Ice Axe

Gear > Glacier Travel > Ice Axes

An ice axe is far from an essential item for many easier ski touring routes and of limited use for lift served off-piste skiing. It also presents a potential danger for the skier and when not being used should be carried in the straps provided on the rucksack and not slung from the waste or tucked between the shoulder and rucksack straps. Sharp points should be protected with lengths of plastic tube cut to fit. There may be circumstances, for example extreme and icy pitches, where you will want to ski or board with your ice axe ready but this should be weighed against the risk of falling onto the axe.

Camp XLA 210 Ice Axe

Camp XLA 210 Ice Axe

Apart from the obvious self-arrest, use of the axe it can be employed as a belay point for crevasse rescue or traversing cornices (unless your idea of safe cornice traverse is hucking 20 meters of air on the lee-side). The axe can be useful for climbing but remember that lightweight axes are not aimed at pure ice climbing. The adze can be used for cutting platforms and steps and chipping ice away from refuge doors and windows.

ice axe and crevasse rescue

Ice Axe used to reinforce lip of crevasse

Many skiers die each season due to slides, these are especially dangerous where the pitch ends in rocks or cliffs. Late spring mornings after a strong refreeze can leave slopes very icy. Self arrest technique should be practised on steep but short snow slopes. You may want to enrol on an alpinism course. Basically the skier needs to roll onto the shaft of the axe, point downwards and holding the adz (the short stubby bit), thus full pressure can be applied to the point. It is not an easy manoeuvre, an acquaintance lost the ends of his fingers in a self arrest on Mont-Blanc. Wearing non-skid clothing can provide more friction and help control your slide. On the other hand waterproof salopettes and jackets can be lethal.

One of the best ski touring ice axe we have come across is the Camp XLA 210. The axe is made from 7075 aluminium alloy and is compact and extremely lightweight, tipping the scales at 245 grams with a 50cm shaft.

You can find the XLA 210 in our store. An alternative is the Petzl Charlet Snowracer Axe available from Facewest in the UK. It weighs slightly more, 340 grammes at 50cm length. Lightweight aluminium axes are not suitable for extensive alpine use - either step cutting on glaciers or ice climbing.

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