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[pct-l] Ice axe need and usage

Hey folks,
  Regular lurker and prospective '98 thru-hiker here.  I've read Jardine's
handbook several times over now (the man's an inspiration), and just wanted
to balance what he has to say about ice axes on the PCT with what any of
you may have to offer.  Jardine suggests, essentially, that you're a fool if
you don't head north from Campo with your axe at the ready, and an even bigger
one if you're earlier than his schedules allow.  Maybe he's right.  Have most
of you veteran northbounders felt an axe to be warranted, either on or off
a Jardine schedule, through Southern California?  How about in the Sierra,
arriving with reasonably benign snow levels?  Also, Ray demonstrates that the
proper self-arrest technique involves grasping the axe about its head, with
the pick forward, ready to dig into snow.  Having no ice axe experience, I'm
wondering why this is preferable to the commonly seen technique of holding
the axe by its shaft and snapping with it.  Why have a weighty shaft on the
axe at all for the purposes of a thru-hike then?
Thanks for the insight.
- Blister>Free, GA-ME '96-97, PCT '98
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