Friday, October 14, 2011

DIY Leashless Ice Tool Tether/Umbilical

With more and more climbers going "leashless" these days, companies like Black Diamond have a large enough market to make a product like their Spinner Leash profitable. However, before you go out and drop $49.95 on a manufactured leash, don't forget that people have been making them at home for years. Here is one way to do it...

  • 12 feet of 1/2 inch webbing
  • 1.5 feet of 1/2 inch webbing (different color than above)
  • 12 feet 1/8 inch elastic shock cord
  • 3/8 inch swivel or bigger
  • 2 carabiners or Spring Snaps
Take the 12 feet of webbing, put one end in your hand and stretch it out to full extension. At your farthest reach, pull the middle of the webbing to your waist.

Take double this length (plus a little extra if you need room for error, like me) and cut it.

Cut the elastic shock cord to mimic the length of the webbing. Open up the webbing and insert the shock cord into the webbing until it is all the way in. If your webbing is closed or "melted" at the end, just cut a little behind the tip and it will be easier to open up. Be patient, putting the cord inside the webbing takes time.

After the cord is inside the webbing, feed the swivel onto the cord until it is exactly in the middle and tie an overhand knot.

Stretch the shock cord 6-12 inches out of the webbing so the webbing bunches up, and tie a knot in the shock cord to hold it in place.

Here comes the tricky part; tie an overhand on a bite in the end of the webbing so that when the swivel is attached to your harness and the overhand is clipped to your tool, you can fully stretch without the webbing becoming taught. I do not have a great way to explain how to do this, or how to measure in advance, except to say I messed up two or three times. That is why it is nice to have extra webbing/shock cord, and then just cut off the excess. If you are using spring snaps, make sure to feed them on the webbing and incorporate these into the overhand knot.

The shock cord is running inside of the knot, which is what holds it in place. Repeat this process on the opposite side. With the smaller piece of different colored webbing, tie a sling using a water knot to the opposite side of the swivel. This piece of webbing will not have any shock cord in it.

Attach the umbilical to your harness by girth hitching the small sling to your tie in points.

Attach the two ends by clipping a carabiner that fits into the bottom holes of your ice tools. If you attached spring snaps, use those instead of the carabiners. If you don't have holes at the bottom of your tools, get creative.

And there you have it, pretty awesome, homemade leashless tool umbilicals! Homemade gear always tastes... err.. works better right!?

A few notes regarding design:
  • Two colored webbing is not necessary, it's just nice to be able to distinguish between the separate pieces of the umbilical quickly.
  • If you are using spring snaps, make sure these fit in the bottom of your tool.
  • You can really use anything to connect these to your tools, from small plastic carabiners to key chain rings.
  • This took me about an hour to do, including an initial failed attempt.
  • Buying "12" feet of webbing is not necessary, you could measure the amount you need in store and purchase only that amount. I estimated 12 feet because I figured only a giant would need more than that.
  • You can use a lighter to melt the ends of the webbing back together so they don't fray. Kids ask your parents for help.
A few notes regarding safety:
  • These umbilicals are not meant to be used as a personal anchor system or as a "back-up" while placing a screw. They are not load bearing.
  • I used two small, C.A.M.P Nano 23 carabiners to attach to my tools. If you use any kind of attachment method that isn't "full-strength" make sure they don't accidentally get used on your rack. While they may be heavier, I opted for full-strength carabiners to avoid any mistake.
  • Notice where I girth hitched the blue piece of webbing, to my two tie-in points. If you girth hitch anything to your harness, be it a sling, daisy chain, or umbilical, do it to your tie-in points. Girth hitching to your belay loop limits its ability to rotate, which is important for reducing wear on one specific part of the loop. A good rood of thumb is that all soft goods should be attached to the tie-in points, and hard goods clipped to the belay loop.
  • Over time, I found that I prefer to actually clip these to my belay loop, instead of girth hitching.  Clipping allows me to remove it quickly with gloves, and is worth the little extra weight in my opinion.
Let me know if you try to make your own and have any improvements to my directions or materials. I would love to hear your feedback! I'm pretty excited that I did this at the end of the season, right when they are no longer necessary.... Wait, our ice season isn't over in the North Cascades! If I went out and climbed the North Ridge of Mount Baker I could get a ton of ice climbing in during the summer season! It's a good thing our Alpine Ice courses take people to the North side and climb that route. Make yourself a pair of these and come climb with us!

-Andrew Yasso, Alaska Range Program Coordinator and Guide


Anonymous said...

Thanks, nice info. A question about why these are not load-bearing (which BD also warns of for their 'Spinner'): is it just the swivel that is not reliable or rated for much force, or something else? It seems like it would be nice to have something that *could* be used for backup when placing a screw, or for a rest when pumped; is there any such thing?

Anonymous said...

This is a repost, so I don't know if Andrew is around to answer questions anymore. The original thread has some great additional tips, worth checking out: