Forums Splitboard Talk Forum Snowboarding with an ice axe
Viewing 20 posts - 1 through 20 (of 62 total)
  • Author
    Posts
  • #567478
    cbaumga2
    5 Posts

    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

    #586471
    the mighty bighorn
    126 Posts

    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…

    #586472
    TEX
    2486 Posts

    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

    #586473
    cbaumga2
    5 Posts

    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?

    #586474
    knucklesplitter
    340 Posts

    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.

    #586475
    raul
    41 Posts

    Hi
    the lace arround the hand when walking up and riding down steepy terrain
    other cases in the backpack as shown

    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

    #586476
    Jon Dahl
    384 Posts

    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.

    #586477
    ttriche
    116 Posts

    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.

    #586478
    breschneid
    35 Posts

    @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.

    #586479
    Zach
    127 Posts

    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.

    #586480
    karma surf
    191 Posts

    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.

    #586481
    jimw
    1421 Posts

    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.

    #586482
    ttriche
    116 Posts

    @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.

    #586483
    jimw
    1421 Posts

    @ttriche wrote:

    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).

    That’s cool. I talked to someone at BD last season and he said they were discontinuing the ones for the trekking poles (including the 3-section expedition pole), and it didn’t sound like there was going to be a replacement.

    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.

    That’s pretty much what I thought. I have experienced what you’re talking about with being preoccupied with getting the edge to stick. On at least one occasion I have blown a heelside turn and tried to recover instead of self-arrest even though I had a tool in hand. I guess that’s the natural reaction, so some practicing is in order. Or better yet, as you say, don’t fall that way… 🙂

    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.

    Maybe it’s just me, but with my whippet it is a friggin’ pain in the ass getting the pick out. In fact the last time I tried I couldn’t do it even on the workbench using tools. I guess the good thing is that it ain’t gonna pop out when in use… So I just always leave the pick in. No problem strapping the poles to the side of the pack on the way down. Just make sure the pick isn’t facing into your back. 😯

    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.

    That’s true. I find this especially useful when descending with a full overnight pack. The folks who poo-poo this as “not snowboarding” should try it before passing judgement. On steeper stuff with a daypack I prefer strapping the poles to the pack.

    #586484
    cbaumga2
    5 Posts

    Thanks for all the info, it has been very helpful. As far as whippets go, I don’t know if they would help me on the ascent. I am typically skinning on relatively safe terrain. If it gets very steep, I am bootpacking b/c I don’t feel confident enough to skin on very steep terrain. Therefore, I will probably have my axe out while hiking up these steep sections (I don’t have enough money to buy multiple axes, so I am stuck with my long hiking axe). On the descent, I never contemplated having my axe out, but I may try it. As previous posters mentioned , after I fall I am concentrating on getting an edge, and I don’t think I would even remember that I have an axe in my hand. Another reason that I am not really interested in whippets is that I don’t think I would use my poles on the descent. I just don’t think that I could get used to it, but I will try. I don’t think, however, that using your poles means that you are not really snowboarding. People who say that should stay at the resort. When you are in the BC, you should do what you need to in order to have fun and be safe, regardless of how it looks. “Image” is for getting chicks back at the resort, it has no place in the BC.

    #586485
    huevon
    124 Posts

    I just bought a Whippet. Some thoughts:

    The whippet is good for frozen/crusty snow, the most likely thing we’ll encounter while hunting for turns. It’s not going to have the leverage of an iceaxe–the whippet will give you leverage and some grip, and stop minor slips. But it’s not going to save you from a catastrophic fall. But then an iceaxe isn’t guaranteed to either. Rule #1 of the mountains is DON’T FALL.

    Anything that actually requires that you have an iceaxe to climb, is probably going to be too sketch to ride. Sure, you could imagine “snowboarding” something with two ice tools, inching your way down with self-belays. But then you might as well have left the board at home. However, if you did make the mistake of thinking you could make turns on something that is hard to climb, you could take one whippet and one axe, and have two good points of contact, for less weight than two axes.

    One last thing, poles CAN be used actively while riding. It’s rare, but there are conditions and situations where pole support helps, either to push along, to stabilize, or help with hop-turns.

    #586486
    Zach
    127 Posts

    @huevon wrote:

    Anything that actually requires that you have an iceaxe to climb, is probably going to be too sketch to ride. Sure, you could imagine “snowboarding” something with two ice tools, inching your way down with self-belays. But then you might as well have left the board at home. However, if you did make the mistake of thinking you could make turns on something that is hard to climb, you could take one whippet and one axe, and have two good points of contact, for less weight than two axes.

    Not necessarily true…. When it gets in the range of 4000+ feet of exposure, above 40 degrees, I want an ice axe. Chances are that if I’m on that type of slope, it’s pretty hard, or icy snow… wouldn’t consider riding something like that in powder, as the relative tension of the slop eowuld be enormous, and it would be very likely to slide. A fall on something like this can get out of control pretty fast.

    Also, picking apart technical runs is its own kind of fun.

    Zach

    #586487
    huevon
    124 Posts

    A legendary ski mountaineer once said:

    “I had to turn and look down to make sure my climbing ability hadn’t exceeded my skiing. Sure enough, it was well within my limits.”

    He never used an iceaxe.

    #586488
    Zach
    127 Posts

    You’re right… I have no idea what I’m talking about 🙄

    #586489
    huevon
    124 Posts

    No offense Zach, I’m sorry for the attitude. Not trying to pick a fight. But here’s how I see it:

    Consider a slope such as depicted below. You fall, you die. There is no self arrest. The only way an iceaxe serves you is as a climbing aid, and as a self-belay. Which is exactly what the whippet is designed for. If you take a tumble on something like this, it’s over, iceaxe or no.

    Jason Hummel skis the NE Face Fury. Photo by the late Ben Manfredi.

Viewing 20 posts - 1 through 20 (of 62 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.