This is the dry ice zone
Here in the UK the opportunity for true dry tooling is limited. Even indoors there are only a few walls which will allow you to use ice axes.. the Ice Factor is one. There is a dry tooling competition series in Scotland, however most walls don't really like mixing expensive fragile holds and paying customers with sharp metal objects flying through the air. Figfour was the first product to address these issues and we have had a welcome level of interest from both walls and outdoor centres interested in bringing dry tooling to their facility and allowing climbers to train for dry tooling at their local wall
Figfour is a specialized training aid for mixed climbing and dry tooling. It is designed to allow climbers to accurately replicate the actions of mixed climbing indoors, without damaging the resin holds or base panels of existing climbing surfaces with the sharp picks found on traditional ice axes. Figfour is designed for training.. it is not the soft option, the idea is that you get pumped using them, the make you stronger for when you can get back out on the real stuff. See Pete's design notes for more details.
Our premium dry tool training aid is being used around the world by individuals, instructors, guides, outdoor centres and climbing walls.
Keen eyed dry tooling devotees may have already come across the Figfour tools featured in Winter Climbing +, an instructional book by Neil Gresham and Ian Parnell and published by Rockfax in January 2009. Ian has recently started using a pair of Figfour tools to aid his winter training..
"Whilst summer rock climbers have campus rungs, finger boards, rock rings and an endless array of climbing holds and surfaces winter climbers have very few bespoke training aids. Perhaps that is until now. I think that Alpkit’s new Figfours could bring huge fitness gains for those like me in love with the winter game. Like many great ideas the Figfours success lies in its simplicity. Light, robust and with no sharp spiky bits they’re easily portable. Crucially they don’t damage the climbing surfaces and so can be taken to any wall without causing problems, or posing any threat to other users. I’ve used mine mainly on roped climbs, the longer and steeper the better, although they will be equally adept on bouldering walls. The pump you get is very different to traditional rock climbing and much more akin to that hand uncurling ache you get ice and mixed climbing. I’ve already made strength gains using the Figfours and would hope by the end of this season with their help to be climbing a good notch harder than I have before". Ian Parnell, 20th January 2010.
Dry tooling is one aspect of our sport that most of us will have had little experience of. It involves climbing steep rock, usually bolt protected with ice axes and crampons. Originally these routes were created by climbers who simply could not resist the draw of the long ice climbs suspended in the void, just out of reach, but now a lot of dry tooling climbs exist in their own right, in summer and without any ice in sight.
Andy Turner has been using his Figfours to train at the Plas y Brenin wall and last December he took them up to the final round of the Scottish Dry Tooling series at the Ice Factor..
"This was the final event and was well turned out with 61 competitors. I set a bouldering route using the Figfour tools so they got well used (all 61 competitors had to do the problem) and I struggled getting them back at the end of the day. (The finalists were using them for warming up for the super final)." Andy Turner, 10th December 2009.
The experience and feedback we have gained through running our DryIce sessions has been reinforced by British Climbing Team member and coach Gaz Parry. Gaz is no stranger to the wall scene and got hold of a set of Figfours while route setting at Alter Rock in Derby..
"As well as being an effective training aid for dry tooling, I can see Figfour being used by outdoor centres and climbing walls as an ideal and safe way to introduce beginners to basic ice climbing techniques."
Figfour is only available online.
The plywood shafts are modelled in SolidWorks and cut on a CNC machine. This material was chosen for its high strength to weight ratio and has been favoured for many years by training climbers. A die-cut rubber loop is attached to the shaft by a machined aluminium clamp. As well as being strong the rubber springs back into shape after being loaded and has a reassuring degree of friction on rounder holds. The strap is tapered at its apex for greater precision on smaller holds.
Figfour drytools were designed by Pete Dollman. In this short video he introduces his original concept and describes how the tools were developed.
It was way back in 2004 that Pete began developing a tool that could simulate the actions of dry tooling and ice climbing indoors without damaging the holds. The initial prototypes were simply knotted lengths of rope but these soon progressed to a wooden shaft while studying product design at Dundee University. Since joining Alpkit Pete has developed the product further which importantly has included an intensive testing period before launching the product.
The first DryIce session took dry tooling to the Tout a Blocs bouldering festival in France, an event we have been involved with for some 5 years. Off the back of this successful event the FigFour tools made their first UK appearance at the HardRock Festival in Devon.. another regular Alpkit event! It was obvious that people were enjoying the experience of dry tooling in the relative safe and accessible bouldering format and we were getting some great feedback. With this in mind we organised some more UK events at climbing walls slightly closer to home. The sessions came full circle when we returned to L'Argentière la Bessée for TAB's sister event Ice Climbing Ecrins (ICE). For more about the DryIce series check out the boxes down the sidebar on the right.
Figfour won the prestigious Innovation for Extremes Award in 2009. This award encourages future innovators in the outdoor trade and judging panel member Graham Thompson of Trail magazine commented:
"Without out doubt this is one of the most important innovations in outdoor equipment for many years. I expect every climbing wall in the country to have them available for hire alongside rock boots, harness and helmets in the future."
Figfour is an innovative training aid for dry tooling, mixed climbing, winner of the Innovation for Extremes Award and has now also taken it’s place amongst the top 50 innovative products in the past 50 years. The peoples choice award has been running on the Rohan website over the past few months. For the full top 50 visit the award website.
Always ask before attempting to use your Figfours at your local climbing wall! They are a new product and many walls will not have heard of them or are unable to manage their use. If you would like to be able to use Figfour at your local wall then why not direct your climbing wall manager to this page, or if you run a climbing wall yourself and you are interested in more practical information you can download the Figfour information sheet which includes a full risk assessment to get you started.
Here are some places to find out more about Dry Tooling.
EICA - Ratho
The Castle - London
The Edge - Sheffield
Mile End - London
Nottingham Climbing Centre - Nottingham
Rock & Rapid - South Molton
Undercover Rock - Bristol
Westway - London
Redpoint - Birmingham
Dart Rock - Buckfastleigh
Both climbers and climbing walls have been involved in the development of our Figfour through a series of events during 2009.
We have uploaded some images of the DryIce events to our Facebook group.
8 - 10 January 2010. The final DryIce event took place during the Ice Climbing Ecrins festival in L'Argentière la Bessée, France. Unfortunately the weather wasn't the best but we did host a small aperitif in the main marquee. ICE on Facebook.
11th December 2009. This dry tooling event took place on Friday evening at the Nottingham Climbing Centre and was successfully integrated into round 3 of the bouldering league.
28 July 2009. Tout a Blocs, otherwise known as 'TAB', is an international bouldering festival. In it's 17th year TAB featured a three day outdoor bouldering competition attracting climbers from all around the world. More photos