Main Project Plans: Custom Ice Tools

As an avid climber, I have always been fascinated by the tools we use, ice climbing is completely different type of climbing which relies almost entirely on tools and equipment. Ice tools, are held like hammers and swung into the ice for purchase; they are cost restrictive and so, as an engineering student, I have opted to instead create my own. I started with some concept sketches to create and overall form/shape the tool will conform to.

I realized that creating custom pick heads is a complex process, it is also a problem that has already been solved by most OEM manufacturers so I decided to use off-the-shelf pick heads due to their availability and robustness. While I won’t be creating my own pick heads, I’m still excited to have the opportunity to design the rest of the ice tool. I was able to source material at the ITLL for this project which considerably decreases the overall cost to just that of OEM mounting hardware and pick heads. I originally wanted to use CAMP Cassin pick’s and hardware but reverse engineering the fitment proved to be much more difficult and not worth the time. The final design will use Petzl’s mounting hardware and hole pattern because of it’s ease of manufacture and the variety of pick options.


I started by researching existing designs and reverse engineering their rough dimensions from profile photos on their companies websites: this gave me a pretty good idea of what angles and mounting systems are common. I then designed an initial prototype in CAD and 3D printed it to get a feel for the scale and proportions. I also asked local ice climbers about their thoughts on the tools they currently use and what would make them better; I was able to compare some common, and some boutique, tools to my initial prototype to get a better understanding of the tools overall differences (and similarities) in geometry.











I understand that designing and building custom ice tools is a challenging task, but decreased cost and engineering experience gained far outweighs the time and energy spent. I’m excited to continue exploring different designs, and I can’t wait to see how my custom tools will perform compared to the competition.

I’m not sure if there a specific aesthetic I am going for in this project but a couple of concepts that come to mind are Bézier curves and bio-inspiration. I believe that design that are functional should be elegant too: a simple aluminum box is fine, but a Mac Mini is much prettier. Bézier curves are elegant and efficient for minimizing stress in parts that need to change the direction of force; and biology has had millions of years to optimize animals and plants to be most efficient which makes them perfect candidates for reverse engineering/mimicry under certain applications.


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4 Comments. Leave new

  • Connor Jameson
    March 12, 2023 11:54 pm

    This is a great idea for the final project and its even better that this is what you enjoy. I’m excited to see how this turns out.

  • Hi Elvin
    This is a really cool idea for a project. It’s always much more enjoyable when you’re working on something that you’re passionate about. It seems like you have already put in a lot of work and thought this early on in the project, I’m excited to see how your design will turn out.

  • Hi Elvin, your project inspiration is very interesting! I know DIY can be less expensive in a lot of areas, and the experience gained from making your own ice climbing picks will also be very valuable. How are you planning to incorporate the dynamic requirement for the project? Adding a moving component on the picks could be tricky and possibly dangerous, but it would be really cool to see something implemented that is functional!


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