[pct-l] Ice axe

Corky Corcoran corcoran at corky.cc
Thu Sep 21 12:42:55 CDT 2006


Basically all ice axes of the type used for chopping steps, 
self-arrest and belaying are the same, at least as far as I 
know.  The only real differences are length and weight.

You want as light as possible.  Most of the time it is dead weight.

The length is a compromise between what is useful and comfortable for 
uphill and downhill.  Check <a 
href="http://www.rei.com/search?query=ice+axe"> REI</a> gear charts 
for the recommended length for you.

Most important is knowing how to use it.  Quite simple, really, but 
one should practice.  And practice.  Falls happen so damned fast 
there isn't time to think.  Can't stress that enough.  Accidents as a 
rule are fast, and so much information is coming that you can't count 
on being able to process it.  Sometimes it seems to be in slow 
motion, but usually the "slow motion" part is a sort of "watching", not acting.

If you are still "going through the numbers", thinking "OK, my right 
hand should grab the shaft, toward the bottom, my left is grabbing 
the head, now dig the pick in and swing around, OK, bear down on the 
shaft with my chest" kind of thing you may be way out of 
control.  You will be accelerating, and it's imperative to stop 
sooner rather than later.

I'd suggest an afternoon on a slippery slope on the local mountain 
and falling over in a variety of positions.  Over and over. And then 
thinking about it.  And be aggressive.  Attack that slope, it's 
trying to kill you.  Don't scratch it.

Oh, yes.  I am a believer of keeping the pick sharp.  I've seen some 
very hard ice.


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