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Care & Feeding of a ULA Helix Ice Axe
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Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: UIAA certified ice axe on 10/18/2006 04:23:51 MDT Print View

> "...no data pertaining to the strength of the axe has been published. <snip> ... if ULA chooses to sell the axe then they are under a moral obligation to provide pertinent strength data."
> You hit the nail on the head. I could not have said it better!

Unfortunately, both of you got it completely wrong. ULA are NOT selling an Ice Axe; they are selling a Potty Trowel. Read the published company description.
OK, you might want to call it something else (like an ice axe), but this does NOT mean the company has to accept your definition. They don't. They sell it a as Potty Trowel.

Now you might say I am being pedantic. You would be right. But the (outrageous) Tort Laws in America are also pedantic. You are free to use the Potty Trowel (or any other item) for any other activity not covered by the company description you want, but it is at YOUR responsibility.

If they started publishing ANY ice-axe-specific strength details they could be accused of trying to evade liability. So they don't (and can't) publish anything.

Eric Parsons
(EricP) - F

Locale: Alaska
whippits on 01/24/2007 16:49:05 MST Print View

If you cant (or are affraid) of using the helix for so many reasons, or on marginal trips where you likely wount need an axe why even bother? how about a BD Whippit (Steel head)

T. Sedlak
(busotti) - F
Re: Safety? on 03/22/2007 08:25:42 MDT Print View

For a lot less dough, you can get the B-rated CAMP XLA 210 ice axe (7.4 oz). Less than 3 oz more in weight, and you're getting a tool from a company that's been providing mountaineering tools since the 19th century. There are times when counting ounces seems like an unhealthy obsession.

greg degler
(gregdegler) - F

Locale: West
M O N T A N E J A Z Z on 03/26/2007 22:27:25 MDT Print View

I have seriously self arrested with my Grivel Nepal Light (aluminum) a number of times. I love that thing. Though nothing compares to cutting steps with the HEFT of a standard steel axe, but isn't this backpackingLIGHT, right?
Not all CarbonFiber is the same. Previous poster noted that Carbon Fiber breakage causes sharp slivers. I have broken C.F. shafts and have experienced a clean break, no splinters or slivers.
An Ice Axe, whether of "Approved" design or not, will provide you, the solo climber/trekker with the necessary security should conditions warrant it's use, I'm just saying that it is more than a self-arrest tool. The issue becomes more questionable should you need the axe for partner belays or rescue.
Rule # 19: Everything is a Compromise.

theThriftstoreMountaineer

Edited by gregdegler on 03/26/2007 22:28:42 MDT.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
limited self-arrest testing on 04/18/2007 12:12:38 MDT Print View

I recently bought the shortest ULA Helix, the 55 cm. I took it up to a fairly steep-yet-safe slope and threw myself down the slope a couple of times to test my ability to self-arrest.

Due to the snow conditions, even on a steep slope I wasn't able to build up a lot of speed/momentum, but I satisfied myself that it would stop me just fine. I'm used to a 75 cm axe that's a pound heavier, but I'm convinced that the 55 cm Helix will dig in fine.

I'm a little less confident about plunging the carbon fiber shaft spike into the snow to help when carrying this in my uphill hand. I think I'll do it when snow conditions are not too soft to make this less useful and not so hard as to risk the c.f. spike. A short axe like this definitely isn't a "walking stick" for me, but that's not what I bought it for.

It cut steps just fine for me too, at least when traversing uphill; downhill is more of a challenge with a shorter axe.
The lightness of the head means I change my technique somewhat to cut steps, it's a little slower process, but it worked fine.

I'm sold on this. I appreciate the previous posters idea of pipe insulation to protect the shaft, I'll have to try that.

Similarly, it might be nice to have a U.L. way to protect my delicate pack and other U.L. materials from the pick and adze ...
I've not tried this yet, but a friend suggested making a custom light rubberized cover using plastic dip, something like: http://www.plastidip.com/consumer/index.html
It says you can “apply as many coats as needed”, so I figured I might try applying a lot of them to end up with a sufficiently thick piece covering just the sharp bits, maybe one for adze and one for pick. I'm guessing that a good strategy could be to coat the metal with oil and then something like wax paper or something and dip that, to have some hope of getting the result to come off.
Once I have custom pieces that I can get on and off, poke little holes and attach fishing wire or something to hold them together, or maybe something thin and stretchy. Clever guy, my friend, or at least if this turns out to work.

Alternatively, what about just a simple piece of vinyl tubing about 3" long? I would think if you bought the right tubing you could jam it on the pick and keep a spare or two in case of loss. Slice another tube open longitudinally and maybe it would stay on the adze ... ?

If anyone has any experience to share in a lightweight way to cover the pointy bits of a helix axe, I'd appreciate hearing about it. To include, perhaps, "Brian, stop being paranoid, the pick and adze are unlikely to cut your delicate U.L. gear" !



Brian Lewis

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: limited self-arrest testing on 04/19/2007 00:39:58 MDT Print View

You cheer me up, since I am taking a Helix to the Alps for our 4 months walking trip!@

> Alternatively, what about just a simple piece of vinyl tubing about 3" long? I would think if you bought the right tubing you could jam it on the pick and keep a spare or two in case of loss. Slice another tube open longitudinally and maybe it would stay on the adze ... ?

Been there, done just that, with old steel razor-sharp Stubais. Works wonderfully. Tie the two bits together with some bungee cord to keep them both on.

Cheers

ROBERT TANGEN
(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Helix on 04/19/2007 06:47:58 MDT Print View

Re: "I'm a little less confident about plunging the carbon fiber shaft spike into the snow to help when carrying this in my uphill hand." I tried a little of this self-belay technique when crossing a couple of snow tongues that had covered the trail, leaving slippery footing over a bit of a drop-off. It worked better than having nothing at all. The hollow shaft does produce little ice cores. I should probably block the hole in the spike with some sort of glue. It took several slams into the snow to get it in far enough to feel solid enough to hold me if my feet slipped out from under me. I also chopped a few steps, and that also worked better than nothing at all.

Joshua Scholnick
(skinnyskier) - F
Protecting your pack from an axe on 04/19/2007 10:24:03 MDT Print View

You can cover the pointy bits of an ice axe with a little tape. Not so good for a lot of "back-and-forth," but fine if you need to protect the inside of your pack until the axe is first used and then stow the axe on the outside of the pack.

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
re:Care & Feeding of a ULA Helix Ice Axe on 04/19/2007 21:12:42 MDT Print View

I really enjoy discussions like this, because there are so many informed and intelligent replies, which can still differ from each other. Really makes me think. I do not have much experience on snow and ice, so take my comments with a grain of salt. And I realize no one is suggesting using the Helix for technical terrain..

Ben: the Grivel Monster is a tech tool not considered to be in the safety chain, so it does not need to be certified.
Peter: I like your quote; Im going to use that.. and yes, first rule of an ice axe fight is bring an ice axe (not a potty trowel).
Brian: try a section of garden hose, it works for my ice tools. For the adze I use a piece of duct tape; and stick it on the shaft after I draw the axe. I also got a very light nylon cover which fits my axe; see picture below.

To paraphrase Chouinard, you don't carry an axe because of the chances (probability) of falling, you use one because of the consequences. That really made sense to me, so I carry a rated axe. Since self-belay is far more common than self-arrest, I chose a long-ish shaft by modern standards. And in self-arrest I want that pick to bite even after a day of mixed use on rock, so I choose steel and sharpened it well.

For myself, I chose the BlackDiamond Raven pro, 'B', 65cm. For my hiking partner who is half my weight and needed a lighter, rated axe, the Camp XLA 210, 'B', 60cm. If I thought the consequences of a fall were not serious, I would carry the lighter Camp. and just rope up my partner. (You must consider the chances of self-injury vs. the chance of needing the axe. One notable case from ANAM involved the shaft going through a ladies neck during a tumble.)

I would like to see BPL acquire a Helix and test it to failure, to see how close it comes to the UIAA standards. By the way, there are here and make interesting reading.
http://www.uiaa.ch/?c=188
The tests for a B axe are surprisingly weak; and no fatique testing at all!

Brian, here`s the pic of the head cover. I carry the axe inside the pack because I was unable to reach it with one hand when I am sliding and it is secured on the gear loops.
BD raven head cover

Edited by Brett1234 on 04/19/2007 21:15:27 MDT.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
Re: re:Care & Feeding of a ULA Helix Ice Axe on 04/27/2007 13:03:58 MDT Print View

A follow-up to my earlier comment about covering the pick and adze of the Helix in a pretty U.L. manner --- for carrying the axe on a delicate backpack, etc.

I wrote previously: "a friend suggested making a custom light rubberized cover using plastic dip, something like: http://www.plastidip.com/consumer/index.html
It says you can “apply as many coats as needed”, so I figured I might try applying a lot of them to end up with a sufficiently thick piece covering just the sharp bits, maybe one for adze and one for pick. I'm guessing that a good strategy could be to coat the metal with oil and then something like wax paper or something and dip that, to have some hope of getting the result to come off."


I tried the above and it worked great. I wrapped the pick and adze with seran wrap and put I think a total of six coats of the plastidip stuff on it, waiting a half hour or more between coats. After sufficiently dry, I pulled these covers off, pulled out most of the seran wrap, trimmed teh edges with scissors, and I've got quite a nice set of covers; the two of them together weigh 6 grams, or 0.2 oz. They'll stay on by themselves, particularly the one over the adze which requires a little stretching to get it on and off each time.

I think I'll use this stuff on my snow/sand stake too, a little to permanently stay on the top part and a removeable cover for the part designed to go into the ground. I want to carry this ready to hand as a cat hole digger (for when I'm not carrying the helix) and of course to use as a tent stake.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
Pipe insulation --- sizing on 04/30/2007 13:48:40 MDT Print View

I just tried out Peter King's excellent suggestion for using pipe insulation to protect the c.f. shaft.

The c.f. shaft is pretty much exactly 3/4" in diameter, so my natural thought was to get pipe insulation that's made for 3/4" pipe. I fortunately thought to measure at the hardware store, and found that the pipe insulation intended for 3/4" pipe has an inner diameter (hole) of more like 7/8". I.e., it's apparantly intended to fit loose. The stuff marked as being for 1/2" pipe has inner diameter of about 5/8". What I want is somewhere in the middle of those two.

I got the smaller (nominal 1/2") stuff, and I'm glad I did. It fits on tight so while I'll probably throw a rubber band around it, I hardly even need that to hold it on. There's a gap of maybe just over 1/4" running lengthwise where the insulation doesn't join, but I don't think that compromises the protection much, and apart from staying on better this should be slightly lighter.

For my 55 cm helix, I cut a piece 20.75" long, and it (the pipe insulation) weighs 10 grams, 0.4 oz. Worth it.

Peter King
(pking) - MLife

Locale: N. Nevada
Helix Field Test Results on 05/02/2007 13:39:24 MDT Print View

Thanks to all for the comments and feedback. I finally have a spare Helix for testing, and some initial field test results:

Tests done on firm snow (running shoes could barely kick steps), approximately 40 degree slope (sorry, forgot to take clinometer), lightweight tester (<<60kg), 65cm helix.

8 arrests, 2 in each direction (face up/down, feet up/down).
10 falls on self belay (shaft plunged above, feet kicked out).
5 arrests during fast sitting glissades.
5 arrests during standing glissades, plunging the shaft while falling headfirst.

Result: no axe failure, so saved it for lab(garage) testing when time permits.

Thanks for the UIAA-152 reference, Brett. The pictures will suffice to approximate the tests, but does anyone have an electronic copy of EN-13089 to get more details?

Pete

Edited by pking on 05/02/2007 13:45:54 MDT.

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
Helix tests on 05/02/2007 14:24:38 MDT Print View

I hope you had a safe run-out for your self arrest tests 8-O ! Thanks for being the lab rat---you are performing a true service for the SUL community and ULA should give you a lifetime discount and BPL, a community service badge of honor.

Edited by kdesign on 05/02/2007 15:41:25 MDT.

Peter King
(pking) - MLife

Locale: N. Nevada
Re: Helix tests on 05/08/2007 09:25:22 MDT Print View

Thanks, Kevin. The only run-out problem was energy.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Helix Field Test Results on 05/08/2007 15:32:36 MDT Print View

Hi Peter

> I finally have a spare Helix for testing, and some initial field test results:
Very reassuring! Thank you.
You didn't manage to get any pictures...?

Peter King
(pking) - MLife

Locale: N. Nevada
Re: Re: Helix Field Test Results on 05/09/2007 13:57:02 MDT Print View

No pictures of the arrests since I was alone, but here are a few shots from the trip (nothing very remarkable).

URL: (html to make link didn't work)

http://new.photos.yahoo.com/pspost33@sbcglobal.net/albums

Edited by pking on 05/09/2007 14:00:37 MDT.