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ice axe weight considerations
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spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
ice axe weight considerations on 10/12/2012 13:51:35 MDT Print View

If a person is going to be "hiking with an ice axe" as opposed to mountaineering, are there any reasons not to get as lightweight an axe as possible?

Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Axe on 10/12/2012 13:56:03 MDT Print View

Carry the axe you will need. :-)

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Re: Axe on 10/12/2012 14:08:05 MDT Print View

Right; I am thinking light duty should be fine. The more recent threads on axes kind of put down the Camp Corsa and other UL models in favor of "real" axes. But for purposes of traction aid and possible self-arrest, I don't see where a heavier tool is justified. Just covering my bases before starting to shop around. :)

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: Mind your own business
Re: Re: Axe on 10/12/2012 14:17:51 MDT Print View

I have been using a Black Diamond Raven for about 4 years and like it but only have used it a handfulof time each season.
iI was going to get a Camp Corsa or Nanotech but a few folks mentioned they are not very durable.

Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Axe on 10/12/2012 14:19:18 MDT Print View

If i was on a trek with only one steep snow slope to cross, i might cut corners. Maybe a stick would do for balance. And i would make sure i didn't slip.
If serious slopes were a regular part of my hike, i would be more careful.
Carry an axe that will save your life.

My 'walking' axe in winter is a Camp XLA210.

Edited by MikefaeDundee on 10/12/2012 14:21:20 MDT.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: ice axe weight considerations on 10/12/2012 17:13:24 MDT Print View

I don't do vertical ice and have carried an ice axe many times for stablity and in case the conditions iced up and what is typically a pretty benign, soft, slope became nasty and I wanted self-arrest abilities. As such, for me, an axe would need to suport several times my weight because it might have those loads during a self arrest. But it doesn't need to support a few tons - I'm not using ropes, no one is going to take a leader fall on it and I'm not preparing to potentially arrest a whole rope team. So, for me, I would go quite lightweight.

I saw in a previous thread someone pointing out that if you have to chop steps, them some weight in the axe head helps you do that. I can see that point, but I don't plan to cut steps and if I did, it would be 50 or 100 to pass a snow-filled gully, not thousands of steps.

Also, consider trekking/ski poles with self-arrest grips. I remember the Patagonia catalog stating you weren't supposed to use them to claw your way to the front of the lift line.

And whatever you carry, practice, practice, practice. I only ever once had to REALLY self arrest, and all the training from a 1-day RMI class and various times I practiced since, snapped in and I managed to self arrest in nasty conditions and avoided a far nastier slope below.

Hike your own hike.
Carry your own axe.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: ice axe weight considerations on 10/12/2012 21:54:57 MDT Print View

It's more complex than that. A light axe can be a real help, but it needs to be properly designed. For instance, we were crossing sloping neve early in the morning in joggers (heading across the plateau for Puhringer Hutte), and it was icy. Not real secure! The runout was jagged limestone. I used one of Steve's CF/Ti axes to bash up the frozen surface enough that our light joggers could get a grip. That worked fine.

I have also used a CF/Al 'ice axe', and it did not work all that well. Why? Because the Al head was too light compared to the shaft. It had no 'heft' to it. The balance was wrong.

So light is good (for walking), but make sure the balance is right.


Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: ice axe weight considerations on 10/12/2012 22:40:33 MDT Print View

I have a Camp Corsa which I take on backcountry ski trips where I might have to be on a steep slope and would need the possibility of self-arrest. It would be fine for that, or for plunging into the snow as a handhold. What it will not do - repeat, WILL NOT DO - is cut steps. It is too light and the adze is too small. This does not matter to me, as I have crampons as well and if I run into a slope too icy for me to crampon up or down without cutting steps, I am finding anther way or waiting for it to soften up (I am out there in the spring, not the dead of winter). It would also (since it is all aluminum) wear out really fast if used as a walking stick on mixed ground as is often the case when you are, as you put it, "hiking with an ice axe". So there are limitations to the utility of the lightest axe. Well suited for my needs, but not for everything.

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Good advice on 10/13/2012 11:24:20 MDT Print View

Thank you all for the input. I've decided there's no reason not to try an aluminum axe at first. I just don't see where I would encounter terrain requiring step cutting on my usual hikes. If I don't like the feel of it after practicing, I can always move up to a BD Raven, which has a ton of good reviews and is still quite light. Thanks again.