What’s an ice axe?

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An ice ax is a tool used in mountaineering for icy or snowy conditions. It has a metal head with a sharp pickaxe and a shorter axe, and a lightweight handle made of materials like aluminum or Kevlar®. The handle varies in length depending on its intended purpose, and the tool can be used for cutting through ice and snow and as an anchor. It is essential for extreme mountaineering.

An ice ax is a specialized pick used in mountaineering when conditions are icy or snowy. It has a strong metal head, with a sharp, angled pickaxe and a shorter axe, which is often flat and squared off. The handle of a modern ice ax is made of strong, lightweight material such as aluminum or Kevlar® and often includes a wrist strap. The end of the handle comes to a sharp metal point, which can serve a variety of purposes.

The head of an ice ax is usually made from a steel alloy, making it very hard and resistant to breakage, and allowing it to be sharpened to a fine point. The ax pick tips quite sharply, so that it bites into ice more easily when a climber swings it. The angle of the pick also makes it dig into snow more effectively in the event of a fall, when a climber would use the ice ax as an anchor to bail out. Opposite the pick, the head generally flattens into the axe, a shorter, flatter blade that can be used to cut the hand and handholds into ice or snow.

The handle of an ice ax varies in length depending on its intended purpose. Climbers scaling sheer, ice-capped walls or even frozen waterfalls often prefer a shorter handle, just over a foot long. The short handle allows for easy maneuvering and swinging and provides a lighter weight axe. Climbers who will hike more and spend more time upright often prefer an ice ax up to three feet in length. The longer version can be used as a trekking pole and the pole can be used to probe the snow for unseen dangers. The end of the handle comes to a sharp metal point, allowing it to be used as an anchor or a tool for cutting through ice and snow.

The more extreme the conditions people find themselves exploring, the more specialized the tools they need. An ice ax allows climbers to scale sheer ice ledges, scale snow-capped peaks, and save themselves from slipping down a slippery mountainside. Sure, it takes an expert climber to attempt these perilous feats, but without their trusty ice axe, they wouldn’t get so far.

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