Monday, March 07, 2011

Gripitz- self arresting ski pole grips

So it all started last year in preparation for the WURLOS. Putting together a backcountry ski kit that minimizes total weight in order to maximize efficiency is a key part of any ski traverse where speed and time are a focus. It also is becoming more and more apparent to a lot of ski tourers that minimizing weight and maximizing efficiency also can aid in increasing the enjoyment of an everyday outing. Flat out, you can cover more terrain and make more turns at the same energy cost.

Clothing, packs, skis, bindings, boots, crampons, helmets, safety gear, food, hydration, stoves, etc have all been addressed by various manufactures for the "light is right" crowd. Plenty of options in multiple price ranges exist in the current marketplace and one could go on for days about gear selection.

The one category we found lacking in options was the self arrest ski pole. The only real player is the Black Diamond Whippet. Everyone know's the Whippet. It works great and makes you feel tough when using. My only complaints are that it is heavy and pinned to a heavy flip lock pole. Does anyone ever change pole length?

(I have seen pictures of the Grivel Condor but never one for purchase or in person. It also looks even heavier than the Whippet. I have also seen some other home made options including a full ice axe attached to the top of a ski pole.)

A ski traverse such as the WURLOS requires navigating some technical terrain up and down in less than ideal snow conditions. I did not like the idea of carrying an extra 1/2lb in each hand for 21 hrs but I wanted the security of a self arrest pole for booting, skinning, and skiing. They are also quite handy for aided skinning, dry tooling, scrapping, and any number of uses which have been discussed at length here and here. Many times I have found myself wanting my Whippets after leaving them in the car because I did not want the extra weight. If you don't have them with you they don't do any good. I think for the WURLOS Jared decided on one nordic pole and one Whippet as a compromise while Andy and I settled on 2 heavy Whippets. In the end I am glad I had them as I ended up self arresting while rallying some ice on skinny skis off Dromedary, but the weight was surely noticed.

A Whippet weighs 410 grams which is just shy of 1 lb per pole. A normal ski pole weighs anywhere from 100-300 grams depending on the material, design, handle, length, and basket. So by carrying a Whippet you are looking at somewhere around 200 grams or about a 1/2 lb extra per hand. 1/2 lb extra per foot surely has already been addressed...

So I decided to see if I could come up with some kind of alternative.

Here some early models made of aluminum and designed to fit on a regular aluminum nordic pole. Around 75 grams per head but found to be a little small when arresting in anything but the hardest snow. Also very crude materials, welding, and finish but worked well for a prototype.

The Whippet, being made out of steel has some advantages in hard ice. But I have found that the wider wing of the Gripitz is much better in softer snow and it only takes one heft to notice the significant weight difference.

Here is a couple of other options currently in testing. These have a longer blade and wider wing and weigh under 100 grams each.

This is my current favorite, although it needs a little longer blade tip. Under 100 grams and easily glued to any pole. This one is attached using hot glue to an aluminum nordic pole I bought for $5/pair at a demo sale. It weighs 250 grams total. I have dry tooled vertical rock, knocked out 20 pull ups while hanging on it, swung from trees, and self arrested in ice and snow without even a wiggle. Epoxy could also be used for attachment. The cool thing is it can be made to fit any size pole so a split-boarder who wants self arresting poles can place them on his 4 piece fold ups that can go in his pack for powder runs.

I have been using road bike bar tape for my grip so I can customize not only the diameter but also the length as well as the color. I have been experimenting with different straps but have found that 5mm accessory cord is my favorite. It is comfortable, stiff enough to get into easily, does not stretch, and could be removed and used for something else in a pinch.

Testing an early model while booting up the lower section of the Triangle Couloir. I have also dry tooled in the rock on top of Olympus, sunk into some ice on the Great White Icicle, and skied plenty of powder with them in hand.

Fabrication wise I think I am starting to dial in the right techniques and materials. Including CNC machined blade, wing, and handle which can be made to custom inside diameters. As well as a top secret aircraft epoxy in place of welding. I am also looking at anodizing. Pink might be cool? As for price it all depends on demand. I am hoping to be able to get them to others for around $100 each which is similar in cost to the Whippet. Will see what kind of demand I can drum up and hopefully get costs down with volume.

Kind of a fun project. And If no one else sees the value of lighter weight removable self arresting ski pole grips, I at least will have no excuse for leaving mine in the car.


Anonymous Ben said...

Awesome. This is truly need driven innovation, I'd get one for sure.
p.s. Aluminum blends with snow so a bright color (of whatever shade) would be good.

2:26 PM

Anonymous Layne said...

They look good Bart. I love seeing some good garage work.

9:55 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes!! I would never carry a Whippet, but one of these would be feasible to me.

9:27 AM

Blogger Bart G said...

Anyone that wants some Griptz action please let me know as I am trying to put together a production run to go to the CNC machine.

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Blogger mj said...

Thanks for the info. It is always great to find new blogs of note. Keep posting.

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Blogger Unknown said...

Nice mix of a pick and adz e. After seeing yours I tried for my own design targeted for trekking poles
and cutting steps occasionally on steep snow blocked trails.

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i am interested in getting a couple of the self arrest grips.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

"does anyone actually change their pole length?" I do, and often when using snowshoes to approach. I repeatedly change the lengths of my poles--shorter (traditional length) on flats, shorter on steep climbs, and longer on steep descents. Pretty common practice when using snow shoes on steep terrain.

Nice job on your developement, btw.

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Blogger Unknown said...

BG - it's been a while but I'm curious as to what's up with your whippets?

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