The Ice axe is an essential tool for winter mountaineering and climbing. However, its many uses are limitless. It can be used to self-arrest when sliding down slopes, or to cut steps into hardice or for climbing uphill in deep snow.
There are a variety of Ice-axes. Each one is specifically designed to be used in a specific area. A technical ice climbing tool could have a different head or an adze that is not a common mountaineering tool.
How to Use an Ice Axe
Finding the right size of the Buying Your First Ice Axe you prefer is the first step. Some prefer a shorter axe to walk on and down moderate slopes, and others prefer a larger axe to climb steeper, more difficult slopes.
A general-mountaineering axe will usually be made from stainless steel and will have an adze, recurve or single-tip pick. Some also have a spike on the end, which is helpful for climbing icy trails or for a retrievable snow anchor.
Spikeless axes do not work well in soft snow or when the blade is used to hold the axe vertically, however they are still useful for holding the shaft and keeping it clear of snow while walking on soft snow. They are also easier than a spiked axe to carry around in a rucksack.
If you slip down a slope without ropes or a belay system the ice axe is the most reliable and efficient tool to prevent you from sliding. But, it’s not a substitute for rope.
How to Self-Arrest
If you fall down a slope the most important thing to do is to get into the self-arrest position as quickly as you can. This is best done by orienting yourself to ensure that your hands are facing upwards while your head is towards the upward direction. Your feet are on the downslope. Once you’ve achieved this orientation put the ice axe’s pick into the snow and then you can pull yourself up.
It’s not foolproof, but it does allow you to get a solid grip on the ice axe prior to you begin falling and sliding downhill. It is possible to practice the technique until you’re confident with it.
You can also use the ice axe’s handle to push yourself uphill. This is particularly helpful if you are going to cut steps into the ice or walk uphill in deep snow as it can help to maintain your balance.
The adze on an ice-axe is usually the most crucial. It aids in cutting snow and ice into small steps. The adze should have sharp edges and be broad. It should be wider than the axe’s head, to give you more stability when cutting the snow or ice, and should not have cuts in the surface.
The Adze is also useful to push yourself uphill since it helps lift your weight off of the snow or ice so you can gain more speed when climbing uphill on steep hard slopes. The adze can also be used to brake you from sliding downhill, or sliding.