Challenging oneself with vertical pursuits, especially during frozen conditions, requires a certain level of determination, skill, tenacity and of course the right tools. Thus, you have to make sure you get the best kind of help from the right gear you can get your hands on. Like the perfect ice axe, for instance.
What is an Ice Axe
Ice climbers, mountaineers and trekkers all rely on an ice axe to help them out in climbing even the toughest peaks and mountain faces. It is a multi-purpose tool whose versatility makes it an all-around tool. Aside from being a snow tool and a climbing tool, many use it as a walking stick and of course a brake when one accidentally slips to the downhill. Starting first during the 1700 as a simple long wooden pole with an iron spike on its top, it has since evolved into the solid and high-performance tools now commonly used even in the steepest alpine faces.
Considerations In Choosing An Ice Axe
Basically, choosing the ideal ice axe would depend on the activity it will be used for, your size, and the specific features of the ice axe.
- Type of Activity: Do you need an ice axe for simple mountaineering or for technical ice climbing? If it is mountaineering or hiking, you should forego any of those fancy and technical tools and pick a classic mountaineering ice axe. However, for technical ice climbing, you’d have to choose an ice axe that is designed for more precision and complicated climbing. Even the length of the ice axe will be influenced by the type of activity it will be used for. For basic ice climbs and snow mountaineering, a longer ice axe will be more advisable, while steeper climbs would benefit more from shorter ice axes.
- The Right Size For You: You have to be very careful about the length of your ice axe, which it should be in accordance with your height. In order to gauge which length would be more suited for your height, hold the ice axe loosely in your hand. It should be 1 or 2 inches above the ground or just about your ankle. However, that is not a rule of thumb, but simply a general measurement basis. You should also consider the length of your reach. If you have a short reach, you would benefit more with a longer ice axe, while a longer reach would probably make a shorter ice axe perfect for you.
- Weight of the Ice Axe: The weight of the ice axe with respect to its length will also affect your choice. Remember that short ice axes have the advantage of being more lightweight and its compact size makes it easier to carry. A lightweight ice axe is the more preferred option since you do not want to carry around something that is heavy.
Construction of the Ice Axe
The construction of an ice axe is very important when choosing the right for you. Here are a few things you need to know:
- Axe Head: What material is the axe head made of, and will it be able to stand the amount of abuse it will be subjected to? Often, the axe head will be made of a steel alloy or stamped metal. The pick, which is the sharp end of the ice axe, should have enough curve for more hooking and swinging power. The curve should also be smooth enough to make it comfortable when gripped or held for a long period of time. Meanwhile, the adze should be of a good size. Its angle should not be too steep, either.
- Axe Shaft: An ice axe could either have a straight shaft, which is suited for general mountaineering, or a curved shaft, designed for ice climbing. Often it is made from aluminum, steel, or carbon fiber.
- Axe Spike: This is the metal tip of the ice axe and it is made sharp enough to penetrate both snow and ice. Make sure they are smooth and tapered.
- Axe Leash: An ice axe leash will provide a lot of support for your wrists while using the axe and also ensure you won’t accidentally drop it. In case of self-arrest, it will improve your grip of the axe. Make sure you choose a leash which will be comfortable when attaching the ice axe to your wrist.
Buy An Ice Axe For Your Aid And Safety
As mentioned, an ice axe will not only facilitate your climb and make things easier for you, it will also keep you safer. Many lives have been saved while on a climb because of these ice axes. Therefore, you should never underestimate the importance of choosing the best ice axe for you.