Nowadays a branch of climbing that is becoming more and more popular and that is dry tooling. So today we have decided to tell you about dry tooling and the reason for which they are gaining popularity in the fields of mountains. So at first let’s discuss what is dry tooling? Dry tooling is a sports which requires the use of ice climbing equipment, such as crampons and axes, for rock climbing and you use the tools to gain grips on the rock.
Initially dry tooling was used to be training for ice climbing during the winter months, but now it has become a niche sport of its own. In sheer rock faces, people use ice axes or crampons to ascend, hooking the axes onto small handholds and placing crampon points on footholds to pull themselves up. Sometimes, they swap out their crampons for climbing shoes for better footing. Dry tooling is a great option, for those who want to train for ice climbing, or if ytheysimply want to experience a new sport with some fun moves.
Dry Tooling: An Overview
Dry tooling is rock climbing except with ice tools and instead of using your hands and feet for purchase, you use your ice axes to hold on and crampons to keep you balanced and supported and you need to hook the tips of your ice axes onto handholds, and place the points of your crampons on footholds. This whole thing allows you to work your way up the wall.
The sport of Dry tooling was originally created as a way for ice climbers to train in the off season. Dry tooling has its own plus points like it gives you a great forearm workout, and also allows you to practice balancing on delicate axe placements and sketchy footholds. However you have to be very careful with your placements while dry tooling, or else you will find yourself coming off the wall.
Dry tooling really came into existence in the 90’s, when Jeff Lowe modernized mixed climbing with the ascent of Octopussy M8 and after that, the climbers began to realize that there was an art to scaling sheer pieces of rock using your ice climbing tools, and the sport began to grow. But, in present era dry tooling has not gained the same recognition as rock climbing or even ice and mixed climbing, it is a niche sport with a few loyal followers of its own and while it is similar to those other activities, there are still a few key differences.
Here is a video of dry tooling:
Dry Tooling vs Ice Climbing
If you want to learn how to move on ice but you do not have a freezed waterfall, dry tooling is the the best option for you so, when you place your weight on an axe that is hooked onto a small ledge of rock, you need to be really very careful with how you move but if you tilt the axe in the opposite direction, shift the axe from side to side, or pull on it in the wrong way, the axe is going to come loose and you are going to fall.
In this way, dry tooling is very similar to ice climbing and for people unfamiliar with the sport, it is a great way to get used to the feel of ice climbing without some of the associated risk.
Dry tooling is less risky because it is safer to fall. We have written a lot about the dangers of ice climbing falls, and how some of your limbs may remain stuck in the ice even as your body falls but with dry tooling, that happens very rarely. You are much more likely to experience a ‘clean’ fall and that means you do not have to worry as much when you are pushing your limits while climbing.
Dry Tooling vs Rock Climbing
Dry tooling has less in common with rock climbing than it would originally seem but there are also some techniques that are unique to dry tooling, which are as follows:
- Stein: Stein does just what the name implies: flips your axe upside down and wedges it under a rock with it underneath.
- Torques: Using an axe, you jam it into the crack, twist it and wedge it in, much like a handjam, but it’s not as painful.
- Figure fours and figure nines: Some boulderers may use these as a combination of mixed climbing and ice climbing maneuvers, but the move originates from ice climbing.
Dry Tooling vs Mixed Climbing
Mixed climbing is like dry tooling except you have to also worry about switching on and off of ice. This makes mixed climbing more difficult and more dangerous. Dry tooling skills, however, are essential for mixed climbing, so many mountain climbers still practice dry tooling during mixed climbing.
Why Do People Dry Tool?
When a lot of people first learn about dry tooling, they have one common question and that is why do we need to learn dry tooling because it seems like an absurd sport, and it is hard to imagine why a mountain climber would choose it over rock or ice climbing or mixed climbing, To answer this question we have these following answers:
As we have already said it earlier that the origin of the sport, and probably the reason that most people still practises dry tooling, is for training. In terms of ice climbing training, there is absolutely no substitute to a good dry tooling session and you will work on everything:
- Holding your axes for tens of minutes at a time helps you build the anaerobic muscles you need for crushing long routes on ice.
- Keeping your axes balanced on small handholds helps you develop the movement and muscle memory necessary for ice climbing.
- You learn to trust your gear placements on ice if you don’t touch the rock you’re climbing.
For these reasons, lots of people will dry tool in the summer months when there is no ice to climb and it also keeps their skills sharp and makes sure that the climber’s strength doesn’t disappear in the offseason.
Dry tooling is also excellent practice for alpine and mixed climbing routes since your ice tools will likely be required as well when mountaineering because exposed rock climbing is incredibly difficult when you are wearing mountaineering boots and gloves.
And for this reason having good dry tooling skills are very much important for mountain climbers or mixed climbers, though mixed climbing is at least 50% dry tooling. People use dry-tools to train themselves before taking on difficult alpine routes because it’s always best to develop your skills beforehand.
Aside from those who use for training purpose, there is a small group of people who like to dry tool simply because it is quite a fun activity! Dry Tooling is a unique sport with its own challenges and benefits, and there are some really entertaining elements to this recreating activity.
You get to learn a whole slew of new moves like the ones mentioned above and challenge yourself at something new and we would guess that the majority of people still dry tool for training, there are some people out there who do it purely for recreation activity.
What Do You Need to Dry Tool?
Now let us tell you about another plus point of dry tooling and that is it does not take a lot of equipment to go! If you have got the gear for outdoor rock climbing which consists of rope, draws, PAS, you are already halfway up there. Having ice climbing gear will make drying tools easier if you are further along in your skill development.
You will need the following equipment to dry tool:
Ice axes are probably the most essential pieces of gear for dry tooling and you use them to jam into cracks, hook onto handholds, and haul yourself up the route.
It is really important to get climbing axes, not mountaineering aces; the curved shape and specialized handholds offered by ice axes make them infinitely easier to hold on when you are dry tooling and you should make sure to sharpen your blades after a dry tooling session, as scraping them against the rock can dull them out.
Crampons are not essential for dry tooling and some people use climbing shoes, still we would highly recommend to use crampons, especially if you are training for ice. Mono points work better than dual points, because of the fact that you can get more exact foot placements.
As with your ice axes, dry tooling can dull your points a little, especially if you try to smear .
If you are wearing crampons, you need something to attach them to so mountaineering boots are the most obvious thing for it although you could also use approach shoe if you have the right type of crampons.
For majority of the climbers, mountaineering boots will be the easiest option, especially if you already have a pair of mountaineering boots back at home but there is also a downside which is that it can get heavy sometimes, which makes you tired and makes it more difficult to do delicate foot maneuvers.
If you are using dry tooling to train, then mountaineering boots can be a good thing as it will build up the muscles you need for ice climbing and if you are pursuing the sport just for fun, you may look at some alternative footwear like fruit boots.
If you want to dry tool, a helmet is essential and this is not rock climbing, where you can get away with climbing unprotected. The climbers absolutely need a helmet for dry tooling for too main reasons which are as follows:
- The risk of rockfall is often high on dry tooling routes.
- Dry toolig puts you at greater risk of having a tool stick into the rock and knock you off balance. This makes it harder to maintain your position in mid-air and more likely you will swing into the rock..
So for these above mentioned reasons you should always wear your helmet when dry tooling.
A standard climbing rack is required in addition to the specific gear needed for dry tooling:
- Rope: Make sure you have a dynamic rope with at least 9.4mm thickness
- Quick draws: The number of quick draws depends on the length of the route, but we would recommend at least a dozen.
- Harness and belay device: If you are using a harness and belay device, make sure your partner knows how to use them.
- Rock shoes: Some people like to switch from mountaineering boots to rock climbing shoes, so pack a pair when you go!
Where Can You Dry Tool?
Now that you know what dry tooling is and the things required for dry tooling it is the high time to talk about where you can actually dry tool.
We would like to tell you that there are some issues concerning the ethics of dry tooling, because your tools can scratch up the rock and leave permanent scars and for this reason you should not dry tool on established rock-climbing routes because it damages the route for future climbers.
This is a decently used rule that you should follow but it quite can be frustrating sometimes to not be able to dry-tool at established crags but there are some places where you can go:
- Choss piles/bad rock
- Dry tooling crags
- Mixed climbing routes
- Indoor/manmade walls
Choss Piles/Bad Rock
Do you remember when we said that dry tooling is exposed to more rock fall than rock climbing we said that because lots of dry tooling occurs on chossy or poor-quality rock. If you want to make sure that you are not stepping on the toes of any rock climbers, well the best way to do so is to go where the rock climbers won’t go which usually means poor-quality rock that people have yet to rock climb on.
As a dry tooler, it can be frustrating to always be stuck with the bad rock, but there is a valid argument for doing so. As rock climbing is more popular than dry tool, it makes sense to place the best rock in an area where more people can enjoy it.
Dry Tooling Crags
If you live in a popular climbing area, there are likely to be some established dry tooling crags that you can climb on as these are cliffs where all of the routes have been set with dry tooling in mind and you absolutely do not have to worry about scratching the rock, and you can stein or torque to your heart’s desire.
Climbing on established mixed climbing routes in the summer can be an excellent way to get some dry tooling in on higher quality rock and because these are mixed lines, the rock will already be scratched, and you will not have to worry about any blowback from you putting tools on it.
In a mixed environment, you’re also more likely to experience longer pitches than you would in an alpine environment.
Last but not the least, as the sport continues to grow in popularity, there has been an influx of manmade walls being built to accommodate dry tooling and there are also tools out there that will let you dry tool in climbing gyms.
Though these routes are pretty boring, but are more designed for working out than they are for doing any of the fun dry tooling moves and top to that if you are an ice climber looking to keep your fitness up then it is the best option.
Tips to Try Dry Tooling
So after discussing about dry tooling for so long now it is the time to talk about the tips of trying dry tooling and those tips are as follows:
- Find a more experienced friend! A great way to learn dry tooling for the first time is to go with someone who knows more than you do. Leading routes, setting up top rope, and giving technique advice are some of the things they can do for you.
- Go with a guide: Go with a guide: Although not many guiding companies offer dry tooling courses (although they may have mixed climbing ones), you could always hire a guide for the day and have them teach you. However, this will be more expensive.
- Rent or purchase used tools: Rent or borrow tools: If you are just getting into the sport, renting or borrowing tools can be a great way to do so without spending a lot of money. There are some outdoor apparel stores that rent ice climbing gear at reasonable prices
- Practice on top rope: Practice on top rope: Although dry tooling isn’t as dangerous as ice climbing, lead falls can still be awful. To avoid this, we would recommend doing laps on a top rope so that your body learns how to move.
Overall, dry tooling is an awesome sport, both as an activity on its own and as a training mechanism for ice/mixed climbing. You might fall in love with dry tooling after you try it!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the point of dry tooling?
Dry tooling is a great way to hone alpine climbing skills and that is the first and the most important reason for its development and it can also be practiced in any country which allows climbers living in areas with a lack of snow and ice to train before heading into the mountains.
Does dry tooling damage rock?
Yes, dry tooling will damage the rock, because with dry tooling, the damage can actually go a lot further as the teeth on the underside of crampons and axes will bite into the rock, pulling some off the surface in the course.
When did Climbing become popular?
With the (well-publicized) solo first ascent of the Napes Needle by Walter Parry Haskett Smith in the late 1880s, rock climbing began to gain popularity in England.
Where is ice climbing popular?
The ice climbing is popular in this following places :
Helmcken Falls Spray Cave, British Columbia, Canada
Why Ice climbing is dangerous?
Yes, ice climbing is a dangerous activity for various reasons. The cold temperatures, risk of falling ice, and physical injuries that occur during lead falls are some of the reasons ice climbing is so hazardous even the natural hazard risks involve things like the cold, icefall, and avalanche danger.
Did ice climbers get nerfed?
In addition to glitch fixes, the Ice Climbers have received a mix of buffs and nerfs via game updates, but have been buffed overall.
Is Climbing a 5.10 Good?
Climbing a 5.10 is a solid intermediate step that puts any climber in good company and it requires above average fitness and an understanding of basic techniques. So, 5.10 is considered as intermediate.
Does rock climbing get you ripped?
Rock climbing may not bulk you up as well as lifting weights in a gym, but it will definitely help tone your entire body and some of the obvious eye catchy changes will be in your upper back and biceps, but the smaller more targeted parts will include forearms and calves.
Who are the best climbers in the world?
The best climbers in the world are: