Here we will help you make the best choice, because psychologically, to make the right choice with your ice axe is as important as to make a right choice with your boots: the ice axe is for the good times and the hard times. You may even think that your life depends on your axe, or maybe that it has already saved you.
Also, an ice axe lasts for many years (even a lifetime); therefore, it is important to have in hand a tool that we like and trust, instead of regretting not spending a little more money.
However, one ice axe is not like any other. Soon you will have several different ones, for different activities. Usually we do not recommend having several tools of the same type, but rather different models that complement each other.
PARTS OF AN ICE AXE
First we must describe the elements we find on an ice axe, whose assembly and shape will determine the type and appropriate use.
Head (modular or fixed):
USE OF THE ICE AXE
POSITION OF GRIP, ACCORDING TO USE
All ice-axes are certified with a safety standard. This helps the consumer have a better knowledge of the product, although it can sometimes be slightly confusing, for example, when you find you have to choose between a type T and B ice axe. So let's take a closer look at this now:
T (Technical) or B (Basic)
This classification can be deceiving since it is not related to the use, but to the resistance of the ice-axe. It is governed by the standard EN-13089 and UIAA-152, which indicates the resistance in Kn and the exact laboratory tests to be passed, by both the shaft and the blades.
Lately however, manufacturers have begun to use T-Type picks on ice and mixed climbing ice axes.
Checking the safety standards is is certainly an important factor to bear in mind when choosing your ice axe.
CLASSIC ICE AXES
1.1 Classic mountaineering ice axes
In this group we include tools for hiking, crossing glaciers or climbing easy mountains on normal ascent routes.
In this discipline, 90% of the time the ice axe will be used in the walking stick position. It will occasionally be used in the low dagger position; and very rarely, or never be used in the mid dagger or traction position. The only emergency use you should be prepared for is to use the ice axe for self-arrest.
The walking stick position means you will grip the ice axe at the head, so it is important that this is comfortable in your hand.
Its pick may be "negative" or neutral, usually without a sharp edge or tapered at 90Â°. The negative pick facilitates self-arrest manoeuvres, but results in a diminished ice penetration.
The toothing often disappears near the cross to improve its grip.
If we have to use an adze, a big one is better.
A classic ice axe for hiking has a straight or slightly curved shaft.
It must be long enough to more or less reach the ankle when grasping it from the cross, without bending over. The longer it is, the more comfortable and practical it will be to use on mild or moderate slopes (it is not made for steep slopes). However it is more cumbersome to transport and it will probably get caught on many branches as it sticks out from the backpack.
As they are designed for a less aggressive use, they are constructed prioritizing lightness over robustness.
This type of ice axe has a "leash", with a small sling attached to a ring (leash stop) that runs along the upper half of the shaft. This leash is very comfortable to use, although its resistance to use for self-safety is quite limited as they are made of plastic.
1.2 Classic ice axe for ski touring
For ski touring, having an ice axe is as basic as using a helmet.
We are not talking about climbing with skis, when skiing is just a means of approximation to go climbing with our ergonomic ice axe, but rather when go skiing we are able to resolve difficult or dangerous situations if they arise.
The ski ice axe sho