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Eunbi

Is my ice axe too short?

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I'm a beginner climber (trying to bump up from hiking) and I bought an ice axe but I think it might be too short. I've read varying opinions -- it should reach your ankle, it should reach the ground, choose based on your height, etc. I'm 5'3 so almost all guides I've read say that I should have a 60cm or less axe. I purchased that length, but it doesn't even quite reach my ankle bone (and I thought I had long arms!). As far as use, I'm hoping to do Adams later this year and Baker and Rainier next year.

 

Should I exchange it for 65cm or maybe even 70cm?

 

Picture: aaf62e2fa388ead8391f.jpg (if you click on the picture, it's bigger)

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This is one of those topics where you will get lots of different answers, depending on an individual's needs and personal preference. I like to go as light as possible so that means I'm looking for the shortest axe that will get the job done. I don't use it as a walking stick. It's for self arrest and self-belay only. I'm 5'11" and my axe is 50 cm. I can't imagine that you would find 60cm to be too short, given your height.

Also... climbing styles and techniques change along with the times. I was perfectly happy with an axe that was almost 90cm (I just measured it) 45 years ago.

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It's certainly not too short. If anything it's a little on the long side for someone who is 5'3. A shorter axe will be much more manageable all around. The "buy a long axe" advice is coming from people who use it like a walking stick. Get a set of adjustable ski poles and a 55cm axe. You'll be happier in the long run if you get into climbing and you don't have to cut it down in a couple of years when you realize it's too big.

 

For what it's worth, I'm 5'10 and I carry a 60cm standard axe. I've never needed or wanted a longer one. I have considered cutting down a little shorter though.

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If it is too short, just make up the difference by buying a big truck, jack it up real high and put some tractor tires on it. If your tool is still too short, add the nut-sack ball hitch to your big bad truck. :P

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Thanks for everyone's advice, and the link to that post. It outlined some good rationales for a shorter axe. I do have adjustable poles so it sounds like 60cm will be fine.

 

Denalidave--that truck decoration could have all sorts of interesting implications seeing as I'm a girl... haha

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I would say as far as ice axe advice goes Kirk is right on the money. To throw out a different train of thought I would recommend skipping the ice axe altogether. I don't know a single person that I climb with that uses an axe anymore, it seems to be for trekkers or old school peeps that tromp around with leashes and gaiters. Ski poles work much better on flat and lower angle ground and lightweight tools work much better on the steeps. If I were starting all over again I would hope someone would point me towards something like a Grivel Matrix Light adze if I were in the same type of market.

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Just out of curiosity, what about gaiters is old school? I can see why people would consider a leash unnecessary, but gaiters have been really helpful for me both while hiking and snowshoeing.

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Just out of curiosity, what about gaiters is old school? I can see why people would consider a leash unnecessary, but gaiters have been really helpful for me both while hiking and snowshoeing.

 

The new 6000 meter boots, and many others, have built in gaitors and many pants have both elastic cuffs and grommets through which a cord can be attached to create integral gaitors. I still use gaitors but then I am decidedly old. School.

 

As for your axe, I am 5'9" and my axe is 58cm which seems pretty ideal. For low angle terrain I use trekking poles.

Edited by DPS

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Just out of curiosity, what about gaiters is old school? I can see why people would consider a leash unnecessary, but gaiters have been really helpful for me both while hiking and snowshoeing.

 

You wear gaiters while hiking? Why?

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To throw out a different train of thought I would recommend skipping the ice axe altogether... If I were starting all over again I would hope someone would point me towards something like a Grivel Matrix Light adze if I were in the same type of market... lightweight tools work much better on the steeps.

The above is good advice and something to think about, especially if you plan on getting on steeper terrain. Another lightweight ice tool option is Petzl Aztarex. Otherwise, there are lighter axes out there, such as the BD Ultra Pro and the Camp Corsa, both of which are a full half pound lighter than a lightweight ice tool.

 

Ski poles work much better on flat and lower angle ground [than an ice axe]

True, but why not go a step further and develop some balance and just ditch those things. They add a half pound of weight, are one more thing to manage on your pack, and make your arms tired after using them all day long. The only time I’ve ever wanted them is for stream crossings and I can usually find a stick that does the job.

 

You wear gaiters while hiking? Why?

Uuhh... for hiking in snow? I'm an old school peep that still loves his gaiters. :)

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I wear them because I hike in snow and on trails with streams that swell to 5-6" deep in the spring...

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It outlined some good rationales for a shorter axe. I do have adjustable poles so it sounds like 60cm will be fine.

 

Denalidave--that truck decoration could have all sorts of interesting implications seeing as I'm a girl... haha

 

Your Mom's a girl...OH!!!!!!!!!!

 

On a serious note, I'd say you should return it - and get the 50cm raven pro. I agree with the poster about the Grivel Matrix Light (also 50ish cm), but that's quite a bit more money and probably more technical of an axe than you would need (and a lot more expensive). If you're using poles as you should, and the axe for arresting, etc - what it's intended for, I think you'll appreciate the weight and bulk savings of the 50 cm axe. I'm 6'2", bought a 75cm axe for my first axe, and regretted it about a month later. 2nd purchase was a 57cm BD venom adze. Now I've got the 50cm Grivel Matrix Light. Sensing a theme?

 

You will get a lot of opinions on the subject. The key is to be able to discern the correct one.

 

 

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I'm 6'2", bought a 75cm axe for my first axe, and regretted it about a month later.

 

You will get a lot of opinions on the subject. The key is to be able to discern the correct one.

 

 

I experienced the opposite. I'm 6'2", bought a 64 cm axe for my first, and regretted it a month later. Went for a 73 cm, no regrets. Actually, I do regret it when I'm diving through slide alder on approaches, but that's about it. For the gentle to moderate snow and glacier slopes (40 degrees or less) that I have done so far, I like it so much better than the shorter axe I had. I am not an alpinist with a capital "A" though.

 

Axe length is a topic that has been beat so much. I can see the merits of each argument. The best advice is probably to figure it out for yourself. Figure out the terrain you'll be on, then see what length feels most secure and comfortable for you with the ice axe positions (probably cane) you'll be using the most. And make sure you can self arrest with it. Get the axe from somewhere you can return it if you need to.

Edited by Nater

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i say do the camp corsa (or similar lightwieght mountaineering axe) in the 50 to 60 cm range.

 

as a beginner you will probably find the added security of self belay type (plunging shaft into snow while gripping adze/pick) climbing will be nice. ski poles are good but are no replacement for an ice axe on hard snow at steeper angles.

 

i would not trade in for an ice tool until you find you want to climb steeper stuff than the usual cascade volcano routes.

 

also dont you think you'd want the ax for glacier travel on rainier/ baker?

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I don't know a single person that I climb with that uses an axe anymore, it seems to be for trekkers or old school peeps that tromp around with leashes and gaiters.

 

i dont agree with this much

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Looks like a fine length to me... but I do have a 70 cm ax, with a leash, and I wear gaiters, which means I must be pretty outdated... :lmao:

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No. Your axe is not too short. Hold it on the uphill side when you're on steep snow. Otherwise hold the shaft and carry it horizontal. My personal preference is always a shorter, lighter, less cumbersome axe.

 

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In general, I think that for your average snow climbing objective the modern trend toward short axes is not so good. (50 cm seems to be replacing the old 70 cm standard espoused by the likes of Chouinard in the '70's.) The longer length is better for leaning on as you trudge up the hill and it makes the axe much easier to control and safer when executing a self arrest.

 

The shorter axe is a lot nicer if you crawl through the bushes or if you are going to put it on your pack and climb some rock, though, and if you are going to climb technical ice the longer tool will really slow you down. I carry a slightly shorter axe for what I call "general mountaineering" - 65 cm.

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If you got it from REI, use it, abuse it, and if you don't like it return it and get another. I picked one up in the yard sale for a small fraction of its retail cost. The problem on the tag: too light. :moondance:

 

Really, if you want something to use like a trekking pole then get a trekking pole.

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"Too light."

Nice one Rad. I think I agree.

Light is not necessarily right if you are going to be swinging your tool into some ice in the way that most of us visualize use of an ice axe. It just bounces off.

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I don't think its a good idea to tell someone they don't need an ice axe. There is many places on Mt.Adams that would be unsafe to be ready to self arrest. I know of at lease one accident on Adams that a guy had to get airvac'd off because he dropped his axe just before he fell, and slid down the glacier and into the boulder piles. Jusy saying.

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"Too light."

Nice one Rad. I think I agree.

Light is not necessarily right if you are going to be swinging your tool into some ice in the way that most of us visualize use of an ice axe. It just bounces off.

 

I was just looking for something to self-arrest if needed. If you plan to use it as a deadman in an anchor longer is stronger, I suppose.

 

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Either way you look at it, eventually you'd end up with a short one, long one, light one, and a few others which are completly unneccessary...

 

For your general mountaineering axe, what you have now seems about right.

 

I wouldn't consider super-light ice axe for your first axe though. They not only bounce of ice, but it's also harder to get them to stick to hard snow pack when self arresting. I own corsa nanotech but only bring it as a "may not need second tool" option, or when rock climbing follows snow approach and I'm really aggressive about minimzing the weight.

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