Whether a professional athlete or just a weekend warrior, we are always seeking an advantage and any possible way to help us improve, utilizing training tools to achieve our personal bests. Cyclists have spinning bikes, baseball players have pitching machines, crew teams have rowing machines….but what do mixed or ice climbers have? For those of us who do not have access to a dedicated drytooling wall, a bunch of dead trees or have yet to build a plywood ice wall like Will Gadd, we are limited to pull-ups or lock offs in the garage.

What about climbing gyms you say? Ice and mixed climbing is defined by sharp objects and most modern climbing gyms do NOT allow the use of this equipment on their walls for the longevity of their faculty and the safety of their patrons. Wouldn’t it be great to have a set of safer tools that allow you to work on grip strength, balance and movement at any facility with holds? Enter the Dry Ice Tools by Furnace Industries.

Furnace Industries Ice Training Tools

These training tools are hand constructed out of plywood and the grip and lower shaft shaping resembles most modern tools like the Nomic, Fuel, Cobra or X-Dream offerings. The central part of the tool looks like a standard shaft and then at the very end a robust bolt holds a stiff rubber loop to create a lasso that allows the tool to be hooked over standard climbing holds. A small drilled hole and looped cord at the bottom of the pommel facilitates the attachment of leashes. Claimed weight is 1 lb 4 oz per pair, though my scale read a little less, at 1 lb 2 oz.

Quick Aside: Furnace is not the first to produce a training aid like this as Schmoolz and Alpkit’s Figfour paved the way, but these other models are no longer available. Now, the only other comparable dry training tool seems to be Escape Climb’s Dry Tool Picks ($105 – $115) which I have not used but did ask Ben at Furnace about. Ben says, “I think these are awesome. But here’s the thing: a gym owner looks at them and sees a sharp spike, a heavy metal shaft, and a pointy thing. In today’s modern crowded gym environment, that kind of hazard creating product simply does not fly… I have a pair myself for my Nomics, but I have only used them on my home wall with super positive holds.”

Speaking of which, I recommend checking with your friendly local gym staff before using any dry training tools, as they may have a particular policy or set of rules in place for use, or they may need to look into insurance liabilities first. For the safety of those around you most gyms will require tool leashes that decrease the likelihood that an errant tool will fall and injure your belayed or other innocent bystanders. Because I didn’t want to swap my main set or pay money for a new one, I made my own tether system that has been great.

Kirks homemade tether
To make this tether I removed the rope core and replaced it with stretchy rubber string.

 

To see and compare all the tether options from Blue Ice, Black Diamond and more, check out WeighMyRack.com/iceaccessory.

Now for the experience: there is a learning curve to understand what the rubber lasso can find purchase on. Slopers are “no-go”, tiny crimps are out and pinches normally don’t have the necessary geometry. Think positive thoughts… no really—positive holds are you best friend and the rubber loop accommodates a surprising size range of holds from medium to extra small and these tools shine.

Dry Ice Hold Examples

The experience of using this product does not imitate swinging real tools into real ice…Period. So now that we have that out of the way, what these tools do excel at is mimicking the more delicate art of hooking. This technique is more akin to the tool placements one experiences on drytooling, mixed routes or bucket esque steps that can develop at high traffic climbing locations Hyalite Canyon in Bozeman or at the Ouray ice park. You reach up, slowly bring the pick into a recess or crevice and then test pull for strength assessment. The same goes for these tools, some placements are bomber and others are tenuous and might send you falling through the air. Once you figure out which holds work simply adjust your feet, engage the legs, pull up and lock off with one arm and reach the lasso to the next hold with your other am. Simple concept overall, now repeat until you reach the top or you pump out and shake.

Dry Ice in gym
photo by Allyson Morris

Although the body movements of rock climbing, ice climbing and mixed climbing have some aspects in common, they are not entirely the same. For many years the H concept and more recently the Triangle metaphor is used to teach new ice climbers good technique. These forms of body movement are still appropriate on easy and moderate ice, but on a climbing wall it may be hard to square one’s feet and hips to the wall if the holds do not easily allow for it (you may try bribing your route setter to help accommodate).

After my first few days on vertical or slightly overhanging walls I found myself increasingly relying on my arms while using these tools, to my own detriment. A quick mental awareness adjustment to work the feet and force my hips into the wall more often has lead to better climbing and a more relaxed experience. For what it is worth, if you choke up on the grip the reach one can achieve is outstanding.

Climbing Gym stretching to hold with dry ice tools
photo by Allyson Morris

Side pulls can work as well, but the one thing I have found to be tough is steinpulls/underclings. That’s not to say they are not possible…just that they are difficult from a physics perspective. It is also possible to match hands on one tool in preparation for clipping draws if you are leading etc., however what exactly to do with the other tool is not always clear. It seems there are three options: leave it on a positive hold on the wall, try to rest it on your shoulder (like a normal tool), or hold it in your teeth. I find leaving it on the wall is the easiest and the mouth works for overhanging routes where the pull of gravity is suspect.

During my first few sessions I used a pair of dry tooling gloves. The extra material turned out to be a little tight across the palm and I have since largely ditched them as they do not seem necessary. In reality the routed and sanded wood surface is surprisingly comfortable with bare hands. One could easily wrap sections with grip tape, but so far it just does not seem necessary, the wood seems to mitigate small amounts of sweat as well.

Our local gym in Bozeman changes routes fairly regularly, but so far I have been able to find at least one ideal route each practice session. After a few weeks of experimentation I even took the tools into the bouldering room. The 45 degree overhanging wall already had quite a few positive holds but after exploration and a few back flops I found enough holds to try some athletic moves and figure 4’s. Skill, strength and j shaped holds allowed me to link a few moves, but the physics of downward force largely won out. I will not be personally spending a lot of time in this orientation, but others might find it more to their liking or training needs.

Figure 4 Bouldering Wall
photo by Allyson Morris

I spoke directly with Ben Carlson at Furnace Industries about the life expectancy of these tools and he said with moderate to heavy use they should easily go a few years before they become worse for wear. If/when that happens, they do sell replacement rubber straps ($30 per set). My set is going on a few months and is holding up quite well. Ben also noted that the wood was specifically oversized in the grip area to simulate the diameter of a real tool with gloves on as well. I have already seen an increase in my grip strength overall.

Dry Ice Tools Close Up

Editor’s Note: If you have small hands, there is a slimmer version of the Dry Ice tool called the Icicle. The handle of the Icicle pair is 30% smaller than the Dry Ice version and was made with youth climbers in mind.

 Dry IceIcicles
Weight (per pair)1lb 4oz (574g)12.5oz (354g)
Length21 in (53.34 cm)18.5 in (47 cm)
Width1 in (2.54cm).625 in (1.6 cm)
Height1.75in (4.44cm) 1 in (2.54 cm)

These photos from Furnace Industries show the size comparison:

Side View

comparison icicles and dry ice tool

Top View

top down comparison of icicles and dry ice tools

Conclusion

Since my training options are limited by my 9-5 job stealing my winter daylight hours and my rental house thwarting my ability to build a dedicated drytooling wall, I need to train at the gym. Since my gym does not allow the use of real ice tools, a different kind of training tool is necessary. When WeighMyRack heard I was training for an ice climbing trip in Alaska, they coordinated to have a pair of Dry Ice Tools sent to me for free in exchange for an unbiased review.

Dry Ice Tools stimulate many of the required muscle groups and body movements that are necessary and specific to modern mixed and ice climbing. Few pieces of gear in life are perfect, but for ice and mixed climbers who do not have access to a dedicated facility where real ice tools are allowed, Furnace’s Dry Ice Tools are the best training option. These tools will not replace climbing on real terrain outdoors, but they’re great for training and with a $99 retail price they shouldn’t break the bank or cut too far into gas for your next ice adventure.

Buying Options

Direct from Furnace Industries: 

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Kirk Turner

Kirk Turner

Kirk Turner built an affinity for endurance sports as a former professional cyclist, however he now enjoys pursuing a more broad range of outdoor activities. At any given time you may find him ice, mixed, or rock climbing, fly fishing, mountain biking, backcountry skiing, or trail running wherever there is wilderness to explore. He works as a product designer 9-5 and resides in Portland, Oregon with his girlfriend and their phenomenal adventure pup Kaida. Follow along on Instagram @kirkw.turner.

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