/ Axes for Summer Alpine
Planning an alps trip this summer, to the Ecrin and then to Arolla.
Hoping to do routes to about AD (D if things go very well ...).
Was wondering on what axes you would recommend? I have used DMM cirque previously for F/PD routes and DMM Apex for Scottish Winter routes III/IV.
Should I just be taking the Cirque or is there a likely chance I will need the Apex's? Obviously I dont want to be lugging around 2 extra axes if I don't need to.
I'd want a pair of axes for AD/D. The DMM Flys are probably the optimum choice if the focus is on DDM. The Apexs are going to be unnecessarily aggressive, and harder to properly plunge and arrest with, but they'd certainly be fine for the grades mention.
Not a DMM thing, just the axes I have access to. Can't really afford to be buying more axes though ... Do have access to more than one cirque, but I imagine if I am anywhere where I would need 2 axes, I would want something more technical than a cirque
It depends on the route. Generally at least to AD+ for ridges and mixed/alpine-choss, one axe is fine. Faces you might want two.
For moderate alpine routes of AD/D a classic alpine axe similar to the DMM Cirque is just right. If you go on a route where you feel you might just need a second tool then something like a Simond Fox https://www.simond.com/fox-rock-hammer-id_8320465-reviews that can just easily fit in your sac when not being used, makes a great combination. On that sort of alpine terrain you need an axe with a spike that you can plunge shaft first into the snow. Makes my toes curl when I see people teetering around on that sort of ground with a couple of technical ice tools with no spikes...
I'm not sure what two axe requiring routes would be really in top nick in the alps in summer at that grade? Unless you're going drytooling?
Probably happily get away with a lightweight single axe? Cirque would be fine but i took one last summer and found it both unreasonably heavy and awkward. 60cm of length etc is just unnecessary. If it's steep enough to get an axe out, the snow will be high enough to not need the length!
As others have said, the Apexs aren't ideal. The Cirque is perfect for many routes but there are plenty of AD / D routes where two axes would be useful. So, four options:
1) Just take the Cirque and choose routes as appropriate
2) A cheap option; take the Cirque and one Apex so you can have two axes for some parts of routes and allow greater flexibility
3) Find a buddy with a suitable matched pair of axes for harder sections
4) Bite the bullet and buy either a single alpine appropriate axe to go with the Cirque, or a matched pair of alpine appropriate axes.
If you are only taking two tools, the obvious thing is to take the cirque and one apex which you can carry/use as necessary.
What jon says (one Cirque-type axe is fine), assuming you're going to be doing ridges or rock climbs. If you were going to Chamonix or Zermatt it might be different -- you'd want a second tool on climbs like Bionassay NW face, Tour Ronde N face, Breithorn Younggrat.
> I'm not sure what two axe requiring routes would be really in top nick in the alps in summer at that grade?
Yes, but can top nick be relied on? Cue vivid memories of Ecrins hut guardian's spiel after supper, telling everyone (us!) headed for Barre Noire Couloir and N Face/Traverse of Barre to take two axes.
If you reach a patch of hard ice halfway up a route and you've only got one axe, you'll be grateful for a spare tool. Yes, you'd probably get up it with only one, but life suddenly feels quite insecure when you're on an exposed face and reach 50 degree bullet hard ice after you've been comfortably front pointing your way up neve.
Thanks for all the advice everyone!
Think I will go with the 1 Cirque, 1 Apex option.
Can make sure my partner has a similar set up so there will be 2 technical axes about if needed!
On the mieje traverse last summer there was an unexpected pitch of Scottish III or so ice, where the cable was frozen in. My partners and I had one technical axe (quarks or similar) each. Another team had one lightweight, ski touring style axe each. I took one of my mates axes and bashed up the pitch; the leader of the other team managed to get a few meters in and took a fall (leaving one axe in the ice). An axe which my partners and I managed to pass back to him.
He then had the cheek that evening, at the hut, to imply that we had held him up by not letting him past. However, had he been ahead of me I'm not sure how he would have got his axe back in order to climb the pitch!
The lesson for me was that I'd rather have two technical axes in a pair than no technical axes, even if it does mean a slight weight penalty.
> On the mieje traverse last summer there was an unexpected pitch of Scottish III or so ice...
I'll bet old Ludwig Purtscheller in 1885 looked at his one metre long Alpenstock and said to his companions, Emil and Otto: 'Merde, I wish I had two of these...'
And I'm certain he'd have loved the cable and bolts!
Maybe the euros would have been better off with an alpenstock as opposed to the uberlitetitanium43g that kept bouncing off the ice.
Apologies - I misread your post, but other posts reinforce the general point.
Off topic, but aren't the young guardian and his partner at the Aigle hut the most wonderful people. Apparently >100 people applied for the job. Worth doing the traverse just to enjoy their hospitality, and the accordion for reveille!
I remember really liking the hut with its weird but very function bed layout and yes, we were woken by several tunes on the accordion! Shame that there isn't much for me to do there, they did a good ommelette.
After walking out I hitched round to la berade to collect my car, easiest hitch ever. That was my first trip to the Ecrin, I've been back once (later that same summer) and I'm heading there again this year to start a five week road trip.
Others will be able to correct me, but the Aigle hut is very historic and when it was rebuilt a few years back, it was important to preserve the original layout, which included the original timber framework for the bunks.
Will be in Ailefroide late June and early July, where is your road trip taking you?
Starting in Ailefroide/La Berade approx 7th June then working my way East via Corno Stella, Chamonix/Courmayeur, Switzerland, Val di Mello, Dolomites. Finishing 15th July back in Edinburgh.
I'm heading out to the alps in June too, I'll probably just stick all my axes in the car to be honest but I think on most routes I'm going to take either my DMM raptor axe or the raptor and my quark hammer. I guess I could make that pairing slightly more ideal by putting the fly pick on the raptor but I don't think ill bother.
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