You have to love a product where the instructions actually tell you, “Try to avoid self-evisceration should you wipe out.” Do that and Black Diamond’s new Whippet self-arrest pole will be your new best friend. I’ve carried the original Whippet instead of an ice ax for years now, and you’re probably all wondering how the new model compares. The new (still two-section) Whippet is slightly shorter when collapsed (about 39” versus 44”), barely lighter (14.3 ounces versus 14.7) and has a redesigned handle and integrated pick, complete with cool orange elastic cover. Finally, the upper barrel on the new version is a smaller diameter, so it won’t take the old Whippet lower.
On the old Whippet, you could replace the aluminum lower section with the carbon fiber lower from the old BD Carbon Fiber Flicklock pole with an adapter. The new Whippet doesn’t need the adapter and will take their carbon fiber probe lower section with a small increase in weight of 0.4 oz. You have to order the probe lowers from BD directly for $11 plus shipping.
The same caveats for use still apply: practice with it to get used to the difference in self-arresting with a ski pole as opposed to a shorter axe. Once you do, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much terrain you can cover with the Whippet without having to trade it out for a traditional axe. With a Whippet in each hand—an expensive proposition, no doubt—you can really engage four points of contact and move quickly over pretty steep terrain.
Hits: Replace two pieces of gear—ice axe and trekking pole—with one. It’s there when you need it, deploys quickly and is lightweight and stowable.
Misses: Requires practice to use effectively (not really a miss, just a caveat).
Buy It ($74.96 at Backcountry.com)
Looking for more Denali-approved gear? Check out GearFlogger.net.