Initial thoughts Black Diamond Whippet
These modifications to the Black Diamond Whippet are in no way endorsed by Black Diamond and will nullify any warranty stated or implied. The use of the Whippet in any other way than that intended by Black Diamond is NOT recommended. Snowboard mountaineering, backcountry skiing, and climbing are dangerous. Please modify at your own risk!
The one time I really wished I had a Whippet was during a full moon ascent of Ute Ridge in Rocky Mountain National Park. We had done many ‘full moon rides’ in the past. The weather was perfect that evening, and a group of backcountry skiers was a few hundred yards above us. The moon disappeared behind a solitary cloud as we were ascending. We were also approaching the summit, and the freeze-thaw cycle of the bullet proof crust was revealing itself. I was having a hard time gaining purchase with the skins. At any moment it felt like purchase would break – and we were getting on a steep aspect.
Then it happened; one of the skiers above us lost her ski. I could hear it coming down toward us, but even with my headlamp on the night-sun setting I couldn’t get a lock on exactly where it was headed. It flew right by us, just missing my partner by a few feet. When I turned, my edge lost purchase and I almost lost control. I remember taking my trekking pole and jamming it in to crust to stop before I gained momentum. At that moment the same thing happened to my partner and I knew we were in a tight spot. I unfastened my ice axe from my pack, and kept one trekking pole in the other. It wasn’t ideal, but at least I could self arrest if my edge lost purchase. We made it to a ledge, and decided not to go higher. We transformed to descend. The crust was bullet proof. After making a hard heal-side turn, I went down and plunged the axe. It was ‘unfun’. After about a thousand yards we made it back in to the soft powder snow – we were glad to be off the ridge. Having an axe in hand on a descent is risky business. Not that a Whippet would be any better, but certainly more practical. There are times on an ascent where you want both trekking poles for purchase, but an axe handy for rapid self arrest should a slip happen. Since it is not practical to have all three at the same time, a Whippet is key in that scenario.
Trekking pole migration
Black Diamond shock poles
I used to have a twist-lock titanium/aluminum alloy set of trekking poles. The problem with twist locks is that they were designed for hiking, not touring, skiing, or turn placement. I upgraded mine this past summer to Black Diamond Flip Locks, which can tolerate almost any amount of lateral strain. The Whippet is made exclusively by Black Diamond and is compatible with any Black Diamond pole if you want to interchange them. (Update 4.20.13 – 2014 Whippet preview). The Whippet only breaks down in to two pieces, although many of the snowboard mountaineers that I know have modified them to break down in to a shorter 3-piece mod.
Black Diamond has stated that a new 3-piece collapsible Whippet is on the horizon very soon. Since the Whippet is compatible with any BD Flip Lock, I was going to modify the Whippet top shaft to a shorter length and combine it with my BD lowers… However, since BD has announced the 3-piece is coming I will just wait for it. For those of you proceeding to do the mod;
- The BD Whippets made prior to 2010 are 18mm diameter upper, with a 16mm lower.
- 2011 through current are 16mm diameter upper, with a 14mm lower. BD Expedition trekking poles are 16 & 14mm respectively – so it is a perfect fit for later models.
- You will have to cut down the length of the Whippet upper to make this work. I estimated a cut length at 22″, but you might want to check that.
Another improvement since 2010 is that the axe is now riveted to the handle, it used to be removable which made a lot of people nervous. The Whippets made prior to 2010 can be drilled at the handle to accommodate either a pin, rivet or high temper screw. If I owned a pre-2010 model I would probably go ahead with this mod, it is easy to do and one of the things Black Diamond corrected in later models.
Sharpening Personally I like my axe sharp, and keep it sheathed when touring. The Whippet is no different. DO NOT grind your axe, Whippet, or crampons to sharpen them! The heat generated from grinding will compromise the temper and hardness of the steel and soften it. Instead use a file to sharpen points. I have to state the obvious here; if you are sharpening an ice or axe or Whippet – please know what you are doing, how to properly self-arrest, and understand the consequences of accidentally falling on either. In short, I will be migrating to a Whippet. I doubt it will replace my axe, but it may replace a trekking pole. I have confirmed that a three-piece carbon fiber Whippet will be available from Black Diamond in the Fall of 2013. It will be a slightly more expensive version of the two-piece version currently offered. People will likely see them as early as the 2013 SIA Show.
See related articles: Gear Review: Black Diamond Whippet Revisited / 2014 Black Diamond Whippet Preview