/ Walking axe
Am I going to be better off taking him to a shop, in which case which one? We're based in the Midlands btw. Or are there criteria I can use, height etc, to get a good match if I buy one beforehand?
Can't imagine that it'll be much of a surprise when it's under the tree either way!!
Walking axes are quite personal things in that they can be different lengths depending on the height of the user and their intended use. ( I use a shorter axe than my partner despite being the same height.
Also do you and you partner do much winter hill walking. I know I will be shot down in flames here but for a lot of the hills in the UK when you stick to reasonable paths previously well trodden or wear crampons, then a pair of walking poles may suffice.
On your last point I don't live in the Midlands but a trawl of the web should bring up some hits for the larger outdoor chains - Cotswold or Ellis Brigham etc which should once the winter season starts, have a reasonable selection.
I got the axe, B2s and crampons when winter walking was on the cards a couple of seasons back. It never happened but my bloke and I are planning on Scotland in March (weather permitting of course). I mentioned that I had a walking axe, he mentioned that he needed to get one. As he's the kind of bloke who gets himself any gadget he wants as soon as he realises he wants it I leapt on it as a pressie idea to be honest.
Think I'll take him shopping from what you've said, was just hoping to be uber organised and be able to surprise him, ah well. Thanks. :-)
I'm going to respectfully disagree with Mr Forster and say that an ice axe should be more commonly used than crampons in winter in Scotland.
Crampons are needed (for walking) when the snow-pack is sufficiently hard that boots do not sink in enough to give decent grip. That is relatively rare at low altitude, but quite common on the tops where the wind has helped compact it.
An ice axe is needed when the ground is steep enough and the snow hard enough that it would be difficult to stop sliding down it without one.
It is quite possible to find snow-slopes hard enough to need an ice axe, but not hard enough to need crampons. It is also possible to find snowy areas hard enough to need crampons, but not steep enough to need an ice axe. In my experience, the latter are much rarer than the former in Scotland.
To answer the original question, a walking axe should have a straight or very slightly curved shaft, a decent sized adze and a good spike at the bottom which easily pushes into semi-hard snow. A rubber grip on the lower part of the shaft is helpful on steeper ground, but unnecessary for pure walking. A leash is probably a good idea, though won't get used all the time. The Grivel Munro comes to mind as a good example.
Ice Axe length is a controversial subject, I know people who swear you will die if you use more than 55cm, and some who refuse to use anything shorter than 65cm. A shorter axe is easier to self-arrest with, a longer axe provides more support and prevents falls. My 'rule of thumb' is that the spike of the axe should be level with the ankle-bone when held as for walking.
Hope this is helpful.
Agree with Jack, Axe is generally more useful than crampons and should be carried first and foremost before crampons. You can arrest/cut steps/self belay/etc with an axe. None of which you can do with crampons.
I would second the Grivel Munro for something that will do general walking well. If your after something a bit more special and nice as its a present then I would highly recommend the Grivel Air Tech Evolution. Both the shaft and pick are T rated too.
Thanks for your replies folks, much appreciated. I now intend to take him shopping... :D
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