Forum Index » Mountaineering & Alpinism » Help Ice axe novice determine the correct length and which crampons


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christopher smead
(hamsterfish) - MLife

Locale: hamsterfish
Help Ice axe novice determine the correct length and which crampons on 02/27/2012 21:18:06 MST Print View

I'm getting a head of myself here, but there's a chance I'll need an ice axe to cross a few passes in the kings canyon area in June. Mainly Forester pass.

I'm looking at the camp corsa, and can't decide if I should go 50, 60, or 70 cm.
The distance between the palm of my hand and the ground is 75cm if that helps.

For crampons, I currently own yak tracks, are those completely inadequate for trips like these?
Do I need microspikes or something bigger?

Sorry, I know this won't be easy to answer with the weather and snow variable. I'm just trying to learn as much as I can now.

Thanks!

- Chris

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
Re: Help Ice axe novice determine the correct length and which crampons on 02/27/2012 21:27:39 MST Print View

The side of Forester isn't the place to learn to use snow tools. There are several Bay Area organizations that can provide training and advice. One that specializes in basic snow travel is Mountain Education dot org

Edited by jimqpublic on 02/27/2012 21:32:23 MST.

christopher smead
(hamsterfish) - MLife

Locale: hamsterfish
Ooo on 02/27/2012 21:29:30 MST Print View

Is it that advanced?

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Help Ice axe novice determine the correct length and which crampons on 02/27/2012 21:33:02 MST Print View

If your axe is only being carried as a safety device (arrest) and not being used for actual mountaineering/technical stuff (climbing, as an anchor, chopping steps, etc.) then I'd go with the shortest, lightest axe you can find. You're only using it to stop a fall.
I have an aluminum CAMP XLA 210 (pretty sure it's the 50cm for 8.6 ounces) for this purpose...not sure it's around anymore though.

The trouble with crampons: they require a little practice (or at least they should). Walking/climbing in them is intuitive enough. But you have to practice falling. If you're sliding down a slope, picking up speed, and dig in your crampons, you're going to be in big trouble...you have to train to keep them up in a fall.

For than reason, I think Microspikes would be fine...easier, safer, more versatile, and perfectly suited to non-technical snow travel.




All that said, if things keep going the way they are, I wouldn't expect much snow up there...

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
Re: Help Ice axe novice determine the correct length and which crampons on 02/27/2012 21:36:19 MST Print View

Sorry I was editing as you were replying. This summer has a very good chance of super early snowmelt. On the other hand the winter of 1990 had almost no snow before March then 180" fell. If you can, get some training and experience this spring.

EDITING In response to Craig:
I'm with Chouinard- first use of ice axe is self belay; second is chopping steps; distant third is self-arrest. Not an exact quote but he has a lot more faith in the ice axe preventing falls than in recovering from them. A super short axe isn't as useful in self belay.

Edited by jimqpublic on 02/27/2012 21:42:53 MST.

christopher smead
(hamsterfish) - MLife

Locale: hamsterfish
Gotcha on 02/27/2012 21:38:48 MST Print View

Ill look into that mountaineering school. Thanks!

Charles Henry
(Chuckie_Cheese)

Locale: Arizona and British Columbia
Re: Gotcha on 02/28/2012 09:32:06 MST Print View

IMO training is not neccessary for using an ice axe. Get something 60-70cm so you can walk with it up the hill in self-belay without stooping like an old man.

It is mostly self-belay. Google what that is.

You can practice self-arrest in all of the various positions, but most people rarely fall (I have never fallen in a dangerous situation), and even then 90% of the time you either won't need to self-arrest or will die with or without it.

Also as a beginner, do not go up when the snow is hard and ice like (usually in the mornings). Wait until it softens so your feet sink in a bit for security. most of the time you will be following other peoples tracks, this is a good thing. If you do this crampons won't be necessary.

Edited by Chuckie_Cheese on 02/28/2012 09:34:37 MST.

j lan
(justaddfuel) - F

Locale: MN
Re: Help Ice axe novice determine the correct length and which crampons on 02/28/2012 10:09:09 MST Print View

If you are going to go through the trouble of bringing an ice axe at all, get one that you can walk with and self belay, 70cm for sure. It is a little awkward to put on your pack, but at the longer length you will use it in situations where you would keep a shorter axe on your back which is safer, It can also be used for tarp setup at these lengths.

Good luck!
Jay

Dave T
(DaveT) - F
ice axe on 02/28/2012 10:25:43 MST Print View

I'm also in favor of a longer length, since I like to use it for walking. Once you get on the slopes at all, I put when trekking poles away, and go to the axe. I use an old Cassin Ghost 70cm, and I wouldn't think the weight difference between 50 and 70cm (for these types of lightweight axes) would be almost anything. I don't want to stoop over to hit the ground with it, and I'm not usually on such steep slopes that the length is a problem.

As everyone else has said, if you get one, learn how to use one and PRACTICE. As I was told when I took a winter mountaineering course, if you have to self-arrest, you have already failed. The key is to never ever get to that point, via climbing in balance, self-belay if necessary, etc. You start sliding and you are in trouble, up to and including death (depending on the run-out).

FYI, I sold my Camp aluminum crampons, and plan to only use microspikes in the future in the high Sierra. Even when I have done multi-week trips in the snow, I only ever used them first thing in the morning (when the snow was icy).

Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
Re: ice axe on 02/28/2012 10:45:10 MST Print View

The shorter axes are primarily for steep snow climbs (> 45 degrees) where you are climbing straight up (not traversing) and therefore don't want a long axe that would be more difficult to plunge in front of you (self belay).

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: ice axe on 02/28/2012 17:51:23 MST Print View

"As I was told when I took a winter mountaineering course, if you have to self-arrest, you have already failed. The key is to never ever get to that point, via climbing in balance, self-belay if necessary, etc. You start sliding and you are in trouble, up to and including death (depending on the run-out)."

A huge +1. This is all too often overlooked; and made worse by the general tendency to practice on soft snow, which gives a false sense of self confidence. Bottom line: if you lose it on the hard stuff, you are in deep doo doo, as you will quickly find out if you practice on same.

Brian Austin
(footeab) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: ice axe on 02/29/2012 20:53:46 MST Print View

I have used both short and long ice axes. Both technical and "standard".

I'll admit I have started becoming a much larger fan of 75+cm ice axes + trekking pole. Especially for moderate. My rule of thumb, is that if you need a shorter ice axe length due to terrain steepness, then you probably would not be able to self arrest anyways and therefore need to practice, not slipping, not slipping, not slipping, and not slipping. If you only plan on moderate, using ONLY trecking poles is also an option. Not highly recommended though unless in soft snow conditions. If hard, nunt uh. Can generally only be used in the summer time. Forget about fall/spring generally. I know a guy who does this, goes slow and the NO slip policy. 4 points is far superior to 3 points where one is always moving leaving you with 2 points and balance issues. I still prefer the longer slightly heavier axe and trecking pole though. Yes, you can buy a whippet from Black Diamond, though it weighs about the exact same weight as a long REAL ice axe and singular pole.

For working around crevasses, I have found it is better to have a longer ice axe as it is generally in my case, my first piece of pro and a shorter ice axe just does not cut it in softer conditions IMO. Dig T slot place axe in get everything situated, then go fumbling for the snow picket, obviously if its icy enough for an ice screw life is much easier. Everyones exact method for crevasse rescue is different. What I just described is for a 2 person team.

Likewise I prefer a longer ice axe for using it as a boot axe belay as one does not have to bend over as far throwing you off balance.

I personally have never used microspikes. I have seen them. They seem about perfect for all moderate snow travel. Only if it is cold out and stays cold out creating a hard snow layer does one really begin to appreciate real points on your crampons. Before this you are better off with them off your feet.

scree ride
(scree)
Re: Re: Re: ice axe on 12/15/2013 07:12:47 MST Print View

Threads a little old, but it answered some of my questions. Figured it was worth a bump.