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Thread: ice axe technique

  1. #1
    Senior Member Paradox's Avatar
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    ice axe technique

    I just got a mountaineering type ice axe with straight handle. Anybody out there ever wrap friction tape around the handle near the spike? Seems like a good idea at first blush.
    WNH4K:48/48, SLAT50:50/50, NEHH:100/100, NE115:115/115,
    TW72:60/72, WADK46: 18/46, 52WAV:16/52, Cat35:9/35(39)

  2. #2
    Moderator bikehikeskifish's Avatar
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    Google reveals several which come this way, and other suggestions (including rubberizing the handle) for after-market changes. It also reveals this: http://www.adventuresportsonline.com/iceclimb.htm, which mentions the cons of not punching through ice as cleanly, and increasing the chances of icing up, as well as suggesting it is a
    Good Thing(tm) for technical ice climbing axes but not for mountaineering axes. They don't go so far as to say it is a Bad Thing(tm).

    A few months ago, while considering ice climbing school, I did a little searching on ice axes and techniques, and recall reading this, or similar in my travels.

    That said, I have no personal experience to offer...... but I hope the above is helpful.

    Tim
    Bike, Hike, Ski, Sleep. Eat, Fish, Repeat.

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    Senior Member Frodo's Avatar
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    On my mountaineering axe(s) (not ice tools), I duct tape a piece of closed cell foam over the top between the adze and the spike end (I forget the technical name). This keeps from sucking the heat out of my hand(s).

    I also wrap duct tape around the body of the axe to provide both insulation and friction, though I rarely hold it from the body. Mountaineering axes are mainly used for self arrest and as anchors for belaying.
    "The goggles, they do nothing!"

    - Raineer Wolfcastle

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    Senior Member Tom Rankin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paradox
    I just got a mountaineering type ice axe with straight handle. Anybody out there ever wrap friction tape around the handle near the spike? Seems like a good idea at first blush.
    If you are concerned about dropping it, consider getting a strap. The Black Diamond models have holes at each end for fitting a strap to.
    Tom Rankin
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  5. #5
    Banned Kevin Rooney's Avatar
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    It depends upon how/where you're using it. As Frodo points out, putting some insulation around the top of the axe will help prevent the tranfer of warmth from your hand to the axe. Some axes have this - I think Grivel (maybe others) have a model with this.

    As far as putting anything along the shaft itself - if you want to use it as a probe for hidden cravasses (done by holding it in your uphill hand, and pushing downward ahead of you as you walk) then anything on the shaft will get in the way. Same thing when using it as an anchor for belaying. OTH - if you never use it for this purpose, then it won't matter. Same thing for using it as a brake when glissading - wrapping the shaft won't get the way.

    And as Tom suggests, get a strap. Or make one - 1/2" nylon, about 4' long, is more than enough by the time you make a loop on each end.

  6. #6
    Senior Member TCD's Avatar
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    On my old axe I used the red PVC coating intended for tool handles (hardware store) to coat about the bottom 8" of the shaft. This held up pretty well in use, and it didn't seem to interfere significantly with the shaft punching into the snow, or with the use as an anchor. I made a leash for that one too, as Kevin suggests. Your leash should be set up so that when using the axe in "piolet traction" (like an ice climber), the leash is tight when your hand is gripping the shaft like you were going to swing the axe.

    (This old axe was lost by a friend about ten years ago, somewhere on the Beaver Meadows trail to Gothics, in case anyone runs across it.)

    Recommend reading Chouinard's "Climbing Ice" The chapter on ice axe use is comprehensive.

    Chouinard pionts out that when climbing snow where self arrest may be needed, you should not have the leash on your wrist. This is because having the leash on may delay or prevent you from getting the axe into position for self arrest, which needs to be done quickly (needs to be instinctive). He says "Cultivate a habit of hanging on to your ice axe." Of course, opinions differ on this.

    This bears on another point in this thread. If you follow Chuoinard, and don't have the leash on your wrist when walking with the axe, then the leash is free to be wrapped around the head between the adze and the pick to insulate it from your hand.

    TCD

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    Senior Member Kevin's Avatar
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    Ask 5 climbers about leashes for a piolet, and you will get 10 responses...

    In my opionon... Definately make a leash for your axe... Don't make it too short where if you fall that you could possibly jab yourself with it, but don't make it too long that you trip over the leash either... You will want it long enough that you can switch between hands if you attach it to your harness, 9 times out of 10 though that will not even be an issue though as you probably will not be using a harness.

    Kevin & TCD's repsonse about length are spot on...

    You can also use the leash as a way to keep the help preventing the heat from leaving your hand by wrapping it around the head on flat sections, like if you were walking a fairly flat glacier or trail.

    Just use some flat webbing attach it to the head of the axe using a re-tied water knot, and then either make a slip knot with a stopper knot so you can adjust it to your wrist without cinching down so much you cut off the circulation to your hand, or use another re-tied water knot with a large enough opening for your wrist. And an extra tip... Make sure you measure this opening with your thickest glove or mitt on so you get the sizing right, make it too small and you will be cursing having to take your glove or mitt off on a very cold and very windy day to get the leash on or off.

    If you don't use a leash and you are on a slope, you could be in trouble if the axe falls from your hand and you watch it slide off hill... Not a fun place to be in if you are truly needed it...

    Kevin
    Last edited by Kevin; 12-12-2006 at 12:04 PM.

  8. #8
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin
    Ask 5 climbers about leashes for a piolet, and you will get 10 responses...
    Here is an eleventh response...

    Just use some flat webbing attach it to the head of the axe using a re-tied water knot, and then either make a slip knot with a stopper knot so you can adjust it to your wrist without cinching down so much you cut off the circulation to your hand, or use another re-tied water knot with a large enough opening for your wrist. And an extra tip... Make sure you measure this opening with your thickest glove or mitt on so you get the sizing right, make it too small and you will be cursing having to take your glove or mitt off on a very cold and very windy day to get the leash on or off.
    I made a leash with half-inch webbing:
    * the head end of the leash had a loop which could be threaded through the biner hole in the axe head and girth-hitched to the axe.
    * The leash ran down parallel to the axe shaft to:
    * a triple water knot (overhand knot, threaded three times through). There were two loops formed by this triple water knot: a small one around the axe shaft and a larger wrist loop.
    * To attach the axe to your wrist for piolet traction (holding your axe like a hammer and swinging the pick in above your head), you just put your hand up through the wrist loop and twisted the loop to the desired tightness. (Easy to put on, easy to escape, and easy to adjust to fit different size gloves/mittens.) You put the twisted part of the wrist loop between your thumb and forefinger, like the wrist loop on a ski pole.
    * The overall length of the leash is set to be just shorter than the axe so the spike cannot impale the leash when not using the wrist loop.
    * The small loop around the shaft can be slid up to near the head as needed for axe techniques where you hold the axe by its head or shaft.
    * The leash can be removed at any time by un-girth hitching it from the axe head.
    * If you wish to use a keeper cord, you can girth hitch it to the small loop around the shaft.

    Simple: just a bit of webbing and two knots...

    A number of the commercial wrist loops (without the small loop around the shaft) impede a natural swing--this method does not.

    Works for me for ice climbing, snow climbing, and hiking--I use this leash on all my axes.

    Doug
    Last edited by DougPaul; 12-12-2006 at 12:39 PM.

  9. #9
    Senior Member kmorgan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paradox
    I just got a mountaineering type ice axe with straight handle. Anybody out there ever wrap friction tape around the handle near the spike? Seems like a good idea at first blush.
    I wrapped a spiral of friction tape down my handle. I don't do technical climbing, just like to use the axe in tight spots while winter hiking. I found that my mittens slipped down the shaft and I couldn't get a grip. (Of course, I didn't have a leash on the axe at that point, but I still like the security of the tape.)

    Kevin
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    Senior Member Woody's Avatar
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    I have a Black Diamond Raven Ice axe that came with a rubberized grip on the shaft. I have not noticed any problems with thrusting the shaft into firm snow with this grip.
    Woody

  11. #11
    Senior Member Paradox's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    Thank you very much folks! Exactly the sort of discussion I was hoping for.
    WNH4K:48/48, SLAT50:50/50, NEHH:100/100, NE115:115/115,
    TW72:60/72, WADK46: 18/46, 52WAV:16/52, Cat35:9/35(39)

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    there is no reason to tape up the handle as you should never be holding it by the handle and always by the head. another reason to not tape up the handle is while your walking and snow clumps up on your crampons your going to clean said clumps by hitting your boot with the shaft while your walking. over time any tape is going to start getting gouged up and turn into a mess.

    if your have a leash on your axe i don't recommend using it unless you have no other choice, and when you do leash it to yourself never attach it at your wrist. if you have an out of control fall you have a dagger with 3 points attached to you just waiting to stab! if you must attach it then attach it to the belay loop on your climbing harness via a locking carabiner. you ALWAYS want to keep the axe on the slope side and as you're moving the slope side is going to change so you need to pass the axe from hand to hand. if the axe is attached to your wrist you can't easily do this.

    and my final point, if you're using an ice axe stow your trekking poles. you don't need them both out and the pole gets in the way when you need to pass the axe from hand to hand. more importantly if you need to get into self-arrest or self-belay you need two hands to perform these tasks and it can't be done if one hand is occupied by a trekking pole. if you're on a rope team with me this is a requirement, whether i'm the climbing lead or not. you can do whatever you want as long as it doesn't effect mine or others lives.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Tom Rankin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by deadpoint
    there is no reason to tape up the handle as you should never be holding it by the handle and always by the head.
    I do not disagree with your post at all, in the context you are discussing. You clearly have more experience in team climbing than I do.

    However, just as there are many uses for a hiking pole, there can be many uses for an axe. In some of these uses, you do grip the handle, and a little traction would be handy. And in some of these uses, a strap has proven to be a good idea.

    Just my 2 cents.
    Tom Rankin
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    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by deadpoint
    there is no reason to tape up the handle as you should never be holding it by the handle and always by the head. another reason to not tape up the handle is while your walking and snow clumps up on your crampons your going to clean said clumps by hitting your boot with the shaft while your walking. over time any tape is going to start getting gouged up and turn into a mess.

    if your have a leash on your axe i don't recommend using it unless you have no other choice, and when you do leash it to yourself never attach it at your wrist. if you have an out of control fall you have a dagger with 3 points attached to you just waiting to stab! if you must attach it then attach it to the belay loop on your climbing harness via a locking carabiner. you ALWAYS want to keep the axe on the slope side and as you're moving the slope side is going to change so you need to pass the axe from hand to hand. if the axe is attached to your wrist you can't easily do this.
    This advice is appropriate ONLY for hiking and easy snow climbing. (And even then, some may reasonably disagree with some points.) Not appropriate for hard snow climbing and ice climbing.

    Read "Climbing Ice" by Yvon Chouinard if you want a more complete dissertation on how to use an axe.

    Doug

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    [QUOTE=DougPaul]This advice is appropriate ONLY for hiking and easy snow climbing. (And even then, some may reasonably disagree with some points.) Not appropriate for hard snow climbing and ice climbing.

    Quote Originally Posted by DougPaul
    Read "Climbing Ice" by Yvon Chouinard if you want a more complete dissertation on how to use an axe.
    are we not talking about using a "mountain axe" for hiking and snow climbing?

    i'm well versed on the topic of using a "mountain axe" and crampons in theory and in practice. "Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills" should be in any outdoor enthusiasts library and be well marked, i know professional climbers and guides who still reference it.

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