Ice Axes

Climbing axes can now be roughly divided into two catagories - 'handled' axes, designed purely for leashless climbing and curved shaft axes, some of which are suitable for leashless climbing, and some not.

The main advantages of a handled tool are in the less steep grip angle - meaning less strength is used to hang on to the axe, and also in the fact that your hands are kept further away from the ice/rock. This helps keep your knuckles from getting bruised, and also keeps your hands a bit warmer. The main drawbacks of these tools occur during their use in Scottish style climbing. The most common complaint is that shaft plunging into hardish snow is obviously not really possible. The lack of an adze or effective hammer is probably a more serious limitation though; aswell as being useful for clearing ice from gear placements, torquing opportunities are obviously cut down without these attachments.

Having said that the use of purely leashless axes is becoming increasingly common in the UK, particularly at the cutting edge and for many the superior technical performance that this type of tool offers outweighs the drawbacks.

Amongst the curve shafted axes the likes of the Petzl Quark and the BD Viper offer grip rests for leashless use, whilst still having an adze and hammer. It is the versatility that this type of tool offers that make them an excellent choice for the majority of UK winter climbers, who are now likely to want a tool that will perform on both the ice of Rjukan and the granite of the Northern Corries!

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