Also see our post covering teardown and modifications of the BD Whippet, including use as a camera monopod.
Sometimes it’s nice to stick a handle on the mountain. Ice axe picks add security for self-arresting, glacier travel, and daggering up hill when terrain pushes the steep. Ice axes may also be overkill in some circumstances, unwieldy, or dangerous to use while skiing. The Black Diamond Whippet ski pole offers a compromise — part ski pole, part ice axe. It is a multi-use tool for steep skiing, moving on the skin track and snow climbing (within reason).
That said, there are also good reasons to approach the Whippet with apprehension. Skiing with a pick in your hand is like running with scissors. What is more, guides and experienced steep skiers will tell you that if you’re already moving downhill at a good clip, on steep terrain, the Whippet has little to no utility for stopping a fall; beware of wishful thinking in that regard.
The ideal is a removable Whippet. Andrew McLean’s original design allowed for removal, but was fiddly in that regard. To keep things simple and reliable, the removable option was “removed” for years. Now it is back.
Black Diamond has redesigned the Whippet for 2018 to include a removable head. You can now use a Whippet when you need it and stash the sharps when you do not.
I field tested the new Whippet. The head feels stable when attached and pops off with relative ease by twisting a wheel attached to the pick. The ‘ClickLock’ wheel has an internal ratchet. Changing grips and moving the pole around over the course of my tours moved the ratchet wheel a few clicks. This happened to me only a couple of times over a few days of use and felt like a fair trade for the added versatility, but I am curious to see how the wheel holds up long-term. Overall the design is simple and I like simple.
Upshots of this design are the endless possible home hacks that I am sure will begin showing up now that BD poles will have a threaded feed in the head. Camera mounts, inclinometers, Jetboil and coffee cups might now be hacked to screw easily onto a ski pole – the possibilities are endless.
Conclusion: Long term consumer testing is necessary, as is often the case — but we are optimistic. A positive step for Black Diamond, showing they’ve got the industrial design chops to bring any product up to the next level.
The Black Diamond Whippet will retail in a 3-piece aluminum or 2-piece carbon option. Additionally, the BD Traverse WR 2 pole will be ‘Whippet ready,’ meaning you can buy or borrow the Whippet head separately and install it on your poles if desired.
Specs from Black Diamond:
Whippet Attachment (Whippet axe head only)
Whippet pole (aluminum pole with Whippet attachment)
Carbon Whippet (carbon pole and Whippet attachment)
Traverse WR 2 (pole only)
The new Whippets will be available fall 2018.
(The fixed head Whippet will be discontinued fall 2018.)
Dr. Alex Lee lives in Anchorage, Alaska. Alex is a professor at Alaska Pacific University, teaching philosophy and environmental studies. He also works as a sometimes guide, naturalist, writer, and photographer.