Figure 1. Velcro adds security for shoulder “holstering.”
Sans dragonnes — free your mind and your wrists will follow
While leashless mixed climbing may not be for everyone, it can greatly expand your freedom of movement by enabling you to climb faster and lighter on all kinds of routes. Another plus is added safety on well-protected, steep routes, where you can simply let go and fall, avoiding the risk of a dislocated shoulder you incur with leashes. Combine these new leashless weapons with some of the new-school crampons with ?aggro? heel spurs (a subject of its own) and you open up a repertoire of moves never before possible with traditional ice climbing equipment. For those of you with an open mind, it may just blow a breath of fresh air into your climbing. Witness the evolution … Shoulder thy burden. Your shoulder is a great place for a tool when placing and clipping pro, switching grips, holstering for short lower-offs or rappels, or just about any other time you need to free up a hand. Achieve this by hanging the pick right over your shoulder next to your neck. Avoid the dropsies. Sew a large patch of loop-side Velcro onto the shoulder of your climbing shirt or shell. Then glue the hook-side Velcro onto the upper shaft of your tools. When you shoulder them, they will stay on, even in an inverted position (figure 1). Climb like a rock star. Start thinking of each tool placement as a potential hold for either hand. You’ll open up many new options for hand and body positions. Sideways moves become much easier because your arms are never in the awkward criss-crossed position. This makes traverses much less complex, with fewer overall placements (figure 2). Also, you can stave off a pump by switching hands on a single bomber tool, and alternating your grip positions to rest different parts of your hand by lifting your fingers in sequence from pinky to index to full grip.
Stoke the choke. You can extend your reach by choking up on the tool that you’re moving off of — every inch counts. Some leashless tools have a second grip further up the shaft to facilitate such moves. Experiment with just how far you can choke up on your axe before you start to pull it in an undesirable direction, e.g. your face. Lighten up. Since you’re already shaving ounces by taking off your leashes, why stop there? Consider removing the hammer and adze attachments from your tools, which will make them feel super-light. If you already have a sweet swing, the tools will stick with even less effort. Chuck your holsters. Leashless tools won’t fit into your old ice-axe holsters or through most gear loops. To stash tools securely for rock climbing and descents, clip them to your harness with a biner through the head, or hole (if there is one) on the pick.
Figure 2. The freedom provided by leashless climbing expands your range of movement.