Dry-tooling (or drytooling) is a form of mixed climbing that is performed on bare, ice-free, and snow-free, routes. As with mixed climbing, the climber uses ice axes and crampons to ascend the route, but uses only rock climbing equipment for protection; many modern dry-tooling routes are now fully bolted like sport climbing routes. Indoor ice climbing competitions are held on non-ice surfaces and are effectively dry-tooling events.

Dry-tooling developed from the mid-1990s as the standards of mixed climbing rose dramatically, and the most difficult part of the new extreme M-graded mixed routes was often the dry-tooling component (i.e. a roof or severe overhang). Some of the most extreme mixed climbing routes now quote a D-grade alongside the M-grade to signify whether there was any ice encountered (i.e. Iron Man in Switzerland which is M14+/D14+).

Dry-tooling uses the identical equipment and techniques of mixed climbing and has followed its increased regulation of equipment to counter criticisms that it is a form of aid climbing. Dry-tooling has faced additional criticisms due to the damage it can do to natural rock surfaces, and dry-tooling climbing areas are usually separate from rock climbing areas. Dry tooling has been advocated as a more accessible sport for women.


Dry-tooling is mixed climbing performed on surfaces that have no ice or snow. The equipment is identical to mixed climbing, except that none of the ice climbing tools used by mixed climbers for protection are employed (e.g. ice screws). Dry-tooling climbers use the same fruit boots, monopoint crampons, heel spurs, and advanced leashless ice axes, which mixed climbers use. All of the unique techniques used in mixed climbing including stein pulls, torque pulls, undercling pulls, and figure-four moves are also used in dry-tooling.[1]

While dry-tooling techniques are used in alpine climbing, the modern sport of dry-tooling is associated with bolted protection, in the same manner as sport climbing rock routes.[1] Like sport climbing, dry-tooling is also closely associated with competition ice climbing.[1] As with mixed climbing, the equipment of dry-tooling has become more closely governed to counter criticisms of the sport being akin to aid climbing.[1] Dry-tooling in competition ice climbing no longer allows ice axe leashes and controls the dimensions of tools and the use of heel spurs.[1]

Types of routes

Dry-tooling climbers avoid rock climbing venues as the action of the ice axe can damage fragile holds (i.e. dry-tooling climbers do not attempt to repeat graded rock climbing routes).[1] Popular dry-tooling bolted venues are therefore often explicitly unsuitable for rock climbing due to weak rock (e.g. choss rock as found in the Dolomites or in the Fang Amphitheater in Vail, Colorado), and/or are perpetually in damp and wet condition.[1][2]

Leading dry-tooling climbers focus on roofs to push standards (and under DTS conditions), and thus many of the most important venues are caves (or quasi-caves), such as A Line Above the Sky (D15 DTS) and Parallel World (D16 DTS) in the Tomorrow's World Cave in Marmolada,[3][4] Bichette Light (D14 DTS) in the L'Usine Cave in Grenoble, or the Storm Giant (D16) in a remote cave in Fernie, British Columbia.[1] or the Aletheia (D16) and Téleios (D16+) in the Tana del drago in Ponte nelle Alpi.


Dry-tooling has always been used by ice climbers and mixed climbers to train in the summer months of the off-season, and as part of mixed climbing, dry-tooling techniques have been used in alpine climbing for decades.[5] In 1994, when Jeff Lowe dry-tooled a bare rock roof to get to the impressive hanging icicle of Octopussy in Vail, Colorado, and graded his ascent at WI6 M8, the sport of mixed climbing, but also dry-tooling was born.[6][7]

Climber doing a dry-tooling figure-four move and undercling pull at the 2016 UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup

While the early surge from 1994 to 2003 was focused on developing mixed climbing routes with sections of both rock and ice, as M-graded milestones rose, the technical challenges became more concentrated on the dry-tooling part of the routes, and particularly on breaching ever-larger roofs.[2] At the same time, the UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup events were being held on non-iced surfaces that were essentially dry-tooling routes, and UIAA male and female competitors also began to push dry-tooling standards in the outside environment.[2]

In 2010, French climbers, including Jeff Mercier [fr], introduced Dry Tooling Style (DTS), restricting equipment use and prohibiting figure-four and figure-nine moves (also called a "yaniro").[8] Competitions under DTS rules have been held, and several leading dry-tooling climbers have set new grade milestones in DTS fashion.[2]

In 2012, Swiss climber Robert Jasper [de] made the first ascent of Iron Man in completely dry conditions and graded it D14+, using a "D" prefix to denote "dry conditions"; he then repeated the route later in iced conditions and added a grade of M14+, for "mixed conditions".[9] In 2016, when the late British climber Tom Ballard freed the hardest dry-tooling climb in history, A Line Above the Sky, he graded it D15 DTS (i.e. done in the DTS style) and avoided the "M" prefix.[3][10]

Evolution of grade milestones

See also: Mixed climbing § Evolution of grade milestones, and List of grade milestones in rock climbing

Jeff Mercier [fr] in the final of a DTS Tour event, 2014

While many mixed climbing M-graded routes could be more accurately described as combinations of D-graded dry-tooling routes and WI-graded ice climbing routes, it was not until Robert Jasper's ascent of Iron Man in 2012, that D-grades become more common for routes that had no ice whatsoever.[2]

Female grade milestones

See also: Mixed climbing § Female grade milestones

Angelika Rainer [it] on French Connection (D15-), Tomorrow's World Cave, Marmolada, Italy

Most leading female dry-tooling climbers are competition ice climbers from the UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup tour, however, despite their smaller grouping, on several occasions, female dry-tooling climbers have set grade milestones that matched the highest male grades at the time; dry-tooling has been advocated as an accessible sport for women:[22]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Gladish, Dave (21 February 2023). "Opinion: Why Is Dry Tooling Getting So Popular? It's Awesome". Climbing. Retrieved 2 May 2023.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Generation Dry, discovering the world of Dry Tooling". PlanetMountain. 4 January 2019. Retrieved 2 May 2023.
  3. ^ a b c "Tom Ballard claims world's first D15 dry tooling climb in the Dolomites". PlanetMountain. 5 February 2016. Retrieved 2 May 2023.
  4. ^ a b "Dariusz Sokołowski discovers his Parallel World, D16 dry tooling in the Dolomites". PlanetMountain. 8 January 2019. Retrieved 2 May 2023.
  5. ^ "Five Drytooling Tips to Climb Stronger in Shoulder Season". Gripped Magazine. 5 October 2021. Retrieved 2 May 2023.
  6. ^ Takeda, Pete (14 January 2014). "TNB: Jeff Lowe Invented the Sport". Rock & Ice. Retrieved 30 April 2023.
  7. ^ Clarke, Owen (25 February 2022). "Jeff Lowe, Ice And Mixed Climbing Pioneer". Climbing. Retrieved 30 April 2023.
  8. ^ Rivadossi, Matteo (7 January 2015). "Jeff Merçier climbs first Italian D14 at Bus Quai". PlanetMountain. Retrieved 2 May 2023. It's important to underline that once again Merçier climbed without making any Figure of Four moves, opting instead for the more physical and natural DTS (Dry Tooling Style) climbing style he believes is more ethical and which he promotes internationally.
  9. ^ a b Geldard, Jack (22 February 2012). "Robert Jasper on Iron Man (M14+)". UKClimbing. Retrieved 1 May 2023.
  10. ^ a b Levy, Michael (22 August 2017). "World's Hardest Dry-Tooling Route Established in Canada". The Outdoor Journal. Retrieved 2 May 2023.
  11. ^ "Will Gadd climbs the hardest of his life with Instagram at The Temple". Desnivel. 8 January 2016. Retrieved 2 May 2023.
  12. ^ "Around the world of extreme drytooling by Young-Hye Kwon". Desnivel. 12 March 2015. Retrieved 1 May 2023. The flight dropped him off directly in Switzerland, where he wasted no time heading to the Eptingen area to see with his own eyes what is considered to be the toughest route in world mixed sports, Ironman D/M14+, opened by Robert Jasper, in 2012.
  13. ^ "Tom Ballard Establishes World's Hardest Dry-Tooling Route". Rock & Ice. February 2016. Retrieved 2 May 2023.
  14. ^ a b "Angelika Rainer's Historic D15 Climb in Italy". Gripped Magazine. 23 November 2017. Retrieved 3 May 2023.
  15. ^ "Gordon McArthur vs. Storm Giant, world's first proposed D16 dry tooling climb". PlanetMountain. 9 December 2017. Retrieved 2 May 2023.
  16. ^ Kosteki, Krystan (December 2017). "Storm Giant – The World's Hardest Drytooling Route". Rock & Ice. Retrieved 2 May 2023.
  17. ^ Kosteki, Krystan (8 January 2019). "Darek Sokołowski Establishes "Parallel World" (D16), Possibly World's Hardest Dry-Tooling Route". Rock & Ice. Retrieved 2 May 2023.
  18. ^ "Matteo Pilon ripete Parallel World - Up-Climbing". www.up-climbing.com. Retrieved 2024-03-11.
  19. ^ Walsh, Anthony (2024-01-30). "American Climbs the World's Hardest Dry Tooling Route". Climbing. Retrieved 2024-03-11.
  20. ^ gripped (2024-02-01). "American Climber Repeats D16 on Huge Roof". Gripped Magazine. Retrieved 2024-03-11.
  21. ^ Téleios D16+ First Ascent - Tana del Drago (Italy) - Matteo Pilon, retrieved 2024-03-11
  22. ^ a b Sterling, Sarah (4 December 2017). "INTERVIEW: Angelika Rainer, the first woman to drytool D15". British Mountaineering Council. Retrieved 3 May 2023.
  23. ^ "Ines Papert imposes Law and Order M13". PlanetMountain. 22 February 2007. Retrieved 3 May 2023.
  24. ^ Lambert, Erik (17 March 2007). "First woman to send M13". Alpinist. Retrieved 3 May 2023.
  25. ^ Geldhard, Jack (19 February 2013). "Female Ascent of M14 Mixed Route for Lucie Hrozova". UKClimbing.
  26. ^ "Lucie Hrozová becomes first woman to climb M14 with Ironman". PlanetMountain. 10 February 2013. Retrieved 3 May 2023.
  27. ^ "Angelika Rainer first female D15 with A Line Above the Sky". PlanetMountain. 12 November 2017. Retrieved 3 May 2023.

Further reading