Ever wish you could train for the ice climbing season in the summertime? Or indoors? A pair of climbers had that desire when they started developing a tool that would allow them to train for ice in a climbing gym.
Ben Carlson gave his climbing partner George Fisher a handmade version of a gym-safe ice climbing training tool in 2011. It was a crude design that was painful to use and wasn’t made very well. George, a British carpenter specializing in repairing very old English houses, was intrigued. Over the space of two years, they refined the design, developing a business making what they call Dry Ice Tools.
The result of their innovation is an indoor ice axe featuring rubber straps that loop over plastic holds in a rock climbing gym. The tools feature a wooden handle that is ergonomic, has better grip, and won’t slip with perspiration.
The indoor axe effectively makes it possible for ice climbers to mimic the same climbing motion used outdoors. In addition, the tools don’t harm the indoor climbing features the way a regular ice axe would.
“Ice climbing and dry tooling is the fastest growing niche in the climbing world,” Ben said, as he described the huge increase in new “dry toolers” coming from indoor climbing gyms.
Ben makes the looping rubber straps in his kitchen, and George constructs the Dry Ice Tool’s wooden handle in his woodshop in England. They build their product under the company name Furnace Industries. “We have to innovate to keep George interested,” Ben said of his climbing partner, who makes each Dry Ice Tool individually by hand.
Ben and George have spent the last few years testing their product at indoor gyms, armed with questionnaires. They take the information from their test subjects, tinker with their design and then bring back the product for more feedback.
Climbers have responded that not only did they notice an increase in their grip abilities and strength, they also became more aware of their footwork.
Ben and George's design has begun to take off in Europe and Canada especially, as more and more ice climbers are drawn to the idea of indoor training. It also has following among younger climbers. Ben and George developed a youth sized Dry Ice Tool called the Icicle.
At a price point just under $100, the training tools are “less expensive than a pair of climbing shoes,” Ben said.
Ben is committed to educating new climbers about ice climbing and dry tooling. His company started a program with the Access Fund to educate climbers about what is appropriate and what isn’t in the sport of ice and mixed climbing.
“These tools could have an impact in the future,” he said.
Check out this video to see the Dry Ice Tool in action...