I recently bought the shortest ULA Helix, the 55 cm. I took it up to a fairly steep-yet-safe slope and threw myself down the slope a couple of times to test my ability to self-arrest.
Due to the snow conditions, even on a steep slope I wasn't able to build up a lot of speed/momentum, but I satisfied myself that it would stop me just fine. I'm used to a 75 cm axe that's a pound heavier, but I'm convinced that the 55 cm Helix will dig in fine.
I'm a little less confident about plunging the carbon fiber shaft spike into the snow to help when carrying this in my uphill hand. I think I'll do it when snow conditions are not too soft to make this less useful and not so hard as to risk the c.f. spike. A short axe like this definitely isn't a "walking stick" for me, but that's not what I bought it for.
It cut steps just fine for me too, at least when traversing uphill; downhill is more of a challenge with a shorter axe.
The lightness of the head means I change my technique somewhat to cut steps, it's a little slower process, but it worked fine.
I'm sold on this. I appreciate the previous posters idea of pipe insulation to protect the shaft, I'll have to try that.
Similarly, it might be nice to have a U.L. way to protect my delicate pack and other U.L. materials from the pick and adze ...
I've not tried this yet, but a friend suggested making a custom light rubberized cover using plastic dip, something like: http://www.plastidip.com/consumer/index.html
It says you can “apply as many coats as needed”, so I figured I might try applying a lot of them to end up with a sufficiently thick piece covering just the sharp bits, maybe one for adze and one for pick. I'm guessing that a good strategy could be to coat the metal with oil and then something like wax paper or something and dip that, to have some hope of getting the result to come off.
Once I have custom pieces that I can get on and off, poke little holes and attach fishing wire or something to hold them together, or maybe something thin and stretchy. Clever guy, my friend, or at least if this turns out to work.
Alternatively, what about just a simple piece of vinyl tubing about 3" long? I would think if you bought the right tubing you could jam it on the pick and keep a spare or two in case of loss. Slice another tube open longitudinally and maybe it would stay on the adze ... ?
If anyone has any experience to share in a lightweight way to cover the pointy bits of a helix axe, I'd appreciate hearing about it. To include, perhaps, "Brian, stop being paranoid, the pick and adze are unlikely to cut your delicate U.L. gear" !