just skillz.

    #606031
    96avs01
    875 Posts

    @Ecobrad wrote:

    ice infested couloir on Leavit peak?

    Which side of Leavitt peak? Was thinking about hitting the north facing bowl this weekend after seeing that 108 is open.

    165 Venture Divide/Spark Frankenburners/La Sportiva Spantiks
    163W Jones Solution/Phantom Alphas/Dynafit TLT5s
    162 Furberg

    Chris

    #606032
    Ecobrad
    2068 Posts

    @96avs01 wrote:

    Which side of Leavitt peak? Was thinking about hitting the north facing bowl this weekend after seeing that 108 is open.

    The one on the left. I think it’s on the N-NW side.

    #606033
    96avs01
    875 Posts

    @Ecobrad wrote:

    The one on the left. I think it’s on the N-NW side.

    Thanks! BTW, when was the pick taken?

    165 Venture Divide/Spark Frankenburners/La Sportiva Spantiks
    163W Jones Solution/Phantom Alphas/Dynafit TLT5s
    162 Furberg

    Chris

    #606034
    TEX
    2486 Posts

    1972

    Nixon was the man and Vietnam was the place.

    And Eco was chargin!

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