Now that ice season is almost here, I have begun training in earnest. I have written previously about the Figfour dry tools that allow you to replicate the actions of ice climbing at your local climbing gym without damaging the holds or base panels. Recently, another UK company, Schmoolz, has entered the dry tooling scene as well.
I purchased a pair of the Figfour dry tools as soon as they were available from Alpkit. Schmoolz recently sent me a pair to test out as well, so I have been using both sets at the climbing gym to help me get in ice climbing shape.
The overall design concept of both the Figfour and Schmoolz dry tools is the same- an industrial strength rubber loop or sling is securely fastened to an ice axe shaped wooden handle. By hooking the sling on to the climbing wall holds, these dry tools allow you to practice the movement and build the upper body strength required for real ice climbing outdoors.
I have been using both sets of dry tools for endurance laps on the bouldering wall as well as climbing up and down nice big juggy routes on top rope to help simulate real ice pitches. I have found that the "juggier" the hold, the easier it is to hook the dry tool sling. I haven't quite yet mastered balancing on smaller, rounded holds.
Both the Figfour and the Schmoolz dry tools are great training aids but each have their pros and cons. Ideally, I would love to see a set that married the best in both of them.
First up- the Schmoolz:
1. The wooden handle shape feels like a real technical ice axe in your hand. The base plate and the top grip are big enough to ensure your hands don't slip off and allow you to really pull down on or hang off the tools.
2. The wood of the handle is properly finished or laminated so is soft on your hands.
3. The jagged shape of the rubber sling adds a bit more friction to smaller holds.
1. I would like to perhaps see a heavier wood used in the handle to simulate the feel of holding a real ice axe in your hand.
2. The rubber sling is too small to fit over some of the larger holds at my climbing wall and is not quite as sturdy as the Figfour sling. The loop height is probably a good 4 inches shorter than the loop on the Figfour.
1. The heavier weight of the wooden handle simulates the weight of a real ice axe.
2. The large and sturdy rubber sling fits over any hold.
1. The unfinished wood on the handle can easily give you blisters if you don't wear gloves.
2. The handle design itself really needs bigger grip sizes. I found it difficult to pull down hard on or hang from the tools without my hands sliding off. I also found that I had to grip really tightly on the handles, something I try to avoid so as not to get the screaming barfies in winter.
Bottom Line: Both the Figfour and Schmoolz dry tools are fun and helpful training aids to get ready for ice climbing season. I personally would love to see Figfour adopt the Schmoolz handle design with the larger grips or Schmoolz add some length to their rubber sling.
The Figfour dry tools retail for £65 and can be purchased online from Alpkit. The Schmoolz dry tools retail for £60 and can be bought on the company website.