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Ice Axe Shaft Only?
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Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Ice Axe Shaft Only? on 09/24/2013 19:58:02 MDT Print View

So, I'm looking for an ice axe substitute. I'm looking for something that I can easily carry and will allow me to perform a self belay. I basically want an ice axe with a shaft and spike, but no adze or pick. This would be easier to carry, a bit lighter, and far less likely to hurt myself. I am hoping it could be light enough for me to carry on many trips, even when I don't expect to use it. If made strong enough, it could perform the other functions of an ice axe (making steps and self arrest) but not as well. Does anyone know of something like this?

The closest I've come is either a really small ice axe, or a whippet, or maybe a really strong pole (with the basket removed). None of these are ideal, but the pole comes the closest. Ideally, the head would be small, and designed to be grabbed from the top (as with an ice axe) unlike a typical pole, which is designed to be grabbed from the side. A place for a leash (or wrist strap) would be good as well. Thanks for any ideas.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Ice Axe Shaft Only? on 09/24/2013 20:11:08 MDT Print View

If the ice axe head has no adze, then how can it chop steps?

If an ice axe head has no pick, then it is going to do self arrests very poorly.


Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Ice Axe Shaft Only? on 09/24/2013 20:17:33 MDT Print View

A snow shovel handle might do what you're talking about, but honestly it's a bad idea. If you know how to use an ice axe properly you shouldn't have to worry about hurting yourself, and if you don't know how to use an ice axe properly then you have no business on steep snow. There are plenty of places where I have alternated between self belay and low dagger that would have been dangerous without the pick and the ability to self-arrest. The lightest ice axes on the market these days are sub 10 oz, I would recommend getting one of those - and some proper instruction.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: Re: Ice Axe Shaft Only? on 09/24/2013 20:18:47 MDT Print View

@ B. G.

You must have missed the "not as well" part of that sentence. I've done a self arrest with a stick as well as my fist. The first is not recommended, the second is (if you lose your ice axe). A pole can make steps, just not very well. A shaft with a spike would do better. A whippet can do a self belay, just not as well as an ice axe. It can't chops steps very well either (but in a pinch...).

Edited by rossbleakney on 09/24/2013 20:37:51 MDT.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: Re: Ice Axe Shaft Only? on 09/24/2013 20:37:02 MDT Print View

I appreciate the concern, but I think you are missing the point. I routinely cross steep snow. Not as much as I used to, but I still do. Last year I crossed a trail that was crossed by dozens of people. I saw no one with an ice axe. Everyone carefully crossed with their poles. So did I. But I would have been much safer if I had an ice axe, or something like I described, so I could do a self belay.

I also have been trained to use an ice axe. I own one, but rarely carry it. Despite my training, it is still far more likely that I will damage myself with it then with a pole. There are simply fewer pointy parts. They are also bulky, which leads to my decision to often not carry it. My experience suggests that others feel are the same way (which is why so few had an ice axe on the slope I mentioned above).

Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Ice Axe Shaft Only? on 09/24/2013 20:42:52 MDT Print View

My Camp Corsa Nanotech in 65cm weighs 8.8 oz. I figure maybe half the weight is in the head, and half is in the shaft. If you wanted to leave a useable handle behind, you could cut off maybe half of the material in the head, removing most of the pick and the adze. This is basically what you are describing. By that math this would save you 2.2 oz and dramatically reduce the usefulness of the tool. I think Skurka has a catchy term for that kind of thing.

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Re: Re: Ice Axe Shaft Only? on 09/24/2013 20:47:17 MDT Print View

could get what ice climbers use for a 3rd tool. has a shorter shaft and no adze. have no idea how well they self arrest though. or get a whippet.. unless you need both poles for your tent.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: Re: Ice Axe Shaft Only? on 09/24/2013 21:01:13 MDT Print View

I should have mentioned that I'm not interested in cutting off parts of an ice axe. It seems like a big waste, as well as a pain in the ass (the medal is really hard -- for good reason). I have seen old ice axes that have separate parts -- with screws connecting each piece. Unfortunately, they are really heavy.

Will Elliott
(elliott.will) - F

Locale: Juneau, AK
Petzl used to make one... on 09/25/2013 19:10:44 MDT Print View

...literally an ice ax shaft with no head. Exactly what you're describing. I thought it was crazy. I think you are better off just cutting down a willow or something and using that rather than buying something. Good luck,

Will Elliott
(elliott.will) - F

Locale: Juneau, AK
3rd tool is heavy and doesn't arrest well on 09/25/2013 19:11:32 MDT Print View


Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: Petzl used to make one... on 09/25/2013 20:06:21 MDT Print View

Thanks Will. I'll have to see if there are still some around. Either that or maybe make something (I was hoping it wouldn't come to that).

Jonathan Shefftz
(jshefftz1) - MLife

Locale: Western Mass.
CAMP Corsa 50cm Ice Axe = 7.2oz on 09/25/2013 20:09:51 MDT Print View

Ross, have you ever actually held a CAMP Corsa 50cm ice axe?
I don't see how you could judge it too bulky to pack, too heavy to carry, and/or too prone to self-injury.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
half an ice axe on 09/25/2013 20:48:04 MDT Print View

It'd be easy to buy a length of 6061-T6 alu tube from one of the various online suppliers (mcmaster-carr, online metals, etc) and cut an angled "spike" into one side. Fabbing a t-handle would require more creativity, but JB-weld would be an adequate means of attachment.

A Corsa is 85% of what you're looking for. The adxe is useless for anything but a handrest and digging catholes, and the pick is smaller than any other axe I've seen. If they made it in 80 or 90 cm it'd be a great, light alpenstock.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: half an ice axe on 09/25/2013 21:31:23 MDT Print View

Thanks Dave, I appreciate the tips on the medal and the sources. There might be something local (in Seattle) as well. I'm sure I've seen the Corsa, since they are sold at Pro Mountain Sports and Second Ascent, both stores I frequent. I don't remember the adze and pick being tiny, but I guess they are. I am hoping for a straight pole, similar to a hiking pole; that way, it is easy to carry it on the side of my pack (where I often carry my trekking pole as it turns out). Even a small adze and pick would get in the way (although maybe not too much). On the other hand, as you suggest, a bit longer shaft would be nice and carry just fine for me. Thanks for reminding me of alpenstock, by the way -- I always forget that word.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: half an ice axe on 09/26/2013 00:15:16 MDT Print View

Our local transfer station has a place for usable stuff to be set aside. Sometimes there are bikes there. Some bikes are steel. Some are 6061-T6 aluminum. That would be a really cheap source of Al tubing AND it would come with a welded T joint at a few spots.

I'll keep an eye out and post or PM if I see something tasty there.

Thrift stores, garage sales, and free-trash-pick-up days are possibly sources of beater aluminum bikes.

Regarding small picks: I imagine this is for late spring, moderate-angle self-arrest. i.e. the snow is very consolidated. So a short pick may be MORE appropriate than a long one.

Regarding short shafts: I like to multipurpose gear and I'm rarely on snow fields so steep that 60 cm is long enough (on the uphill side) as an added support. I like 85-90 cm so it doubles as a hiking pole.

Will Elliott
(elliott.will) - F

Locale: Juneau, AK
Smc makes ice axes locally on 09/26/2013 13:27:55 MDT Print View

If you are in SEA maybe ask Seattle Manufacturing company if you can have just an ice axe shaft. They are in ferndale.

Richard Fischel
while if i thought being able to self belay off of a shaft was important i wouldn't buy an ice axe that didn't also have a proper on 09/26/2013 23:28:28 MDT Print View

pick and adze (like buying a car with seatbelts but no brakes) maybe the grivel futura could be a compromise.

grivel futura

Edited by RICKO on 09/26/2013 23:36:02 MDT.

Mitchell Rossman

Locale: Minneapolis-St. Paul
Ice Axe, Shaft only on 09/27/2013 13:43:29 MDT Print View

Although I can't understand what is so heavy with the Camp Corsa for your application, here are some ideas:

Judging from your knowledge of skimo, you must have a lightweight avalanche shovel in your gear bin.

To follow up Andrew's post, just take the shaft and leave the shovel at home.

If the full shaft of your avalanche shovel is too heavy for you (my BD collapsible shaft is about 11 oz), either remove one of the sections or get yourself an old BD snow shovel, circa 1992, like I have, that was never worth anything for shoveling snow.

My old BD tube with the handle weighs only 7 oz.

So you can save yourself about 2-3 ounces over the Camp Corsa, while losing a lot of capability.

When I hold my 11 oz Corsa in one hand and my 7 oz BD Aluminum tube with handle in the other, then ask myself which one I would take for even moderate snow, there is no decision to make.

Edited by bigmitch on 09/27/2013 14:13:05 MDT.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: Re: half an ice axe on 09/27/2013 19:13:04 MDT Print View

Lots of great comments. I appreciate them.

@David -- Good stuff. It sure looks like no one sells anything "off the shelf" so I may have to cobble together something (or do without). Your thoughts are appreciated.

@Will -- I might have to check them out. I rarely go that far north, but I have been to Ferndale -- not far from Bellingham, where I used to live.

@Richard -- Excellent find. I ran across that in my research as well. I don't think they make them anymore. Basically, half way to where I want to go :).

@Mitchell -- It is more bulk, than weight (although weight too :)). A single pole can be easily carried in the side of my pack. I carry my trekking poles this way all the time. I don't cover the tip or anything (very little danger of poking anyone, really). With an ice axe, there are more points to cover, and carrying it is just a bigger hassle. If a single pole (alpenstock, if you will) approaches the weight of a Corsa, then chances are, it is longer. If it is longer, then it can be used as a trekking pole, or if nothing else, works better for self belay (as David pointed out).

Oh, and I'm afraid I don't own avalanche gear. I simply avoid risky terrain when it is risky. The Northwest is lucky that way, really. Unlike some places (Rockies) our nice weather days are usually very stable. Our unstable days are usually socked in. So, when it is dumping, I ski someplace safe. When it is clear, I ski somewhere pretty. In the Spring (when the snow has stabilized) is where I do most of my ambitious stuff. The trade-off, of course, is that unlike the folks in the Rockies, I rarely ski beautiful powder under blue skis to big peaks. It's usually one or the other (great snow or great views).

All that being said, I really like your shovel idea. That may the best option. If I can find a good second hand shovel, it might work really well.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

If I was the OP... on 09/28/2013 17:04:29 MDT Print View

This thread is kind of annoying. OP asked a simple question. Didn't ask to have his backcountry skills critiqued.

I'm looking at like ten people parroting variations of "You don't use it like I use it?!" instead of addressing the question.

@OP: best bet is probably to use a good hacksaw and grinder to modify an actual ice axe. Your local body shop might be able to do it.