The Ideal Ice Axe for Mountaineering

A friend asked: If you could have only one ice axe, what would it be? There are ice tools, ice axes, piolets, hammers, glacier walkers, third tools, and oh my many more. But one axe to do it all? That’s a tough question. Still, winter is right around the corner, and I have an answer for you.

black diamond, petzl, and camp ice axe

Many choices

Firstly, it’s important to clarify that I am not going to include a discussion of ice tools. An ice tool is a specialized axe that is designed to climb steep to vertical ice and mixed terrain. They come in many shapes and sizes, and they are, for the most part, very specialized tools. The average ice tool is shit for walking on a glacier, self-belaying on steep snow, building anchors, etc. They still carry out these tasks in skilled hands, but they’re far from ideal.

For most climbers, a more all-around tool will be much more useful. When selecting such a tool, it is important to consider length, material, shaft style, and head: Read on →