View Full Version : Ice axe advice

01-30-2008, 02:45 PM
I am in the market for an ice-axe and so am looking for advice I know the difference btw an walking axe and an technical ice-climbing axe. But there is also the hybrid mountaineering axe which some say works for both. On bigger expeditions, do mountaineers carry both of these kinds of axes ? If I had to buy an walking axe what size should it be for a person who is 5'9" ?

01-30-2008, 04:10 PM
There's a bit of personal preference here but 68 or 70 cm should be about right. You want to be able to hold the head of the axe and have the spike just off the floor at the store, general speaking. As far as what people bring on long expedition's this again takes into account personal preference and of course depends on the terain that will be encountered. I have brought both types with me on trips but unless you plan on technical climbing as part of your route then its nice to leave the added weight behind.

Bill O
01-30-2008, 08:54 PM
Walking axes are pretty much out and technical ice axes are just for vertical ice. What you need is a mountaineering axe, as Dan described. When standing, with the axe at your side the tip should just barely hit the ground. Get the right size and this axe will take you up Washington, Rainier, Denali and Everest.

Here's a better explanation:

I think the rule of thumb is to set the spike on the floor and with your arm extended fully at your side, the top side of the axe should hit you in your palm (as if you're mantelling of the head of the ice axe).

These axes are always strait shafted. As for brand, I'm not sure. Don't get the cheapest one out there. You want a forged head, not one that is riveted together.

01-30-2008, 09:23 PM
68 or 70 sounds about right. But as Bill has said, there is a huge amount of personal preference that needs to be considered here. I'm 6'0" and use a 75cm.

01-31-2008, 06:07 AM
This was taken from a document I found on the web.

Sizing an ice axe:

For general mountaineering size your ice axe using this easy method.

Hold the axe by the head firmly in one hand with your arms hanging down by your sides. The spike of the axe should be about even with your ankle bone.

Ratings and standards:

There are two types of CE mark (European standard) for ice axes.

B-rated (Basic) axes are intended for hill and glacier walking on low to moderate slopes. B-rated axes have shafts strong enough to allow use as a belay. B-rated axes must pass tests that check the strength of the pick, strength of the shaft and security of the head.

T-rated (Technical) axes are intended for mountaineering and climbing use. T-rated axes are at least 30-40% stronger than B-rated axes. T-rated axes must pass the same pick, shaft and head tests. T-rated axes allow for more extreme use and abuse.

Safe and effective use of your axe:

Remember, your ice axe is a tool. You must know how to use it safely and effectively. If you are unsure of its proper use and technique consider attending a basic winter skills course. Most are about two days long and will cover all the basic uses of an ice axe and crampons, as well as other important winter skills...

That is the most popular way to size an axe and allows for a wide range of use. The length of your arms and legs also come into play here.

I'm 5'8" and use a 66 cm axe.

01-31-2008, 08:38 AM
The previous posters hit all the important points. I'm 5'9 and use a 65cm axe. I personally prefer one that is light in weight - I'm currently using a grivel air-tec - black diamond makes a fine lightweight model as well - I believe it's less than a lb. Keep in mind that a mountaineering axe's most important function is for self arrest - it's not a walking stick, although on steep terrain you will want to hold it in your uphill hand, and it becomes a third balance point. Too long a handle would be cumbersome for self arrest.

01-31-2008, 02:10 PM
Thanks a bunch to everybody for the quick response and great advice. I am looking into the Black diamond Raven ice-axe.

02-01-2008, 01:55 PM
I have the raven...it's adequately light, and a well made axe. I use a 65, I'm 5'8.

The raven is currently on sale thorugh black diamond: