en.infoglobe.cz » Ice-Axes for the Mountains

Ice-Axes for the Mountains

Published: 9.10.2007
Ice-axe is an instrument enabling us the movement on snow or a glacier. It is possible to hack the catches and steps, to cut into and catch, to lean against, to brake and to sound, to dig, to scrape, etc.

The ice-axes  are to be divided into two groups:



Classical Ice-Axes

A classical ice-axe can be used at easy climbing , or at mountain-climbing.

An ice-axe consists of several parts and elements, each of them have its special names.

The beak (bill) serves for cutting into snow (ice), a  small shovel serves for cutting out of steps , scrapping and cutting into soft  snow, a pricker serves for  handle-sticking  into snow,

a small lash  prevents dropping of ice-axe  after we let fall it. The holes in a head of ice-axe and in handle enable to click the carbins or  bind the loops.

Beak (bill) : three typescan be distinguished according to the profile




A curved beak  is bent in upper direction – this is most used way at this type of ice-axes. It  copies an lash-arch with its form while hewing into. It is a natural anchor for easier climbing on snow surface.

An inversed beak is bent in lower direction, so it is better drawn out after hewing into ice.

It is used in case of special ice-axes, but exceptionally can be found in case of classical ice-axes.

A plain beak ( sometimes called as „ones“ or „terrodactyl“) is not used any more, we find it in some cheap types of ice-axes.


Form of  beak-thorn  - we distinguish  three forms:

-         positive

-         neutral

-         negative 

Positive: it is suitable to use it into hard, ice-snow and for winter tours. However, by  blows on rock become blunt quickly.

Negative: it is blunt, suitable for use in summer , as it is not  wearing out  on stones and  grass-bunches. We cross-while walking- the places covered with snow very seldom, we prefer to use it as a stick. It is not suitable for breaking on ice-surface as it  slides only, it is not hewed.

Neutral beak- thorn is a compromise. It is an universal beak-thorn for any season.

The teeth on the lower part of beak serve for friction extention. of beak while detaining the rock, or with securing the hooks into ice and snow. Some ice-axes have it quite expressive  but it is not always necessary. The teeth with  useless big back-hooklets make taking out of hewed beak out of ice more difficult.

If we plan a movement with ice-axe on an ice surface , the  beak-thorn would be sharpened.

We recommend the grinding would be effected with a thin file. However, no grooves are to be remained after grinding,  the  strength would  let down, moreover, the beak could be  broken!

Shovel – its edge would be convex  (ring shaped arched) or  non-convex ( cut out). The convex type is more suitable to be used into soft snow , non convex  is to be recommended in the use in hard or ice-snow. The shovels contain sometimes the holes. This serve to carbine- clicking to ice-axe or it is made for easing of ice-axe´s weight.

Ice-axe head  would be  plain  ( ice-axes of classical  execution) , the beak and a shovel are joined, by means of welding, in one piece. They are produced with two ways. They are plain, carving out of rolled steel  layers and worked by grinding.  The separate thorns ( beak, shovel) are hard but not too hard. They become blunt later easier. They are cheaper.  The second way of production is a forging. The forged heads are more attractive. more hard and more expensive. On the thorn (point) of ice-axes there is being used so called „spring steel“ – marked as No.  „19452.4“.

Loop (eye) – ice-axe without a loop – this is a loose of money! There are several ways of loop joining to ice-axe: joining of  loop-strap on metal ring (or plastic - attention, lower support!) , which is movable along the upper part of a shaft. This enables to have the loop always around the hand- wrist, as we hold the ice-axe head, or hold the handle.

The second way of loop joining is as follows: we have it fix attached to one of the holes in ice-axe ( the hole in a head or in a shaft) and so the loop is so longer, to be sufficient to a head as well as a handle. Anyway, this second way of joining required the existence of  buckle  attached to a loop, enabling the loop-lenghtening according to the individual needs.

Except of this, each loop would be equipped at least with a simple rider , which secures  persistent loop drawing  around the hand-wrist. Attention for the loop support!

This is not produced  for stopping of  human body fall, in case of classical ice-axes not for bearing of the weight of human body at all. So, we recommend you, never  to be hung  provided we do not know the support of a loop ! Sometimes it happens that the producer puts a label on a loop informing the weight-support, in case of classical ice-axes this is not mentioned.

Slots (holes) in ice-axe – serve for clicking of carbine to the  ice-axe which is versatilly being used at security.  Sometimes there are more slots in an ice-axe head. For security via ice-axe with a  shaft  thrusted into snow : it is recommended to use the hole  placed in a  shaft-axis, but it is not absolutely necessary. If we prefer to put a noose to the ice-axe head hewed in a snow, in order to move over the ice-axe, we use the hole which is placed  nearest to the ice-surface. Sometimes it could be a hole down in a handle near to the point ( its use is scattered), mostly is to be used while putting up a suitable post.

How to indicate the length of classical ice-axe?  We stipulate it as follows: we stand up straight  ahead , the hand having vertical along the body, with a fist clenched, so that the ice-axe,  vertically placed could be got into from a fist to the bottom. The middle length is taken 70 cms, differ from up – these are long ice-axes, down – these are short ice-axes.

The classical ices-axes  are of standard weight relating to 500g approximately.  For the purposes of summer mounteneering you really meet the snow very rarely ( the ice-axe you take inside of your rucksack) you can use so called light ice-axes, having a weight of 350 g approximately.

Unfortunately, these light ice-axes are not  suitable for winter activity and for hard snow and ice, as they are too light and they do not have so motion  while lash , so its hewing into ice is weak.

Special Ice-Axes

They are being used for diffucult  climbing in an ice and along steep snow-icy slopes. They are shorter, its length is 50 cms approximately. Its characteristic sign  there is  bended formed handle. It is therefore, that the climber could not  hurt his fingers from the ice , while hewing the ice-axe into the ice.

Head of special ice-axes is to be assembled, and it consists of several parts. The beak  as well as the shovel are separated each other. Between them  there is a middle part of a head  which is the upper ending of the handle. To this middle part of a head there is joined, by means of screws, fastened the beak and a shovel. The screws are mostly provided with  imbuss head , this is an advantage, as while  beating we cannot damage imbuss profile, „ internal“ placed.

A big advantage od an assembled head there is a possibility of changing of a beak  ( damaged for new one, or substitution for the other, more suitable type we need for the climbing).

The shovel can be changed as well. We can substitute the shovel  formed in the other way, or a beetle, so we create from an ice-axe to a hammer-ice-axe.

The beaks  of special ice-axes are mostly  very hard and assembled as these are to be drawn more easily hewed  from the ice. In order to make the drawing up easier, the upper edge of a beak is to be sharpened. The thorns of its beaks are manufactured as very sharp (positive) as these are hewed into very hard ice.

Anyway, the producers make to the certain type of ice-axe  several sorts of beaks. You can buy it in a shop. You can obtain the substitutional beak for an ice-axe, provided you destroy the original. Or, you can  have the other beak, suitable for different slope inclination, or to hard snow and ice. The producers have a detailed catalogue of ice-axes available where you find which types of ice-axes are suitable for various sorts of snow, etc. However, the various parts of ice-axes of different producers are not compatible each other.

Special ice-axes have also plain beaks, cut away from rolled steel  layers made with grinding, further also harder forged beaks.

Regarding the ice-axes teeth: there are very important. They would be sharp but not to be ground to the form of little hook, as so could be difficult drawn up the ice.

There are the special types of beaks, as tube-type (suitable for use in very hard splitting ice), semitube, mixed, etc. There are not used very often, so they are not involved in the basic equipment of ice-axes.

The shovels are not so important, in case of special ice-axes, as by the climbing in ice we rarely cut out the steps. The shovels are produced in a triangle execution with one top or point. It is being used for its plain top for cutting out very soft crystalic ice, which is not cut through, thanks to its width.

The loop forms a half of ice-axe. It is attached to the handle of ice-axe. On a strap must be fixed a buckle  which enables the placing of loop- largeness. The loop has to be furnished with  a fastener enabling persistent and hard pulling of a loop around the hand-wrist.

The loop-strap in a  section which stretches the wrist of a hand , would be enlarged and reinforced. We pull hardly the loops with our hands while climbing. Our hands are growing weak  and  solitary holding the ice-axe handle is unsufficient. It is necessary, therefore, as the loop would be fixed in order to bear the weight of human body.

As we need – within difficult climbing in an ice – to place a security ( to bore a hole into screws) we have to take out quite often our hand of the loop. The loop must be simply unbuttoned. Anyway, each producer solves this matter in his own way.

At the loop-side there is placed one small eye, formed with sewed on narrow strap. It is so called „aside eye“. To this eye is attached a noose with a carbin, joining an ice-axe with a seat, and can secure a rest while we are exhausted.  The aside eye is sewed at the side , so we do not cause – with its loading-  the narrowing of the main loop-eye, and can be moved more easily.

The shaft  of special  ice-axes  would be available with various formed bendings – with the regard to the hands and the  finger-joints of the climber. Well, we can say that ot would be better  (for climbing along ice-snow slopes and for the mountain climbing) when the shaft is more straight, slightly bended. We recommend  therefore – for climbing exclusively across vertical  „giant icicles“ – the use of shafts bent in sharper angles, most popular is the  so called „banana bending“. Apart of this, there are existing also futuristic and extravagant forms of ice-axes shafts, but we cannot judge its contribution to make the climbing easier.

The handle must be made of rubber on its surface and fine profile, so the ice-axe could be hold firmly by the hand.  For  the special oce-axes, which have its handle more straight and are specialised for use in the mountains and conquering of ice-snow slopes, it is to be recommended , when the handle does not  increase with its diameter the handle-thickness.

The ice axe is easier to be stuck with the shaft into a snow , and the secure places on the snow can be made. You can climb better with your ice-axes along steep slope, when we stick  the shafts into a snow and hold the head (upper part of  the ice-axes) – pressure  keeping.

On the contrary, for climbing along vertical ices (giant icicles) it is better, when there is on the low end of  a handle an outstanding enlargement ( a knob), preventing descending of  pressed palma long the handle down.

Special ice-axes are of weight 600-800 g approximately. It is difficult to stipulate for  which purpose is weight of ice-axe is more suitable, it depends on individual dispositions of a climber and on climbing conditions in general.

Climbing Irons (Mačky) – Basic Information

Climbing irons are being used as an instrument at climbing on snow and ice slopes.

This instrument was known of Middle Ages but the first climbing irons for the whole leg were  discovered at the end of 19th century.

The first two pairs of  points ahead determine the use of climbing irons. The second pair of points bended in front direction makes the process along front points in very steep ice easier.

On the contrary, the points bended down are more comfortable while walking along moderate bended or plain terrain. For climbing on a rock there are used the climbing irons with one point.

The climbing irons can be divided – according to the type of supporting construction  - into  joint and  frame. Joint climbing irons  consist -as a rule- of  two cog-parts connected with  stirrup, The climbing irons, constructed in such a way with flexible shoe, enable walking more comfortable. Frame climbing irons are constructed in one unit which secures better climbing on a glacier  as they better hew into ice. However, thanks to its inflexibility the walking is worse and  more snow penetrates into.

The climbing irons are fastened on a shoe with belt – or  they are so called quick fixed climbing irons available – this requires the special shoes. The system of quick-fixed climbing irons is similar to some ski-binders. Except of these types there are several other variants  - as an example can serve the leather belt which is changed for a soft of plastic. The belt  bar is better as it is  lengthened for various shoe-sizes and it is easy for repair.

Seat  (Sedák)     

A seat serves for the reliable fastening to a rope and it is possible to hang on a rope comfortably at the same time. You find here many nooses, where it is possible to fix a material. Provided you wish the seat for VHT, would you  manage  a seat comfortable for walk, fully lengthened. Any clothing type  must be  put on. The usual  seat is recommended for covered walls. Would you always mind  that at the moment of  buckle closing in a waist a bit of  strap remained free ( 8 cm at least).


The rope secures us in front of a possible accident (fall down).

There are two types of ropes – full and  half-full. The full rope can be used independently, whereas the hal-full rope must be used in pairs. It is formed with a  nucleus and a  braid.

Simple ropes have 11mm thickness, half-full ropes  have 9 mm thickness. The length of a rope is 45-60 m. Today, there are the ropes  which do not soak into the water ,.however,

they are more expensive. Would you follow, please, the vital power of rope indicated by a producer.  The rope lasts several standard falls only. Even short falls  bring down the function of  catching the fall . The rope-ends are more  troubled as the rope-middle. If you have an old climbing-rope at home you can cut wore ends and  take less used rope-middle. The rope has  always the capability to catch flexible a fall.


For climbing we use suitable dressing of the quality  corresponding to the climbing conditions.

We choose the dressing in accordance with an environment we wish to climb. The weather in the open air is – in comparison to covered wall – often very unsettled , so it is better to take the dressing securing  warm (wool, fleece). We recommend you also to have the protection against windy and rainy weather. Today, there is a big choice of dressing in various sizes and  for all possible conditions.

You can use various sorts of outfit for  different climbing conditions. Cotton soaks in a sweat but get dry badly, it is not resistant enough and has no ability to keep the warm. It is suitable only, if you decide to climb along the covered wall.

On the other hand, nylon and polyester get dry quickly, are resistant, so they are suitable pro climbing in the open air. Lycra is the most flexible material. It does not limit the motion and stretches the body comfortably. Mostly it is combined with the other materials, as it is not resistant enough. Fleece is available in many executions but it can become gluish easily, especially at bigger effort or higher temperature.


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