Warning: These modifications to the Black Diamond Whippet are in NO way endorsed by Black Diamond or any of its employees and will nullify any warranty possibilities. The use of the Whippet in any other way than that intended by Black Diamond is NOT recommended. Ski mountaineering, backcountry skiing, and climbing are dangerous. Please…ski, climb, and modify at your own risk!
This is the first ski season I’ve had with a Whippet in the quiver, and I find I take it with me more times than not when climbing and skiing steeper couloirs now…especially this time of year when the snow is firm. They are also handy for steep and icy skinning where slide-for-life potential exists.
One thing about the Whippet, is that the more times your use it, the more you want to use it, and the beefier you want it to be. When I was in New Zealand last fall, Andrew McLean (who used to work and design gear for BD) showed me a few modifications that make the Whippet an even better tool for skiing the gnar. I am no engineer and have limited access to certain tools, so I’m sure there are better ways to achieve this mod, but here is the hacker version.
Anyone who is serious about their Whippets will no doubt opt for carbon fiber lowers, instead of the aluminum ones that come stock with the Whippet. BD offers a sleeve that makes their carbon lowers compatible with the larger diameter upper, and it works great, but the top of the lower tends to rattle around a bit inside. Applying some duct tape on the end of the shaft keeps everything tight and quite. Length is important when customizing your pole also, and it helps to have a pole that collapses small for climbing the steeps…since that is when you’ll be using the Whippet the most. I cut my carbon fiber lower so when fully collapsed, the total height of the pole is just under 3 ft. To each his own though, but just remember you can’t put back on what you cut off.
Some of you may not know this, but the pick of the Whippet is removable. This is great if you only have one set of poles and don’t want to lug it around all the time, but the more you use the pick, the more you wish it was truly fixed to the grip of the pole. This is achieved by first removing the pick and getting rid of the twist that helps lock it into place inside the pole. I used a vise to make it straight and it worked well. Then, use a hacksaw to cut off the two prongs on the bottom…they will be useless now.
Before moving forward, I took this opportunity to sharpen the pick on a grinder. I know you’re not supposed to use these to sharpen picks and crampons, cuz they create too much heat and weaken the metal, but I’m willing to gamble that it will be alright. I sharpened the point and removed the first tooth on the pick, to help get a good stick and for better hooking performance.
Now it is time to drill some holes. The most important part of this mod is drilling the holes so everything lines up nice. I first used a ruler to find the center of the pole inside the grip and marked it. You are going to drill two holes to fix the pick, so space them out accordingly. One near the top, and the other near the center…positioned so it still goes through the metal section of the pick inside. Once you locate where the holes need to be made, there is a step-by-step process that helps to ensure proper alignment.
With the pick in place inside the grip, hold the drill as close to vertical as possible and drill through one side of the grip…just enough so the drill bit marks the metal of the pick inside. Remove the pick from the grip and drill through the metal where it was marked by the bit, hopefully this is close to the center. Now reinsert the pick into the grip and line the holes up so that you can insert the drill bit and continue to drill through the opposite side of the grip. Repeat this process with the other hole. I cleaned up the holes on the grip a little bit, so everything would be a bit more flush.
I used some small bolts to affix the pick to the grip, but I think Andrew had his nicely riveted…so use whatever you have access to. Remember though, the strength of the connection will rely a lot on what you choose to use. I guess the goal of this mod is to make the Whippet more like a real ice ax, which I think it does.
Insiders at BD tell me that a 2nd generation Whippet is in the works, that incorporates some of these mods into the production model. When it will be available to the public is anyone’s guess though.