Are aluminium ice axes safe?
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Peter Surna
(PedroArvy) - MLife

Locale: Melbourne
Are aluminium ice axes safe? on 11/14/2006 05:07:18 MST Print View

I need an ice axe for self arrest only (i.e. not belaying off) and thought the Camp XLA 210 at only 245 grams seemed pretty light. Can anyone tell me if this thing is safe since it is made in aluminium and most other axes are steel.

Edited by PedroArvy on 11/14/2006 05:07:49 MST.

Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
CAMPUSA Tourax Ice Axe on sale on 11/14/2006 07:26:32 MST Print View

All gone

Edited by wandering_bob on 11/14/2006 09:32:29 MST.

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
Re: Are aluminium ice axes safe? on 11/14/2006 10:18:59 MST Print View

The Camp XLA 210 doesn't carry a B certification, so it hasn't passed the tests for all uses of a basic ice axe. Thus nobody is going to tell you this axe is safe, simply because of the liability issue. (Same goes for the even lighter ULA-Equipment Helix Potty Trowel, which bears an amazing resemblance to an ice axe.) This is a case where you will have to understand your requirements thoroughly, the risks involved, then make the call. It's not a no-brainer.

Suggestion: buy two and break one. Not cheap, but then you'll know its limits. Also, take a look at this thread.

I'd sure rather have one of these in my hand than a small bundle of broken wand ends...because I didn't think it was worth carrying a 17oz axe "just in case."

Edited by Otter on 11/14/2006 10:26:38 MST.

Jason Ham
(jasonham) - MLife

Locale: Sierra Nevada
Camp Aluminum Ice Axe on 11/14/2006 10:25:20 MST Print View

I've had a Camp 240 for several years. It has an aluminum head and shaft. Through my usage as a light axe for hiking and climbing in the Sierra, I've noticed a few relevant caveats.

The aluminum head does not have the ability to arrest on hardened alpine ice, nor does it penetrate this type of ice with well placed swings. The adze end will chop steps with a little effort, but it's not ideal.

The axe does perform well on any type of snow, including firm neve. The head punches through and holds well for arresting on hard snow.

So, for those ascents that are from mid-winter to early summer on moderate slopes, this axe will hold its own. Any late summer - early fall ascents are out of this axe's class.

Chris Jackson
(chris_jackson) - F
lousy on Ice on 11/14/2006 22:46:38 MST Print View

I'll second Jason's comment, viz the main deficiency of all axes with aluminum heads is that they do not work for self-arrest on ice. This can be an issue even on a hot summer's afternoon, if there are several inches of slush on top of a hard ice base.

If you swing hard at ice with an aluminum pick it tends to shatter the ice rather than penetrating, because the pick is not sharp enough and the head is not heavy enough.

Incidentally, according to the Pro Mountain Sports website the XLA 210 does have a "B" strength rating, so strength shouldn't be a problem.

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: lousy on Ice on 11/14/2006 23:09:09 MST Print View

Agreed on the ice part. I've used a Cassin Ghost for years now and the only times I've had problems were when I was forces to take a more technical ice approach.

I've self arrested in icy snow with no problem- it's hard ice when I've wished for the steel head. I would use an aluminum shaft all the time but if things get technical, I'd want the steel head.

Check out this hybrid from Camp that's coming. Seems like a brilliant compromise! http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/camp_snow_gear_orsm06.html

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
Re: lousy on Ice on 11/16/2006 06:58:13 MST Print View

>>The Camp XLA 210 doesn't carry a B certification...
>Incidentally, according to the Pro Mountain Sports website the XLA 210 does have a "B" strength rating...


Thanks for correcting me on this. One of the sites I found said it wasn't rated. Camp USA doesn't mention their axe ratings on their website (boo).

Ed Tieman
(foxtail) - F
ice axes on 11/26/2006 06:51:14 MST Print View

I too have one of those total Alum ones, but never have used it, it was given to me. The reason is you never know what kind of snow or ice conditions you will get yourself in. Also I use to work for MSR in which one of my jobs was testing the bending/breakage of all different types of shafts from wood, bamboo,alum and different thickness of the Alum.

A couple of Schools/Clubs that I took classes from did not teach the students that an Ice Axe is a tool and should be respected as such.

Ed Tieman