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 Post subject: Ice Axe Length?
PostPosted: Wed Feb 16, 2011 11:36 am 
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What size/length ice axes would you guys recommend?

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 Post subject: Re: Ice Axe Length?
PostPosted: Wed Feb 16, 2011 12:08 pm 
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Depends on usage and personal preference, but I would generalize as follows:

Low-angle glacier travel = something longer, almost touches the ground while held in your hand with arms hanging at your sides

Moderate slopes/general use = a bit shorter, almost touches the top of your ankle while held in your hand with arms hanging at your sides

Steep slopes/technical ice = substantially shorter to lower swing weight and length of the shaft needed for self belay

FWIW, I have a 70 cm, 60 cm and 50cm axes/ice tools for the above conditions and I am 5'9".

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 Post subject: Re: Ice Axe Length?
PostPosted: Wed Feb 16, 2011 12:40 pm 
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Any preference on a Do-It-All size? I am leaning toward a 50cm for size weight and I will likely only use it when absolutely necessary.

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 Post subject: Re: Ice Axe Length?
PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2011 9:21 am 
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PedroDelfuego wrote:
Any preference on a Do-It-All size? I am leaning toward a 50cm for size weight and I will likely only use it when absolutely necessary.


the one I picked up as a do all, ends at my ankle when the business end is in my hand, at my side. We don't have glaciers here in the NE, but we do have Mt Washington.

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 Post subject: Re: Ice Axe Length?
PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2011 9:30 am 
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A 'one size fits all' ice axe length is going to be personal preference. The one I go to the most is the 60cm, ends at the top of my ankle same as splitchank. YMMV

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 Post subject: Re: Ice Axe Length?
PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2011 2:14 pm 
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This really depends on use. Are you going to be doing glacier travel? If you are just using the axe for security climbing steep slopes/couloirs, you can usually use a shorter axe:50-55 cm. because if the slope is steep enough to need an axe, anything longer than this will be awkward to shaft plunge. If you riding something exposed and steep, and you want to ride with an axe for possible self arrest, this length works well (I recommend holding an axe in the rear hand, at the balance point on the shaft for best riding ability).
For glacier travel you would want to consider a longer axe, 60-65 cm. usually, to allow for piolet cane and more secure boot axe belays, etc. But I admit to doing a lot of glacier travel with poles, and a short (50 cm) axe within quick reach (holstered). If descending a glacier in a possible crevasse zone, I will have the axe in my hand to allow for quick arrest in the event of a downhill partner falling in a crevasse, otherwise I just make sure my (short) axe is easily accessible.
Another advantage to the shorter axe is that it carries on the pack easier, and, of course, weighs a little less.

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 Post subject: Re: Ice Axe Length?
PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2011 3:37 pm 
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barrows wrote:
But I admit to doing a lot of glacier travel with poles, and a short (50 cm) axe within quick reach (holstered).


Personally I want some sort of pick to arrest a crevasse fall at all times. So just Whippet...at least on the moderate stuff on rope teams of 3 or more. For 2-man rope teams I always have out my axe regardless of the slope pitch.

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 Post subject: Re: Ice Axe Length?
PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2011 4:16 pm 
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Thanks for all the input guys! :thumpsup:

I was leaning toward a smaller/lighter/more portable length, 50-60cm (now more toward 50cm).
I believe I would use it more for very steep, sketchy ascents.
To gain leverage while climbing and in places where falling or sliding is not an option.
I do not foresee any glaciers trips in the near future.
Riding with it for self-arrest seems like smart thing, not to mention how bad ass you would look.

Do you always use the wrist straps?


BTW: Av's rule! Even though they aren't so hot lately....

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 Post subject: Re: Ice Axe Length?
PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2011 4:51 pm 
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Right on Chris. I especially would always advise that folks learning glacier travel always have an axe in their hand to arrest a crevasse fall.
I have a lot of glacier travel experience, and feel I can travel safely with poles in my hands (and an axe holstered) in a lot of situations-but without a lot of experience, I would not advise others to do the same.
For climbing steep terrain, and self arresting riding falls in exposed spots, I feel a 50-55 cm axe is fine. If you are expecting to be able to self arrest a fall on your board, you need to practice doing so in a steep area with safe runout. Especially practice the worst case scenario: a sliding fall with the board above your head, on your back. Self arrest can work great, but one needs to practice it, and/or get training in a "snow school" class.

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