WTF is Dry Tooling? — 5 Videos Worth Wasting Time With

I feel like, at least in principle, I understand most styles of climbing reasonably well. I mean, I still have my apprehensions about ice climbing (I prefer to maintain sensation in my extremities and not rely on frozen water for protection), but I suppose that I can see the appeal of that kind of type 2 fun.

What I don’t have a god damn clue about though is dry tooling. Even though I’ve seen ample video clips of this crazy looking shit, I’m still utterly confounded by what the fuck is going on … and … frankly, why?

Is it just me? Am I missing something obvious here? Or is this as fucked up as it looks? I mean this with the utmost respect to these folks, but man, I have a lot of questions. Like, perhaps the most obvious one:

How in the fuck do they not stab themselves?!

In an effort to uncover the vast mystery of dry tooling, I embarked on a mindless video journey that really only served to further inundate myself into this dubious form of rock ascension. Join me; it’s fun.

Let’s start with this one. The sport climbing form of dry-tooling: not only does this shit look really hard, but it requires that you casually hang a sharp axe on your back while you’re clipping ‘draws at a 45-degree angle. Hm …

This next one really caught me off guard. Definitely did not realize this was a thing … And also, maybe this is a silly question, but uh, why not just use your hands?

Just in case you thought this shit looked all chill ’cause in the last video they were drinking Redbulls, cruising around on jet skis, and falling into a nice looking lake (… still with axes), you need watch this one.

As if clawing your way up rock like Wolverine wasn’t intense enough, why not just hack off some chossy ice (’cause really is it ever really bomber?) and climb it all in one route?

Alright, alright, you get it: this stuff looks scary and hard. But you’re probably wondering, how do you go about training for and projecting one of these climbs?

In this next one, watch Dawn Glanc’s process to becoming the first American women to climb an M11 graded route called Redbull Vodka —a drink I imagine most of us would need many of before having the courage to even touch.

Turns out, it’s advisable to wear a helmet with the training apparatuses. Also, based on the spider-like leg resting technique frequently used, yoga seems like it would help.

Now that you’ve joined me on most of the rabbit hole adventure into the wide world of dry tooling (… how many of these climbers are there really, though?), let’s take a gander at the thriving competition scene abroad, which apparently exists.

In this final video, you’ll witness numerous whippers where axes go flying into the air, and moments where climbers hold axes  in their mouths, which will likely have you exasperatingly returning to my first question:

How in the fuck do they not stab themselves?!

As much as I want to act like I understand this activity any more than I did, I’m still left with a heaping pile of confusion.

Are you dry tooler? Do you know a dry tooler? We want to chat and learn what the hell is going on here. And also excuse the amount of fucks written in this article. But really though, what the fuck is dry tooling?


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  • Daniil Vyatkin

    Sometimes they do stab themselves, but it usually happens during speed iceclimbing competitions, when climber run up the big artificial ice walls/columns as fast as possible. To do this, sportsmen use special tools named ice-fifi that look like hooks with handles, with one tooth sharpened to point. Ice usually not very strong, thus fifi crush it and hit climber into leg/arm/etc. Maybe it is the reason for speed ice climbing being not as popular as lead.