I have been meaning to get this up on here, but decided to make sure it would hold up at least the rest of the season. So after about 4-5 months in the back country and about the same number of self arrests and other uses including a bottle opener at the end of a good ride I have decided to finally post this.
I remember the first time I saw one of Black Diamonds whippets during an early season session. Since we were so spoiled with great snow this season, I didn't think it was a very practical piece of gear having a head that was thin. I loved the idea if you were planning on climbing and riding ice?!? I also remember it being a little long and heavy. At the time, I was using gear from numerous people being so new in the sport so I wasn't really looking to be light and dialed in a setup without trying out a few options first. I remember a common complaint that the whippet was too long, but there was a mod to combine parts of different poles to help correct this and turn a whippet into a 3 piece pole verses the stock 2 piece. Since It really wasn't an option for me to spend so much cash on multiple poles without it cutting in to my gas money to go ride, I decided to make one myself.
After I dropped a little cash on a set of poles at Sierra Trading Post, my buddy was looking to trade up his shorter and much lighter set for something more solid. The poles were almost half the weight which would allow me a little more lead way on the whippet head I was about to make. I started out with a 1 1/2 inch round of 6061 and through a process of lathe and mill work all done by hand ended up with a pretty good head which in theory would work better in hard pack to fairly icy conditions. Now how to mount it??? Not knowing how the whippet is mounted on a Black Diamond, I first thought that perhaps the handle would be a solid piece and a long and thick enough screw would work. Not a chance... I ended up using a solid piece of 316 bar stock and turned it down so a very tight interference fit would keep the head from flexing too much when self arresting. I pressed the ss piece into the pole and then into the home made whippet head. A couple of pins later to keep this thing together due to expansion and contraction of the different metals at different temps and it was done. The total length of this pole is 32 inches and weighs in at 15oz (the stock pole is 9oz).
This was the first one I made and I never really thought it needed to be better than it already is. Any changes now would only be cosmetic like anodizing or something along those lines. I could lighten it up a little by hollowing out the head a little bit. After having a few people try it out, they all thought that it greatly out performed black diamonds whippet and I think it is still lighter too. I did make one more out of 2" 6061 bar stock which made it a little bit bigger and figured out the mounting a little cleaner, but in this case, the first attempt was by far the better size. It has at least one more feature as it opens beer bottles with ease!!!
The problem with the weight of the stock whippet is that the head is made from heavy steel. I haven't seen one of these apart or how they are mounted, but they seem to be way over engineered. Then again, I imagine they don't want to have to replace them if they break from normal use either. I started off with an ultra light pole to begin with, so I was already at an advantage. Not to mention, I am not a very big guy and I tend to not be quite as hard on gear as most people I know. It did take me a day to make this one on a manual mill and cnc machining would not help much on the timing, so I don't think it would really be worth or capable of doing much in this market. Black Diamonds whippet looks to be made from stamped steel which would take mere minutes to make and would most definitely be cheaper than any machined product it would compete with in the market. However, I wouldn't mind making one here or there for people interested in trading for other gear I might be looking for.