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Old 11-12-2016, 12:12 AM   #1
BasedHiker
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Which of these two ice axes is the proper length?

I'll be hiking mainly in the Catskills and Adirondacks. I would also like to do Mt Rainier next year.

Thanks.

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Old 11-12-2016, 12:24 AM   #2
DSettahr
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For mountaineering, the axe should be about the same length as the distance between the tip of your longest finger (held loosely at your side) and the ground. It's difficult to tell from the photo, but it looks like the 70cm one would be better.

A few things to also consider:

I get the sense that you haven't really done much research on ice axes (or else you wouldn't be asking this question). It's fairly important to learn how to properly use one (and to practice!). An ice axe really isn't something you just buy and use on a whim; in untrained hands they can be a liability. This may mean taking a course or finding someone to teach you. It's not super hard to learn the proper techniques, but getting them down to a reflex (necessary if you ever actually needed to self-arrest) takes a fair amount of effort.

I'll also add that I've found that they really aren't all that necessary in the Adirondacks or the Catskills for anything on a marked trail. They're occasionally nice to have as a traction aid but rarely essential unless you get into slide climbing. When I did the Winter 46, my axe spent the vast majority of time strapped to my pack. So don't feel like you absolutely need to have one right away just because you're planning a few hikes in winter in either area.
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Old 11-12-2016, 12:42 AM   #3
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Thanks for the info! I've read a few different sites that explain what length the ice axe should be. I just wanted to triple check, ya know? I've also searched Google and stumbled upon an older thread on these forums that said that the same thing you're saying - an ice axe isn't all that necessary on marked trails in ADK. I figured why not just get one just to feel complete, even if it sits in the trunk all year.

So if the 70cm is good for ADK/Catskills, would it be OK for Rainier? Is it even worth transporting my ice axe there on the plane, or better to just rent one once I'm there?
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Old 11-12-2016, 10:39 AM   #4
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Funny. First thing I thought when I saw the photos is "You're holding it upside down." "Travel mode" for an ice axe is the other way around.


Anyhow, in addition to DSettahr's advice, hold it in self-arrest mode and take note of where the spike is in relation to your body. The spike should protrude slightly past the side of your body because, the theory goes, a short axe is more likely to gore you during a violent self-arrest.
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Old 11-12-2016, 12:35 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by BasedHiker View Post
So if the 70cm is good for ADK/Catskills, would it be OK for Rainier? Is it even worth transporting my ice axe there on the plane, or better to just rent one once I'm there?
Are you doing Rainier with a guide? (I hope so if you're asking this question.) Ask them. Depending on your route, the Venom might be a better choice. Also, you might want to think about spending a day or two out with a guide this winter in the Adirondacks to learn some basic skills. I can recommend a couple if you like.
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Old 11-12-2016, 01:47 PM   #6
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I would take a mountaineering class with Alpine Ascents - Cascades and Rainier. And I would never use a guide in the Adirondacks.

Last edited by BasedHiker; 11-12-2016 at 02:22 PM..
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Old 11-12-2016, 03:15 PM   #7
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And I would never use a guide in the Adirondacks.
Why not? I agree that the use of a guide is mostly a matter of personal preference in the ADKs in the summer, but using one might not be a bad idea for anyone just getting started with winter in the High Peaks. The margin for error is much smaller if you're not well prepared.

You might look into taking a class through the ADK's winter climbing school as a good place to gain skills and experience. They have both day classes and overnight classes that provide instruction in winter camping in addition to peak climbing: http://www.winterschool.org/

Also, have you taken a Wilderness First Aid course? If not, are you familiar with the early warning signs for frostbite and especially hypothermia, and do you know how to respond? One of the first parts of your body to be affected by hypothermia is your mental capacity, and if you're not aware of what to look for, by the time you realize there's a problem it may already be too late to save yourself.

At the very least, understand that you've got your work cut out for you, and a responsibility to do a lot more research on the subject than just asking questions on a hiking forum. Not that there's at all anything wrong with asking questions here, you just need to expect and realize that there's more you need to do to ensure that you're properly prepared.

Please don't take any of what we're saying the wrong way- it's just it really seems like you're pretty new to this. We want you to be able to get out and enjoy winter in the mountains, but we also want you to be able to do that safely. While there's often some room for a trial and error approach in summer, the winter can be a different story entirely.
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Old 11-12-2016, 03:17 PM   #8
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I love how you're very caring for new members of the forums and also concerned for my safety - I appreciate that!

I am not that much of a noob though. I've done about six peaks in the Adirondacks already, I've done about fifteen peaks in the Catskills, I've hiked The West Highland Way solo, I've snowshoe'd in Rocky Mountain National Park, and I've hiked Devil's Path in twelve hours. This doesn't make me an expert - not even close, but I've also read The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide, The Backpacker's Field Manual, and I just started The Freedom of the Hills 8th Edition. So, I "kind of" know what I'm doing!

But.... I still like to ask basic questions just to be sure! Hence the ice axe length question.

Edit: I would never do anything risky. I hike with people who have hiked in ADK before, but they're just not "guides".
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Old 11-12-2016, 03:55 PM   #9
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I would take a mountaineering class with Alpine Ascents - Cascades and Rainier. And I would never use a guide in the Adirondacks.
Like DSettahr, I was puzzled by that statement. There is no shame in hiring a guide. Guides do much more than just, well…, guide. I was thinking more along the lines of hiring one to learn some technical skills prior to your very expensive trip to the Cascades. I took a glacier mountaineering course on Mt Baker years ago. The winter prior to it my friend and I hired a guide to learn some basic ice climbing skills and also did a guided winter ascent of the Trap Dyke. We were both very experienced winter hikers (I had 30-some winter peaks, she was either close to or already a W46er) but had no real technical skills (using ropes, rappelling, etc). We certainly got more out of the mountaineering course and enjoyed ourselves more because we had some prior knowledge. The day we covered crevasse rescue comes to mind…all the other participants took forever to get up the courage to be lowered into the crevasse and it was no big deal for us.

Years later, I’m a very experience rock and ice climber; skilled enough to attempt one of the more technical routes on Rainier unguided (a porter would be nice tho )Still, I wouldn’t say that I would never hire a guide in the Adirondacks. There are some highly skilled guides in the Adirondacks that are excellent resources for honing the skills that greatly increase the chance of success when tackling the big mountains.

Another idea is to take a clinic at the Mountainfest . Beginning ice or the alpine climbing primer might be perfect for you. (Every year I eye the steep ice clinic)

Another thought regarding your original question, go to the Mountaineering in Keene Valley to be fitted for the axe. They are extremely knowledgeable and helpful there.
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Old 11-12-2016, 04:07 PM   #10
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Sorry I didn't mean to come off defensive. I am just one of those DIY/stubborn types.

For anything off-trail and for anything where I don't feel comfortable, I would certainly cool my jets and go with someone very knowledgeable and experienced.

You mentioned rock/ice climbing. For that stuff, I would probably use a guide or at least go with a very patient, experienced climber. Most likely the latter.

I'll look into the clinic you linked. Thanks!
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Old 11-16-2016, 12:11 PM   #11
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I was on Rainier with IMG this past Summer. It was great.

I did buy a new BD ice axe for the trip. It was shorter and much lighter than my old one. The weight really adds up.

There are areas with lots of crevasses. You'll want to have your self arrest skills on speed dial


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Old 11-27-2016, 01:36 PM   #12
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to answer your question, yes, take an ice axe with you to rainier. A rule of thumb for mountaineering (in the west) is if your crampons are on, your axe is out, and vice versa.
Good luck, and be safe
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Old 11-27-2016, 09:42 PM   #13
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To get back to the original question, I had been instructed that when held with adze and pick in hand the point on the stem should be at the ankle.
the main reason being that when climbing a steep you want to keep your axe in the uphill side of your ascent and anything longer or much shorter would effect your stance while ascending.
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Old 11-27-2016, 11:11 PM   #14
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...
There are areas with lots of crevasses. You'll want to have your self arrest skills on speed dial...
Seems awful death-y.
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Old 12-04-2016, 08:53 PM   #15
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Turn that axe around, 70 looks better, and make Freedom Of The Hills your Bible.

When I lived in Syracuse I was in a pretty bad neighborhood. Our front door had this half round window over it, we had a pair of crossed ice axes in that window , kind of a message to the neighborhood that they probably shouldn't mess with us. Must have worked, we never had any trouble.
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Old 12-06-2016, 07:25 PM   #16
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I mostly use an ice axe to help reach a water source. Even if the ice is too thick to reach water, melting chucks of ice is a bit more efficient than melting snow.

Ices axes also make a great stake or tie off point for a shelter or tarp.
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