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[pct-l] re: John Koch-Ice Axes

John asked about the durability of a particular axe. I can't help you with 
specifics John, but during  my '82 thru-hike, lite axes weren't yet 
available. I carried an axe though from border to border, that I ordered to 
be long enough to double as a short hiking staff (my arm would be slightly 
bent when the axe was at my side on solid ground). This axe is aluminum 
shafted axe with steel point, adze and pick. This length worked great for 
stability in tricky areas like steam crossings and climbing over 

Most of the time, I carried it parallel to the ground in my hand. It was 
lite enough to not upset the natural swinging of the arms during one's gate. 
On only one or two days, did I lash the axe to my pack. And yes, when it was 
on my pack, I objected to the weight. In my hand though, it was just fine 
and it was always THERE when I needed it. I'll never replace this axe but I 
do look at the new ones in the shops. When I look at the axes, I look to see 
if longer lengths are available, and that the axe if comfortable to carry, 
with the hand on the head, adze forward. Most new axes have welded heads and 
square uncomfortable corners. I gravitate to the axes with rounded edges 
between the pick and adze. 

One comfort note though on carrying an axe, the aluminum shafted axes can be 
cold to carry at times. Wrapping the shaft in tape, in a manner that 
wouldn't impede the travel of an ice axe loop, could help. This would also 
help keep your hand from turning black, once the paint wears-off and your 
hand begins to polish that aluminum shaft. I didn't do this, and the axe was 
a constant source of discoloration. My axe was a life saver in a couple 
situations in snow-bound travel above Lake Tahoe, and I bring it on any trip 
where I'll be at elevation.

Ken Marlow
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