Ice Axes are essential equipment for all mountaineers and ice climbers, but they are an essential part of any backcountry ski tourer’s kit, or hiking pack during winter. An ice axe that is properly used can keep you safe from falling or cut steps through the icy snow, or rescue someone else stuck in a crevasse or slide down an avalanche-covered mountain.
What you need to be aware of about Ice Axes
There are a variety of Buying Your First Ice Axe, each one specifically designed for a particular task. The design of the ice axe you select is contingent on the type of terrain you plan to travel through and your personal ability and experience.
Traditional Mountaineering Axes for Mountaineering
For general use, traditional mountaineering axes offer an adze opposite the pick. They typically feature a straight-shafted design with a relatively straight-edged and level adze and picks with a positive curve that has an angle of 65-70 degrees hooking angle.
A more simple style of mountaineering is more suitable for novices. They are typically smaller, lightweight and simpler to maneuver.
What to Look For in an Ice Axe
A long ice axe could cause you to fall off a ledge or onto the side of a rock. You need to find the perfect size to ensure it’s comfortable and easy to grip and swing when hiking, climbing, or ice climbing.
Make sure you know the length of your ice axe prior to you head out into the field or ask a professional to do it for you. This is especially important when you’re carrying an ice axe to ensure security reasons, like when you are storing it in a rucksack.
How to Measure Your Ice Axe
When you’re in a safe area then raise your ice axe within arm’s reach. Make sure that the edge of your adze is in contact with your ankle. This will ensure that your leg doesn’t get injured or cut if the adze falls on the ground.
It’s also worth looking for thin fatigue cracks that may appear on the pick over time which could weaken the axe and could cause it to break while you’re using it. If you’re not certain about the strength of your ice axe it’s recommended to try testing at a sporting goods store or your local outdoor retailer.
What Should You Do With Your Ice Axe When You’re Climbing
When climbing using an ice axe the most common method is to grab the head and then apply adze to it. If you are using a self-arresting grip, your thumb should be positioned over the head of your axe. Your other hand should rest on the shaft. The adze will point into the snow and you can then utilize your pick to climb.
When you’re confident in your self-arrester, you can also use the adze to help you walk up and down steep slopes. It takes some thought, but could be a useful tool in the event of a need.