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titanhangman

Proper ice axe size

Based on my height, 5' 8" (that may be optimistic but I'm sticking with it), I purchased a 65cm axe the other day. I noticed that taller people use 70cm axe's, so based on some things I found on the web I reasoned that I should go for a smaller one. Does this really matter? I'm going to REI tonight to pick up my helmet, and I can exchange the axe. I read an interesting theory on the web, that the way to size your axe is to climb up stairs with it, and see where your arm is in relation to your side. But I'm also worried about the axe being too short as I'm going down on the ascent, and feel like I may prefer the 70cm. What say you all?

Jeff
cab

If you hold the axe by the head with your arm straight down to your side, the tip of the spike should be at your ankle.
Kevin

To "size" the length on an ice axe - hold the axe by cupping it in your hand, and let the axe dangle by your side.  It should clear the floor by an inch or two - not much more.

Since we tend to have different arm lengths, sizing an axe by height isn't always accurate.  Best to actually hold it in hand -

Looks like CAB posted essentially the same thing.
bertfivesix

Also of consideration is how AWESOME you look just holding it.  Try different poses, like The Lumberjack, The Rock Star, The Axe Murderer, etc.  You'll find one length that works best for most situations.  Color coordination is also key; get an axe in a hue that best complements your current outdoor wardrobe.  Don't forget to take into consideration your base layers, as you don't want to have to layer down and find out your Patagonia Capilene clashes with your axe.  Can you imagine?  You would be the talk of the forums the next day, and we're a catty bunch.

Or go by what the other two guys said.  You can size to the floor if you really only plan on doing easy, low angle stuff, and size to the ankle for more intermediate terrain.  But you definitely don't want to size it like it's a cane.
Taco

The ankle length rule is a general rule. I have a 75cm, but I used to have an 80cm that I liked more. I'm 6'4", so I think the 80 used to just barely touch the floor.

I usually bring tools nowadays, as I prefer steeper stuff, but I can still do general mountaineering with little 50cm's out of necessity.
Kevin

Excellent points, bertfivesix.  Thanks for the humor!

On a more serious note - the length of ice axe doesn't make much difference when used for self-arrest.  Where it does matter is when it's used as a probe on glaciers.  When you're crossing terrain where there may be crevasses, the axe is carried in the uphill hand, and plunged downward into the snow, slightly ahead of you.  If it enters an air pocket - signaling a possible crevasse, there's much less resistance - hopefully giving you and your buds some advance warning and time to act accordingly. If your axe is too long, in order to withdraw it each time your arm will have to quite high, and it's tiring.

Been there, done that ...
titanhangman

Thanks for the replies. I exchanged the 65cm for a 70 tonight. Now I need to get up there and practice
norma r

bertfivesix wrote:
Also of consideration is how AWESOME you look just holding it.  Try different poses, like The Lumberjack, The Rock Star, The Axe Murderer, etc.  You'll find one length that works best for most situations.  Color coordination is also key; get an axe in a hue that best complements your current outdoor wardrobe.  Don't forget to take into consideration your base layers, as you don't want to have to layer down and find out your Patagonia Capilene clashes with your axe.  Can you imagine?  You would be the talk of the forums the next day, and we're a catty bunch...

LOL Bert, i know what you mean!  i was in awe in 2009 when G-man's metro-mountaineering ensemble included his axe and matching ball cap.


i on the other hand can only brag that my axe coordinates with the amalgam in my molars.  Sad   i'd like to say that i researched it, but truly it was by shear luck that i chose the right length for axe-murdering.  RIP lilbitmo.
simonov

bertfivesix wrote:
Also of consideration is how AWESOME you look just holding it.  Try different poses, like The Lumberjack, The Rock Star, The Axe Murderer, etc.  You'll find one length that works best for most situations.  Color coordination is also key; get an axe in a hue that best complements your current outdoor wardrobe.  Don't forget to take into consideration your base layers, as you don't want to have to layer down and find out your Patagonia Capilene clashes with your axe.  Can you imagine?  You would be the talk of the forums the next day, and we're a catty bunch.

Or go by what the other two guys said.  You can size to the floor if you really only plan on doing easy, low angle stuff, and size to the ankle for more intermediate terrain.  But you definitely don't want to size it like it's a cane.


Women tell me that size doesn't matter, but I'm not sure I believe them.

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