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Ice Axes

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Re: Ice Axes

Postby asmrz » Wed Mar 07, 2012 12:31 am

Re self belay, when the snow gets firm enough to start worrying about self-belay, but the terrain is not very steep, put on crampons and continue with ski poles. Most people who did not learn how to walk on steep snow slopes generally worry about self arrest because they don't feel balanced over their feet.

In other words, Snow Climbing Sense, or Snow School 101 of walking up steep snowed hills, is one of the basics of mountaineering. It is not something that can be learned on a city street, someone who knows, needs to show and teach us in the field. Once we have that covered, the limitations of ski poles/axes are removed. Trust me on this, please.

And if you are about to laugh because the subject is walking steeply uphill on snow, go with someone who knows this art, you'll not believe what can be done once you have the steps/balance/sequences covered. A little knowledge here can do wonders for our confidence.
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Re: Ice Axes

Postby jrisku » Thu Mar 15, 2012 2:04 pm

Didn't specify if it's mountaineering or waterfall ice you're looking after. Out of these two options, i.e. Petzl vs. BD I would probably end up with Petzl Nomic (and that's for waterfall ice obviously). However, I would seriously consider also Grivel axes, or most likely go with something like Grivel Avatar or Quantum Tech. DMM has pretty neat new axe as well called Switch (hot and red).

In regards of mountaineering, I'm much less certain about my opinion. In case of a new axe, I would probably be looking at something light from Grivel range...

In case you're interested of taking a closer look at the variation there is, we've compiled a community edited database of ice axe specifications. Star ratings should give a rough picture of where to look at. Here's couple of links to it:

1. Mountaineering axes: http://www.tribevine.com/quicksearch?op ... |Classical
2. Technical ice axes: http://www.tribevine.com/quicksearch?op ... |Technical
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Re: Ice Axes

Postby LuminousAphid » Mon Mar 19, 2012 2:59 pm

asmrz wrote:Re self belay, when the snow gets firm enough to start worrying about self-belay, but the terrain is not very steep, put on crampons and continue with ski poles. Most people who did not learn how to walk on steep snow slopes generally worry about self arrest because they don't feel balanced over their feet.

In other words, Snow Climbing Sense, or Snow School 101 of walking up steep snowed hills, is one of the basics of mountaineering. It is not something that can be learned on a city street, someone who knows, needs to show and teach us in the field. Once we have that covered, the limitations of ski poles/axes are removed. Trust me on this, please.

And if you are about to laugh because the subject is walking steeply uphill on snow, go with someone who knows this art, you'll not believe what can be done once you have the steps/balance/sequences covered. A little knowledge here can do wonders for our confidence.


Someone's gonna get in a lot of trouble when they follow your advice. No matter how "good" you are at walking uphill in snow, you still may fall at some point. Everybody makes mistakes. Then you'll be tumbling down the hill in a mess of crampons and ski poles and likely be severely injured. Have fun with that!
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Re: Ice Axes

Postby asmrz » Mon Mar 19, 2012 4:27 pm

To LuminousAphid

Following my advice will get people better trained for technical ground.

I say upward movement on steep snow is not just walking. It can be series of movements, which if tought correctly, can result in a huge margin of safety.

Well trained alpinist can ascent increasingly steep terrain with just ski poles, ice axe and crampons, no rope or other gear is needed. You and others can take from my statements whatever you choose, but the fact remains, steep uphill movement on snow, even very firm snow, self belayed and without rope or other gear does not need to be anything out of the ordinary. Learn the moves or have someone who knows show you, discuss and practice the concept with you. The results will help you in your safe enjoyment of mountain terrain.

And if someone just wants to walk in the snow, my contribution to this post was not really for them. It is for someone who aspire to technical alpine terrain and who understands that without proper technique their safety might/will be compromised.
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Re: Ice Axes

Postby asmrz » Tue Mar 20, 2012 1:11 am

I used to teach self arrest class for a local club, where we would find an extremely steep (and a very firm snow) hill with a long runout. After showing people the basics and arresting some small slides, we would proceed to push (and throw) people off the top of the hill, facing backwards, facing downhill, falling face down without the use of feet, falling backwards with crampons on and other interesting positions. At the end of a long day, and for years after, people would tell me how much these CRAZY "5th class" ice axe arrest classes helped their confidence in the mountains. Knowing what to do in the worst situation imaginable will indeed give us confidence and knowledge.
Unfortunately, I see so many people in the mountains these days, who do not feel it was essential to learn much. Most of them just want to go...
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Re: Ice Axes

Postby LuminousAphid » Tue Mar 20, 2012 5:49 pm

asmrz wrote:I used to teach self arrest class for a local club, where we would find an extremely steep (and a very firm snow) hill with a long runout. After showing people the basics and arresting some small slides, we would proceed to push (and throw) people off the top of the hill, facing backwards, facing downhill, falling face down without the use of feet, falling backwards with crampons on and other interesting positions. At the end of a long day, and for years after, people would tell me how much these CRAZY "5th class" ice axe arrest classes helped their confidence in the mountains. Knowing what to do in the worst situation imaginable will indeed give us confidence and knowledge.
Unfortunately, I see so many people in the mountains these days, who do not feel it was essential to learn much. Most of them just want to go...


Either I misunderstood your original post, or you are completely backtracking on what you originally said... I suppose it was my assumption that "Once we have that covered, the limitations of ski poles/axes are removed" meant that you advocate not using an ice axe. I personally think that having "crampons and ski poles" on for a slope with a potential need for self-arrest, which you seemed to be referring to, is a very bad idea. If you do start sliding, your crampon points may catch (injuries due to glissading with crampons on was one of the top accident categories in the 2009 Accidents in North American Mountaineering volume- bit of trivia for you) while trying to use a pole to arrest, you may just get going too fast to stop with a ski pole, etc.

I think you are trying to make the point that "if you are trained well, you won't need to use an axe because you won't fall," but having it ready "just in case" is always a good idea. I agree that it's better not to fall, but your first post made it seem like you suggested not even learning or using it in favor of just being better prepared.
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Re: Ice Axes

Postby asmrz » Tue Mar 20, 2012 8:18 pm

You either missunderstood, did not read my posts completely or my ESL style of writing confuses things for you and others. I will say this, when we learn how to use the techniques and tools available to us everything in the mountains becomes easier.
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Re: Ice Axes

Postby Vitaliy M. » Tue Mar 20, 2012 8:43 pm

And if you are about to laugh because the subject is walking steeply uphill on snow, go with someone who knows this art, you'll not believe what can be done once you have the steps/balance/sequences covered. A little knowledge here can do wonders for our confidence.


When I was starting out I was really surprised when some other people walked up with ease on terrain I was nervous on with my ice axe in self belay position every step.
Practice does help a lot, to be more confident. For example during summer it is not uncommon to use a rock and no crampons to cross a slope, or get down a short section when it is relatively safe.

I would say repetition is the best way to get more confident. Self arrest should be practiced ever year, and more often if possible.
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Re: Ice Axes

Postby drpw » Wed Mar 21, 2012 7:40 am

LuminousAphid wrote:I think you are trying to make the point that "if you are trained well, you won't need to use an axe because you won't fall," but having it ready "just in case" is always a good idea. I agree that it's better not to fall, but your first post made it seem like you suggested not even learning or using it in favor of just being better prepared.


I think the point trying to be made is that the traditional piolet canne is no longer a necessary piece of equipment.
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