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 Post subject: Snowboarding with an ice axe
PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2006 7:35 am 
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Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2006 7:26 am
Posts: 5
I have thought about bringing my ice axe on days when we do some pretty hairy climbs. However, I am not sure what to do with it when I ride down. It is too big to fit in my pack. I would just strap it on the back of my pack, but that makes me a little nervous. B/c I always think of the worst case scenario, I imagine myself taking a hard tumle and impaling my neck or another body part with the business end of my axe. Is this too unlikely of a risk to worry about? Does anyone ride w/ thier axe? If so, how do you do it?

-Chris


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2006 9:36 am 
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Joined: Sun Dec 18, 2005 9:29 am
Posts: 139
Location: Nelson, British Columbia.
It is acceptable to ride with an ice axe. I hold it in me trailing arm without putting the loop around my wrist. I would find an axe that fits on your pack, something shorter, you'll mostly only use for self arrest and not walking. It's good to be able to put it away when it's not needed. I like to use it when i'm on steep glaciated terrian where there are crevasses present.

It might seem a bit extreme(i hate that word), but I like having an axe with me, it could save your life. A couple years back, i broke a plate binding while descending from the summit of Mt Rhepau in New Zealand, I fell about 500 ft down the slope. It was very hard icy snow. I was so bruised and beat that I went into shock when I stopped. My ice axe was strapped to my pack and unreachable for the whole slide. It would have been nice to have it in my hand...


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2006 9:42 am 
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Joined: Wed Mar 09, 2005 4:15 pm
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Location: san diego CA
We use them here in the sierras. Climbing steep terrain with crampons or not. Makes for a great handle while climbing and I have it ready to arrest in case of a fall. When I ride down its strapped to the outside of my pack with the pick near my ass. Wouldnt think of leaving home without it


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2006 10:37 am 
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Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2006 7:26 am
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I have thought about attaching it upside down on the back of my pack, with the pick near my butt (like you mentioned). The spike on the bottom of the handle sticks up past my pack, but the spike ends up at about at the midpoit of my helmet. If I did fall, I think that the spike would just hit my helmet, and not my neck. Maybe I could find something to cover up the end of the spike, just for peace of mind. Am I being too paranoid?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2006 10:43 am 
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Joined: Mon Sep 26, 2005 10:29 pm
Posts: 337
Location: Reno, NV
I have a rubber tip guard and a rubber boot that covers the axe head. The head cover is prolly overkill, but I do prefer having something on that nasty point. Think I got them from backcountry.com.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2006 10:46 am 
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Joined: Sun Nov 28, 2004 6:05 am
Posts: 58
Location: Basque Country, Spain.
Hi
the lace arround the hand when walking up and riding down steepy terrain
other cases in the backpack as shown

Image

Riding down with the axe in the back is no problem... cos i supousee you wear your helmet :)

anyway is easy to make/buy rubber protections for the sharp parts of the axe. i never used rubber and never had a problem

Ra


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2006 1:35 pm 
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Joined: Fri Nov 12, 2004 1:43 pm
Posts: 439
Location: Western Washington
On rides down w/ the axe in hand, use the dagger position on the head of the axe, trailing hand works best for me also. You will use the dagger position (mostly) on most of the climbs you snowboard down anyway. In the pack, handle up and get the rubber protecters for both ends. P.S. the dagger position is the most natural for self-arrest on a board, and the easiest to control properly.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Feb 10, 2006 11:35 am 
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Joined: Tue Mar 01, 2005 3:11 pm
Posts: 122
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Whippets are lighter and somewhat more convenient; I have found myself needing to self-arrest once while skinning and it sure would have been nice to have one. Bought a pair this season, if they're good enough for Andrew McLean then they're good enough for me, that guy skis the sick shit (Mendel etc).

Barring that, or if you use approach skis (why?!?), an ice axe is certainly mighty handy. Anyone who has toured with me knows that I don't pull out the pointy bits until the absolute last minute, given my druthers, but when you need to self-arrest, nothing else will take the place of a pick. Use a leash and get comfortable with the idea of wrapping your palm over the head of the axe, else you will lack the leverage to force the pick into hard snow/soft ice. On boilerplate you are likely to be fucked unless you sharpen it real nice.

Practice self-arrest before you need it for real. Like anything else, practice makes perfect, and when you really need to self-arrest, your chances will be much better if you do it perfectly. Self-arrest is much harder (on the type of terrain where you are most likely to need it) than many if not most people realize. You will be terrified and surprised, and you need to get that pick to grab before you accelerate too much else it won't work.

On a steep, icy descent, you're insane if you don't carry some means of decelerating in the event of a blown edge. My friend Javier is a very strong AT skier (descents of the N. Face of Whitney, U-Notch, V-Notch, N. Couloir of Gilbert, N Couloir of University) and took a 300 footer on San Jacinto when he hit some boilerplate disguised as snow. It can happen to anyone at almost any time, so come prepared to throw down.

The traditional way to carry an axe is in the axe loop of your pack; you drop it in spike-first, invert it, and strap the shaft pointing up so that the axe loop grabs the head on both sides. If it's loose, I twist it several times prior to securing the shaft. A spike guard is a good idea, although an axe with the lighter-weight cut-off-at-an-angle shaft (instead of a heavy spike) is an even better idea, and the shaft won't fall off as easily as a spike guard. I have never in my life used a head protector, neither for technical tools nor 'classical' ice axes, but YMMV.

My suggestion to use a Whippet or pair of Whippets stands, though. A single Whippet adds 6-7 oz. to the pole, which is lighter than any decent steel-headed axe you are going to find. Plus you never have to worry about it being strapped to your pack (rather than in hand where it needs to be).

Of course, an axe seems to be the tool of choice for guys like Jim Zellers and Stephen Koch, whereas the Whippet works for Andrew McLean and co. Your choice, just make sure it's second nature when you need it.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2006 10:40 am 
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Joined: Sun Feb 05, 2006 10:13 pm
Posts: 38
Location: Jackson, WY
ttriche wrote:
Of course, an axe seems to be the tool of choice for guys like Jim Zellers and Stephen Koch, whereas the Whippet works for Andrew McLean and co. Your choice, just make sure it's second nature when you need it.


Using a whippet seems to be very intuitive for SKIING, but not so much for snowboarding. When snowboarding in terrain steep and treacherous enough to need some sort of self arrest tool in hand as guys like Koch often do, i feel like a whippet would be awkward and just wouldn't cut it. Same deal when youre riding down and don't need it - could be kinda awkward strapped to your pack. If a skier was heading down steep terrain and needs a self arrest tool in hand, a whippet makes perfect sense - you can still use poles and have a tool. I've never used a whippet personally, but i think an axe would still be a much more versatile and efficient self arrest tool than a whippet.
Anyone out there that uses a whippet that can prove me wrong? I'd be interested to see if there are many splitters that use whippets.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2006 10:55 am 
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Joined: Wed Dec 01, 2004 12:45 pm
Posts: 158
Location: Reno
Whippets are great for glacier travel... and that's about it, for me.

Some people swear by them for moderately steep climbing, and there is no question that having a pole in each hand is the most efficient mode of travel. However, they just don't give me a safe feeling.

On big, exposed slopes I start off with a pole in one hand and a long axe in the other. As slopes get steeper and icier, I move to two tools.

On the downhill, if I feel like I may need to self-arrest, then I carry a 45cm axe with a reverse-curve pick and a hammer... NO ADZE! That's just asking for a gaping chest wound. I carry it in my trailing hand, with my grip just below the head of the axe. This allows me to get it over into the self-arrest position without any shifting.

There are a lot of different ways to carry an axe while snowboarding... this is just what works for my sense of balance and ease of use. Practice makes perfect.

Like anything else in climbing or snowboarding, you need to strike a healthy balance between confidence and dependence on gear.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2006 9:09 pm 
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Joined: Fri Dec 23, 2005 8:29 pm
Posts: 208
Location: Bermuda Triangle
I use dual whippets everyday I'm out because I keep finding they come in handy. This is the best thing that ever happened to my skinning skills because knowing I could self arrest if I blew an edge helped me push what I was skinning. I never use crampons on the split anymore, and I've found my skinning skills have drastically increased.

I only bring an ice axe if I know I'm dropping a steep line where I will be descending and possibly needing to self arrest. And this is only if I know it hasn't snowed in awhile, leaving firm snow conditions. I would never count on a whippet(s) for self arrest during a descent, but they are invaluable for booting steep areas, and offer me additional confidence when skinning firm snow above exposure. The extra weight of the two whippets is only making me stronger, so I don't really care about the excess weight anymore.

I ride goofy, and descend with the axe in my right (forward hand) because this feels most natural to me. I use the BD Raven Pro, and I feel very comfortable self arresting (I've had to on a few occasions), but ultimately it's whatever feels the most comfortable to each rider. I would definitely recommend an axe no longer than 50 cm's. The shorter length also helps carry the axe on the pack easier if you have concerns about errant sharp objects.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2006 10:37 pm 
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Joined: Fri Nov 19, 2004 8:41 pm
Posts: 1620
Location: Santa Cruz, CA
I'm a big fan of whippets. I wish they wouldn't have discontinued the the one made for the 3-section poles. One thing I like about the whippet shape is that little right angle tab that crosses over on top of the pick. It actually helps add some resistance in loose snow. I tried a real informal test one day and actually felt a difference in that type of snow vs. a regular axe. And having the whippet always available on the way up has saved me from some nice slides on more than one occasion. You can't always anticipate where you're going to "need to get the axe out". As far as them being awkward on the pack, I've never had a problem with that, in fact I find it even less awkward than an axe.

On the topic of self arrest, what do you guys do if you need to arrest in a heelside turn (whether you hold the axe in the front or back hand)? I've never figured out a good way that didn't involve trying to flop back over toeside in order to be in a more traditional self-arrest position.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2006 4:32 pm 
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Joined: Tue Mar 01, 2005 3:11 pm
Posts: 122
Location: Los Angeles, CA
breschneid wrote:
Using a whippet seems to be very intuitive for SKIING, but not so much for snowboarding. When snowboarding in terrain steep and treacherous enough to need some sort of self arrest tool in hand as guys like Koch often do, i feel like a whippet would be awkward and just wouldn't cut it. Same deal when youre riding down and don't need it


1) I ski on an AT rig sometimes.
2) I tend to descend with poles in hand, for balance as much as anything. I didn't do this at first, until a stronger AT/tele/split rider pointed out that you can plant a pole riding a board just like you can riding on skis.

(I only quoted one person, but I'm responding to a number of people:)

The new style whippet can accept a 3-piece expedition lower; call Black Diamond and they'll be happy to sell you the right ones. They are about $25 if memory serves (probably doesn't). Life-Link powder baskets rule over the crappy BD version; I swapped mine out as soon as I discovered they fit. BD's powder baskets are utterly useless.

All of my ice tools have been hacked to pieces and modified for leashless climbing (though I sometimes clip in on pumpy vertical ice leads while placing a screw). None of them have head attachments, let alone adzes, but suffice to say that I wouldn't want to use a snowboard to descend the type of terrain I use them to climb. That probably influences my choice of tools -- I have a little bitty Grivel 3rd tool that I never use (but probably should consider for self-arrest, too bad I always leave it at home), a couple of Vipers for hard ice/mixed, and a pair of Whippets. Guess which tools I reach for :-) after all, to me, looking at the Wall o' Crap, the Whippets are the picks with the leashes ;-)

Heelside would be a bad way to fall in an icy chute. You're probably fucked regardless of whether you have an axe or a Whippet. Also regardless of which hand you hold it in -- I have always held an ice axe for self arrest in my stronger hand, which is my right hand (as I am right-handed). Injury is probable in that scenario unless you somehow get the leashed axe in sideways or across your body and manage to rotate. Not likely but who knows. Don't fall like that. Sometimes a belay might be the only "safe" answer. Without a board on your feet, it is a relatively easier matter to get the pick slammed in and your feet rotate themselves if it sticks. On a board I would think you'd be preoccupied with trying to get the edge to stick. That tends to be my initial reaction if I blow my heelside edge.

Stowing the Whippets and their picks is trivial. Pop the picks out and stick them in the lid of the pack, then stow the poles as usual. Or if you're lazy like me, drop them in like ice axes and have the baskets sticking up. Same as stowing an axe. With the 3-section modification, you can easily compact them to the length of a 65cm ice axe. If you swap in the 125cm-max lowers, you can smoosh them down almost to the size of a 45cm technical tool. Some people just cut the top piece of the 140cm-max lowers down to size until it fits (some people who work at Black Diamond, especially ;-)). This makes a lot of sense on the descent (especially if you would prefer to recycle one of the two whippets as your "axe").

Just some thoughts. I've had the pleasure of self arresting with and without skis on, and it sucks no matter what. I don't own a full-size (65cm) ice axe, nor do I relish the thought of touring with an additional 2lbs. strapped uselessly to my pack, or with a shitty aluminum-head axe. What I do relish the thought of is having self arrest tools available both on the skin/boot up and on the way down. Gravity doesn't much care whether you were heading up or down, so I like to have the option handy to remain at the altitude I have already attained. Being somewhat of a weight Nazi, the Whippet suits my personal needs best, or so it seems, thus far.


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