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[pct-l] Re: Ice axe, lightweight

> closeout. Can anyone compare this to other lightweight ice axes as to
> which may be best for spring backpacking in the Sierra?
Well, I can't actually compare any of the brands you mentioned, but I
can offer another alternative. I love my ice axe. The brand is Alpine
Light. It was $35 in a local outdoors store. I don't know the exact
weight but it's very light - even someone with wussy-girl arms like me
can use and carry it effortlessly. Plus, the pick, adze and spike are
purple, and that's just cool ;-)

I would recommend against the axe with no spike. On reasonable snow
that might not be a problem, but it would be very hard to thrust
through real ice or a thick icy crust without a real spike. You might
be able to manage it, but only at the expense of a lot more energy and
time. Of course, icy conditions are when you most want your axe. Your
ice axe can save your life. Go for the extra two ounces and get a

Here's an example of why I love my ice axe. Yesterday (Sunday) I
climbed Mt. Hood, which was beautiful beyond my words to decribe it.
Near the top, there was a bottleneck of climbers waiting to go across a
snowbridge that spanned a crevasse. We decided to leave the main trail
and go around the crevasse instead of waiting in line. At first the
snow conditions were great - we could make good steps and plant our
axes easily. But once we got above the crevasse, the slope steepened
considerably and ice got so hard we could not make good steps, we were
basically just edging across it on our inside points. 

Just then, my heel came out of one of my crampons. It was a very scary
and potentially dangerous moment, not just for me but also for my roped
team mates. There we were on a steep icy slope just above a crevasse -
exactly where you don't want equipment failure of any kind. Altho the
footing was very insecure, we were all able to make really good anchors
with our axes. I was also very lucky in that one guy was behind me on
the rope. He was able to come up behind me, plant his axe against my
good foot so I could brace against something and get a hand free to try
to fix the crampon. Between the two of us, we eventually managed to get
the thing back on and were able to continue past the sketchy part and
back onto firm footing. If I had not had a firm anchor with my axe (and
his axe), and known that my team was also well anchored in case I did
start slipping toward the crevasse, my mental state might have gone
from scared to incoherent panic. Try putting on a crampon one handed
while standing on one foot - it's hard enough without panicking.

So anyway, that's why I love my ice axe. Any mountaineering guide will
tell you that the best way to self-arrest is not to fall. 

The route I was climbing on Mount Hood was certainly no harder than
some of the Sierra passes, depending on snow conditions, but people
still die there every year. 

My only other piece of advice: I will never wear hinged crampons again.
I think that was the main contributing factor for how it worked loose,
and certainly it made it unbelievably hard to get it back on again.
Even tho this was an "easy" route, that thousands of beginners, kids,
and the occasional dog does every year, these still failed when I most
needed them.

In any event, have fun! Be safe.


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