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June 2018 Issue
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2018 guide to ice axes and crampons

An ice axe is a crucial tool for those venturing above the snow line. It gives an extra point of contact to the slope and can provide a means of arrest should you slip. 


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.

Shaft types

A straight or slightly curved shaft is best for tramping and basic climbing – the curve improves hand clearance and emphasises the swing when using the pick. Heavily curved shafts tend to be for specialised use and are not suited to general climbing or tramping. 


A leash will prevent a dropped axe – it will happen – skating down the slope. Ensure you get one for your axe. 

Axes and crampons

As a rule, if you’re taking an ice axe then you should be taking crampons.


Black Diamond Swift $389.99
Ergonomic T-rated shaft, single-piece hot-forged stainless steel head, technical profile, FlickLock adjustable pommel. 50cm, 57cm, 64cm. 487g, 507g, 526g.

Faders Courage $179.95
Tramper’s axe with slightly-curved alloy shaft, steel head and spike, carabiner hole. 60cm, 66cm, and 72cm. 453g, 473g, 493g.

Buying crampons

Types of crampon

12-points The most commonly-used crampon and good for all-around conditions, whether walking up a snow slope or kicking into steeper snow and icefaces with the front points. 

10-points Tend to be used for easy snow slopes, glacier travel and ski touring. 

In step Best used for short periods to help get over a short stretch of ice. 

Alloy or stainless steel

Lightweight alloy is fine for occasional use where you are unlikely to be scrambling across rocks. Stainless steel is more durable and longer-lasting.

Anti-balling plates

These are important for preventing wet snow clogging the bottom of crampons. Some crampons come with anti-balling plates already attached, while others have to be purchased separately.

Type of boot

A more flexible boot will require a more flexible crampon as well as a full strap attachment. A stiffer boot will likely have welts that crampons can be clipped to.


Black Diamond Sabretooth Clip $349.99
All-around stainless steel crampon with horizontal front points and technical secondary points, low-profile micro-adjust heel bail provides secure fit on most boots, flexible toe strap for boots without toe welt, front and rear dual-density ABS prevents snow build-up.

Hillsound Trail Crampon Pro $179.99
Made from heat-treated S50C carbon steel and with 10-points, simple ratchet buckle binding, anti-snow pads, x-shaped harness reduces pressure points. 668g (regular), 704g (XL).

Climbing gear for more exposed winter tramping


Black Diamond Technician $179.99
A four-season rock and ice harness, quick-drying, five gear loops, four ice clipper slots, adjustable leg loops, padded waist and leg loops. 377g.


Black Diamond Rocklock Screwgate $29.99
Black Diamond’s largest belay and rappel locker with snag-free keylock nose, Munter Hitch compatible, one-hand operation. 85g.


Beal Rando Walking Rope Golden Dry 8mm x 30M $149.99
High level walking and glacier crossing rope for easy snow slopes, resistant to ice and water, reduced weight gain when wet, three-year guarantee. 37g/metre.


Roca Dominator 9.2 x 60m Dry Rope $399.95
Sport climbing rope for single and double rope use, hydrophobic treatment limits water absorption, Full Dry treatment repels ice, dust and sand from penetrating filaments. 56g/m.

Roca Monkey SPD 9.0mm x 60m Full Dry $399.99
Full Dry treatment repels ice, dust and sand from penetrating filaments, SPD technology increases number of falls and reduces impact force. 58g/m.