The ice clipper has become a staple of winter climbers on routes which require a significant number of ice screws – other options exist such as ‘flutes’ or ‘pan pipes’ but they lack the versatility of the simple ice clipper – fit a pair to your harness and you can stash 10-12 screws securely. Usually ice clippers are made from a nylon/plastic material with a wire gate, after all they are not load bearing and why over engineer and increase the price? There are now at least half a dozen different models available in the UK. DMM have now entered the fray but with a somewhat different take on things.
The DMM Vault is similar to existing ice clippers but there are some significant departures. Firstly it is created out of aluminium with all the care that DMM put into their carabiners (however it is not rated for load bearing). Secondly it has a hinged fastening mechanism with optional spacers that is opened and closed with a small screw to attach it to your harness making it very secure and impossible to invert on the harnesses I’ve used it with. This construction bring a number of benefits chief to my mind being security and stability. Unlike some ice clippers I’ve used the Vault does not get twisted or inverted – it is always where you expect to find it and gear is easily retrieved.
It also means you can attach the ice clipper to some harnesses that lack slots so long as the waist bet is less than 45mm at the point you wish to fix the VaultNow I know an ice clipper doesn’t have to be that strong but I can easily twist the gates past the nose on my plastic ones opening up the possibility of lost screws. To be honest I’ve never lost anything through the failure of a plastic ice clipper but I could see how it could happen. On some ice routes I’ll have perhaps five screws per clipper, that’s £250 of kit that could disappear. Having a super strong and reliable carrier might seem a wise investment. I also have the possibly bad habit of clipping my ice tools into the clippers when abbing off routes – again a super safe clipper is reassuring.
In use the Vault was superb in every aspect bar one, which may or may not affect you. Ease of use and security were faultless with Grivel and Petzl screws (and I’m sure with DMM’s own) but with BD screws the ‘horn’ that allows you to sort screws on the clipper’s ‘shelf’ was too tight a fit – unfortunately you could occasionally get one onto the shelf in a monkey puzzle fashion only to have it almost stuck there which might be a little upsetting in extremis! A few passes with the file and the problem was solved and in the modified state I’d give the Vault four or five stars.
At present it’s an excellent choice so long as your rack isn’t made up of BD screws or if it is you’re happy to take a file to your new purchase. Currently the (modified) Vault is a permanent fixture on my winter harness and I’m tempted to get a second to replace my remaining plastic clipper.
Richie is the enthusiastic amateur of the team. Enjoying all aspects of climbing but especially alpine, winter and his local grit . Having managed to survive the vagaries of both fluorescent Koflachs and rainbow tights in the 80s he looks forward to an even more stylish future. A shady past in mountain marathons and adventure races, including the Marathon des Sables, means he’s an advocate of fast and light. Though the former is debatable if you’ve seen him on a tricky lead!