Ice Axe Basics For Mountaineers, Climbers, And Winter Walkers

An ice axe is an essential piece of equipment for climbers, mountaineers, and high-altitude winter hikers. A quality ice axe can make your journey more enjoyable and will keep you secure in tough conditions.

There are a variety of Ice-axes. They are available in a variety of the weight, shape, materials and other characteristics. Each is designed to be used for a specific purpose and is most effective with a particular style of climbing.

The Head:

The head of the Buying Your First Ice Axe is the largest component of the tool. It is double-headed, with an axe on one side and an adze (or Hammer in some instances) on the other. It is usually made of an alloy of metal, however certain models are made of composite materials or Kevlar for strength and durability.


The shaft is the long “handle” of an Ice axe, and is generally made of steel, aluminum, or carbon fiber. It can be either curved or straight according to the type and model of ice axe.


The spike is the sharp edge at the bottom of the axe shaft and is typically utilized to penetrate snow to ensure balance and safety. It’s also useful in areas of rocky terrain as an additional point of contact.


If you fall on a slope that is not secured by ropes or a belay system, self-arrest is a vital backup plan. It could save your life, and you should practice this until it becomes second-nature.

Self-arrest involves driving your pick of the ice axe into snow and using your body to act as an obstruction to your speed. There are a variety of ways to do this, but the most important thing is to quickly and decisively alter your body position to stop the fall.

How do you choose the best size for you

A good ice axe will be approximately one quarter of an inch larger than it is needed. The point should be at the same level as your ankle. For a precise measurement place your mountaineering boots on the top of the ice axe and then hold it by the head with a straight arm.

Once you’ve determined the length of your ice axe, take it to an ice climbing shop and let someone measure it for you. You can also make use of a tape measure to check the length at home.

When you go climbing or skiing, ensure you’ve got your ice blade. Also, make sure that the shaft is positioned. This will help you avoid damaging the tip or getting your ice blade.

Before leaving for your trip, you should examine the ice axe’s ratings to make sure it’s suitable for the terrain and activities you intend to engage in. While most ice axes can be safely used on all snow slopes, there are a few that are T-rated, which are stronger and more suitable for climbing technical ice.

The ice axes that are T-rated are typically expensive, but they have been through more rigorous testing that assures them of their ability to withstand injuries from snow and falls. These ice axes are a favorite with winter mountaineers as well as group leaders due to their ability to take the added stress of a snowfall.

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