BLACK DIAMOND WHIPPET SKI POLE
Put an ice axe pick on a ski pole and you get a Whippet—a niche winter tool favored by alpinists who want an extra measure of safety. The problem is that ice axes are, well, sharp. Skiing with one attached to your ski pole when you don’t need it is courting disaster. So if you’re not among the select group of big-line skiers who use it on the descent as well as the climb, then you’ll like this new Whippet that’s easily removable with a twist dial. Use it as a regular ski pole, then attach the ice axe on the fly if conditions require.
“It’s nice to have just-in-case insurance that fits in my pack’s toplid,” one tester says. “When I was downclimbing into Dragon’s Tail Couloir in Rocky Mountain National Park, I encountered ice and exposed rock, so I just popped the pick onto my pole.”
We were also happy to have the ice axe option when we were booting up slopes steeper than 35 degrees and sidehilling above long run-outs in the Pioneers. Make no mistake, though: The Whippet is not an alternative to an ice axe (which has a much stronger shaft). Self-arrest technique remains the same, though.
It comes in two varieties: a three-piece aluminum pole (the one we tested) and a lighter, twopiece carbon model ($160). You can also buy it as an accessory ($60 for just the pick) for BD’s new Traverse WR 2 poles ($100); it’s not compatible with any other poles. –M.H. $120; 1 lb. 1 oz. (ski pole and pick); blackdiamondequipment.com
Exploring the Pioneers’ high terrain