An Ice Axe is an instrument used in winter climbs and alpine climbing that provides stability and support while walking on ice or snow and acts as an anchor point when climbing steep slopes. It also serves as a self-arrest device in the event of a fall that causes you to lose balance or you are in a situation that you are unable to use climbing ropes.
Axes come in various shapes sizes, materials and shapes, so it’s important to know what kind of Buying Your First Ice Axe you require before you purchase one. General-mountaineering axes, technical-ice-climbing axes and hybrid ice axes each offer unique benefits for different types of activities.
Hybrid ice axes combine the design of a general-mountaineering axe with the ergonomics and clearance of a technical-ice-climbing axe to provide climbers with a versatile ice tool for moderate to icy terrain. They are typically heavier than general-mountaineering axes, but they can be less expensive and are a good option for mountaineers who want the best of both worlds.
The adze that is found on mountaineering ice picks is located opposite the pick. It’s used to cut, hook, or swing into hard snow or ice to create anchors or self-arrest. They are also typically equipped with a carabiner hole at the top of the axe where a leash may be attached.
Classic ice axes are lightweight and compact. They’re typically less than half a pound heavier than their counterparts that weigh less which makes them an excellent choice for skis and glacier travel.
They are not the most effective for cutting or crushing ice.
Before you descend steep snow slopes, make sure you bury your ice axe’s pick as deep as possible in the snow before you go. This is slower and takes more energy than swinging your axe. However it’s safer.
If you are on steep or moderate slopes, you may also use front-pointing as a self-arrest method. This method involves placing your ice axe into a low-dagger (piolet panne) or high-dagger (piolet poignard) grip and your crampons in piolet traction. When you are ready to return to your original position, the crampons help you replant your ice axe.
Front-pointing is also an option when climbing steep slopes. However it is best to only use it if you’re certain that you will stop yourself quickly. This method can be a bit tricky, so be sure to practice it with an instructor before using it on your own.