If you are new to the sport or a seasoned ice climber, you know the value of a good ice axe. Without them, you cannot climb, and even cheap axes can cost quite a bit. So if youre already spending the money on ice climbing axes, make sure you get one that fits, feels good, and is a decent quality so that youre not going to be fumbling around hundreds of feet above the frozen earth.
When ice axes were first designed, they incorporated a straight wooden handle with a simple metal pick at the top. As the science of developing ice tools has progressed, so has the shape of the axes and the materials from which they are created.
If you will notice from looking at the axe, there is quite a bit of curve in its shape from the head to the handle. This is to allow the user to swing the axe into the ice without bashing his or her knuckles. It also will allow the user to pick up over the top of an ice bulge. You will also quickly notice that one of the axes usually has an adze, one usually has a hammer. Most people climb with one of each and after a few climbs you will quickly learn they both play a vital role in climbing.
Perhaps the most important design feature in the development of the ice axe is the materials from which they are made. Gone are the days of weak and rot-prone wood. Metal is simply too heavy. Today, most high quality ice climbing axes are made from a graphite compound. This allows the axe to be minimal in weight so your arms will not get tired from swinging it through the air, but also strong enough that it will not break when bashed against the ice. The graphite handles also dampen vibrations that can shoot through the shaft of metal axes.
So whether you are a novice looking for your first pair of technical ice axes, or a veteran looking for an upgrade or replacement, take the time to test some of the newest and best models. You will definitely get your moneys worth if you go for the high-end equipment.