Mountaineering Ice Axe Basics
A mountaineering Ice axe is a vital tool for many winter and ice sports. They are used by alpinists, ski mountaineers mixed climbers, ice climbers, and high-country trekkers in order to get up and down the most rocky peaks and traverse the toughest snow and frozen terrain.
Ice Axes contain two main parts that are the head and the shaft (the handle). Depending on the kind of ice axe that you are using, it may have various features like a leash stopper, spike guard, or snow basket.
The head: Generally made of steel alloy, it will have a pick and an adze (or, in the case of the ice tools or ice tools, a hammer) on the opposite sides. It also has a carabiner slot where you can attach the leash.
Shaft The shaft is the long “handle” of the ice axe. It is usually made of aluminum, carbon-fiber, steel or a composite. It can be straight or curved to various degrees.
Spike The point of contact with the shaft, where you can propel the axe into snow for stability or support as you climb downhill or walking across the slope. The shape of the axe isn’t as important on snowy terrain, but small spikes with finer points penetrate better and are less likely to skid off the surface.
Leash: If you’re using Buying Your First Ice Axe that has a leash, it’s important to keep in mind that the leash cannot stop you from falling or sliding down the slope. A leash can also be useless under certain conditions, such as if you’re not following the correct technique or if you lose your grip.
Self-arrest: A key skill to master with an ice axe is the ability to stop your fall swiftly and efficiently. A simple but effective way to accomplish this is planting the axe’s pick into the snow and using your body to brake the fall.
Step-up The step-up is essential to get up from falling. It’s a challenging one to master. The axe can serve as a step-up tool in the event of a slide or fall. It can help you get up.
Push-up: This second step is necessary if you are in a falling or sliding situation. It takes a little more practice than the first. To make it easier for your body to slide downhill, it’s essential to get your body into the push-up position.
After you’ve done that the axe, you can then put it into the snow and repeat until your feet are in the direction of you once more. This is called the self-arrest posture and should be learned as soon as you can before your momentum becomes too great.
It is essential to practice on the training slopes in order to master using your ice-axe. It becomes easier the more you practice. You will feel more confident about your ability to self-arrest effectively and safely when you need to use your axe.