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Cyclopath

Do I need to retire my ice axe?

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I think the answer is no, but I would love to have a second opinion.

 

On Saturday, I fell while crossing a boulder field in the pouring rain. I was on my feet, and then I was on my back on a rock. Fortunately, my pack had a lot of extra clothing, plenty of freeze-dried food, my air mat, and lots of other stuff to cushion my fall, and I'm not even sore. But I'm 6'1", 250 pounds, and my axe was on the outside of my pack, the way yours probably travels when you don't expect to need it for the next several miles of trail. So it hit the rock directly, and my and the pack's weight came down on top of it.

 

There's no visible damage. I'm asking because Freedom of the Hills says you should retire a carabiner that's fallen from a cliff, it will have micro cracks and should not be trusted. An ice axe uses a lot more metal, so should be stronger, and it doesn't stand up to nearly as much force as a biner might, so I think it's ok. But, like I said, I'd love to hear from somebody who knows more than I do.

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Ice axes are used to pound pins, torqued into cracks, employed as crowbars on loose rock when cleaning mixed routes, and all sorts of other high-impact stuff. I don't think falling on a rock with one is going to harm it much.

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micro fractures don't exist. throw your rack off el cap and I'll use it once it hits the talus.

 

If your axe needs replacing you'll know because it's broken in half. If yours isn't broken in half it's probably alright.

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I'm asking because Freedom of the Hills says you should retire a carabiner that's fallen from a cliff, it will have micro cracks and should not be trusted.

 

This is also widely understood to be false. For example:

 

http://www.geir.com/mythbuster.html

http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=999032

 

The rule most people use is, if it looks fine, it is.

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micro fractures don't exist.

 

More specifically. Micro-fractures do exist, but they have about as much relevance to climbing safety as being hit by an asteroid does.

 

I believe micro-fractures have been a very rare issue with aircraft or spacecraft.

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Correct Alan,

You might be in trouble if you were climbing on a binier that had been fired at a steel barricade with a railgun. Otherwise yer not gonna die.

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Get your geek on...

 

Micro fractures are more of a problem with fatigue (high cycle) loading, particularly with AL, which, unlike steel, has no theoretically infinite fatigue life. That's not to say other materials wont' fail spectacularly (Tacoma Narrows, baby) if the cyclic loading isn't properly characterized during design, or some modification later on doesn't screw up the works.

 

If you can see a fracture at all, of course, get rid of it. The sharp end of a fracture concentrates stress; the smaller the crack tip radius, the more the concentration. The area of maximum stress on a biner is at the surface, so any visible crack has the potential of propagating inward until the cross sectional area is too small to bear the load and it snaps all of a sudden like. larger radius divots are usually less of a problem unless they're so big that the metal has been work hardened (made more brittle) due to the impact.

 

Personally, I'd use nuts thrown off El Cap - small moment arm on that loading and the alloys are more ductile, but not biners. I'd probably use the cams, too, cuz I'm that much of a cheapskate.

 

Edited by tvashtarkatena

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Thanks, everybody! I thought it was fine, but I still feel better not relying on my own judgement for this. :)

 

No visible damage at all, it isn't bent, and I'll keep using it with confidence.

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So if there is visible damage, how bad does it need to be to replace the ice axe? I once used the shaft of my camp corsa nano to pound in a picket. I didn't know the better method of pounding in pickets at the time (holding the axe vertically). Those are small dents in the shaft. Do you think I did enough damage to my $150 axe to warrant replacement?

 

DSCF6813.JPG

 

 

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FWIW, I wouldn't replace it. Maximum stress on the shaft during normal use is on the radius, not the face, anyway.

 

If you can actually see a crack, that's a problem. Those look like scratches and a few little dents.

 

BTW, the proper way to pound in a picket with a toy ax is to use your buddy's.

 

 

Edited by tvashtarkatena

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I agree with Tvash. Fatigue can be an issue with aluminum (check out airplane failures) but your ice axe should be fine. Gear failures are rarely due to hardware but software, and I'm not talking about your computer.

 

Nuts thrown off El Cap I would use but not cams.

 

Personally, I am allergic to snow and ice but like to snuggle with rock.

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I usually use any perceived damage to my gear, imaginary or otherwise, as justification to upgrade.

 

1-inch long tear in the fabric of my pack during a Pickets shwack? NEW PACK!

 

A little fuzz on my Dyneema alpine slings? NEW SLINGS!

 

Bottomed out an ice screw against rock ? Damn you, Cascade conditions! NEW SCREW!

 

Then again, there are some pieces of gear to which I am so strongly attached that I wouldn't replace them if they got run over by a coal train.

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Bottomed out an ice screw against rock ? Damn you, Cascade conditions! NEW SCREW!

 

Can I be your friend? I will happily take care of your retired ice hardware.

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I usually use any perceived damage to my gear, imaginary or otherwise, as justification to upgrade.

 

1-inch long tear in the fabric of my pack during a Pickets shwack? NEW PACK!

 

A little fuzz on my Dyneema alpine slings? NEW SLINGS!

 

Bottomed out an ice screw against rock ? Damn you, Cascade conditions! NEW SCREW!

 

Then again, there are some pieces of gear to which I am so strongly attached that I wouldn't replace them if they got run over by a coal train.

 

As a poor college student:

 

Giant-ass rip in my pack from some marmot eating it at the base of Half Dome? Tape it, it's gonna fail someday but not until it's more tape than backpack.

 

Drop my ice axe down a talus field (clang, clang, clang)? Well, still looks straight to me.

 

Bottomed out an ice screw against rock? Maybe I'll be able to afford sharpening it at some point, but Cap'n Crunch for the next few weeks sounds pretty damn tempting.

 

*sigh* One day...

 

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I usually use any perceived damage to my gear, imaginary or otherwise, as justification to upgrade.

 

1-inch long tear in the fabric of my pack during a Pickets shwack? NEW PACK!

 

A little fuzz on my Dyneema alpine slings? NEW SLINGS!

 

Bottomed out an ice screw against rock ? Damn you, Cascade conditions! NEW SCREW!

 

Then again, there are some pieces of gear to which I am so strongly attached that I wouldn't replace them if they got run over by a coal train.

 

I am always in favor of a new screw.

Edited by matt_warfield

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Had a rock tear through the door of my tent last year from seam to seam. I called up BD for advice on how to fix it, if possible. They fixed it for me - gratis.

 

Once all my partners have seen the size of that repair, I'll never have to be the guy who brings the tent ever again.

 

 

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I've seen it and can verify this as truth. Holy shite!

pfft - go ahead, try to impress me - you, afterall, actually HAVE a light-weightish tent :)

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