An ice axe can be used in many environments and is suitable for climbing or mountaineering. It can serve a variety of purposes as a safety and balance tool while climbing up and down steep slopes, and also to act as a brake when sliding downhill (gliding downhill on your butt) as well as a retrievable anchor to hold onto while rappelling down slopes without a natural feature.
There are a variety of ice axes available and each one is designed for specific uses. You might prefer an axe that is light to walk with or more capable of climbing, depending on the activity you’re doing.
Making an Ice Axe
Your own level of skill and experience are the most important factors to consider when selecting an Buying Your First Ice Axe. Also, think about the slope you’ll be climbing and your risk tolerance.
Step 1 Take a measurement of the length and width of the ice the axe
The ice-axes with the smallest length measure around 50cm, whereas the longest ice axes are up to 70cm. They should be long enough for you to hold the axe with both your hands but not long enough to cause you to trip or drag.
Once you’ve selected the axe that is best suited to your needs, it is time to master how to use it properly. To safely use your axe you’ll need to be competent to hold it and load it, then aim and swing it.
Moving the axe
To load an ice-axe, hold it by the handle and pull it down on the head to create upward pressure. Then, you must find an entry point that is suitable and then swing your dominant hand, using the pick as the foundation of your stroke. To avoid injury to the knuckle, move your wrist forward as the adze is pressed into ice.
Axe Swing Techniques
If you get the chance to practice this skill, it will help to improve your ice axe abilities particularly when you’re confronted with a steep wall of ice. It is easy to master and will give you confidence when moving up to more difficult terrain.
When a steep wall of ice is in front of you, the most effective technique for self-arrest is to grasp and then swing the axe into the ice. You can accomplish this by using an overhead swing as described below.
Axe Swing Techniques
For most people, the first step is to master the basic swing of an axe. This technique is the basis of the majority of self-arrests and will be taught to you in a winter skills course.
The most popular swing with an ice axe is the “overhead” swing, which involves raising the ice axe on your head and then swinging it downwards to the ground. This is the most common method of self-arrest, and if you can master it, it can be a useful addition to your mountaineering toolbox.