Sunday, May 5, 2013

Quick Tip: Swinging Your Lightweight Ice Axe

Gear gets lighter and lighter.  With the lightening, comes occasionally compromised function.  Ice axes fall solidly into this category.  The lightest axes available now are at least half the weight of equivalent tools 10 years ago.  Mainly, this is ok.  In most climbing and ski mountaineering settings, we carry an axe to arrest a fall and balance ourselves on steep terrain.  A short, 8 oz axe is all one needs.  When the terrain is mellow, we use ski poles.  When the terrain is steeper and firmer, we add crampons and a rope and more technical tools. 

Occasionally, however, we want to ask a little more of our lightweight ice axe.  When chopping steps, digging bollards or t-slot anchors, or even when constructing a platform for sleeping on, swinging these little tiny ice axes is problematic.  I've found a simple fix that at least makes the tool easier to hold on to.  Simply wrap a stretchy, rubberized ski strap around the shaft near the spike.  (You are carrying these ski straps, right?  What can't you fix with it?  Heck, even on our weight-obsessed winter Palisade Traverse we carried one to rig the Jetboil hanging kit.)  This gives you a handle that offers surprisingly better ergonomics.  I suppose you could also strap one nearer the head to give a little more "swing weight". 

And the bonus "tip".  Hang your jetboil thusly.  Fill a trash
bag with snow.  Bring the bag inside.  Place the snow-filled bag, open,
beneath the whole enchilada.  Vent well and melt away.  Just don't tell the
manufacturer of any of this equipment.  None of this is "approved".  


  1. Your face is "approved"

    Always appreciate the pro-tips, man. Keep em coming!

  2. This tops my list of tips- thank you. I love the hanging jetboil - seriously, some manufacturer will see this photo and innovate. Ta-dah: new product! I think some ice axe manufacturer can also make some rubber grips for users so that we can just put in on those handles. That way, they have additional products to sell, if I may say so myself. Lightweight ice axe can be disadvantageous for some, so I make sure that I can easily hold on to it and won't fly from my hands - that would be a disaster! For reviews on the top ice axe, here's a great link:

  3. I know what you mean. Lightweight is great but I find that when you swing the axe, things can be tricky. I've "rubberized" the handle, too since I find that it provided the right grip that you need so you'll get superb performance out of it. I've just sniped off some rubber strips from an old yoga mat and it did the trick! Lately my buddies gifted me with a Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe with Grip and it was just awesome. They've given me the link to some of the great reviews of ice axe and I found it all interesting. Here's the link by the way: