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Ice Axes

Ice Axes

At the beginning of mountaineering, ice axes had the length of a walking stick; it was used during the whole journey as a stick. Gradually the ice axes have started to shorten and to diversify. Today the longest ice axes are about 75cm and about 40cm shorter, they meet very different uses.

Hill walking and Glacier Ice axes: These are mainly straight ice axes, the head of the axe is comfortable and offer a good grip as it will be mainly hold as a cane. To choose the correct size of the ice axe, hold it by the head, arm extended along the body, and the tip must come until the malleolus. People who will use the Ice axe on a relatively flat surface can go for a little longer to be able to rely on it without being bent in half, and vice versa people who are going to use it on steeper slopes will prefer a shorter one, that will be more convenient. Classical ice axes come with an Adze to dig steps or make an anchorage in the snow.

Usually these are axes “Class B” (Basic) they will resist a load of 2.5kN for a length of 50cm. They are not recommended to make a relay.

Example: Black Diamond Raven Ultra, Bluebird Blue Ice, Camp Neve...

Ski touring ice Axes: We love them short or very short and light. The idea is that it is not cumbersome and not too heavy to always have it on the backpack and be able to use it when needed. These axes are made to assist us in a steep slope of snow, hard snow, or soft ice they find their limited on bare ice where their too light handles and too fragile blades will not provide a correct and safe ink. When leaving with the aim of summiting a couloir with a ski descent, it is better to carry a mountaineering ice axe which will be heavier but much more versatile.

Example: Black Diamond Raven Ultra Camp Corsa, Grivel Air Tech Racing...

Mountaineering Ice Axes: If you must have only one Ice Axe for several activities it would be a mountaineering ice axe. They are slightly curved ice axes. For more technical races we love them to have a T handle (Technique): the handle must resist a load of 3.5KN on 50cm, it can therefore be safe enough to make a relay. For more traditional races, a B handle (basic) will be sufficient. Usually we like to take the axes short so they are versatile enough (50 to 60cm), they will be more comfortable on steep slopes, and can be used on steep icy slopes . Usually this Ice Axe has a type B blade, which is thinner and more fragile.

Example: Black diamond Venom, Grivel Air Tech Evo, Petzl Summit...

Couloir and Gullies Ice axes : These ice axes are short (50cm) , have a relatively curve construction and are designed to resist hooking on rock and ice. Their profiled blade offers good penetration into ice and a safe anchorage. Usually these axes are provided with a hand support (ergo), which offers a better grip. The blades are interchangeable, and usually we would recommend taking one Hammer and one Adze ice axe. For easy courses a mountaineering ice axe can be combined with a couloir and gullies ice axe.

Example: Grivel Quantum Light, Petzl quark, Petzl Sum’Tech…

Ice climbing and dry tooling Ice axes:

The Ice climbing and dry tooling axes have a very curved construction, often with a remote handle particularly useful in over hanging slopes. The blades are B or T type, will be preferred a finer blade (B) + -3mm for ice, to not break the ice, but for mixed and a Dry Tooling, a T blade will offer more resistance in twisting. Ice tools designed for drytooling have often a more pronounced angle, allowing the climber to hang in the worst overhangs while having the hand supports more or less horizontally. The axes of these families are mostly equipped with a second ergo allowing varying grips and changing hands.

Example: Cassin X-Dream, Grivel X-Monster, Petzl Nomic ....

 

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