Ice Climbing gear has come so far, and so have our various attachment devices. When we used to climb with straight shafted tools, we put 1" webbing on the heads of the tools and twisted our wrists into them for security.  When I started ice climbing I fabricated wrist leashes out of 1" black webbing into custom length leashes that consistently restricted blood flow to my freezing hands. Then it was this litany of products:

Charlet Moser Lock Down Leashes

Charlet Moser Ball and Post Leashes

BD Lick Downs

BD Ice Clippers (which I still think are pretty awesome)

And then, nothing.  No leash. Leashless.

Climbing leashless opened up many doors for ice climbers to climb more like rock climbers. Body movement, footwork, and forearm pump management have all changed since leashes disappeared. In the Ice Climbing World Cup events for example, climbers were FORBIDDEN to use leashes simply because if/when they blew it during competition, officials didn't want the climbers to have sharp points flying all around the climbers mid flight. Better to let the tools fall clear of the climbers. Because of the leashlass movement and the world cup rule, mixed climbing has really taken off.

But that wasn't the end of it!  Now you can have your ice tools tethered to you via tethers, or 'umbilicals'.  These are a good idea simply because it might be a bad thing to drop a tool from pitch 6 of some grade 5 monster deep in the Ghost River Valley.

Tethering isn't a new idea.  It goes back the late 70's early 80's when climbers would simply attached some webbing to their tools and went for it. But the ethic was such that tethers were looked upon as a weak man's crutch.

Now tethers are back in vogue, and there are a few excellent tethers on the market, and we cannot recommend them enough.  If fact, you ABSOLUTLEY MUST have tethers (homemade or otherwise) in order to toprope or lead climbing with DRY ICE Tools in a gym setting.

Here are the latest posh tethering devices on the market today:

The Blue Ice Boa

Available HERE!.

The Boa Leash is an extremely lightweight leash with simple tool connections and adjustment possibilities, we hence call it the king of minimalist design and comfort. The leash is delivered without carabiners which creates a negligible weight and allows the climber to use his or her preferred carabiners as explained in the instructions manual. A double loop allows to fine tune the length when connecting to the harness, giving the climber an excellent amount of freedom to adjust the leash for best r

The BD Spinner Leash

A lightweight swiveling tether system for leashless ice tools.

  • Proprietary elastic webbing stretches for maximum reach and absorbs less water than nylon

  • Steel mini-clip attaches to the tool’s spike or head

  • Built-in swivel ensures tangle-free use

  • Rated to 2 kN

The Grivel Double Spring

- Makes it impossible to lose the ice axes

- Leaves hands free

- Long when required

- Compact when required

An elastic double sling system to avoid losing tools when climbing on rock or ice, solving the problem of modern climbing without a leash.

The Double Spring is attached to the harness by looping it through the tape ring over the harness itself.

The two ice axes are attached with 2 small carabiners to the holes on the spike (max 750kg).

Permits easy changeovers of hands and tools.

The two sections are so elastic that they don’t impede any movement and allow maximum arm extension when required.

Compact when required, long when required.

Attention: the double spring must never be used as a self belay for the climber or to belay a companion. Its strength is limited to 200kg.

The two small carabiners have a maximum resistance of 750kg and must never be used instead of normal carabiners when climbing or belaying. 

Cassin X-Gyro Leash

The innovative X-Gyro™ lanyard system uses a patented swivel design that allows each attachment point (harness + left axe + right axe) to rotate completely independently from the others. This means no more tangles and no more twisting. The rewind elastic webbing cords stretch easily for swinging and contract back to their original length to keep them out of the way. Attachment to the axe can be done in two ways. For maximum security, use the loop of cord to girth-hitch the spike or handle of the axe. Or make it easy to attach and detach the axes with the Nano 23 carabiners provided. Available in two lengths to fit all climbers.

Oooooorrr, You could simply make them yourself with with simple cordage or bungee with knots, or using the instructions here:

or here:

But as it turns out, for the money and time spent mucking around, it's easier just to buy a sweet pair.

If you’re interested in a detailed guide that is updated and comprehensive on how to choose climbing harnesses, here is a completely free one written by a climbing instructor and mountain guide. You can find it here:

There's a ton of info over at Cold Thistle on the subject tethers.  Blogger Dane has been doing this for a while and he's got tons of experience with all kinds of ice gear. Although rather opinionated (hey, it is his blog afterall), his reviews are complete and rounded.