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The Best Ice Axe For Mountaineers


Hey everybody, its john, back again with another axe review.  This time we are going to be taking an in-depth look at what it takes to be crowned the best ice axe for mountain use.

If you are planning a trip that will include climbing in the mountains or on frozen waterfalls, you should consider an ice axe.  An ice axe is an essential tool used by mountaineers to help in climbing and descending steep terrain.

Finding a good fit for your ice axe is easy and your axe length should be determined by your size and what your intended use is.  Ice axes can come in a variety of styles but they usually range in length from 50cm – 75cm.

The Best Ice Axe – How can You Tell The Best Fit

This easy to follow guide will help you to determine if your axe is the right size.  Hold your axe in your dominant hand and place your axe to your side.  A good fitting axe should barely touch the floor when held at your side.  This is also dependent on the activity you plan to use your axe for.

Non-technical mountain travel will require a longer axe.  The reason for this is the need to use it for balance, probe for crevices and snow bridges, and other activates that are particular to this style of climbing.  If you are planning to hold your axe for extended periods-of-time, you should consider going with an axe made from lighter material.  This can help reduce fatigue.

B-rated axes are great for this as they are lighter and less expensive than their counterparts.  Ice axes with straight handles are also preferred for extended use scenarios.  Technical travel in the mountains requires you choose a slightly shorter axe.  This is because this type of axe is easier to plunge into the snow and remove when climbing steep snow embankments.  The downside of this type of axe is it does reduce your leveraging ability when doing a self-arrest.  T-Rated axes, or technical ice axes, are stronger and more durable than B-rated axes and because of this, they have a tendency to be much more expensive.

Both angled and straight shaft ice picks are common.  Moderate ice climbing requires an axe with a slight bend in the shaft.  This makes swinging your axe easier and it also provides clearance for your fingers.

Advanced ice climbing requires a set of two tools.  Ice tools are usually 50 cm in length and they have a curved handle to help with your leverage.  This type of axe is intended to stick deep into the ice when swung.  These tools allow climbers to swap their tools on the fly and switch hands.  This can be helpful when practicing advance-crossing techniques.

You should also consider if you prefer climbing with or without leashes.  Leashless climbing allows for tool swamping and many more advanced climbing techniques.  Unless you are very experienced, you are going to want your leash.  The last thing you want to do is drop your ice axe when you are halfway up the side of a mountain.  Needless to say, this could put a damper on your trip.

The Best Ice Axe – The Top 5

If spending your day sorting through pages of ice axe manufacturers isn’t your idea of an ideal day, you have come to the right spot.  Not all ice axes are created equal and choosing a sub-par axe for your arctic adventure could prove to be a costly mistake.  Thankfully, I have taken the headache out of your search and narrowed it down to my choices for the top 5 ice axes.

Omega Pacific Mountain Axe

omega-pacific-mountain-axe

Omega Pacific Mountain Axe

 

The Omega Pacific Mountain Axe is made from 4130 CrMo Steel that gives this blade added strength when you need it most.  The lightweight aluminum handle reduces fatigue from use.  This is a great starter ice axe for anyone looking to get into mountain climbing and it won’t break your budget.

Pros

  • Straight Handle
  • Aluminum Shaft
  • B-Rated
  • Lightweight (22oz)

Cons

  • Not Rated for Technical Climbing

This axe is 60cm long and weighs 22 ounces, making it perfect for the majority of climbers.  I like the durability of this ice axe.  This is a B-rated axe that can handle everything up to technical mountain climbing.  You are not going to find a better quality axe at a more reasonable price point.

Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe

black-diamond-raven-ice-axe

Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe

 

The Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe is constructed with a rugged one-piece stainless steel head that gives you more penetrating power per swing.  The intuitive design of this axe creates a more secure grip for self-arresting.  The shaft of this ice axe is made from aircraft-grade aluminum, giving this axe its lightweight profile.

Pros

  • Aircraft-Grade Aluminum
  • One-Piece Stainless Steel Head
  • Large Carabiner Hole
  • B-Rated
  • Engineered for Secure Self-Arrest

Cons

  • Not Rated for Technical Climbing

This is a B-rated Ice Axe that gives you added performance at a reasonable price.  The materials used in the construction of this axe are of the highest quality and the craftsmanship is comparable to products that cost twice as much.  This is an affordable way for you to begin your mountain climbing adventures.  I would definitely recommend this axe to any newbie climbers looking to get their tool set complete.

Petzl QUARK ice tool-axe w/GripRest

petzl-quark-ice-tool-axe

Petzl QUARK ice tool-axe w/GripRest

 

The Petzl QUARK ice tool-axe is a professional grade tool designed for use by rock climbers, mountaineers, and rescue workers.  This top-of-the-line ice axe can handle the harshest environment.  This extremely versatile technical axe makes hooking more efficient.

Pros

  • Interchangeable Head
  • Ultra Lightweight Frame (460g)
  • 3mm Tapered Tip
  • GRIPREST
  • TRIGREST

Cons

  • Lighter Head

This is definitely one of the most comfortable ice axes on the market.  The GRIPREST and TRIGREST hand rests ensure the best grip possible while improving the overall ergonomics of this axe.  This axe has improved balance, which allows for even greater gripping and the interchangeable head gives you more options when on the climb.  If you are professional in need of a tool that can handle the harshest terrain, this is the best ice axe for you.

Petzl Summit Evo Ice Axe

 

petzl-summit-evo-ice-axe

Petzl Summit Evo Ice Axe

 

The Petzl Summit Evo Ice Axe has a hydroformed handle that improves your grip and the overall ergonomics of this axe.  The upper part of this axe has a slight curve to improve on clearance when climbing and the shaft has been straightened to provide better penetration in the snow.

This axe feels great in your hand.  This can be attributed to the textured rubber coating that provides you better grip and control during piolet-canne use.

Pros

  • Hydroformed handle
  • Textured Rubber Coating
  • 3mm Tip
  • Ergonomic Design
  • Water-Jet Formed Tube

Cons

  • Head is Lighter than Previous Version

This is a quality ice axe that comes to a sharp 3mm point.  The head has teeth for improved ice and snow anchoring.  If you are a professional climber or trying to become one, this is the type of ice axe that you can enjoy for your entire career.  The quality is unmatched and the ergonomics are very intuitive.  You can tell this was an axe designed by climbers for climbers.

Camp USA Corsa Ice Axe

camp-usa-corsa-ice-axe

Camp USA Corsa Ice Axe

 

The Camp USA Corsa Ice Axe is an exceptional axe at an unbeatable price.  One of the things that help make this axe so special is the fact that it is the lightest ice axe in production.  The forged aluminum pick and adze reduce the weight of this impressive tool to under a pound.  The Nylon Spike Plug feature can be useful in many scenarios including glacier rescue and crossing cornices.

Pros

  • Lightest Axe on the Market
  • Forged Aluminum Pick
  • Nylon Spike Plug

Cons

  • Too Light for More Serious Applications

This is a quality ice axe constructed from superb materials and the craftsmanship is excellent.  This axe is somewhat to light for heavy climbing.  The lightweight design improves portability but at a cost of reducing ice sticking effectiveness.  This a good selection for someone beginning their climbing career or looking to add some climbing to their skiing or snowboarding adventures.  You get a lot of axe for a very reasonable rate when you choose this ice axe.

The Best Ice Axe – Final Thoughts

Your ice axe is going to be an essential part of your mountaineer toolkit.  The last thing you want is to be stuck on the side of a snow-covered mountain with a broken axe.  This scenario is easy to avoid simply by sticking to quality manufacturers who have proven themselves in the marketplace.  Whether you are just looking to add a little excitement to your cross-country ski trip or planning to scale the Himalayas, there is an ice axe that will fit your particular needs perfectly.

Thanks again for stopping in guys and make sure to frequent this blog as I will be discussing all the newest and best blades on the market today.

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