/ I need advice on ice axes/tools for Scotland

Please Register as a New User in order to reply to this topic.
L jonjon06 on 30 Jan 2019

I have done a fair bit of rock climbing and winter walking in Scotland over the years, including some low grade gullies, and would like to try some harder snow or mixed routes. I already have a good walking axe, but need some advice on the more technical tools available that I will need. Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

Jon 

Report
MikeMarcus - on 30 Jan 2019
In reply to jonjon06:

I've recently bought a pair of Singing Rock Bandits. I've only had a chance to swing them into ice once (when Kinder briefly froze last month), but they seem pretty good. Worth checking out if you're looking for technical hybrid axes (Quark, Viper, etc), rather than full-on technical tools (Nomics). And half the price of Petzl gear.

One thing worth mentioning though is that the adze on the Bandits is pretty much useless. The combination of curved shaft and pommel means that it's virtually impossible to hold the tool in a position where you could cut steps/a snow bollard/trench for a buried axe belay. I'm sure this is equally true of Quarks and Vipers although I haven't used either. I'd go for a pair of hammers.

Report
tjdodd - on 30 Jan 2019
In reply to jonjon06:

I have found Petzl Quarks really good from simply gullies through to WI5 ice.  I've not really used them on Scottish mixed though.  I think they are good all round tool.

Report
L jonjon06 on 30 Jan 2019
In reply to MikeMarcus:

Thanks Mike. I see the Singing Rock Edge looks similar to the Bandit but is considerably cheaper. I'll do some research. I don't mind buying second hand.... I'll have a look on Ebay.

Report
L jonjon06 on 30 Jan 2019
In reply to tjdodd:

Thanks tj. They're a bit out of my price range, I'm afraid.

Report
J Whittaker - on 30 Jan 2019
In reply to jonjon06:

On a recent trip to Scotland i did not recognize the axes my partner was using, ive just googled the Singing Rock Bandits and those are definitely the tools he had. We were climbing mixed up to V 6 and he dispatched it with ease. If i was after my first pair of tech axes again id go for those and save my pennies for some other gear.

I can see a pair brand new on Ebay for £121 from Barrabes, but im not allowed to post a link unless i have a premier membership. Ive bought from them before.

Post edited at 16:53
Report
L jonjon06 on 30 Jan 2019
In reply to J Whittaker:

Thanks for the recommendation, they seem good value. There is also a Grivel Mont Blanc axe and hammer in separate auctions. They appear to be in good condition, and could be great value. 

Report
seanhendo123 on 30 Jan 2019
In reply to jonjon06:

I've had a set of singing rock bandits for a few years, for the money they are a decent tool and feel solid. I've climbed VI6 mixed with them and sure could go harder but have recently invested an a new set of nomics. I don't climb much ice but I think this is where their weakness lies compared to more expensive tools. They don't have as good a swing/penetration/stick as the more well known axes IMO. But as I say I haven't done much ice. I never had a problem with the adze, did everything I needed it to, its as limited as any other bent tool. Finally the trig rests I feel are not as comfy as other tools. 

I got a set a few years ago for £150 to get me started as didn't want to drop £300+ on the more well known tools and they did exactly that.

 

Hope that helps

 

Sean 

Post edited at 19:44
Report
angry pirate - on 30 Jan 2019
In reply to jonjon06:

To add to the pro-bandit chorus: I've had a pair for a number of years and they've been spot on for Welsh and Scottish mixed and for Rjukan ice up to WI4 (they could handle higher I'm sure, though not with me)

I've compared them to Nomics and a variety of Grivel, BD and DMM tools and I climb ice as well with them as with the bigger brands. If I operated in the higher grades I suspect I'd tell the difference but for a III /IV bumbly like me they are fantastic tools!

Report
L jonjon06 on 30 Jan 2019
In reply to seanhendo123:

Thanks Sean. The Bandits certainly seem to be more than enough for my level. 

Report
Sophie G. - on 01 Feb 2019
In reply to jonjon06:

I have a pair of DMM Flys for mixed, and a pair of Pertzl Quarks for ice. But the brand doesn't matter and the look/ colour really doesn't matter! What matters, especially for ice, is the front 3 millimetres of the pick. It's got to be sharp, really sharp. Provided the tool is light and you're not bashing your knuckles every time you swing, not a lot else is all that important, but sharpness really matters.

As to adze vs hammer, the hammers are more useful, but the advantage of having one of each, not two hammers, is that then you have two different shapes of tool-head, which gives you more torquing options.

I found I was buying new ice tools and crampons every time my points were getting blunt, and that's a really expensive way to keep your gear viable--it's a lot cheaper to find a blade-grinder who will sharpen your points for you. This can make the metal brittle, but it's always possible for points to snap anyway, and after all, the alternative is throwing the kit away. The grinder I use in Dundee is called Javelin Tools, off the Clepy. He's just doing my Flys and crampons for £30 all in, which sure beats new tools for £200 and new crampons for £150. (Though you can get bargains on the internet, it often costs that much. And anyway despite the price I want the outernet climbing shops still to exist, so I go to Tiso's even though they aren't always the cheapest.)

What's your plan about leashes? Going leashless was a revolutionary moment for me--"Hey," I thought, "I don't have to keep hold of the tool with the same hand, in fact I don't have to keep hold of it at all, I can just stick it in there while I find a placement for the other one, and then decide which hand I want on which for the next move." But over all, at any rate on long mountain routes with no easy way back to the start, I think leashless is only for people who never, ever fumble. I fumble plenty. And I've been there when kings of the mountains have dropped a tool. So I prefer climbing with a spinner-leash clipped on a wire-gate to my harness, and with wire-gates in the eyeholes at the end of the shafts. (Corollary: do NOT buy tools that don't have eyeholes in the shafts. I used to have a pair like that, with eyeholes only in the head, that I inherited from a friend. They were infuriating.) With this set-up, because it's all on wire-gates, you can take the leashes off from either end any time you want to, e.g. to get them out of a snarl-up with the rope. But you always have that extra bit of security that you're not going to end up finishing the route with one axe

Oh, and one other thing to avoid on safety grounds--some tools that are designed for American waterfalls and Telluride ice-hoses and things have no spur on the toe of the shaft. This means that when you are approaching the route with the tool in your hand and you try and use it like a walking-stick, you touch down with the rounded plastic nub of the shaft and instead of biting into the snow/ice it whizzes sideways. This is bloody dangerous. Don't do this

 

 

Post edited at 08:50
Report
Bwox - on 01 Feb 2019
In reply to Sophie G.:

>  I found I was buying new ice tools and crampons every time my points were getting blunt, and that's a really expensive way to keep your gear viable--it's a lot cheaper to find a blade-grinder who will sharpen your points for you. This can make the metal brittle, but it's always possible for points to snap anyway, and after all, the alternative is throwing the kit away.

I hope this doesn't seem patronising, and it's not intended as an invitation for people to pile in and pour scorn, but unless things have got very bad it really isn't difficult to self-sharpen tools and crampons. It's certainly cheaper than paying for a grinding service, and better for the metal (I can't really say with any authority if grinding as opposed to filing is damaging, mind, but it seems to be the standard line in the literature). If personal time and funds mean passing the job to someone else is preferable then fair enough, and likewise I suppose for upgrading, but buying a new set entirely simply because they're blunt is unnecessary at best. At the very least it is almost always the case that replacement picks are available for the tools, and some crampons have replaceable frontpoints too.

The greater benefit from maintaining your kit yourself, aside from the spiritual bond you build (!), is that you quickly become less inclined to bash and thrash willy-nilly. Being precise and deliberate in your placements should help you climb better and more confidently generally, and no-one else need know that it's only because you spent half-an-hour honing things to a razor edge and you don't want to ding them.

Report
Sophie G. - on 01 Feb 2019
In reply to Bwox:

>>>it really isn't difficult to self-sharpen tools and crampons

 

Isn't it? I've spent hours trying to do that and thinking I was getting nowhere, which is why I've outsourced the job. 

'Course, if you'd like to show me how to do it, for free, I'd welcome that ;-)

 

Post edited at 12:11
Report
richlan - on 01 Feb 2019
In reply to Sophie G.:

I can't decide if you are winding us up or not suggesting you spend hundreds every time your crampons and axes are blunt ?

You shouldn't use a grinder, as detailed in this article

https://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/snow+ice/crampons/crampons_-_everything_you_need_to_know-1330

It's very easy to do by hand:

https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/how-to-sharpen-crampons.html

Post edited at 12:57
Report
Bwox - on 01 Feb 2019
In reply to Sophie G.:

>  'Course, if you'd like to show me how to do it, for free, I'd welcome that

I honestly would be happy to, but Dundee would be a bit of a detour from my daily commute.

And having just looked at your FA list on your profile, I can't help but feel it'd be just be going over the finer points of egg-sucking. If you're not poking fun, though, I'm pretty sure the Will Gadd book on ice climbing has a section on sharpening, as well as the Gresham/Parnell 'Winter+' - not to mention a host of other articles on the internet, probably. It looks like richlan linked to one, and I expect there's Youtube videos as well.

Sharpening tools is satisfying and sort of therapeutic - worth another try if you really aren't doing it (though there's nothing wrong with out-sourcing if you're sure it's not for you).

Report
cragtyke on 01 Feb 2019
In reply to Sophie G.:

> Isn't it? I've spent hours trying to do that and thinking I was getting nowhere, which is why I've outsourced the job. 

The key thing is to get a good quality file, it makes it so much easier. A small 200 mm file is all you need and can go in your sack. Try your local hardware store if you've got one. Just did my Quarks this morning in about 5 mins.

 

Report
Euge - on 01 Feb 2019
In reply to Sophie G.

It is really easy to sharpen yourself with a good file.

Report
tjdodd - on 01 Feb 2019
In reply to Sophie G.:

Never ever sharpen tools or crampons with a grinder.  The heating effect will cause severe damage to the metal and will likely result in the metal failing (probably when you least want it to).

As has been said, sharpening with a file is not hard - plenty of youtube videos on how to do it.

Report
Sophie G. - on 02 Feb 2019

Though I have taken my crampons to a man who describes his business as a grinding business, it by no means follows that he is using a grinder on my crampons. In fact he said he was going to do them by hand. 

All the don't-use-a-grinder comments above are, therefore, irrelevant. But thanks anyway.

Report
J Whittaker - on 02 Feb 2019
In reply to richlan:

I must say, that has got to be the shittest how to video ive ever seen. Im not saying that because im an expert in sharpening, more that im absolutely terrible at it and that video is of no use to me whatsoever. I need a video showing technique of how to maintain the shape and sharpen vertical front points, when i tried last i did an awful job and losing the original angle on the points

Report
Sophie G. - on 02 Feb 2019
In reply to J Whittaker:

Exactly. Same here. Which is why I'm paying a pro.

Report
J Whittaker - on 02 Feb 2019
In reply to Sophie G.:

Though now ive found new lynx front points from Kuznia Szpeju for £10 each i dont mind replacing them once a season and having a set for ice and a set for mixed.

Report
Bwox - on 03 Feb 2019
In reply to J Whittaker:

>  I need a video showing technique of how to maintain the shape and sharpen vertical front points

Crampons do seem to be harder to maintain, partly I think because they're almost certain to hit rock at some point and get significantly blunted, which then means a lot of material has to be removed to try to keep a semblance of the original shape, and partly because they're just awkward to hold and work a file around.

Report
GStone - on 03 Feb 2019
In reply to jonjon06:

I bought a pair of DMM flys (one hammer, one adze), for basic mixed stuff, and also bought a Raptor pick which I put on the Fly handle. I found this useful for walking and climbing.

Report
J Whittaker - on 03 Feb 2019
In reply to Bwox:

After Cairngorm mixed my front points get really rounded and i struggle to get them back to the original shape. i.e. keep the same sloping angle side on and nice triangular flat bottom (if you're looking from below ). Horizontal front points like in that video seem far easier to maintain.

Post edited at 10:04
Report
L jonjon06 on 06 Feb 2019
In reply to jonjon06:

Thanks to all who offered advice, it's greatly appreciated.

Report
becauseitsthere - on 07 Feb 2019
In reply to Euge and others

Buy a  "half round file". It has a curved side which allows you to file the top inside curve of your Axes, a flat side for any flat survaces and tips and the corner edges of the file easily get into the serrations. 

Report

Please Register as a New User in order to reply to this topic.