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  • Ice axe+ski pole

    Pretty common for people to climb things holding an axe in one hand and a ski pole in the other. However I don't know any description of "correct" technique when doing this. Any authoritative sources?

    Many options. For example these guys are holding two poles in one hand and axe in the other, and just laying the poles flat on the snow for balance, without using the point of the pole Moonlight Mission 92 - YouTube

    While these guys have only one pole in their hand (perhaps their other is on the pack?) and they are actually using the point of the pole. A little more grip with the pole that way, but it does force you to raise the arm with the pole higher than the arm with the axe. Moonlight Guide 106 - YouTube

    Of course, different angles, snow conditions, etc... may prefer one over the other and these two videos are in different conditions.

  • #2
    IME, if you're using an ice axe while climbing a steep pitch, unless it's a short pitch, it is generally worthwhile to lash the axe to a ski pole with a voile strap.

    ain't no turn like tele!

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    • #3
      Why use a pole if yer using an ice axe? If you need to use the axe for self arrest, you'll lose the pole. Strap the poles on the pack and have at it with the ice axe...

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      • #4
        black diamond makes a ski pole attachment that is an ice axe head. I have seen plenty of videos of people using it.

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        • #5
          Yep, the BD whippet is great, especially since they made the axe part removable. Great for climbing up icy steep snow. And great psychological support when skiing down that (I don’t think it would be of much help once you started sliding that icy 50 degree coliour…)

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          • #6
            I do use one pole, one ice axe. As I ram the handle end into the snow, as is I understand the normal way to climb snow, not sure why you would want to strap it to a pole. I don’t use wrist straps on the poles, they prevent quick use of pole arrest. So would let the pole go and just use the axe. I do have a very light elastic leash, connecting from wrist to half way down the pole, just in case you drop the one you need.
            i did experiment with a very small axe lashed to a pole and skied with it…just one short run, it felt like a liability. Definitely got a Whippet on my wish list.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by iBjorn View Post
              Yep, the BD whippet is great, especially since they made the axe part removable. Great for climbing up icy steep snow. And great psychological support when skiing down that (I don’t think it would be of much help once you started sliding that icy 50 degree couloir…)
              U B wrong. It works. I'm here because it does. It was icy and 50 degrees.


              ain't no turn like tele!

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              • #8
                I did a couloir once solo. The approach required crossing to patches of steep, bare and icy runoffs mountainside . Think fjord. So I bought crampons and short axe, making quick haste of those ice hazards and generally skiing most the approach. One I got to couloir it was quite hard, but I reluctantly put my crampons on and went up it anyway.... expecting it soften for a the descent, which it didn't. I was really happy to top out and figured I needed to ski it versus walking down it due to it super hard surface. I had a roll of white 1" medical tape and secured my axe to a BD ski pole and made the descent safely. With that said, I had strong tendency to avoid hard snows quality that required axes and generally only carried one self-arrest pole if needed as a spare, strapped to my pack.

                As it was....Came in on traverse from LR for 2 miles from town along coastal trail under 5000'ers connecting patches of snow in avalanche scars. Total hairbrain idea but aren't they all!


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                • #9
                  I sometimes ski with a whippet, in spring and summer or on no-fall terrain in general. I have no illusions that it will save me in every possible situation. But just last Saturday, it came in very handy. Was essential kit in fact, when I chose not to carry my boot crampons on a mountain I have climbed and skied from the summit on leather boots and skinny skis. This time, ski crampons were not enough to get over a 50 degree wall of ice that was blocking me from attaining the summit ridge just 50 meters below the summit. I had lent my skin cleats to Diana. She had just transitioned to boot crampons and I was trying to get turned around on a 40+ degree slope that had just transitioned to hard ice. I had ski crampons on both skis and had put the skin cleat on one ski. I needed to get turned around to put the other one on. I might have been able to get around the wall with both devices on both skis. And I had just used my whippet to chop out a platform for Diana to use but I went searching for another rock to use as part of the platform. Up I went until I could go no farther. Now I needed to chop another platform. An ice axe would have been faster and more efficient but at least i had a whippet. While Diana and Juan went on to summit, I carefully set about making a safe-ish place to transition to skis. It took about a half hour to get something level and stable where I felt confident that I could get out of my downhill binding and remove the ski crampon and skin cleat, then rip and fold the skin. Doing the same for the uphill ski was delicate. But I took my time and got it done. My whippet was in my hand the whole time. Had I fallen I wouldn't have died, but I would have got strained over some pointy chunks of lava. I will start carrying both boot crampons and ice axe on these spring shenanigans because I don't want to leave myself short again. An adze cuts much better steps and platforms than just a pick.

                  I tried the strapping of ice axe onto a ski pole in 1986 when I ragdolled off the Middle St. Vrain glacier and it could not stop my initial fall, only biting into softer snow just before I hit the big rock, flipping my feet below me as I had been falling head first. I flew over 100 feet through the air, landed on my camera--which shattered my clavicle and scapula into 8 fragments each, before I was able to dig the pick into much softer snow and come to a stop. I think in that case, I am still here despite having an ice axe strapped to my pole rather than because of it. But that doesn't mean it can't work.

                  I think of the whippet as more of a climbing tool than a self-arrest tool. But it is hella better than two ski poles for that.
                  Last edited by cesare; 20 April 2022, 01:00 AM.

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                  • #10
                    I like a whippet. Climbing a steep line on Mt Washington, it was a natural transition, to go from bootpacking, with ski poles on low angle, in existing steps, to using the whippet spike as it got steeper. I probably should have had my ice axe, off my pack before it got steep, but felt that could be risky, for balance. A pair of nicely weighted 50 cm ice tools; one in each hand, would have been even better !
                    Skiing down was glad to have the whippet at the ready, while still able to use the it as a regular ski pole timing my turns, rather than ski with an ice axe in one hand. Click image for larger version  Name:	skiing down to Art3 enhanced.jpg Views:	0 Size:	524.6 KB ID:	115833


                    Steep Left Gully
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                    Last edited by chamonix; 20 April 2022, 09:59 AM.

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