/ Ice Axes; self arrest implications of pick & shaft shapes

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John Doe-Smith - on 15 May 2013
Okay. I'm new & reading "Mountaineering, Freedom of the Hills", among other things, and have some questions about ice axes/tools and how the shapes of picks & handles may complicate self arrest.

"Mountaineering..." says a problem with "reverse curved" ice axe picks is that "During self-arrest, this pick grabs so well that climbers may not be able to hold on to the tool." So, my first question is:

How likely to be useless is an ice axe with a "reverse curved" pick due to it being impossible to hang on to?

Secondly, on the ice axes/tools with the really curved handles, how likely is the bottom of the really curved shaft to dig into the ice in reaction to a self arrest attempt, causing it to flip/roll up & out from under the climber, say compared to a straight handled ice axe/tool handle?
Cameron94 on 15 May 2013
In reply to John Doe-Smith:

I've used a semi-tech petzl aztar to self arrest successfully quite a few times, there has been occasion where the pick has bitten and been wrenched from my hands though.

If I'm just out walking I would rather have a traditionally shaped mountaineering axe but for anything on steeper ground the benefits outweigh the complications of self arrest during the approach.


Jamie B - on 15 May 2013
In reply to John Doe-Smith:

I wouldn't get hung up on self-arrest. It's worth practicing but if you are good on your feet you'll never have to use it. Techy axes ARE harder to arrest with for the reasons you outline, but that's not a reason not to climb with them. Basically, choose your axes for the hardest climbing part of the day, not for a "what if" nightmare scenario where the best axe in the world might not save you.
nniff - on 15 May 2013
In reply to Jamie B:

What he said
John Doe-Smith - on 16 May 2013
In reply to Cameron94, Jamie B, & nniff:

Thanks for all the input!

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