Tagged ‘safety‘

Shorts: Airbag Packs

Airbag packs make you safer. Yes they’re expensive, but your life is worth it. They add some weight, but hey, you’re not being responsible if you’re not protecting yourself, right?


Over the past few weeks I’ve had a lot of conversations about airbag packs with family and friends, and I’ve been hearing a lot about them through various media. Slide: The Avalanche Podcast had an excellent discussion of their use, which partly informs my view. The Cripple Creek Backcountry Podcast mentioned their use in two recent episodes (here and here).

On Cripple Creek, they talk about how they insist that every shop employee wear an airbag, always. They say that they like the extra safety, especially when they’re trying to go faster or father when they might not communicate as much. They ask, could airbags have provided some trauma protection to Jason Dorais should he actually have been carried during a slide last year?

This talk makes me angry. Read on →

Umbilicals “Not For Climbing Use”


While watching this video recently, I was struck both by the mechanism of the fall, which resembles a rag doll falling down a laundry heap, as well as by the failure of a piece of equipment which has recently regained popularity and widespread use among ice and alpine climbers. I’m referring of course to ice tool umbilicals.

The umbilical is an old idea which briefly fell out of style with the advent of the wrist loop for vertical ice climbing.  Old umbilicals would prevent dropping axes, but leashes offered a much more efficient resting position while climbing.  Recently,  as tools have developed steeper picks and larger pinky-hooks, umbilicals have regained popularity as a means of climbing longer and more committing routes without the risk of dropping a tool.  Though they create slightly more hassle and clutter, they are a clear choice compared to carrying a third tool.

But drop-protection is not the only way that they’re used.  There is an implicit understanding among climbers who use umbilicals that they function as a sort of moving belay.  Or at least, we would hope so.  As the video shows at 00:45, the leader’s umbilical fails under the sudden load of his weight. This illustrates a fundamental deficiency in the design of ice umbilicals which should be fixed. Read on →