Just got back from a soggy trip to Aberdeen, it’s monstrously wet in Lochaber and I’m not going anywhere near the hills despite the apparent ‘waste’ of my last day of holiday. So I’m stuck inside passing the time, but did promise to photograph my ice axes for someone when I got back and thought I’d take this opportunity to describe the modifications I made last year.
Now, the standard DMM Fly is a great Scottish axe but is neither equipped for clipper leashes (which I particularly wanted to try) nor given leashless capability (all the rage these days!) as sold. And, while the alternative Superfly goes some way to addressing these points, many folk still prefer the Fly and I wanted to try some non-destructive (ie totally reversible) modifications on mine.
Fitting the clippers proved to be quite straightforward in the end, with just a little experimentation with attachment systems necessary to sort what works for me after deciding I’d prefer the neat little snap links of DMM’s own clipper leashes to any of the obvious alternatives (eg Black Diamond Androids). And, after a few false starts trying to lash stainless twist shackles or rings to the shafts (cumbersome and tricky to clip), simplest proved best with more mobile 5mm cord loops tied through the heads of the axes. To clip you just grip the clip ‘handle’, rest the gate on the cord loop and pull down so the loop snaps into the clip. To unclip you just squeeze the gate open with your first finger and twist the clip back out of the loop. It’s easy even with gloves (on which note, yes, that’s an unused glove from my spare pair in the photo). The shock cords round the shafts serve the dual functions of keeping the loops handy so you can steer the clips off the shafts into their clipping positions and stopping them flipping over the axe heads when you’re swinging leashless. But the clips do strip the shaft paint because, while the axes are great, the paint is not!
Anyway, while I was really happy with this clipper system, I still fancied trying the axes leashless with some kind of grip rests and decided to try Grivel Sliders (in ‘non-sliding’ mode) over the rubber grips rather than drilling the spikes (see, non-destructive mods again!) for any other kind of aftermarket horns. A tidy modification which leaves the Sliders’ metal retaining bands seated against the Flys’ thicker end caps and the whole spikes unimpeded for some retained plunging ability, but requires a little ingenuity in clamping up the Sliders over grips that are thicker than the bare shafts they were designed to slide along. And, when you look at the end-on photo, you can see why because the Sliders are tapered, the retaining bands are springy and it’s almost impossible to clamp them shut without either covering the screws you need to do up or springing the black and yellow bits back off again. But, after an hour or two’s pure frustration, I hit upon a solution, dug some longer 5mm stainless machine screws out of my boat bits and did them up with those (no clamps necessary) before cutting the screws to length and filing the resulting edges. Can’t remember exactly how long the screws were, but think the pair I used were about a couple of inches and probably didn’t need to be that long. So now I’ve got a pair of leashless-capable Flys although I’ve not yet climbed enough pitches leashless to judge whether it’s my thing. But I can always take the Sliders off to leave the axes unspoiled and revert purely to the clippers (which are definitely staying!) if I find that I prefer them without.
Footnote (January 2010): despite what I said above about the clippers ‘definitely staying’, I’m now happily leashless after taking them off and buying myself a Black Diamond Spinner!