/ Summer Alpine - Walking axe or Alpine Axe?

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CurlyStevo - on 08 May 2012
Hi,
I already own technical climbing axes (quarks), I'm planning to go to the Alps this summer doing routes up to D.

I've very briefly used a walking axe before and being 6ft I quite like the longer length. I'm thinking for the more technical routes I'd take the quarks, but for easier routes would I be better with an alpine or walking axe?

My current thoughts are:
- Extra length of walking axe great on less steep ground, but the weaker axe design rather limits its use. I'd probably get 65 cm.
- Is there much point in getter an alpine axe 5cm longer than my 50cm long quarks? (for my height 55 cm is recommended)
- Would there be any merit in getting an alpine axe somewhere between the two lengths that I intend to use primarily on easy routes and walking? say at 60 cm?

Cheers,
Stevo
Richard Carter - on 08 May 2012
In reply to CurlyStevo:

I'd just get an Air tech Evo or something similar. It's not heavy but at the same time it's technical enough to use on routes.

I got a 53cm alpine tool as I wanted a axe to use as a single tool when I didn't have my ice tools and that length is what I'm comfortable with. There is a fair amount of function overlap though to be fair. I'm just more comfortable with shorter axes I guess. I just use which tool is most suitable for the job in hand.

I'd get either 55cm or 65cm - if you compromise it'll be a jack of all trades king of none! Although that said, we're only talking about 10cm, I'm sure whatever you pick you'll adapt to it :)
Richard Carter - on 08 May 2012
In reply to CurlyStevo:

Actually just had a look, mine is actually 58cm :-P

I guess I'm not as fussy as I thought!
In reply to CurlyStevo: Probably depends a lot on the routes, but as you most likely to be using it to access rock routes, I'd put weight as a prime consideration. Get a light axe but with a proper head. I bought my Airtech racing in 2000 and thinks its great. Used it for a couple of alps trips, its done some easy gullies in the UK and then lots of ski mountaineering. A mate has used his BD equivalent (this IIRC http://www.blackdiamondequipment.com/en-us/shop/climb/ice-axes-piolets/raven-ultra-ice-axe ) and also thinks it it excellent.

Mine is one of those ones that doesn't have a rubber handle or a specific spike at the base, but I've never missed them.
CurlyStevo - on 08 May 2012
In reply to TobyA:
Thanks Toby - what about length, more towards the walking length or the climbing length?
In reply to CurlyStevo: I think when I bought mine they were only available in 50 cm, and of course the shorter the lighter. But for me I've always found 50 fine as I'm a bit under 5'10". Wasn't the "best practice" i.e. what the Glenmore Lodge folk suggest changed a couple of years back to everyone might as well use 50? Something to do with better for braking? There were some article about it as I remember.
Bruce Hooker - on 08 May 2012
In reply to CurlyStevo:

If there is no ice climbing involved and nothing too hard I would just take one of the ice climbing tools - usually the hammer one as this avoids taking a peg hammer. I try never to use my axe as a walking stick to save the point. If it is short enough to put inside your rucksack this is handier on any rock climbing.
Slugain Howff - on 08 May 2012
In reply to CurlyStevo:

If you already have a pair of quarks but no walking axe then save on the expense and take the quark axe......unless cost is not an issue and you feel the need to add another shiny thing to your arsenal.
CurlyStevo - on 09 May 2012
In reply to TobyA:
Heres some info regarding ice axe length choice
http://www.traditionalmountaineering.org/FAQ_IceAxe.htm

I can't see a huge amount of point in buying a 50cm long alpine axe, I'd just take a quark, sure the breaking is slightly compromised but functionally there isn't enough of a difference to warrent the purchace IMO. I got away with a quark for all my Scottish Winter walks.

CurlyStevo - on 09 May 2012
I notice a lot of Alpine axes are only B rated pick and shaft. This seems a bit weak for belaying off and climbing.

For example the only classic alpine axe petzl make is B rated:
http://www.petzl.com/en/outdoor/classic-mountaineering-ice-axes/summit

Surely Petzl know what they are doing right? Or would I be best avoiding the B rated axes?
ianstevens - on 09 May 2012
In reply to CurlyStevo: I've made this error in the past, albeit in snowy Wales rather than the alps.

I'm about 5'11, and after one day using a quark as a walking axe I felt like my back was about to fall off. It is far from the most comfy thing in the world!

Do yourself a favour, and buy a 55/60cm walking axe. It's what I've done. The DMM Cirque (yes, they're bring out a new one in the winter, but the old one is still cracking) for 55ish: http://www.theoutdoorshop.com/showPart.asp?part=PN30121
They're T rated, so you can use them for belays and easy climbs and stuff if you ever need to.

Also, Quarks are s*#t for cutting steps, if you're that way inclined.

To cut a long story short, get a walking axe.
Webster - on 09 May 2012
In reply to CurlyStevo: dont worry about the shaft being B rated as the snow pack will give way well before a B rated axe breaks anyway. the manufacturers say they are inadequate for use in belays, but this is mainly to cover their ass for insurance purposes. in practice they are adequate. and you can still climb perfectly fine with a B rated pick, they just blunt quicker on rock, which isnt a problem for an alpine/walking axe as you are not going to be swinging it into solid ice anyway. i wouldnt recomend tourqing on a B rated pick, but you wouldnt want to be doing that with a walking axe anyway. (as an aside your quarks probably came with B rated picks as well)
Carolyn - on 09 May 2012
In reply to TobyA:

Wasn't the "best practice" i.e. what the Glenmore Lodge folk suggest changed a couple of years back to everyone might as well use 50? Something to do with better for braking? There were some article about it as I remember.

Probably rather longer ago than that - they were certainly recommending 50/55 when I did my winter ML, which was probably 10 years ago. Certainly before kids, and the oldest is 6.

And yes, it was about being able to get a good braking position - with lower arm/hand both strong (elbow in by side) and covering the nasty spikey bit on the end. Assuming this leaflet is current, they seem to have backed off a little - this says between 50 & 75...

www.glenmorelodge.org.uk/cust_images/pdf/mountainsport%20articles/Glenmore%20Lodge%20Dec.pdf

Here we go, this is worth a read - both sides of the debate in a proper spat ;-)

www.traditionalmountaineering.org/FAQ_IceAxe.htm

Personally, I'm happier with my 50cm axe than my old 65cm one. Probably depends if you like using it as a walking pole, which I have to say I rarely do. Or if I do, I'm lent over into a hoolie and 50cm is quite long enough!

Bruce Hooker - on 09 May 2012
In reply to ianstevens:

If you're that crokey that you need a walking stick you'd perhaps be best sticking at something less hazardous than alpine climbing :-)
ianstevens - on 09 May 2012
In reply to Bruce Hooker: Haha! At the bright young age of 21 I'm hoping it's a long time before the walking stick comes out!

I just find Quarks a bit short to walk with...
mattrm - on 09 May 2012
In reply to CurlyStevo:

I used a Quark on my conville course last year. Obviously not ideal if you do need to do an ice axe belay. If money were no object, I'd have a Petzl Sumtec,43 for easy stuff as that's better really. But the quark will do the job just fine. No need to shell out for another one IMO.
almost sane - on 09 May 2012
In reply to CurlyStevo:
If money is tight, make do with what you have got. They'll be fine.

If you have a burning need to buy new shiny gear, then of course you need two different alpine axes.
First, you need an ultra-lightweight axe for those days when you might need an axe, or only need one for a short not-to-technical spell.
Then for gentle angled walks across glaciers you need something with a longer handle.

Of course, both need to be strong enough to deal with glacier rescues...
deepstar - on 09 May 2012
In reply to CurlyStevo: I`ve got a Petzl Snowscopic axe which is as it sounds telescopic,it is 55cms in its normal length and can slide out to nearly 100cms.It is very light and I find it very convenient.
Jasonic - on 09 May 2012
In reply to CurlyStevo: Obviously what you have is fine but surprisingly, a longer mountaineering axe is a bit nicer for mountaineering! Mostly they are T rated with a semi technical pick/ good adze & about 55-58cm. Lighter the better, with a steel head.
altirando - on 10 May 2012
In reply to CurlyStevo: Dug out my old Chouinard Zero axe (the one with the laminated bamboo shaft!) and found it is 65cm. Seemed perfect for PD level mountaineering. Got an ultralight 58cm Black Diamond for what might be called occasional summer use. No contact with the ground on moderate slopes - better to use a pair of poles and crampons perhaps on open slopes where there is no sudden drop off? Four points of contact. More dynamic movement. There are some strange claws that you can attach to poles to enable selfarrest but I don't think I would rely on them. But then I am of the school of thought that believes axes are to stop you slipping in the first place.
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