Clean Ascent Hammer Drill: Safety On Lead

Posted on: April 1, 2009

Shh! We're hiding this in the archives.-Ed

MSRP $1500

Hanging on a fist jam four pitches off the ground in Lofoten, last summer, I looked down below me to see the worried look on my partner's face. I could see in the way he shifted his eyes from me to his belay that he was worried that if I fell his weak anchor might not hold. Half a pitch up a beautiful crack with a 20 meter runout from my last piece of pro I desperately searched my harness for protection that would fit. I had brought along a dozen cams, a few tricams and a set of nuts. Now confronted with a crack perfect for a number four cam, but knowing that I had used my number four already, I found myself precariously relying on a nearly tipped out number three. The rest of that climb I spent thinking there must be a better solution to rock protection. If only there were a solid piece of pro that fit anywhere, anytime.


The Clean Ascent Hammer Drill, coming to a cliff near you!

While browsing around murky climbing chat rooms I came across the Alpinist Clean Ascent. Finally a climbing specific hammer-drill light enough to drill on lead. Never again would I have to rely on inadequate natural protection. Now many would argue that a drill is much too heavy to clip to your harness while on the sharp end. But this is no ordinary drill and if you weigh its benefits against a trad rack you would be pleasantly surprised. The average trad rack can easily weigh 3-4 kilos while the new Clean Ascent drill weighs merely 1.5 kilos. Add 20 bolts and hangers and your setup will weigh in at just over 2.5 kilos, fully comparable with a traditional rack. This incredibly low weight is achieved through a titanium chassis, carbon fiber casing, lithium external battery pack and lots of pure mountain spirit.

The drill has served me well for a full active climbing season. It has completely replaced my entire rack. On most of my climbs I now rely completely on the drill for all of my placements. At first it was a bit awkward drilling on lead. The weight of the drill can be difficult to manage one handed and beginners might be advised to carry a single wide range cam to rest on while drilling. However much of the weight lies in the external battery pack that you clip to your harness and after some practice I have been able to drill single handily with my stronger arm while hanging on my left. Also knowing that you can always rely on your last bolt it is possible to go further between protection than traditionally without compromising safety. This means that you can finish off each crux before finding a comfortable spot to drill your next bolt.

The Clean Ascent also works well in wet or cold conditions. Per user feedback the next generation will include an optional chisel to allow for better hold creation.

All in all the Alpinist Clean Ascent is a top notch product in a class of its own. You may at first have a hard time accepting the high price tag of $1500. But again this is completely comparable with a full climbing rack. I have no doubt that the investment will serve me and any other safety conscious climber well both on future pristine first ascents and when repeating the classics.

Pros: super-safe all round protection in any rock anywhere; lightest hammer drill on the market; lighter than a full rack; protection remains solid for years to come.

Cons: hammer noise disturbs the peace and quite of the mountains (however, ear-protection or loud music are an excellent solution).

Here at Alpinist, our small editorial staff works hard to create in-depth stories that are thoughtfully edited, thoroughly fact-checked and beautifully designed. Please consider supporting our efforts by subscribing.


HA! clean drilling for a mere $1500! what a steal! at this point why not make all routes via ferreta, i love climbing ... ladders! too funny!

2011-04-04 01:11:23

HA! clean drilling for a mere $1500! what a steal! at this point why not make all routes via ferreta, i love climbing ... ladders! too funny!

2011-04-04 01:10:16
j. arsenault

In the book titled The Seventh Grade by Reinhold Messner, this rather talented climber commented on the fact that so many mediocre climbers carried their courage in their rucksack in the form of endless hardware. Contrary to some of the posts made about clean climbing being a conspiracy created by hardware manufacturers, it might actually be something else. More specifically, Messner's comment and the call for clean climbing might just be about using judgement, a realistic sense of self-evaluation regarding talent, and a sense of concern for what others might experience and learn from a climb without having to experience the remnants of those that have gone before them. If you really need a drill to solve your problems while climbing, perhaps you need to consider a different sport, or at least taking a hard look at the level you are playing at as opposed to the level you belong on. If you can't determine what is needed for a climb, you really don't belong there.

2011-04-01 06:08:02
the albatross

Thank you Alpinist, this is a wonderful gear review and great addition to the world of climbing. I have thought for years that the whole clean climbing revolution was a sort of conspiracy by major climbing gear companies. Every route should be fully and completely bolted and this is a great start. I get so sick and tired of carrying sand blasted cams around, this is the perfect solution. I know other magazines have been actively encouraging people to bolt illegaly, while praising the virtues of hold chiseling and pocket drilling (hey whatever it takes to make a classic route). This fits right into the grand scheme of my climbing career. Now I can take the route setting skills I learned over the last year in the gym, buy a set of chisels and drill bits, and rock the world! I am curious if the drill takes different sized bits for creating one, two finger pockets, or bigger bits for creating buckets (a personal preference)? I am starting a year long road trip and plan to hit most of the major crags in the USA - power drill in hand!

Thank you very much!!!

Alfred Enumen

2011-04-01 02:40:56
Post a Comment

Login with your username and password below.
New User? Here's what to do.

Forgot your username or password?