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Sierra High Route - Ice Axe ???
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Bradley Jay
(standupdouble) - F
Sierra High Route - Ice Axe ??? on 01/13/2012 15:49:30 MST Print View

I have been contemplating a thru-hike attempt this summer of the SHR. As I explore this route I have noticed that a lot of people consider bringing an Ice Axe. I have mountaineering experience and know that the main function of an ice axe is to self-arrest in the case of a fall. However, when I read posts regarding axes on the SHR I am led to believe that people are using them for stability when climbing. Am I off target? If not, why not just choke up on a trekking pole? Are people being-over cautious or am I under estimating the passes on the SHR during the summer [I know the answer to this question depends on the snowfall so I am just speaking in general terms]?

I am new to using the forums here and so far I extremely impressed with both the thoughtfulness and thoroughness of everyone that posts. So thank you in advance.

All the best,


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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Sierra High Route - Ice Axe ??? on 01/13/2012 16:01:15 MST Print View

You can do a semi-self-arrest using a trekking pole, but only in gentle conditions. As soon as it gets steeper and icier, you will need a real ice axe. The real ice axe has a real pick, and that will dig in much deeper than a bottom tip of a trekking pole.

So, if you are sure that your conditions will be gentle, then you can probably get away with it.

Personally, I would rather have a little more ice axe than what I need rather than too little.


Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
To ice axe or not on 01/13/2012 17:15:06 MST Print View

I did almost the entire High Route in 2009 Late July, early August) and an ice wasn't needed at all. Frankly I would have liked a bit more snow since it was much easier to walk on the snowy areas than it was the scree and talus. So I think a lot will depend on how bad the snow is and how late you are doing it.

The two most challenging areas for me was coming down the north side of Frozen Lake Pass and the North side of Snow Tongue. In both cases it was steep loose scree and maybe you could have used an ice axe to dig in but I would rather have a sturdy pair of poles myself.

If I were to do it again I would do the Route a bit earlier than last time. With little snow you will have parts that are miles of talus. I remember a couple of passes that we went down that had snow below the top section and would sing "I love snow!, I love snow!" I quickly got over that love of snow this year on the PCT!

The High Route is an incredible adventure. It was physically the single most challenging trip that I have done. There was one day when we crossed four 12,000 passes. That gets old real quick. Have fun and take your time, I would do a section rather than the whole if it allowed me to take it slower. (You will never hear me say that about any other trip that I have done.)

Edited by gg-man on 01/13/2012 17:48:30 MST.

Stephan Doyle
Re: Sierra High Route - Ice Axe ??? on 01/13/2012 17:44:39 MST Print View

Depends on the snow levels.

Early summer, typical June, probably a good idea.

Late summer, typical year in September, you can get by without it.

Steve S
(idahosteve) - F

Locale: Idaho
Re: Sierra High Route - Ice Axe ??? on 01/13/2012 20:56:03 MST Print View

I did the southern portion in 2011, and bailed after Muir Pass due to TOO much snow. Even with all the snow, an axe wasn't needed. Better ie read heavier footwear probably would have provided better results. The uphills were well within reason with trekking poles, and the downhills were easily boot skiied with the same poles being held in a choked down position. I actually broke a pole on Goat Crest, and did the rest of the route with one pole. A pain, but not that big a deal. Leave the ax unless you are going super early and are traveling on actual frozen alpine ice...

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Re: Sierra High Route - Ice Axe ??? on 01/14/2012 10:18:47 MST Print View

the way things are looking this winter...In July you will not need an ice axe :)

Link .
(annapurna) - MLife
Re: Sierra High Route - Ice Axe ??? on 01/14/2012 11:31:15 MST Print View

you might like looking at this site, on the right side of the page you can click on all kinds of info and advice including gear lists, videos ect.

Edited by annapurna on 01/14/2012 11:31:46 MST.