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Kevin Sawchuk
(ksawchuk) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Helix Ice Ax on 02/01/2006 14:02:10 MST Print View

The new Helix ice ax has an appealing weight. I would love to buy one. However from Ryan's comments it seems that the only thing you can use it for is as a walking stick and chopping steps. It specifically excludes the usual self-arrest method as an approved use. This would make it a pretty decoration but not a functional tool.

I certainly understand that it is not UIAA certified and that BPL needs to "CYA". I'd like to get some data about how well the head stays on with axial forces, how much force you can apply to the shaft while trying to get the pick to stick into snow (lateral force on the shaft) without it failing--either from head detachment or carbon shaft failure. This would help all of us who carry an ice ax for general mountaineering (not ice climbing) understand its place.

larry savage
(pyeyo) - F

Locale: pacific northwest
Re: Helix Ice Ax on 02/01/2006 14:10:56 MST Print View

I've got the same questions, maybe a few of us like minded souls could chip in ten bucks and destroy one. How about it RJ...

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Re: Helix Ice Ax on 02/01/2006 15:25:41 MST Print View

My comments about the axe are there as a liability disclaimer, not to discourage ultralighters who really get it from using it.

I climbed a 50 degree 1,600' long snow and alpine ice couloir with a pair a few weeks ago. I really wrenched on them. The consequences of a fall were somewhat serious. Which of course means nothing and would mean less if one broke.

I've self arrested on mine a ton in forgiving conditions and haven't broke one yet. I sacrificed one by camming the head in a rock crack and pulling on the shaft. It broke catastrophically in the shaft below the head, but with a LOT of force. I needed to kick the shaft with my boot to do it. I don't expect to put that much stress on these tools in normal self arrest situations.

But.

"They are not certified as climbing tools and therefore cannot recommend them for any activity where the consequences of a fall and/or failure of the tool will result in mild injury, severe injury, death, or emotional stress..."

larry savage
(pyeyo) - F

Locale: pacific northwest
Re: Re: Re: Helix Ice Ax on 02/02/2006 15:02:41 MST Print View

Thanks Ryan...A friend asked me to participate in race doing the ski leg this spring, tele gear is not allowed so I took my alpine skiis down for a tune-up, the disclaimer I had to sign when I picked them up would make an ambulance chaser blush, I understand the need for disclaimers every manufacturer and retailer has been litigated to death over risk sports. Thanks again.

Tony Burnett
(tlbj6142) - F

Locale: OH--IO
Helix Ice Ax == Potty Trowel on 02/21/2006 07:40:08 MST Print View

I see that ULA is no longer calling it an Ice Ax. Its now a potty Trowel. Read the description, its quite funny.

http://www.ula-equipment.com/helix.htm

Dane Fliedner
(dfliedner) - F

Locale: North Texas
Potty Trowel on 02/21/2006 14:08:41 MST Print View

Finally! After searching for years for my UL potty trowel (digging with hiking poles and sticks is such a chore), ULA has come to the rescue. Also, it will look beautiful on my P-2. Can hardly wait to order!!!

Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
Helix ice axe on 03/28/2006 09:38:39 MST Print View

I LOVE IT !

and a great way to avoid any potential legal hassels if someone has an unfortunate experience whilst trying to use it for something else.

Wandering Bob

Ben Wald
(benwald) - F
Helix Axe for self-belay? on 05/28/2006 13:21:08 MDT Print View

Earlier in this thread R Jordan described his testing of the Helix axe for self-arrest.

Based on those results, I think I'd be comfortable using the Helix for cutting steps, and also for SELF-ARREST with the following provisos:
-axe undamaged (mainly an issue for the shaft).
-chances of needing to self-arrest very low.
-no rope carried on the trip (no crevasse rescue, no use of the axe as a rope anchor).
-slope angle low to moderate.
-no hard ice (aluminum head unsuitable)
-not many rocks in the snow (could shatter the shaft).
-combined weight of person plus backpack not too large.

Self-arrest is (hopefully) a rare event. A much more frequent use is self-belay, where the spike is plunged as far as possible into the snow and one grabs the shaft or head of the axe. Self-belay is frequently employed to gain stability when traversing or ascending a steep slope, and it is also used to arrest a slip, hopefully obviating the need for self-arrest.

I'm not sure whether the Helix would be suitable for self-belay:
- Is the shaft strong enough? Self-belay stresses the carbon-fiber shaft, in contrast to self-arrest where all the stress passes through the aluminum head.
- Is the shaft wide enough? The buried shaft of the Helix will provide less resistance than a regular axe because the Helix's shaft has a narrower cross-section. The amount of resistance is crucial to self-belay.

At present there is almost no data available on the strength of the carbon fiber shaft under the forces that arise during self-belay. That's in stark contrast to trekking poles, where Luxury Lite, Titanium Goat, Bozeman Mountain Works and Gossamer Gear all provide detailed information about the strengths and weaknesses of their poles, including data from destructive testing. That data indicates that the Luxury Lite and Ti Goat poles are the strongest, while the Gossamer Gear poles are the lightest. Is the strength of the Helix shaft comparable to a Gossamer Gear shaft, a Luxury Lite shaft, or stronger than all of the above? Surely it is more important to provide data for an ice axe than for trekking poles!

Edited by benwald on 05/28/2006 17:33:02 MDT.


(Anonymous)
Helix Trowel on 05/28/2006 15:43:22 MDT Print View

You are right...surely it is important to provide data for an ice axe. But for a Potty Trowel? Seems a bit excessive to me.

Obviously the product has limitations. If I was ULA I'd keep from listing the specs you ask for, for that very reason. Numbers give people a false sense of security. Unfair comparisons are made, expectations are set. In the field numbers have no tangible use. If it causes you concern or frightens you, don't buy it. Use what gives you the sense of safety you require to travel confidently in the backcountry.

Ben Wald
(benwald) - F
Re: Helix Trowel on 05/28/2006 17:28:46 MDT Print View

Anonymous, your point that "numbers give people a false sense of security" is well taken. That's especially true for carbon fiber, since it could develop cracks and weaken over time. Indeed it would an idea to add a cautionary note to the Helix webpage mentioning that the strength of a carbon fiber shaft may be compromised if it is thumped or bumped. But since carbon fiber comes in many different strengths, it is difficult to assess the limitations of the Helix without some data regarding the strength of the shaft. At one end of the scale are the ultralight shafts used in Gossamer Gear poles, which would likely snap if subjected to the force of a self-arrest. At the other end of the scale are carbon fiber shafts used in some technical ice-climbing axes, which can presumably withstand the rigors of iceclimbing. R Jordan has already supplied some qualitative data concerning the performance of the Helix for self-arrest, and I think it would be informative to supplement this with some self-belay tests.


(Anonymous)
Re: Re: Helix Trowel on 05/30/2006 15:52:08 MDT Print View

Anonymous, your point that "numbers give people a false sense of security" is well taken. That's especially true for ..., since it could develop cracks and weaken over time. Indeed it would an idea to add a cautionary note to the ..., mentioning that the strength of a ... shaft may be compromised if it is thumped or bumped. But since ... comes in many different strengths, it is difficult to assess the limitations of the ... without some data regarding the strength of the shaft. At one end of the scale are the ultralight shafts ..., which would likely snap if subjected to the force of a self- ... ! At the other end of the scale are ... shafts used in some technical ..., which can presumably withstand the rigors of ... ! R Jordan has already supplied some qualitative data concerning the performance of ... for self- ..., and I think it would be informative to supplement this with some self- ... tests.

Jordan Hurder
(jordanhurder) - F

Locale: Southern California
RE: ... on 05/30/2006 17:11:39 MDT Print View

Okay, I don't get it.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: RE: ... on 05/30/2006 17:23:55 MDT Print View

Jordan,

I needed to read it a second time slowly. It's an edited post, eliminating references to product name, materials, uses, etc. Has something to do with legal issues and not endorsing its use for some applications????

At least, that's my take on it.

Edited by pj on 05/30/2006 18:53:58 MDT.

Buck Nelson
(Colter) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
ULA "Potty Trowel" Ice Axe on 12/02/2010 22:43:48 MST Print View

I know this is an old thread but I used one on the PCT. It broke while I was chopping snow to melt for drinking water. It's an incredibly weak tool, and should not be relied upon for self arrest, that's for sure.

. .
(biointegra) - MLife

Locale: Puget Sound
Re: ULA "Potty Trowel" Ice Axe on 12/02/2010 23:43:11 MST Print View

Bruce,

Where did it break - mid shaft? May have been due to subtle, yet terminal damage that began with a previously shrugged impact. Carbon fiber shafts, kind of like a lightweight helmet, probably needs to be retired from serious use after an appropriate impact and do need to 'babied' more than AL, Steel, or Ti.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F - M
ice axe on 12/02/2010 23:45:21 MST Print View

they test and certify ice axes for a reason ...

now whether you want to risk using one that isnt at least B rated is up to you, but it is your life on the line ... the time you need to actually self arrest is the time you dont want it to fail

you can get a 200g camp corsa ice axe these days ...

Edited by bearbreeder on 12/02/2010 23:52:10 MST.

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: ULA "Potty Trowel" Ice Axe on 12/03/2010 18:53:42 MST Print View

Hi Bruce,
I'd be interested in some more information regarding the break aswell. Do you still have the axe? It would be great to see some pics.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Ti axe? on 12/04/2010 01:02:25 MST Print View

Mebbe yu'ns need a Ti ice axe/piolet. Light as strong as steel and as 'spensive as a Ferrari gas cap.

Buck Nelson
(Colter) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Here's a photo on 12/06/2010 00:27:32 MST Print View

Broken ULA Helix Ice Axe Potty Trowel

As you can see it broke where the head attaches to the shaft. Look how thin that aluminum is! I used Titanium Goat AGP (carbon) Poles the whole PCT and never broke one. This "Potty Trowel" broke right off the bat. At least one other hiker showed me that the head of his Helix was loose already, even before he hit the Sierras.

Seems like a great weight savings, until you need it for a self arrest. Then it might work. Or it might break in half.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F - M
scary on 12/06/2010 00:33:53 MST Print View

thats scary ... gear used for climbing should not fail if used properly

of course this isn't climbing gear ...

thanks for posting