/ Technical axes and a mountaineering axe?

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FreeloaderJoe 03 Nov 2019

Is it common practise to carry a third axe at any point? E.G. carry a pair of climbing axes without a spike and then something to get to the climb/across the glacier etc?

Just been scoffed at for the suggestion on grounds of weight...do real ice climbers not fall ever and need to arrest on the way in/out??!?! 

I suppose the same question goes for crampons? Does anyone ever find themselves carrying a second pair for the way in?

This will be my first season where I'm looking to actually climb ice, as opposed to more general quark capable routes (...and I've always wondered what arresting with a quark in any serious situation would really be like!!)

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Alex Riley 03 Nov 2019
In reply to FreeloaderJoe:

No. 

Practice good crampon technique and arresting with the axe you have (not at the same time, take your crampons off to practice arresting).

If you still aren’t sure where to start either find someone experienced who can show you or pay someone qualified/go on a course. 

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Wayne S 03 Nov 2019
In reply to FreeloaderJoe:

I can’t see any reason for carrying three axes and two pairs of crampons.  Not exactly sure what you call a quark capable route?  Petzl Quarks are pretty all around capable for all but perhaps the steepest water ice.  By the same token, not a straight shaft mountaineering axe, but sufficient for plunging.  I guess I may be missing your point.  You describe the Quark,  which is for argument sake the text book alpine tool, suggest it is neither a technical ice fall axe, or a classic axe.  Surely that’s the thing, make do with a general purpose tool.

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TobyA 03 Nov 2019
In reply to Wayne S:

> You describe the Quark,  which is for argument sake the text book alpine tool, suggest it is neither a technical ice fall axe, or a classic axe. 

I think its kind of silly to suggest Quarks aren't "technical ice fall axes", they were designed for and excel at climbing steep ice. It isn't like you couldn't climb vertical ice with straight shafted tools of the generation before quarks. As were most of the famous Scottish VIIs and VIIIs.

Having said that, I think the OP just needs to get out and go climbing and these things will become self evident to him. No Joe, you don't need a third axe or a second pair of crampons!

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Wayne S 03 Nov 2019
In reply to TobyA:

I think we are saying the same thing, maybe in different ways?  My point was they are plenty technical enough and still plunge in snow ok.

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Pay Attention 03 Nov 2019
In reply to FreeloaderJoe:

I'd say you only need one pair of axes for your route and one pair of crampons.  

However, for your first route I would suggest it's more important that you take 3 spare pairs of gloves.  

When your hands get wet you will want to dry them off and put them into a dry pair of gloves.  Repeat several times.

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DaveHK 03 Nov 2019
In reply to Wayne S:

> I think we are saying the same thing, maybe in different ways?  My point was they are plenty technical enough and still plunge in snow ok.

Quarks are a great all round axe. Easily 'technical' enough for 99% of people and a bit more user friendly than a Nomic or such like on easier ground. I'd probably still be using mine if I could still get the picks (older versions aren't compatible with the newer picks).

Post edited at 17:12
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Misha 03 Nov 2019
In reply to FreeloaderJoe:

No. Falling in winter is a very bad idea. If you think you’re at all likely to fall on the approach slopes, you shouldn’t be on those slopes and you certainly shouldn’t be on the route. Go and practice crampon and self arrest technique somewhere safe instead. Or pay for a guided day/course where you will be short roped to and off the route if necessary.

Whereas if you’re happy climbing a technical route, you should be happy enough cramponing up and down the approach and descent snow slopes, so carrying a third tool in case you need to self arrest is just silly. In the unlikely event of a fall, you would need to rely on a technical tool (better than nothing) but really you just shouldn’t fall. However if you’re not happy going up and down snow slopes, see above...

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Misha 03 Nov 2019
In reply to Misha:

I’m bemuse by the dislikes for my post. Do some people think it’s ok to be going for technical routes requiring two technical axes when one’s crampon technique is so poor that falling on the approach / descent slopes is a concern?

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Planeandsimple 04 Nov 2019
In reply to FreeloaderJoe:

If it makes you happy who cares. 

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cb294 04 Nov 2019
In reply to Misha:

Maybe not in Scotland, but falling on Alpine approaches can be an issue. Anecdotally I would even say I had more tricky situations on non-technical ground then when properly roped up and belayed. Simply imagine your partner pulling you off balance by finding that one crevasse on the otherwise well trodden track, etc..

There are plenty such scenarios, but of course none of them require two pairs of crampons and a third axe!

CB

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Robbie Blease 04 Nov 2019
In reply to FreeloaderJoe:

> Is it common practise to carry a third axe at any point? E.G. carry a pair of climbing axes without a spike and then something to get to the climb/across the glacier etc?

No.

> Just been scoffed at for the suggestion on grounds of weight...do real ice climbers not fall ever and need to arrest on the way in/out??!?! 

So. The reality is, despite what the books and instructors say, people pretty much never use axe arrests. On steep approach slopes you shouldn't fall off, and if you get a bit of practice you'll probably find it quite hard to fall even though these things can be quite exposed. The problem is, the consequences falling down slopes like this (The sort of slopes where an arrest would save your life) would be pretty dire, and axe arrests are just not reliable enough, to depend on if you think you might fall. Axe arrests are very much a last resort to good technique and decisions.

> I suppose the same question goes for crampons? Does anyone ever find themselves carrying a second pair for the way in?

No, crampons are actually much more multi purpose than the brands would like you to believe! 

> This will be my first season where I'm looking to actually climb ice, as opposed to more general quark capable routes (...and I've always wondered what arresting with a quark in any serious situation would really be like!!)

Quarks are excellent axes! I've climbed scottish VI 7 and WI4 with quarks and I didn't feel once like it was my axes that were holding me back! Yes nomics or similar would probably make life easier, and I'm sure I'll get some at some point, but generally I think people worry a bit too much about the technicality of their axes!

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In reply to Robbie Blease:

Yes, and that's assuming the surface conditions allow arresting. Good luck trying to arrest into hard neve or icy crust once you have already slid a few metres. 

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FreeloaderJoe 04 Nov 2019
In reply to FreeloaderJoe:

Good amount of patronising replies on here. Wouldn't expect anything less. I meant on the way into routes carrying axes beyond the quark (...e.g. carrying a pair of nomics without a spike).  

But I consider my question answered...

Post edited at 09:16
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Misha 04 Nov 2019
In reply to cb294:

You are right that crevasses are an issue in the Alps but that’s a whole different area of discussion...

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barry donovan 04 Nov 2019
In reply to FreeloaderJoe:

Obewan . . . . Do real ice climbers not fall ? love it ! No Luke they hover down like Jedi warriors and drink herbal tea in the bar.

Descending steep slopes when you are knackered is the same faff for all of us - even ‘real’ ice climbers. 

Trip - scuff your leg with your spikes - stand on a wobbly rock in the snow - break through a hole -  ? absolutely - everyone does and you have it all to look forward to 

Good for you on an adventure to climb big ice - lightening arrest ( needs practice) with what ever you have in your hand - i’ve Seen people do it with a ski pole which bent in half but at least they stopped. 

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cb294 04 Nov 2019
In reply to FreeloaderJoe:

Forgot to mention this in my earlier post, but while a third axe is nonsense, you may want to carry poles (or one pole) to help with balance on the approach. Again, whether that makes sense depends on your skills and the terrain.

CB

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Misha 04 Nov 2019
In reply to Robbie Blease:

Exactly. An experienced friend of mine went for a mega slide once. He didn’t / couldn’t self arrest in time - nothing to do with his axes, just not being prepared for it. But the real issue was carelessness in tricky snow conditions on the descent from a route. All ended well fortunately. 

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DaveHK 04 Nov 2019
In reply to FreeloaderJoe:

> Good amount of patronising replies on here. Wouldn't expect anything less.

Bearing in mind that none of us has a clue about your level of experience/ability I don't think you've had any patronising replies.

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cb294 04 Nov 2019
In reply to Misha:

The OP mentions glaciers in the first sentence.

Crevasses are only one example, in any case, of dangers during the approach (or even more pertinent in the Alps, during descent later in the day when the snow pack has softened).

CB

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HardenClimber 04 Nov 2019
In reply to Robbie Blease:

Sometimes, when walking out at dusk on a fairly level path with a glaze of frozen water the wish for as set of microspikes has gone through my head, faced with the choice of wearing crampons or playing roulette with the ice.

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Robbie Blease 04 Nov 2019
In reply to Misha:

I had an experience pretty much exactly like that. Has definitely made me more conscious about my foot work when coming down these easy slopes when the neve is hard.  

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In reply to FreeloaderJoe:

Maybe something like a BD Whippet would be a happy medium? If you're taking poles for the approach anyway

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HeMa 04 Nov 2019
In reply to purplemonkeyelephant:

That was my idea, since I already have a whippet (for skiing & ski-mo)... have never use it when approaching a climb where I am climbing with ice tools... but did a few summer rock routes with glacier approach with it.

That said, I have green BD Fusions and use them with the spikes in the  mountains (unlike say DMM Switch or older Nomics). And I'm also quite OK in moving on snow (since I'm still more of a skier than climber). Main grief with the whippet is that it is too darn long... and unfortunately BD doesn't make a model like say the Distance -series... granted they now seem to offer a 3 part Whippet (so a tad shorter, when packed than before), but imho still too long to fit IN the climbing pack.

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Kirill 04 Nov 2019
In reply to FreeloaderJoe:

> (...and I've always wondered what arresting with a quark in any serious situation would really be like!!)

Yes, you can self-arrest with a quark or any "technical" tool. The technique is the same as with a walking axe. 

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galpinos 04 Nov 2019
In reply to HeMa:

Have you tried to self arrest with a whippet?

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galpinos 04 Nov 2019
In reply to Misha:

I imagine it was the slight patronising tone (which may not have been intended......)

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HeMa 04 Nov 2019
In reply to galpinos:

Once. On an ice groomer on purpose. Did it work, Yes. Was it fun, no. Nor would I like to use it in anger. 
 

But the idea is that with a Whippet you stop the slide before it even starts. 

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Misha 04 Nov 2019
In reply to cb294:

Sorry, you are right, the OP did mention glaciers. Glacier travel is a different issue though - the risk of falling in a crevasse has nothing to do with what axe you have. I suppose you might stand a better chance of holding a crevasse fall with a classic axe but I wouldn't fancy my chances once ripped off my feet if I'm uphill of the person who has fallen in (so keeping the rope tight and perhaps having knots in the rope is more important, as is not falling into a crevasse in the first place!).

As you say, there are plenty of reasons why a snow slope might be treacherous - icy, slushy, avalanche risk and so on. However the key considerations are should I be on that slope at all / how do I use my skillset to get up or down this slope safely, not what axe do I need.

I'm not sure we are disagreeing about anything, by the way (as you say, you wouldn't take a third axe because there are crevasses etc).

A sensible compromise could be one classic axe and one technical axe, particularly for moderately technical routes. Might even get away with three axes (two classic and one technical) between two people. Clearly that doesn't work where two (technical) axes are required for both leader and second.

Post edited at 21:26
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Misha 04 Nov 2019
In reply to galpinos:

Probably seen as patronising by some. However I don't think it's patronising to say 'if you aren't sure you can handle the approach/descent safely, you shouldn't be going for the route' - it's just sensible. People can and do underestimate the dangers of approaches and descents and this has led to accidents. 

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Oliver Smaje 04 Nov 2019
In reply to FreeloaderJoe:

All serious winter climbers carry a long walking axe as well as their technical tools. The added length lets you reach past crux moves.

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Pay Attention 04 Nov 2019
In reply to Oliver Smaje:

I've seen old films where an earlier generation of climbers used to carry a small hammer on a cord so they could knock in pitons more easily.  I think the extra hammer trumps the alpenstock....

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cb294 05 Nov 2019
In reply to Misha:

> A sensible compromise could be one classic axe and one technical axe, particularly for moderately technical routes. Might even get away with three axes (two classic and one technical) between two people. Clearly that doesn't work where two (technical) axes are required for both leader and second.

This, or using some "compromise" tools (Petzl Sumtec or such), that allow plunging if you do not desperately need the offset handle of your Nomics or Tech machines etc.

A straighter shaft is also better for self arrest if needed, and I have used it a few times over the years (during regular mountaineering, not approach to technical climbing).

CB

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galpinos 05 Nov 2019
In reply to HeMa:

> Once. On an ice groomer on purpose. Did it work, Yes. Was it fun, no. Nor would I like to use it in anger. 

> But the idea is that with a Whippet you stop the slide before it even starts. 

Cheers. I have just finished reading "Accidents in North American Climbing" and there were a few incidents of people trying but failing to arrest with a Whippet.

They seem like a good idea but I'd never heard of anyone actually using them in anger.

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Ross McGibbon 05 Nov 2019
In reply to Oliver Smaje:

When I started out I had a 70cm axe (a bamboo Chouinard Zero) and I led Grade 4 with it. The extra length meant I could whack it in and shin up it.

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