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Ice axe leashes?


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We are talking about 2 different things here.


A leash which is made from full strength runner and can anchor you by either your wrist or your harness to an axe in a belay position like with the shaft in hard snow.


A teather which is light cord only made to save the axe in case it's dropped. It might hold body weight but that's not really what it's designed for.


I have been saved from falling while soloing by a wrist leash but I prefer the leash going to the harness. Picture climbing using a moving shaft belay and your partner falls in a crevasse and is hanging free. Your axe is sunk to the hilt in hard snow and a good angle. How are you going to be more secure, with it on your wrist or at your harness?


If you are in the arrest position and you sink the pick the wrist leash isn't going to hold you any better than the waist. The waist will be more secure if it's the right length.

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Maybe I missed it but when are you guys planning on climbing?


He wants to go sometime toward the end of December or early January.


Have you considered finding a different partner, a different hill to start on, a different time of year to get into volcano climbing, or perhaps all three?


Good luck.


Current thread in the OR forum.


Yes, I am taking everything into consideration.

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I disagree with those who insist a wrist leash will not assist with self-arrest: configure a SHORT wrist leash to originate from the opposite side of the axe-head from your hand when in the self arrest position. In this configuration, if your grip fails in self-arrest, as long as your hand stays in the wrist loop your arrest is maintained. I have taught and practiced self-arrest with groups ad nauseam as a guide/instructor for forty years, and I can assure you this assistance is real. I haven't found it that much hassle to change hands when changing traverse directions, but evidently, some do. Having said that, I have no problem with those who choose to entirely forego the leash. I have had friends lose unleashed ice axes, in avalanche events, and my boss's brother died in the Early Morning Couloir (N. Sister) in 1986 when he failed to self arrest, so I leash, but I don't insist my partners do... I would recommend against a tether to the harness, because the loose axe tied to you at arm's length may do an enormous amount of damage to you. With a short wrist leash, at least the head end of the axe is at your hand, and less likely to puncture you.


I would, however, caution you about your choice of partners. Unless your roomie is a climber the caliber of a certified professional guide, I'd be vary wary of a partner taking such a rigid dogmatic position. On the Hogsback route on Hood, which I've climbed dozens of times, I've encountered ice where I've had to use the axe for more than just a cane exactly ONCE, over Thanksgiving in 1989. Most likely, your axe will stay in the cane position.


Lastly, I would strongly suggest taking some time before your climb for practicing self-arrest on a "steep" slope with a safe runout. Ideally, you want to practice arresting with the axe in either hand, sliding feet first and head first, on your belly, and on your back. While you're at it, try arresting with a second person roped to you, sliding past you from above and pulling you off so that you have to arrest the two of you. Absent that level of skill, you're essentially depending on your partner to function as a "guide": to not fall, and to catch you if you fall.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Have been away from here for awhile, but just read your posts. Another concern comes to mind here: you keep saying that you don't understand your roommates reasoning for this. Communication is a huge part of a good climbing partner. If he can't sit and explain his reasoning to you, or you don't feel like your questions are being answered, or feel he's not listening to you....then he's not the climbing partner you want. You need to be safe more then you need to climb with your roommate.

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... configure a SHORT wrist leash to originate from the opposite side of the axe-head from your hand when in the self arrest position. ...


I've been following this thread with some interest so as to learn something useful, but I don't follow the statement "originate from the opposite side of the axe head" very well. Could you paint a more detailed verbal picture for me?


The "opposite side" statement is what's causing the confusion to me as the opposite side obviously changes as the axe is changed from hand to hand. My axe has a leash that attaches to the handle by a ring, and will slide up/down between the head and a cap screw in the handle and it swivels around the handle.


Thanks in advance...

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You must be a dinosaur like me - I have an old wooden piolet that hangs in the garage with that type of leash.

You can google ice axe leashes and really get confused - if you make a homemade one, just tie it in under neath the axe head and make it about the length of the axe.

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Granpa and Obwan - happy to oblige: I, too, am a prehistoric alpinist. For using the ring-mounted wrist leash you describe, holding the axe in the arrest position, slide the leash to the head of the axe, turn the ring so that the leash comes over the top of the axe-head to your hand, and put your hand through the leash. In this configuration, when you let go of the head of the axe, if the leash stays on your wrist, it pulls on the head of the axe as your hand would if you still had hold of the axe-head. You want to wear the leash so that if you have to arrest, it performs this function. An option that achieves the same objective is to pass the wrist-leash through the carabiner hole in the axe-head (if it has one), and then attach the leash to your wrist. If you do this, you won't have to spin the ring each time you change hands. But if you thread the carabiner hole, you have to take the leash off and reconfigure if you want to swing the axe... Main thing is, configure the leash so that it anchors your hand to the head of the axe in the event of an arrest.

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... turn the ring so that the leash comes over the top of the axe-head to your hand...


Ah, ha! Got it, and thank you!


Yup, dinosaur here too. I summited my first mountain (Rainier) ever this summer the day after my 61st birthday, and that business of switching the axe from hand to hand with the leash was a bit of a nuisance at first.


I wondered if there was a better way to do it, but I was too busy watching where I was going while on the "path" to watch the guide, or anyone else, so I just kept at it and was cuatious at first, then it became more natural by the time we hit the crater.


Thanks for the explanation.



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The first axe I bought back in the '70s had a lash up like that. I retired it a long time ago but still have it, it's one of those long ash handled ones and its too heavy to carry around now... I liked it back then because I'm tall, and I didn't really know any better.


I leash my (short, hollow metal handled) axe to my harness now using some 3/8 webbing. I find it's easier to manage overall. The leash is long enough so that I can extend my arm over my head when needed. I've looped slack around my wrist when traversing or switchbacking on easier slopes and it works ok. I definitely want the axe to be able to drag clear if I happen to fall and it comes out of my hand. Thankfully, that hasn't happened.


This is mostly a matter of experience and personal preference.


Good luck on your future in climbing,


another dinosaur

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  • 7 years later...

And that is what I had located in all the studying I've done and why it didn't make any sense while he listed it as this kind of massive safety difficulty that he would not climb with me if I didn't have a wrist leash. I don't have a hassle the use of a wrist leash if it might make him sense greater 'cozy' but I would love to listen from the extra pro humans as properly, it seems to me like he is relying to a lot on something this is definitely you can use wilderness knife tool instead of ax that is speculated to save you devise loss.

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