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johnson37

Some ice axe questions

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A newb here and am hoping to learn a few more things.

 

I used to have some no-name brand ice axe that I used for years (mostly as a trekking pole or glissade rudder) but loaned it out and never got it back. I replaced it with a pair of Grivels, an Air-Tech and a Monte Bianco (?) but never had a chance to use them due to life circumstances. Years later and I am finally getting to plan for some mountain routes (moderate) and realize I need an axe. Well I dug the Grivels out of the back corner of the garage and noticed the picks don’t fit the traditional profile of a mountaineering ice-axe. The Air-Tech pick is only 6” long, has an aggressive curve and teeth that reach nearly back to the shaft. The Bianco pick is 6.5” long with a flatter curve and less teeth. Here are links for both so you can see what I’m talking about.

http://cascadeclimbers.com/gear/general/product/Grivel-Air-Tech-Ice-Axe.html

http://www.mountaingear.com/pages/product/product.asp/imanf/Grivel/idesc/Air+Tech+Ice+Axe/Store/MG/item/114135/N/0

 

I have an older M.B. with a steel shaft but the head looks very similar to the one on the new model. http://www.mountaingear.com/pages/product/product.asp/CMP/KNC-97950/cmpn/97950/store/MG/item/111890/N/0

 

When I look at other mountaineering axes I notice they have a much longer pick. My experience would tell me that a longer pick would make a more certain self-arrest in deep or loose snow but are the picks on the Grivels adequate for stopping 200+ pounds of me and my gear? I will certainly practice with them before setting off but thought I would ask while I’m sitting at home.

 

I’ve also noticed the Black Diamond Ravens have a different design with a head that looks more comfortable for the hand but the cutouts on the adze seem like they would make it less efficient. Any thoughts on this would be appreciated. If it helps, my plans don’t include any water ice climbing, just glacier/snowfield travel and the occasional steep mixed snow/rock route. Thanks in advance.

 

Edited by johnson37

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all self arrest really comes down to footwork. The picks purpose is really to get the feet downhill and add a little more purchase towards stopping. Slight changes in pick design within the classic mountaineering curve style will not affect the self arrest.

 

Since you have asked this question, it is obvious that you really need to head up to the ski area, find a same place to slide down and practice that till you are really proficient, very wet and tired of hiking up the hill for the hundreth time. Learn all 4 of the standard downhill position and try a few non standard ones. Reading in a book means nothing. Doing is the only way to learn. Not learning this and being on snow means that eventually you will be a victim.

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and I really did mean at least a couple hundred times. If and when you fall on snow, there is no trying remember what it was you were supposed to do. If you have to think, it is to late.

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If you have to think, it is to late.

 

Thanks for the great advice, will be heading up soon for practice. I used to have a little ability with my old axe but have definitely forgotten more than I remember and need to re-learn. Reading is certainly no substitute for practice and haven't intended it to be.

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I second genepires. That axe will hold you just fine if you have the right technique. However, it's a catch 22, because a good self arrest is attempting to put you into a three point stop with the slope (pick, two feet) - not just a pick into the snow/ice. So, a couple hundred times of falling in different ways with a good self arrest will really help you.

 

Although, if you wanna learn some more about mountaineering you can take a course such as the:

 

Bushwhacker Climbing Club Basic Glacier Skills Course

 

Email me at caledh@gmail.com or PM me here if you want more info. Signups are happening soon.

Edited by CaleHoopes

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Don't forget that with a good self belay you won't be using the self arrest that often :)

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Don't forget that with a good self belay you won't be using the self arrest that often :)

Not entirely accurate. you can't self belay 100% of time. The times I needed to self arrest, I wasn't on ground that needed self belay or walking downhill where self belay is awkward and less secure. Plus does anyone self belay while traveling on normal glacier terrain?

 

Don't forgo self arrest practice because of a belief that self belay will save your hide.

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all self arrest really comes down to footwork. The picks purpose is really to get the feet downhill and add a little more purchase towards stopping.

 

Be careful, though, when using your feet. That's a good way to hurt an ankle, or flip.

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After you become comfortable with self arrest, put on a pack and get used to the added weight. The added weight and changed center of mass can really throw you off if you are not ready.

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