An ice axe is a crucial tool for those wanting to take their tramping above the snow line. It gives an extra point of contact to the slope and can provide a means to stop yourself should you slip. They’re best used in conjunction with crampons.
If you are looking for an axe to take your tramping above the snowline, a shaft between 60-70cm should be fine. Shorter axes can be used, but are generally designed for more technical climbing.
Reverse or classic curved pick?
If you’re mainly angling up snow slopes, then a classic curve is more comfortable under your hand. If you are swinging your axe into alpine or water ice, get a reverse pick.
A straight or slightly curved shaft is best for tramping and basic climbing. Heavily curved shafts tend to be for specialised use and are not suited to general climbing conditions.
The leash will prevent a dropped axe skating for miles down the slope. If your chosen axe does not come with a leash, get one.
Axes and crampons
While an axe gives you something to shove into the snow as you kick steps up a slope, when you start to descend, things become trickier. As a rule, if you’re taking an ice axe then you should be taking crampons.
|Black Diamond Venom $299.99
For alpinists and ski mountaineers. Features a fully interchangeable pick, stainless steel head and spike, sliding FlickLock pommel, ergonomically-shaped aluminium shaft, dual density grip. 50cm. 528g. www.southernapproach.co.nz
|Petzl Ride $185
Ultra-light axe for ski touring or glacier travel, steel head, tapered to 3mm for ice penetration, curved shaft, machined grip for handling. 45cm. 240g. www.spelean.co.nz
|SMC Capra from $159.99
Alpine tramping axe with ergonomically shaped chromolly steel head and spike, aluminium shaft, steel spike with carabiner hole. 60cm, 65cm, 70cm, 75cm, 80cm, 100cm. 453g (60cm). www.gearshop.co.nz
|Faders Courage from $179.99
Mountaineering axe with slightly curved alloy shaft, steel head and spike, rubber handle, carabiner hole. 60cm, 66cm, 72cm. 453g (60cm). www.gearshop.co.nz