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Knife for self-arrest in snow
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Andrew Bishop
(copperhead) - MLife

Locale: Down Under
Knife for self-arrest in snow on 08/19/2011 14:41:37 MDT Print View

What do you guys think of using a mid-sized fixed blade knife for self-arrest rather than an ice axe? I am going into an area where the need for self-arrest is minimal, but potential.

I figure that for areas where a slip looks possible, I will attach the knife using a wrist cord.


David T
(DaveT) - F
knife. on 08/19/2011 14:46:57 MDT Print View

I'm no expert, but I'd think that would be a VERY bad idea.

Seems that it would be ripped out of your hand if you tried to stop yourself with it. The good thing about an ice axe is you can grab it in two spots, hold it against (under) your body, jam it in, and hope it stops you. The rigid 90 degree angle is made of the pick and the shaft, not your hand trying to hold a knife.

And he last thing you want when sliding (or tumbling) out of control would be a knife attached to your wrist by a lanyard. Yikes!

Edited by DaveT on 08/19/2011 14:48:53 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Knife for self-arrest in snow on 08/19/2011 14:53:50 MDT Print View

I would say that it is a fairly bad idea.


David Olsen

Locale: Steptoe Butte
Re: Knife for self-arrest in snow on 08/19/2011 15:31:28 MDT Print View

Better off with a sturdy walking stick and use a ski pole arrest.

Oh, and practice til you know it will work.

Edited by oware on 08/19/2011 15:34:32 MDT.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Knife for self-arrest in snow on 08/19/2011 16:34:31 MDT Print View

I agree a knife strapped to your wrist may be a bad idea.
however, improvising sort of depends on the angle of the slope you're on and how icey it is.

I have grabbed a couple pointy rocks on occassion when traversing hard pack snow around 30-35*.
Anything that can slow you down will help.

Scott S
(sschloss1) - F

Locale: New England
Grabbing the wrong end of the knife on 08/19/2011 16:35:26 MDT Print View

I had to self-arrest a few years ago. Everything happened VERY fast, and with snow flying in my face, I ended up digging the adze into the snow instead of the pick. Thankfully, I didn't get hurt.

Now imagine what would've happened if I was carrying a knife instead of an ice axe.

Douglas Ray

Locale: Pacific Northwest
re: knife for self-arrest on 08/19/2011 16:39:19 MDT Print View

I think it's a very bad idea. I don't think you will be able to stop yourself, and more than likely you will cut yourself to pieces trying.

And honestly that aluminum ice axe that CAMP makes doesn't weigh much more than most fixed-blade knives.

Do you know how to self-arrest with just your hands and feet? If you do it works quite well in softer snow conditions, often better than an ice-axe. You can also self-arrest with a hiking pole.

Often on borderline terrain I prefer to hike with poles and not fall, knowing I can stop myself with my hands and feet if it's soft or the poll tip if it's a bit hard. Although it is best to be sure you won't fall.

There are many applicable skills, and the key to all of them has already been mentioned. Practice somewhere safe until you are sure it will work. That is particularly they key to not falling.

Andrew Bishop
(copperhead) - MLife

Locale: Down Under
Self-arrest with a knife is NOT a good idea on 08/19/2011 17:02:02 MDT Print View

The people have spoken. :)

Thank you all.

Eric Lundquist
(cobberman) - F - M

Locale: Northern Colorado
Re: re: knife for self-arrest on 08/19/2011 17:06:37 MDT Print View

I concur that this is likely to result in an injury that could be more life threatening than not being able to self-arrest.

On a side note. What kinds of groups/stores/etc. offer training in self-arrest practices?

Rodney OndaRock
(RodneyOndaRock) - F

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: re: knife for self-arrest "training in self-arrest " on 08/19/2011 21:25:26 MDT Print View

"What kinds of groups/stores/etc. offer training in self-arrest practices?"

In So Cal, Mt Baldy, Icehouse Canyon, during the winter time snow/ice season, I often see the Korean Alpine Club practicing the self-arrest techniques about 2 miles into the canyon.

Having said that, I am not particularly endorsing that club, I am not a member or Korean. They do seem extremely polite and courteous on the trails. They also do seem to be equipped with everything brand new available at the sporting goods store. Only downside is that club has a huge attendance, and they show up in big buses, again, to be courteous to the parking situation at the trailhead. But the volume of people is overwhelming.

I actually check THEIR schedule, so I don't go on the same days as them.

I like a little solitude, and 300 people in one group is a bit.

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: Re: re: knife for self-arrest on 08/19/2011 21:37:24 MDT Print View

Since you're in the eastern Sierras, you could attend a class with Ned of Mountain Education.

J Boro
(JBend) - F

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Re: re: knife for self-arrest "training in self-arrest " on 08/19/2011 21:44:09 MDT Print View

As others have said, its a very dangerous idea. Unless you have superhuman strength, it's going to be really hard to stop an all out fall with anything held in a single hand. If you are not wanting to carry an ice ax you might consider carrying something like a hand held trowl. This would let you create steps in the snow and make a mini-anchor which would buy you time to rest and re-cooperate on steeper climbs. I'd focus on gear and skills which would help prevent the fall rather than mitigate it. Cheers.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Knife for self-arrest in snow on 08/19/2011 23:07:23 MDT Print View

You would be better off trying to improvise something out of a tree limb, if a situation presents itself. A wire saw could help you cut it to shape.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: Knife for self-arrest in snow on 08/20/2011 08:19:43 MDT Print View

Hold the knife with two hands.

Hook it over the banister of a porch three stories above the sidewalk.

Lower yourself until you are hanging from it.

Do a couple of pull ups. Repeat several times a day.

You should be read to go.....

[BTW - this is an example of sick sarcastic humor.]

Edited by greg23 on 08/20/2011 11:22:57 MDT.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: knife for self-arrest on 08/20/2011 09:40:42 MDT Print View

Maybe really long fingernails might be more effective.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Re: knife for self-arrest on 08/20/2011 10:57:28 MDT Print View

Very bad idea....very bad. Take an axe and please learn to use it. Practice before you leave on the trip. Slide upside down, head first, feet first. Practice any type of position you might be in while slipping, and then practice again. ICE AXE

Rodney OndaRock
(RodneyOndaRock) - F

Locale: Southern California
Plan of last resort on 08/21/2011 01:24:20 MDT Print View

if the terrain calls for ice gear - then there is no substitute or shortcuts.

The high end brands have decent lightweight ice axes, and typically, you can leave one hiking pole at home, and use the ice axe instead. roughly the weight delta is negligeable.

assuming you misjudged the terrain, have no ice axe, and you need to self-arrest while sliding to your demise, here are some things you can try:

1) fan out your arms and legs in an X pattern, increase friction surface, slows down your slippage, think the opposite body shape of a bullet or a luge.

2) if you are face down or stomach down, then try to dig your boot tips in the snow, and to some extent, dig in your hands (hope you are also wearing gloves)

3) if you are on your back, try to bend your knees and dig in your heels

4) if you are sliding downhill and head first, try to switch so your head is higher than your feet, because if you bump a rock with your foot, its ok, but a head bump could knock you out.

5) if 1 thru 4 fail, yell out loud "I should have listened to the BPL guuuuuuys"

Andrew Bishop
(copperhead) - MLife

Locale: Down Under
Re: Self-arrest with a knife is NOT a good idea on 08/21/2011 22:04:24 MDT Print View

And the people have spoken some more :)

I thank you again.

(that'll teach me for posting a dodgy, I'll-considered idea to this group!)

Edited by copperhead on 08/21/2011 22:05:40 MDT.

Rodney OndaRock
(RodneyOndaRock) - F

Locale: Southern California
It's ok to ask on 08/22/2011 22:58:27 MDT Print View

There is no shame in asking the community hypothetical questions.

Better to ask and benefit from the free feedback, rather than re-invent the wheel on your own or get in trouble.

Then again, we sometimes have crazy ridiculous ideas proposed, that turn out to be genius with a little brainstorming and building upon each others suggestions.

So... Kudos to you for being inquisitive.

Andrew Bishop
(copperhead) - MLife

Locale: Down Under
There are no bad questions.. on 08/23/2011 01:51:13 MDT Print View

No worries, Rodney.