Page 1 of 1

Axe length preferences

PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2013 2:29 am
by WyomingSummits
I know the trend over the years has been toward shorter ice axe lengths for general mountaineering, but what is the prevailing view among SPers? Do you prefer a shorter or longer axe?

Re: Axe length preferences

PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2013 3:08 am
by splattski
Yes ;-)

I have several axes and choose depending on terrain. Longer for glacier travel where it is mostly a walking stick (e.g. standard route on Rainier), shorter for steep snow climbs where I want to anchor myself occasionally (e.g. Kautz glacier on Rainier), and ice tools for technical stuff where the axes must hold me on the hill.

One way to think about ice axe length for general mountaineering (and there are lots of other uses): when standing sideways to the fall line, you should be able to fully extend your uphill arm without sticking the axe into the snow. That is a little shorter than the old rule that the axe should just touch the snow on flat ground.

Re: Axe length preferences

PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2013 7:40 am
by Charles
The trend in the UK was for shorter axes - because things tend to be steeper and no long drawn out slopes, I guess. But I prefer a longer one for general alpine travel. And as written above shorter ice tools for the steep stuff.... which I hardly ever seem to do!

Re: Axe length preferences

PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2013 10:43 pm
by Alpinist
Size doesn't matter. It's the shape of your abs that counts... :-)

Re: Axe length preferences

PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2013 10:49 pm
by Andrew Rankine
I have been looking at this thread, seeing what people were saying. I'm hearing shorter, longer, whatever... What I think would be useful is actual examples of ice axe length, and height for reference. For example, I am 6 ft (182 cm), and have a pair of 50 cm axes (for steeper terrain), and an 80 cm axe (for general use).

Re: Axe length preferences

PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2013 1:05 am
by WyomingSummits
Andrew Rankine wrote:I have been looking at this thread, seeing what people were saying. I'm hearing shorter, longer, whatever... What I think would be useful is actual examples of ice axe length, and height for reference. For example, I am 6 ft (182 cm), and have a pair of 50 cm axes (for steeper terrain), and an 80 cm axe (for general use).

---------------------------------------
I'm 6-2 and have a 73cm axe for general travel/glacier and a 60cm for steeper terrain. Was just wondering if anyone had a formula for a single, do it all length. Of course, you can do most general peaks with one axe regardless of length, with the exception of technical ice. I like the idea of a longer axe in heavily crevassed glacier travel as it allows you to probe easier without stooping. Of course, the length relative to height is the most important factor as Andrew mentioned. Just wondering if the trend toward shorter on steeper terrain was still happening.....and it seems as if it is.

Re: Axe length preferences

PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2013 8:54 am
by pvnisher
I have a 75cm that is great for Rainier DC and similar routes. Mainly a walking stick but with more functionality.
Then a 65 that gets a lot of use. Both those are standard straight-shaft axes.

Then I have a 57cm BD Venom adze and a 50cm Venom hammer. By shortening the leash on the 57cm I can climb well with the pair of tools as if they were both 50cm, yet occassionally take the 57 as a solo ax if I won't need two tool but the terrain is steep.

I'm 6'3" with relatively shorter arms so I tend towards longer axes. I didn't get them all at once, of course, and they are used for different things.

Pairing the 65cm with a single walking stick is a good compromise and if I were to only have a single ax, that is what I would recommend (60-65cm). Long enough to pair with a walking stick (ax uphil, stick downhill) on moderate terrain, yet short enough to not be cumbersome on steeper slopes.

Re: Axe length preferences

PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2013 11:11 am
by Josh Houser
Unfortunately I don't know the length of my ice axe. What was written on it has long since faded away. :?

However I can talk from experience. I prefer a medium to slightly long ice axe. The reason for this is because it comes in handy on non snow. I go to a lot of places with steep dirt, mud, and vegetated places. I even used it in the Pickets when crossing a big creek (extremely useful in that case). So you should really determine the length based on what you do, rather than the length of your actual self.

Re: Axe length preferences

PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2013 5:33 pm
by DrGranola
I'm 5' 11" and I have a 75cm for general use that works well for up to 45* slopes. I have used it on steeper terrain, but I wanted a shorter axe and will be getting one when the time for it comes. I'm usually told that 75cm is a little long for my size, but I think it's just fine and dandy. The spike of my ax hangs about 1" above the ground with my arm fully extended. I was going to get the 65cm, but when I got to REI they were sold out and the 75cm was on sale. ;)

Re: Axe length preferences

PostPosted: Fri Jan 11, 2013 2:25 am
by aglane
DrGranola wrote:I'm 5' 11" and I have a 75cm for general use that works well for up to 45* slopes. I have used it on steeper terrain, but I wanted a shorter axe and will be getting one when the time for it comes. I'm usually told that 75cm is a little long for my size, but I think it's just fine and dandy. The spike of my ax hangs about 1" above the ground with my arm fully extended. I was going to get the 65cm, but when I got to REI they were sold out and the 75cm was on sale. ;)


Agreed. I'm 6'3" and shrinking, but my 75 cm seems a tad short for some long snow-hikes and lesser climbs (though better than the 42" Aschenbrener of late '50s.

And The Chief couldn't be a better sachem than recommending regular practice/brushup on self-arrest (even if I still can't do the 'throw yourself up in the air and land in self-arrest position" of my instructor a few years ago!).

Re: Axe length preferences

PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2013 4:09 pm
by winmag4582001
The longer, the better. IMO
I'm 5' 10", axe is 85cm. My son is 5' 8" and his is 74cm.
Unless I'm on verticle ice, I go as long as possible.

Re: Axe length preferences

PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2013 2:15 am
by Sunny Buns
I'm 6'-0" tall and I use a 32.5" axe (82.5 cm). I don't do much high angle climbing and the long axe is a good walking cane.

On a multi-day trip I prefer to carry the axe in my hand rather than add weight to an already heavy backpack, and the long axe will support itsself between steps.

On steep terrain it does get to be a long reach to be able to stab it into the snow, but those times are fairly rare on the snow slog climbs I do. It's worked fine now since I bought it in ~ 1990. It's a Stubai Superleicht.

Re: Axe length preferences

PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2013 6:28 pm
by WyomingSummits
Sunny Buns wrote:I'm 6'-0" tall and I use a 32.5" axe (82.5 cm). I don't do much high angle climbing and the long axe is a good walking cane.

On a multi-day trip I prefer to carry the axe in my hand rather than add weight to an already heavy backpack, and the long axe will support itsself between steps.

On steep terrain it does get to be a long reach to be able to stab it into the snow, but those times are fairly rare on the snow slog climbs I do. It's worked fine now since I bought it in ~ 1990. It's a Stubai Superleicht.


1990? :) Wow, is your axe a member of AARP? ;)

Re: Axe length preferences

PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:36 am
by simonov
WyomingSummits wrote:1990? :) Wow, is your axe a member of AARP? ;)


It's a child. Here is my ice axe:

Image