Note: Many of these articles are very old, and although the technical information is still relevant the equipment mentioned may not be (for example a Stormy cooker was state of that art in 1995, but not in 2020).
Weight: 100 grams
Of all the pieces of climbing gear I own one of the most important is my Grivel Double Spring leash. This simple set up comprises of strong elasticised tape sewn into a Y shape, forming two arm length strands, with a small wire gate krab sewn into each of the three ends. The central point is clipped into your belay loop, with the two arms being clipped into the spikes, or head of your axe (depending on conditions).
Why is this piece of gear so important? Well the answer is that with it I feel 100% confident that I won’t drop my tools, meaning I dare go leashless, be it in Scotland on mixed routes, in the Alps on big faces, or on expeditions, where loosing a tool can mean loosing your life.
In the past I’ve used lanyards on my tools, but they were always as a back up to my axe leashes, but with the Spring Leashes things become far simpler, less tanglesum and much more secure.
Strength wise I’ve fallen onto my leashes three times, and although I wouldn’t recommend it, they held me solidly every time, and provide a very big boost to ones safety in the mountains, as you’re not only safe from dropping your tools, your also safe from your tools dropping you! A secondary benefit of this is that when placing pro you’re backed up to your other tool – which I know Stevie Haston would call cheating, but it’s your neck on the line not his!
Tangles have always been a problem with this type of system, but once you take the your axe leashes out of the equation, this is greatly reduced. When tangles do occur it’s simply a case of unclipping the leash from your tool, pulling it through, and clipping it back in again.
Some axes (like my Quarks) don’t feature a big enough hole to clip the leashes karabiner through, meaning a loop of 4 mm cord must be threaded through the spike. On tools like the BD Viper you may have to drill a hole through the plastic hand hook to achieve this.
When plunging the shaft I generally unclip the krabs and clip them together around my shoulder (one into another), but another alternative is to clip them into the head of the axe, but again this may require another small loop of 4mm cord.
At the moment I think a lot of people are rightly put off from the whole leashless thing for mountain and trad because they fear dropped tools. The Spring Leash is the only answer at the moment, and as a guide to how good they are just check out Grivel North Americas news pages for people like House, Cordes and Prezelj using them to great effect.
Andrew Kirkpatrick is a British mountaineer, author, motivational speaker and monologist. He is best known as a big wall climber, having scaled Yosemite's El Capitan 30+ times, including five solo ascents, and two one day ascents, as well as climbing in Patagonia, Africa, Alaska, Antarctica and the Alps.Follow @ Instagram