An Ice Axe is a vital tool for mountaineers and ice climbers but it’s also useful for backcountry ski tourers, hikers and hillwalkers. It is a valuable tool for providing an additional foot on a crusted slope, cutting steps into hard ice, constructing an emergency snow shelter, stopping a fall, and many more.
There are a variety of Buying Your First Ice Axe. The type of terrain you climb in and the level of your skill will determine which one to choose. Most come with an adze and pick on either side of the head which is double-headed, and is usually constructed from hot-forged steel. The shafts are made from steel, aluminum, carbon fiber or fiberglass, and may vary in curvature.
The majority of the axes we reviewed have curving shafts. This is primarily to give the user more freedom when swinging the axe through crevasses or ice. While curved shafts are most frequent in hybrid mountaineering ice tools, they are becoming more common among technical ice tools too.
Spiked versus Non-Spiked Axes
An ice axe that has a spike is best suited for those who are climbing glacier routes and traversing deep crevices as well as bergschrunds. Spiked ice-axes feature a distinctive shape that gives them to go deeper into the snow than a axe that is not spiked.
They can be used as a walking stick, hiking stick or self-arrest device in the event that you fall. When using an ice axe to self-arrest, you hold the axe with your hand facing up with the pick facing the reverse. You can wrap your thumb around the adze to secure your thumb and then put the spike into the snow. Then you can use your other hand to pull the spike upwards.
The spike can be planted by either an overhead swing or sweep. This is best for snow temperatures between 45-60 degrees. Overhead swings can cause wrist and knuckle injury, so you should avoid them on steeper snow where a pick is too dangerous to use.
Alternatively, you can plant the spike in the snow and then move it forwards as you step uphill. This is a great method to begin with ice axe climbing however, you should not use it for long periods of time as it can cause pain.
A spike can be used to clear an area that is covered in snow. This could be a problem if it is in thick ice. It can be tricky to remove a location that has the head of the ice axe in position, so you might have to push the ice axe back toward the ice to break through it before taking it out.
Another benefit of spikes is that they make it easier to grasp the shaft when you’re in a sled or carrying the ice axe. Additionally the spike can be used to drive the axe into snow as you walk uphill.
How to make use of an Ice Axe Conclusion. If you are a beginner, it is important to learn how to self-arrest using your ice axe. After that, you can begin to climb more difficult slopes or cliffs. This is particularly important in winter when a fall can cause fatal injury. Learning to self-arrest, and avoiding sliding downhill, is a life-saving skill that should be taught to all climbers, regardless of their age or previous experience.