Trek & Mountain visits German brand Salewa for a preview of their innovative new ice screw…
It’s not often that a manufacturer of technical outdoor equipment scraps the current concept of climbing protection, and releases something completely original. What’s more, it’s even rarer that these innovations function better than the old, tested-and-trusted designs. The German brand Salewa may have done just that though.
We recently were invited out to Germany to try the latest in ice climbing protection from Salewa; the wonderfully-named Quick Screw. This is an all-in-one solution that combines the screw’s shaft and handle with an attached quickdraw. What separates Salewa’s Quick Screw from a similar all-in-one design, such as the Grivel Speedy, are a couple of game- changing features that define how the screw behaves in the climber’s hand.
To understand where this new design comes from, we’ll go back to the inventor himself: Egon Resch. Egon grew up and climbed in a beautiful area of the Dolomites called Rosengarten. It was in this playground for steep and serious climbing, that Egon developed his own ice screws. After creating his prototypes in his home workshop, he’d look for willing partners to help him climb routes whilst testing his homemade gear! Today, Egon is the Technical Director of the Technical Hardware Division, Salewa. Bringing his knowledge and experience of designing and testing his own equipment, Egon develops products that are not only developed for hardcore climbers, but by hardcore climbers.
Why have a Quick Screw?
So what exactly does this new ice screw bring to the table? Salewa’s patent pending tip and thread protection is seamlessly attached to the quickdraw extender, and is unnoticed when the screw is in use. This not only increases the climber’s safety when carrying the screws, but eliminates the need to remove the caps before climbing. As mixed climbers will know, deciding to keep the caps on when climbing, to protect the screw tip, can often lead to a desperate one-handed attempt to remove them mid-route. The folding quickdraw and tip protector makes racking incredibly easy and compact.
Carrying a large number of screws is much easier, without the need for plastic clippers. Racking the screws on gear loops also allows the climber to easily take screws in any order, rather than the one nearest the gate of the plastic holder.The attached quickdraw not only spins freely when the screw is being placed, but can even slide up and down the shaft. This seemingly simple idea makes the screw extremely versatile. Rather than tying it off with a sling when ice is too thin for the full screw length, the climber can simply slide the quickdraw up against the ice. Even if the ice is too thin for the whole thread, the quickdraw can be moved down the thread too. This seemingly small feature solves a common problem faced by climbers, particularly for Scottish winter climbing. Without needing to find and attach a quickdraw after each placement, valuable seconds are saved. When climbing steep technical ice, the difference is incredible, helping to prevent ‘pump’.
To many climbers, the idea of having a quickdraw attached to the screw may seem like a drawback, as this reduces the overall life of the product, due to the extender wearing out faster than the screw itself. With the Quick Screw, this is not a problem, as the quickdraw component can be easily removed and replaced. Salewa even sell just the quickdraws alone for this purpose. The folding handle is constructed with hardened plastic, designed for use in cold temperatures and does not become brittle. The handle’s low profile allows the screw to be placed in much tighter gaps than than other screws currently available. Furthermore, the plastic handle insulates the screw shaft from the ambient temperature and sunlight, increasing safety of use in direct sunlight. This is particularly useful on a glacier, for example.
When and where?
This ice screw is equally at home on steep ice or classic alpine routes. It’s surprisingly easy to use with one hand, despite the attached tip protector and folding handle. For mountaineering guides, clients dropping ice screws should no longer be a problem, as the screws can be removed whilst still attached to the rope. This is particularly useful when seconding a difficult section, where stopping to rack an ice screw would be inconvenient. For the conditions I’ve tested the screw in to date, it functions well even with a blocked shaft, providing the teeth are clear. The screw can be emptied easily by tapping against the ice or blowing from the sharp end, if you don’t have a Grivel threader. The folding handle doesn’t obstruct the flow of the ice core when being placed, as long as the shaft is unblocked or the crank is not clipped shut.
Unlike screws with a large hanger, attaching multiple screw gate carabiners at a stance could be an issue. Fortunately Salewa have allowed for this, by leaving space in the loop that holds the snap gate carabiner. Although this loop is large enough to clip a screw gate, when the ice screw is loaded the loop could be difficult to clip.
Most innovative products or features come with at least some drawbacks, and as with any product review, opinions are subjective. From the testing I’ve done so far, there are no significant negative points, only slight differences that should be easy to adjust to. This screw is unbelievably easy to use with one hand, and with practice the low profile handle should become easier to drive. When new, the screws seem to bite as well as the Black Diamond Turbo Express, but save valuable seconds without the need to find a quickdraw once the screw has been placed. Only time and more testing from the climbing community can say for sure, but I’ve certainly enjoyed testing the Salewa Quick Screw.
More info at: www.salewa.com