No portrait of the classic mountaineer would be complete without an ice axe. There are other tools you’d expect. When you imagine men and women stuffed into layers of warm clothes, you might also imagine boots with crampons, ropes, carabiners, or a harness.
If you know your equipment, you can probably name more, but when the average Joe thinks mountaineer, they’re thinking ice axe.
Whether you’re conquering Mount Everest, hiking winter trails, or enjoying a less daunting winter excursion, the ice axe is a must-have for all winter adventurers.
Our Picks for the Best Ice Axes of 2021
If you’re planning a mountain expedition or want to explore winter hiking trails, here are the best ice axes to make your trip safer and steadier.
1) Grivel GZERO
The Grivel GZERO is a walking axe with beginners in mind. The ergonomic design makes it more comfortable to hold for long stretches. The blade cover protects your hand from contacting the cold metal during high-altitude climbs.
- Product Type: OUTDOOR_RECREATION_PRODUCT
- Package quantity: 1
- No batteries required
- Country of Orgin: Italy
Length: 58 cm, 66 cm, 74 cm
Weight: 371 g, 425 g, 680 g
The pick is steel, and the shaft is aluminium for increased durability. Grivel GZERO includes a guard for the stem tip. It’s a lightweight ice axe that can handle most climbing conditions.
However, if you’re a wildling trying to climb the Wall and avoid the Night’s Watch, the Grivel GZERO wasn’t made to handle that level of steepness.
2) Black Diamond Raven Pro
If you want a flash of silver in the snow for a lightweight ice axe that keeps you under budget, you might consider the Raven Pro. The head and spike are stainless steel for ease of use and improved strength, but the shaft is aluminium to decrease weight.
- Investment-cast, polished stainless steel head and spike
- Lightweight aluminum shaft
- Ergonomic head is designed with an aggressive pick and large hole...
- CEN–B certified
- Shaft: Aluminum
Length: 55 cm, 60 cm, 70 cm
Weight: 377 g, 392 g, 407 g, 422 g
The head is ergonomic and has a large hole to snap on a carabiner easily. Black Diamond engineered the durable one-piece build and the curve shape for better self-arresting.
3) Petzl Summit Evo
The Petzl Eispickel Summit Evo handle was hydroformed for improved durability, better grip, and is one of the lightest ice axes on our list. The pick has 3 mm teeth that create a bite that holds, snapping in like an itty bitty crocodile that won’t let go. The thicker pick middle allows for bettering anchoring in soft snow.
Length: 52 cm, 59 cm, 66 cm
Weight: 400 g, 420 g, 451 g
The Petzl is an excellent choice for more experienced climbers. As it’s an expensive item, it’s less welcoming for first-time buyers. It doesn’t include protection caps or covers, which are a good investment if you want to save yourself from accidental slices.
4) Altus Vittatus
Lightweight and light-blue, the Altus Vittatus is made of an aluminium alloy. If you have trekking and snow excursions in mind, you’ll be swinging in style.
- Made of aluminium light alloy
- Available in blue colour
- Made in Spain
Length: 60 cm
Weight: 450 g
However, it’s not ideal for steep ice climbing. Campers and hikers looking for a better grip on frosty trails can take advantage by stowing the lightweight ice axe.
5) Climbing Technology Hound Plus
The striking green Hound Plus ice axe is a terrific tool for ski touring, traversing couloirs, and glacier travel. It’s straight at the base for more effective ice penetration. The anodised finish is corrosion-resistant and allows the surface more durability, preventing chipping or peeling.
- Classic ice axe for hiking on glacier and snow canals
- Hardened steel head with shovel; lightweight alloy tapered handle...
- New ergonomic overmolded handle with optimal grip and grip for...
Length: 53 cm
Weight: 485 g
The hot-forged ergonomic steel handle forms a more comfortable grip with better handling capabilities. The head and pick have holes for carabiners or slings. You also get drag-tour (leash) included.
6) Salewa North-X
Salewa’s North-X Ice Axe meets the demands of technical mountaineering. You’re prepared for the worst, whether it’s steep ice walls, rocky terrain, or mounds of snow. The insulated grip keeps away cold. The replaceable base steel tip creates a firmer grip for icy surfaces.
- Precision cast steel head is comfortable to carry in the hand...
- Aggressive blade for secure placement in every type of ice and...
- Balanced weight and a 20° offset shaft for optimal swinging and...
Length: 52.5 cm
Weight: 540 g
When plunging your ice axe in, the easy-adjust mechanism slides upwards, saving you energy as you climb. The anchor leash has elastic webbing that assists with faster and more secure shaft-placement for self-belaying.
7) Petzl Glacier
The Petzl Glacier is a simple straight-shaft lightweight ice axe. The head material is high-quality, durable steel. The pick thins toward the tip, improving your ability to dig into firm snow or ice. You can easily add on a leash or carabiner through the holes in the head.
Length: 60 cm, 68 cm, 70 cm
Weight: 350 g, 370 g, 390 g
The anodised shaft creates a durable finish that won’t scratch or chip. The grip is ergonomic to keep your hand from cramping after holding it for hours.
The Petzl Glacier is most effective as a walking axe because of its length and straight shaft. If you’re climbing sheer ice or snow, the Petzl Glacier’s will get in the way of your swinging.
8) Black Diamond Fuel
Black Diamond Fuel is a tool for steep ice. You can also use it for climbing rocky terrain.
- Lightweight shaft is hydroformed from a single piece of aluminum...
Length: 50 cm
Weight: 638 g
The aluminium shaft is hydroformed, which improves stability. Thick gloves won’t interfere with your grip. The pommel is adjustable for hand size. If you have something you need to clip on, there’s a hole through the bottom spike. If you need to switch hands, the offset grip makes it simple.
While it’s heavier than ice axes meant for lesser inclines, it’s lightweight compared to the density required for most heavier ice axes. The balanced weight allows for a smoother swing.
What to Look For When Choosing an Ice Axe
Before you choose your ice axe, you should know how you’re going to use it. We don’t just mean how to use an ice pick, but that is crucial too. The activities and the purpose of your outdoor trek are critical factors in choosing the right gear.
There are a few primary uses for an ice axe, and we’re giving you an overview of what makes them unique.
Mountaineering: Most ice axes are made for mountaineering, even if they have other features. It needs to endure cold weather and be comfortable to hold when you’re encountering glaciers, crevasses, and low-angle trails.
Features of a classic mountaineering ice axe:
- Straight shaft
- Long shaft
- Comfortable grip
- Steel-alloy head
- Classic-curve pick
Scrambling: Suppose your route involves many hard snow mounds, sheer terrain, and some steep slopes that engage both hands and feet in the climbing action. You’re in a bit of a grey area between needing a classic ice axe and double-fisting ice climbing axes.
If you’re going straight up or down, you’ll want a shaft with more curve, using it like a claw. If the area you’re travelling is more diverse, you’ll still need a straight shaft.
Features of an ice axe made for scrambling:
- Straight shaft or curved shaft
- Steel-alloy head
- Classic-curve pick
Hiking: Bringing an ice axe will help you manoeuvre icy or snowy sections of hiking trails faster, and you’ll waste less energy. Your axe choice will depend on how much uneven ground you intend to cover.
Features of a handy hiking ice axe:
- Straight shaft
- Comfortable grip
- Classic-curve pick
Ice Climbing: When you’re face to face with a sheer ascent or descent, where you’re engaging hands and feet like Spiderman in a parka, you need an ice climbing axe.
Well, you’ll need two. When ascending frozen waterfalls and mountainsides, pairs are required. The shafts are shorter and angled. The head is designed differently for vertical climbing.
Features of double-wielding ice climbing axes:
- Curved shaft
- Short shaft
- Reverse-curve pick
The general recommendation for length is 60 cm. You’ll find many ice axes made for that length. But how do you know if it’s the right size for you?
When you’re out in the wild, you’ll be swinging your ice axe. If you don’t feel comfortable moving or carrying it, you might need to change your length. Most tools are a fit for the average user. While one size fits most, you could be the exception.
One of the main reasons 60 cm is the average is because of self-arresting. When you need to save yourself from a slip, you’re usually concerned about getting a grip. You might not concentrate on where the end of your shaft is or if that base spike is about to swing into any vital organs.
When you measure your ice axe, remember that the spike at the base needs to be ankle-length. Try moving it around or practice a few dynamic climbing actions. Even if you’re in the store, carve out some space to test it out. If the spike ends an inch below or above your ankle, but you’re comfortable with the movement, you’ve probably found the one.
If it’s too short or too long, don’t settle. It might seem like a small detail, but it can impact your safety. With more manageable, smaller movements, you waste less energy. By saving energy and not exhausting your muscles on an unnecessary range of motion, you won’t tire out as quickly, and you’ll enjoy yourself more.
The head of an ice axe has two parts: the pick and the adze. The pick is the longer, sharper side used for hooking and swinging. The adze is broader and is most often used to cut steps or seats in ice and snow.
If you’re using your ice axe frequently, you want a durable material that can endure strenuous usage. Steel and aluminium are both used as materials for constructing the head. You might think that aluminium would be lighter, and you’d be correct, but you’re sacrificing strength.
Most ice axe heads are made with steel and use a lightweight but strengthened steel alloy. Aluminium will be lighter, and it can help lessen the load if it spends most of your journey packed. If you’re using your ice axe constantly, you need steel.
We mentioned the classic-curve pick above, and that’s the only shape you’ll want. The other option is a reverse-curve. If you’re ice climbing, the reverse-curve has an angle designed to cut deeper and provide a better bite for steeper slopes and sheer ice.
The classic pick is curved upward and follows the natural arc of your swing. The shape allows it to be a hook and anchor.
Picks with a narrower tip can puncture ice easier. Thicker ice picks are better for firmer, mixed terrain.
Materials for climbing and rigorous outdoor activities need to weigh less so that you can do more. Whether you’re strapping it to a pack or carrying it in your hand, you want that weight to be as negligible as possible.
Lightweight ice axes are best for mountaineering and hiking. The tool has to be agile. The weight is less, so it’s less exhausting to carry for long periods.
Ice climbers use heavier ice axes. The increased weight is necessary for a sharper bite with more substantial holding power.
We discussed how length, weight, and material are critical factors in determining your ice axe’s durability and functionality. The best ice axe can make a difference. It can make your trip easier, or it can save your life.
Most brands make their ice axes in more than one size. If you find an ice axe with the right qualities, but the size isn’t the best fit, sometimes the brand makes a similar version that might have the size you want.
Suppose you like the Altus Vittatus, but you know you need more length. We listed the lovely light blue, which is 60 cm. The Altus Vittatus ice axe also has a 70 cm black version. Before you give up on the style you like, double-check that it comes in the size you need.
We like our tools to look good and feel good. Thankfully, the look and feel of a product can help you establish quality. Finishes like anodised aluminium protect shafts from corrosion while looking good.
You’ve read through our tips on what to look for and our best ice axes of 2021. We hope a clear winner has climbed to the top of your list.
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