size of ice axe

10:29 p.m. on October 28, 2008 (EDT)
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hello i was wondering if anyone if any could tell me if its better to have same size ice axes or one bigger than the other

11:16 p.m. on October 28, 2008 (EDT)
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Unless your arms are of different lengths, it seems to me you would want your tools the same length, different heads, but same shaft length. Mine are. Here are some sites. They don't give the exact answer you seek, but there is good information on sizing:

http://www.outdooradventureclub.com/newsletter/Iceaxesizing.htm

http://www.backpacker.com/october_2007_skills_learn_how_to_use_an_ice_axe/skills/12021

12:50 a.m. on October 29, 2008 (EDT)
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thanks that was helpfull.

3:30 a.m. on October 29, 2008 (EDT)
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im 6"3 can anyone recomend what size would be good to use. if anyone is the same size as me what size axe do you use

6:54 a.m. on October 29, 2008 (EDT)
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If it helps, one article stated that you should stand upright with your arms at your side. Your ax should fill the gap between your finger tips and the ground.

10:44 a.m. on October 29, 2008 (EDT)
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i off to shops tommrrow to find some axes. thanks for your help

12:21 p.m. on October 29, 2008 (EDT)
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john -
the style for ice axes has changed significantly over the years. I am assuming here that you are talking ice axes and not tools for ice climbing. The really old style was an alpenstock, which was a shoulder-high hiking staff with a head that had a pick and an adze for chopping steps (this was before really good crampons. When I got my first ice ax, the style was a length suitable for a walking cane, which is the length f_klock refers to - holding the head in your hand, the spike should just touch the ground with a slight bend in your elbow (on snow, the pick will sink in, so the slight bend in the elbow allows you to support some of your weight without stiff-arming). This length is also convenient for a standing rest - stick the point in the ground/snow and sit or lean your pack on the head.

However, the "cane" length proved to be unwieldy for anything much beyond trail walking and glacier hiking. So the current thought is a length that is 5-10 cm shorter. For my height (5ft9in or 175cm), the currently recommended length is 65-70 cm, dependent on arm length (measured by "ape index", the ratio of your arm span to your height - Michael Phelps has an AI significantly greater than 1). So a good starting point is to add half the difference between your and my height (190 cm - 175 cm = 15 cm, so add 7 cm to get 72-77 cm). Since axes come in 5 cm increments, that means 75 cm is a good starting point.

BUT ... it really will depend in the end on how you are using the ax. With the really good, light weight crampons now available, the main use of the ice ax is self-arrest, with step-chopping a fairly rarely used technique (this also means you need to look at the head design - ice climbing tools with the special head shapes do not work well for self-arrest). The "walking cane" length is good for trails and fairly level snow fields and glaciers (intermediate ski slope angles or less). For steeper slopes (advanced ski slope angles and greater), a shorter ax is better. For climbs where I might have a short stretch of 45 deg firm snow, but otherwise mostly rock climbing, I use a 50 cm ice ax, since that isn't worth taking a pair of purpose-made ice tools, plus it still is a good tool for self-arrest if needed.

3:40 p.m. on October 29, 2008 (EDT)
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iwent out today and got some grivel air tech evo thay are 66cm long and tryed then out in the shop in london. thanx for your info

12:30 a.m. on January 8, 2009 (EST)
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Good information to know, thanks guys!

August 1, 2014
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