We have heard that leashes are no longer really relevant for ice climbing, but we bet that you don’t know why is it so. Therefore today we are going to talk about Ice Climbing leashes and about their advantages and disadvantages.
So let’s talk about the most important question that should we use leashes ice climbing? Well we should use leashes while ice climbing because ice climbing leashes assist you in holding onto your tools, but they can also get in the way and increase your risk of getting hurt when you fall.
Leashes used to be commonplace in ice climbing, but they have become mostly redundant nowadays because gear manufacturers continue to produce more and more innovative ice axes, and ice climbing is growing as a sport, therefore people are less inclined to use leashes. Most of the guiding companies do not mention them at all while teaching new learners, and even veteran ice climbers ditched their leashes back in the year 2005 for the extra freedom of movement that it offers.
What Are Ice Climbing Leashes?
Now we come to the most important question that what are these ice climbing leashes? Well to answer this we will start from the very first. If you are just starting ice climbing, you might see leashes as the cord that stretches from the bottom of the axe to the harness to prevent it from falling if you dropped it.
In fact, you are actually using a tether here, and they’re used primarily on multi-pitch routes or alpine routes where dropping the axe is a serious concern. Leases are devices that hook onto your axe and attach to your wrist, so that you can keep an eye on the axe while holding it taut.
These tools are actually the only way to get a good grip on steep terrain . All you have to do is put the leash around your wrist, attached the other end to your axe, and it will support you when you grip onto the ace. With the leash, you can swing your axe hands-free, which is great when you’re climbing long routes. It will keep your axe straight when you swing it, and maintain the balance of your axe while you swung it.
Nonetheless, as ice climbing gained popularity and more gnarly climbs were attempted, gear manufacturers began to adapt and created ergonomically shaped ice tools. These leashes have curved handles and rubber grips designed to help you hang on without the use of leashes and once that happened, ice climbers began to challenge themselves by climbing routes without leashes as a testament to their strength and cardio.
Within a few years, ice climbing leashes became something of a relic, and today many people no longer use them.
Check out this video for more:
Advantages of Using Leashes
So, now as we have come to know about ice climbing leashes, now it is the high time to talk about it’s advantages. Many people will have you convinced that there are absolutely no redeeming features about these at all, but that is absolutely wrong. Let’s have a look at it.
While the benefits of leashes have been mostly diminished by the design of modern ice climbing tools but that does not mean they have completely disappeared. Here are three main advantages that can be mentioned:
- A better swing is produced by ice leashes
- Holding the tool easier is made easier with them
- If you drop the tool, you won’t have to worry about it.
Now, let’s discuss all these advantages in details.
Will Gadd, once said:
“Leashed tools swing better. I have yet to get a better swing out of a leashless tool than a well set-up leashed tool. The perfectly relaxed fast swing is the holy grail of leashless tools… I’ve swung both thousands or maybe millions of times by now, and I have yet to swing a leashless tool that swings as fluidly as a leashed tool.”
In ice climbing, your swing is extremely important and you need to be able to drive the tool into the ice powerfully and in a precise manner. Simultaneously, you also need to minimize the energy that it takes to do so.
Ice climbing tools which are leashed provide far more leverage for getting a good placement than tools which are not leashed. If Will Gadd , who is know to be as one of the best ice climbers ever, can not get his ice climbing tool to stick as well without a leash then it is safe to say that most other people won’t.
It is still possible to get good placements with a leashless tool, though they will not be as good as with a leash.
Falling in ice climbing is something that must be avoided at all costs, and ice climbing leashes help with this and as they are looped around your wrists, they will allow you to take the weight off your forearms and relax a bit on your tools. The leashes will hold you in place even if you let go with your hands.
This is a massive benefit on long and tiring routes because if you feel yourself getting tired, then you can just let go with your hands and hang on the leashes for a few moments while you restore your strength again.
Less chance of Dropping Your Tools
With a leash, you don’t need to worry about that because they are attached to your wrists, you are a lot less likely to fumble with the handle and spend on of these spinning towards the ground and this is extra useful if you are resting or putting it in an ice screw. Anyone who has climbed before knows how does it feels to stab your tool into the ice and leave it there while you place a screw.
Disadvantages of Leashes
What is it about leashes that has caused their popularity to decline in recent years, despite their many benefits? Apart from the development of more futuristic tools that do not require leashes, there are a few main reasons people have stopped using them:
- Less maneuverability
- The difficulty of setting them up
- The increased fall danger
This is probably the largest reason that people ditched their leashes because we have seen as routes get more technical and ice climbing gets harder, you need to get more creative with the beta you are using and unfortunately leashes tend to get in the way of that.
It becomes almost impossible to do something as simple as matching both hands on an axe and then swapping hands to move laterally when you’re leashed. As a result, you have limited movement and creativity when climbing.
Those holding on to their leashes found that they quickly became an obstruction, especially on difficult routes and mixed climbs where strange maneuvers like figure fours are required. Ice climbers grew stronger and their equipment became easier to grasp, and the leash no longer provided benefits that outweighed the frustrations of strapping equipment to one’s arms.
Can be Difficult to Set Up
Another issue with the leashes is that, if you attach them wrong, they can hinder more than they help and the main struggle here is that your hand position when you are standing on flat ground strapping on your leashes, and your hand position when you’re swinging an axe, are completely different from each other. As a result, new ice climbers improperly attached their leashes to their axes.
Because of this, the leashes became an impairment and worse of all, this is a mistake that you might not notice until you are on the route, and trust me it might be quite late to fix it.
Greater Fall Danger
Lastly, the leashes can end up hurting you if you fall and that can happen in two ways:
- The axes are too heavy for your hands to hold since your feet are cutting you off. Leashes hold you in place, but in doing so, they twist your arms in unnatural ways and place a lot of strain on your shoulders and as a result, upper body injuries may occur.
- Losing your grip on your axes, you fall clean off the ice. As you fall, rather than staying put on the wall or simply falling to the ground, your axes are attached to your body via the leash and you could get tangled up, impaled, or swing around because of them.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are ice climbing leashes?
Modern ice axe leashes are usually two elasticated strands looped through your harness belay loop and clipped to the bottom of your shaft.
Who do we need leashes while ice climbing?
Falling in ice climbing is something that must be avoided at all costs, and ice climbing leashes help with this and as they get looped around your wrists, they allow you to take the weight off your forearms and ‘rest’ on your tools even you can let go with your hands, counting on the leashes to keep you in place.
What do you need for ice climbing?
These are the things which you require for ice climbing:
Harness and Ice Clippers.
Personal Bail Kit
Is ice climbing dangerous?
Yes, ice climbing is a dangerous sport for a variety of factors and those factors are risk of falling ice, the cold temperatures, and physical injuries that occur during lead falls are some of the reasons ice climbing is so hazardous.
How do you glissade with an ice axe?
To know how to glissade with an ice axe, you have to watch this video.