Thursday, December 20, 2007

Return of the Warthog

Pound-in ice protection hasn't been used much in North America for more than a decade, ever since high-quality, easy-in/easy-out ice screws eliminated the need for desperation pieces like the Snarg on vertical ice. But in Britain and parts of Europe, where frozen turf—en route and on the tops of crags—is a big part of the game, drive-ins still have their place. The venerable Warthog, a drive-in/screw-out piton, hadn't been manufactured in a couple of years, but the British retailer Needle Sports is bringing them back: "The Warthog Ice Screw was first made by Salewa, but as far as we can ascertain Mountain Technology were the only company that have produced them in recent years. With the demise of Mountain Technology, and their parent company HB, the Warthog, so beloved of British and Polish climbers but so little known elsewhere, looked like becoming an endangered species. However, Needle Sports has located the engineering firm that originally made Warthogs for Mountain Technology and are very pleased to be able to offer them once again."

I've still got an old CAMP Warthog in my gear pile, more for sentimental than practical reasons. If you needed a drive-in today, a poundable hook like the Spectre would almost always be a better bet. But there's one situation where Warthogs were truly useful: "ice climbing" on the chalk cliffs near Dover, England, a dubious practice invented by desperate Londoners who lived 12 hours from the nearest Scottish ice. I did several climbs at Dover in the mid-’80s, and Warthogs (along with concrete rebar) provided remarkably solid pro, though they were a bear to place. Check out the photos and story on Vince Anderson's site to get a feel for this bizarre game.

Anyway, I'm keeping my old Warthog. Who knows how long they'll be made, and maybe I'll go back to Dover someday. Maybe I'll need to hang something heavy from a beam in the garage. Maybe I just like having one on my rack.

No comments: