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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Friday, August 30, 2013

User Survey.. please take a moment?

Call it cheap admission!

It would be a help to me and huge support for Cold Thistle long term if you take a moment to fill out the survey.  Thanks much!

I am always curious as to what makes Cold Thistle "work". The blog started simply as a way for me to keep track of the gear I was interested in and likely to purchase at a some point. There are days now that I link what I find interesting on the Internet unwilling or unable to get anything new written.

Here is an opportunity to add your own voice to what you find of interest. Thanks for the input!

How did they do that? Part One

One of the things  the survey has brought up more than once are questions on how I sort through my gear and clothing for a climb.  Fair question.  But you need to realise that every climb is different.  Every eco system is different and some approaches are much harder or easier than  the next.

All that plays significantly in my choices of clothing and gear every outing.  And after 40+ years in the game I still get it all wrong on occasion.  Not because I don't have the right me I do.  But I make the wrong choices on that gear for what ever reason.

I have always had the propensity to choose the gear and how I dress for what I envision the conditions to be. (HOPE they would be!)   Some times that vision is based on reality and some times it is based on pure fantasy.    The more I am out climbing (consecutive days ) the better my judgement.  The less I am climbing (once a month?)  the more wishful my thinking.  As in, "I think we'll have a beautiful clear and warm day, after that 4 hr approach hike."  All this while packing up my kit the night before generally.   Or, "the snow will be a perfect.  4" of new powder over a smooth hard pack.  With perfect Spring temps from 4K up to 10K."

Classic example of stupid gear choices and some other mistakes made the previous night or at the last minute prior to leaving the car for a rather simple day trip :

Make a big enough mistake and this could easily be the end resut of the same outing:

That "perfect weather" just isn't a reality generally!   But I continue to fall for my imaginary traps time and again.  And when I am wrong, I suffer.  Depending on how serious the error, will determine just how much I will suffer.  It could be as simple as a slow boot pack to 10K or violent shivering with cramps while in the fetal position trying to stay warm all night.  I've done both in the last  3 or 4 years.   I'm obviously a slow learner.  And now I keep better track.

So I'll make this  discussion really simple.  Same climb, same location, several decades apart.

The under discussion is  Cascade Falls within easy eye sight of the Banff City town site, Alberta Canada. The Classic Grade 3 Canadian ice, Solid Grade 4 Scottish I am told. (not that I would know)   300m of ice.  Of that only two solid, 40/45 meter pitches of 70 +/-  ice.  The rest is easier.  But you don't want to fall down it either, as it would likely be fatal.  Avi danger on this route is always high.

The details on Cascade here:

So this is one climb I don't want to screw up by making a mistake.  Any mistake.  I might miss the clothing or bring the wrong gear but I had better understand the snow pack up high, the sun effect for the day and the huge potential for a likely fatal avalanche here.   It generally gets old enough mid winter in Canada that I do not want to spend a night out unprepared.   I've done this climb many times over the years.  And every year I am more critical of the conditions I will climb it in.  Simply because I know more and understand the snow pack and its dangers better today.  I've even done this one at night to lower the potential of an accident because of poor snow conditions. Likely I should have just begged off and found something different and safer to climb.

But we all have goals.  Cascade was one of my goals for that trip.  I tried to find the safest way possible to get that goal done.  It worked out.  That time.

My point here is it aint the arrow, it is the Indian.   The gear means nothing.  What is between your ears is everything.  Make sure that computer is turned on and fully booted before you start pulling of your longs or racking your kit.

So why post a picture of 40 year old kit and 2013 kit?

Because there really is so little difference.  "Sure there is",  you say?!   No really, in reality not a lot of difference here in the gear required.

The approach is short.  Literally a few minutes from the car park.  You can see the entire route on the approach and the avi terrain above.  No need for extra dry clothing to change into on this approach because it is so short.  Just slow down a little and stay dry walking up to the base of the climbing.  And if you are lucky you'll be in the sun the entire time.  About as casual as it can get in Canada short of climbing on the the Weeping Wall.  Beat sunset and you'll likely not need extra insulation.  Although you might want some if the wind comes up.  Lots of choices.  Each and every one matters.  Even on a climb as fun and as short as Cascade. 

What was used?  Basic set of long john tops and bottoms.  "Soft shell" pants.  Wool then and Arcteryx synthetic now.  The new clothing stretches but aren't as warm as the wool.  Synthetics replace the wool for the most part but didn't have to.  Down vest replaced by a lwt synthetic Patagonia pull over.   But real reason too now.   It is simply fashion for the most part.  Me?  I liek the bright colors!   Helmet over a lwt wind shell hood and skull cap.  Little protection and more warmth in the thick boiled wool hat.  Single boots and full super gaiters in one form or another over them in both cases.  12 point crampons.  I am still convinced the original rigids climbed water ice better than what is generally available now.  But they weren't always reliable.  Sound familiar?

Harness on and gear sling on the shoulder.  Nothing changed but the ability to now rack the screws easier on the harness.  Slings, QDs and rock gear still go on the shoulder sling.  Two tools.  The Nomics likely less useful in varied conditions but way more secure/faster climbing on steep ice.'
And for once, a more reliable tool!  Two hand tools is really enough.  The best tools simply don't break picks.  2 tools is all that is required.   But think how fooked you might well be if you break one?!

One 11mm rope or two 7.7mm ropes?  We used to climb another pitch of generally fantastic alpine snice and then walk and down climb Rogan's to get off.  Now most simply rappel back down the route.

Security equals speed.  Having the last two pitches as the day's goal makes you faster as well.  At the lost of some adventure IMO.  So the more secure tools (Nomics in this case) have turned a 1/2 day or more adventure in to a easy couple of hrs out.  Not so much fun to down climb snow and weirdness with though.  Speed equals safety and more comfort in the clothing you can choose by moving faster and staying drier.  And by all means shortening the objective.  Is a summit required?  Or just a "lower" to get down.  Your decision on how to play the game.

Not that wool can't do as well if applied and used correctly.   I wouldn't be totally unhappy having the same wool clothing available to me now that I had decades ago for the environment and climb in this discussion.

I talk about a lot of gear on this blog.  And some of it is really nice to have and use.  But the best gear everyone already has and it is free.  Your brain.  Just take the time to use it.  The rest of this stuff really doesn't change all that much when you get down to the basics. 

Sure I would rather have warm stretchy pants, super light boots and a set of Nomics to ice climb with.  But given a choice between the gear in the top picture and not climbing at all?  I'd take the bamboo piolet and wool every time and still be thrilled about it :)

The blog is all about all gear. ever is not.  Never has been.

These dudes climbed the Eiger...over 4 days... much of it in storm ..SEVENY FIVE years ago!

Remember to not make all this so hard on yourself!  You don't need new gear or the "best" of what ever that is at the moment to climb, or climb hard.

The gear selection for Cascade Falls is as simple as it gets.  No pack, no water, no food.  We were out both times for only a few hours.

When the sun went behind the mtn and us into shade I got physically cold in both pictures.  I got thirsty and I was hungry long before  driving back into town.  If something had happened to force a night out,  life would have been bleak. Things might well get very serious, very quickly with an accident. 

Still, kitted as such I really enjoyed both days out, bitd and more recently.  Uninjured I could survive a night out, with no food and no water.  But it would not be pleasant.  Injured?  All bets are off there.

The end result of a 5hr alpine bivy mid April. Never needed a actual fire to stay warm before. Guess I was a little light on gear ;)  Which in turn makes wool clothing a real bargin in retrospect while next to a FIRE!

For longer climbs I can add to the list and include my pack and what is in it.  The food I use, the stove, sleeping bag and tent I bring along when required.  But I find that sort of thing boring :)   What I need/want and the amounts of  food we to eat has changed over time.  Good nutrition is what will keep your brain functioning coherently and help you make good decisions.  Good nutrition will add to your own resolve and determination.  That I do find interesting.  But I am not the guy to be telling you how to eat right for breakfast, let alone while climbing.  Not like I have that all figured out!  There are no secrets to be found here.

If it was always fun, easy and warm everyone would be alpine and ice climbing.  If you need a list and want to be comfortable while having a good adventure, just as likely it isn't going to be much of an adventure.  

Brain on?  Part two...

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Dynafit TLT6 for Fall of 2013

TLT6 with the unavailable currently CL liner
My TLT6 P came with the CR liners which I really like btw. 
Everyone is trying  to figure out the actual weight difference of the CL and CR liners.
Turns out some of my comments here were based on a preproduction sample.
For the most part the info is accurate but  not always on the minute details.  An example is the One and TLT6 buckles are very similar but not exactly the same.  The last PF-X liner is close but not exactly the same as the production CR liner.  My impressions habven't changed o nthe TLT6 but I strive to be accurate in the deatils so you cna better make up you own mind what is important to you.
If you want more detail worth a look here as well on an additional review of a production sample :

The original review below, written in June 2013 after a couple of weeks with the TLT6:

OK, I'll admit it, I am a little pissed.

In late winter and early Spring of 2011 Dynafit started delivering on something special few of us had seen before.    That was the TLT 5 ski mountaineering boot.

Finally a ski boot that would climb ice almost  as well as a decent ice climbing boot and in the right circumstances may be better than some.
So why am I pissed and pointing all this out?    Because as everyone knows or should know by now there are plenty of really good ski boots in the world.  And damn few, real ski mountaineering boots.   Light weight boots you can ski and climb in without your foot wear  ever coming to mind.  The emphasis is on the mountaineering not the skiing so much.  

Dynafit buckled (forgive the pun) under the pressure to build another ski boot and as a result, for the most part folded up the TLT5 and put it away.

My suggestion if you want to climb technical ground in your ski boots?  Hunt the TLT5s down now and buy a pair while you still can.   Either model 5, it doesn't matter.

No question the the newest TLT 6 version is a better ski boot than the original TLT5.    But sweet Mary!!!....I wish Dynafit had gone in the opposite direction and built a better technical ski mountaineering boot instead of a a "better" ski boot.  The public's voice was clear.  There are a lot more skiers than ski mountaineers.   Even if they aren't reading about it here on Cold Thistle most asked, "Build us a better ski boot!"  And Dynafit did just that. 

Now, would someone build us a better climbing boot that skis well?

Overall boot weight is claimed the same on a 27.5 TLT even with the heavier warmer/better fitting  TLT 6 inner boot.

Dynafit's published info fro a 27.5:
1050g  tlt 5 P
1050g  tlt 6 P

"Chris said...
Just received my TLT6Ps with the new CR liner and can compare them to my old TLT5Ps. In a 29.0, the TLT6 shell weighs about an ounce more than the 5. The TLT6 CR liner weighs 2.5 ounces more than the flimsy TLT5 P-TF liner. Total weight difference is 3.5 oz (100g)  per boot."  TLT5 P being  lighter. "

Sorry, I don't have comparable sizes yet to weigh.  There are subtle changes in the boots but the weigh stayed the same mostly by dropping the LTW  inner boot of the TLT 5.

For most of us skiing is the priority on a $1000 retail boot.  Which with the carbon Performance version skiing is clearly the priority.  $750 for the Mountain version.  If the previous boots are any example both ski much better than any light weigh boot has a right to.  They simply ski very well.  I found a preference in the TLT5 for no tongue or power strap on the carbon Performance and use the tongue and power strap on the Mountain version unless I am in really light weight skis.  I also found I liked the Mountain version just a tiny bit better for booting and climbing because it is just a tiny bit softer and a more progressive flex when skiing when all buckled up and strapped in.  Both are very good boots.

I found  the TLT6 version every bit the ski boot and then some of the TLT5.

Eliminating the forward foot flex makes the TLT6 a better ski boot no doubt.  But any hiking or climbing in mixed terrain makes me miss that feature immediately.  I suspect having a size 29 shell and jamming my foot into it makes that flex something I notice and like.  Others simply riveted the TLT 5 toe solid their first season if not week.   Those that did will really like the TLT6.  Smaller toe profile on the TLT6 a result of loosing the hinge.

Buckles have changed some but not always as one might assume.   Certainly not lower profile in every case.  Hopefully they will stay buckled now on breakable crust of the nasty boot packs or even moderate skin tracks.  The fist generation TLT5 hasn't.  One of the TLT5's few faults imo.  Teh nect generation  forward buckle with a "stud" did better.   The new buckles are a different profile and shape which should solve the problem.  The spring snow conditions I skied the TLT6 in didn't allow me to test my theory on a "better buckle system" for staying shut.   I suspect Dynafit did.  I did however use pretty much the same two buckles on my Dynafit Ones all of last season and was pleased with them.  Although the One's instep buckle is higher up on the foot and better placed to lock in the heel in I think.  If the performance on the One is any example it is a better buckle system on the TLT6 by comparison to the TLT5.

If you are looking for a "better AT ski boot" with an emphasis on skiing, the Dynafit One is a pretty good answer btw.  I've been very pleased with the One PX TF when used on my 190cm and longer, 100mm+  skis.  No lack of power in reasonable conditions and very comfortable.   I have a comparison I have been working on since mid summer between the Dynafit One and the Scarpa Maestrale RS.  Short version spoiler?  "Both are very good ski boots!" :)

The real find here IMO is the boot Dynafit has yet to build.  A stripped TLT6 with a fiberglass cuff, the One's upper two buckle sytem and a Pebax lower.  I want that boot!


Instep buckle is larger and has been reversed, then doubled for more adjustment on the TLT6.

New cuff buckle on the TLT6 (lower picture) does wrap around better (one extra hinge point) and offer a lower profile on the boot.


The TLT6 now has a easily adjustable forward lean adjustment in the cuff.  Thankfully this is a part you can buy and upgrade your own boots with.  Lots of toys to play with on this boot.

TLT5 mid sole or lack of

TLT6 insulated full length insole
I also failed to mention the TLT6 now comes with a soft and a hard tongue at no extra charge.  Yellow and green. Easy to tell apart.   In my first reviews of the TLT5 Mountain and Performance several years ago that option seemed like a no brainier for Dynafit.
So if you are listening :)  How about a Pebax lower and fiber glass cuff  TLT6 with a the two upper buckles of a ONE and no extra nonsense.  A metal on metal cuff rivet while you are there as well.  No tongues, no power strap and a lwt Palau foam liner?  Please?   

The TLT6 has been widened in the forefoot to enhance the fit for the general public.  2mm on the instep side, and 1mm added to the outside of the boot.  I dare anyone to do a blind test and tell me the TLT6 is a wider boot over the TLT5.   Helping address one of the most easily identified complaints from those using the TLT5 lift skiing...boot warmth,  is a warmer, full length insole has been added.  It is  easy enough to see.

Inner boot?  Late last season I bought a pair of TLT Mountains that have virtually the same inner boot that the TLT6 has now.  Gone at least in the US is the excellent (IMO) Palau heat moldable and exceptionally light foam liner except for the race PDG version and the DyNA here in  North America.  Rumors are the RL liner will eventually be avialable.  My guess is Dynafit is simply punishing the American's (rightfully so IMO) for complaining too much and then adding Intuitions.  (Dynafit comment below sums it up "best for this market")    Replacing the liner in the TLTP 6 is a slightly heavier (I am saying  100g +/- max)  and better fitting (for my feet)  heat moldable liner this season in both versions of the TLT6.  Although Dynafit claims you don't even need heat to mold them.  "Just wear them skiing."  I am always leery of that as an option.  But that seems to actually be the truth from the early reviews I trust.   For a $950+ retail boot you would think they could do much, much better.  But may be I just don't really understand the technology here.  Seriously.  It is possible and I could be wrong.  because I really like the CR liner.  But I also heat molded them.
Did he say?
"more down hill orienteed"
I've used the original Mountain's liner, the original Performance liner, a Intuition Pro Tour liner and now seemingly the newest version ( or at least a very close copy) that comes in the TLT6P.  The new liner is heavier by a few grams but is also better in every way but weight for my feet.  Likely most feet.
This from Dynafit on 9/16 :
- The TLT6s are available in North America with only the CR liner. They are the best for this market, warmer, more downhill oriented, adeguately thermo customizable (in the mean time it's not compulsory to thermo form them, - The fit of the liners is now done without footbed. In this way the skier can adapt the personal anatomy on the soft bottom layer of the liner. This layer changes thickness between the full and half size
Bottom line?  TLT6 is an awesome back country AT ski boot.  Better by a fair bit in several ways that the TLT5.  Including the new inner boot I think.  Smaller over all outer volume.  Same weight, wider fit, warmer boot, better buckles.  No metatarsal joint to flex on the boot.  Loosing the sole flex alone makes it a better ski boot.  It is worth repeating again.."better ski boot".
If you really want a climbing boot to ski in buy the TLT5 if you can still find them on discount.
But you aren't loosing much there either with the newest TLT6.  I may not like the trend to a better ski boot over "a better climbing boot" but the TLT6  is without question an exceptional boot and clearly an improved TLT5.

The liner options? Guess they didn't just drop a PDG or the old P liner in the new TLT6 as the CL liner.  Turns out the CL is very similar but slightly different, with laces now, more reinforcement for durability and a bigger flex cuff in the boot shaft. Thickness of the foam is different (1mm maybe 2mm, I am still checking) as well between TLT and EVO. PDG and Evo liners are thinner and offer an even easier ankle flex for a longer stride. But the thin PDG/EVO liner might be an option if you need more room in your TLT?!  Go down a shell sixe on the tLT6 and use the EVO liner?  Might be worth a try.
TLT6 liners?  CL liner on the left.  CR liner on the right.
Photo courtesy of
Great early TLT6 review here as well:
   Interested to see what the foam liner will actually show, if it is ever available in the US...and what else is available in Europe.  
Now, how about a real, "mountaineering/ski" boot?
Anyone going to step up and dominate that market share?

Late '70s Scott ski boot.  With a Vibram sole glued on they were a useful LWT mountaineering double boot that you could actually ski in. 

The Scottish Mountain Heritage Collection?

This is a historially signifigant collection of ice climbing info.  Well worth a look.
more here:

Brief Description
Chouinard zero ice axe. Wooden shaft with metal at base. One hole in middle of head painted blue inside. Adze, serrated pick.Pointed spike on ferrule with two flat sides and a white circle on each.
wood, metal
Shaft and ferrule 50 x 9.5 cms. Head 26.5(l) cms. Adze 6 (w)cms.
Number Of Objects
Inscription Description
On one side stamped inscription reads "CHOUINARD ZERO" Also a "C" inside a diamond and "CAMP" inside an unfinished square. On other side stamped inscription reads "MADE IN ITALY PREMANA"
silver, brown
Object Production Place
A Chouinard Zero is the Rolls Royce of ice axes and 40 years after they were first produced folk still seek them out and pay a high price to own one. The only thing that stopped them becoming even more popular was technology, as they arrived just as wooden shafted axes were being replaced by stronger and more versatile metal versions. There were metal and some kind of glass fibre, shafted versions but they were not as iconic as the wooden version. The later zero's (as with the one we have here) had a laminated bamboo shaft to give more strength. Yvon Chounard's first factory was called the Great Pacific Pacific Iron Works and the catalogue from 1978 tells the story:-
"Northwall Hammer and Model Zero ice axe
The Model Zero Axe and the North Wall Hammer are designed for complementary use in vertical ice climbing on waterfalls, in Eastern or Canadian water ice, or for solo or super fast ascents of alpine gullies. These are specialist's tools and are not meant to replace the standard Chouinard Piolet for general Alpine climbing. The main difference in design is in the pick, which has more curve and teeth all the way along its length for better anchorage in piolet traction, but not so much curve that an unnatural swing is required. Both models also have shorter spikes to avoid self-inflicted wounds while swinging in awkward or confined circumstances. Length: 55 cm laminated bamboo shafts. Weight: 1 Ib. 12 oz. Price: $65.00"

You may wish to soak or rub the shaft with a 50/50 mixture of lin-seed oil and turpentine to prevent water absorption. For winter climb¬ing use pine tar to seal the wood and give a good base for rubbing on X-country wax. A violet wax on a cold day will give superb grip for iced-over mittens. Paint on the tar and carefully heat the handle with a torch until the tar begins to bubble, then wipe off the excess. The carabiner hole is solely a convenience for carrying the axe. It is not to be used for belaying; a shaft-boot belay is better."

Hamish MacInnes is still going strong and dug out this old press release for us:

The first all metal ice axe was made by Hamlsh Maclnnes in the late 1940's. it was known as 'The Message". But it was not manufactured by him until the early 1960's, using aluminium alloy shafts. The decision to make these all metal ice axes available to the public was taken after Hamish found two wooden axes broken on a fall on Ben Nevis, where a party of three mountaineers were killed. All metal ice axes are now used throughout the world.
They were originally made in a barn at his home in Clencoe and the drop forgings of the production models, the first of their kind, were produced by B. & S. Massey of Manchester, John Byam Grounds, the managing director was himself a keen climber.
The ice axes, with their strong shafts, in place of wooden shafted models and slightly declined picks introduced a new standard of safety in mountaineering.
He continued making them for several years, but when manufacturers internationally copied Hamish's design he wound up production. He felt his aim in introducing a stronger and safer design which helped to save lives had been achieved.

First impressions on a lwt twin rope comparison?

As new gear shows up it is interesting to make some quick observations and comparisons.  Of course all this is unimportant if the newest gear doesn't suffice in field trials.  You in actual climbing?

I am still uneasy about going to a even thinner rope than my Beal Ice Twin @ 7.7mm and a actual weight of 5# 4.5 oz for a 60 rope.  I've been using the Beal Ice Twins for a few years now.   3 pairs in 6 years iirc.  A new pair every 2 years on average seems about right for wear and tear used 95% of the time on pure ice.  Not a long life span even there.  Add some nasty Canadian limestone and I would expect much less. A season at best I suspect.  But then I never got much more than a season out of a 11mm single in Canada anyway.  So some perspective is good.

My thought is none of these "skinny" ropes are a begiiner's tool.  They are difficult to manage, and uncoil.  Instant rat's nest more like it.  Another acquired taste?   Fragile?  May be.  Just the kind of stuff you really don't want to be worried about amid a hard lead. But well worth the extra effort once on route has always been my thought.

I have several new twin ropes to test and compare to my well know Beal products.

The first is the Edelrid Flycatcher, @ 6.9mm.  4# 14oz for a 60m rope.

You need two ropes so the Flycatcher reduces the weight by 6.5oz per rope times 2 or 13oz for the pair.  13 oz. is getting close to a full pound or an actual 368g savings for the pair.

I have always liked how the Beal handled.  One of the reasons I have continued to use them season after season.   But I'll admit that I generally prefer a stiffer rope in hand.  The Edelrid Flycatcher is indeed a stiffer handling rope.  I can't offer an opinion either way how that will reflect on the rope as of yet.  But it looks promising.  Either way it is going to be a change that I suspect I'll notice quickly one way or the other.

A brand new Flycatcher has a "stiff hand"

A lightly used (2 easy days on ice)  Beal  Ice Twin with a rather "soft hand"

I have no doubt the Beal Ice Twin ( any skinny rope?) deserves a better belay device.  I found the BD versions woefully lacking on steep rappels.  The Petzl just marginally better and more usable.  But enough to change belay devices with the Beal 7.7 and use the Petzl.  The Flycatcher comes packaged with its own belay device specifically designed for the 6.9mm diameter.  Again, more to come after I and my partners have used the rope and the belay plate.  Nice to know soemone else has been thinking about this stuff as a "full rope system".

At the moment a 13oz drop in weight for a pair of twins seems to be a good improvement.  I am as interested as anyone to see if I continue to think that way.

A heads up?
I wouldn't use any of these ropes as a single.  The CT cover photo at the moment is on the Eiger.  We used a single strand of 9mm double rope in that picture. Seemed just fine at the time.  It felt much like a Joker 9.1 does today.  Although that 9mm was no where near as nice a rope as the current Joker.   My thought is the ropes I am talking about here...under 8mm.....are not a light weight alpinist's "single" rope.  That topic deserves a totally different discussion.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A user survey?

I am always curious as to what makes Cold Thistle "work".  The blog started simply as a way for me to keep track of the gear I was interested in and likely to purchase at a some point.  There are days now that I link what I find interesting on the Internet unwilling or unable to get anything new written.

Here is an opportunity to add your own voice to what you find of interest.  Thanks for the input!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Heart Rate monitors?

Before jumping to conclusions read below

"Just double your heart rate once a day for 30 minutes!"

It is what one of my climbing partners tells the initiated to this day. 
And so help me that has to be one of the dumbest  remarks ever :-)
No matter if it is 30 minutes or 3 hours.

My resting heart rate even today is generally 40/42.   It is creeping up from my 20's when it had been  in the high 30s.    I hit the mid 90s just walking my bike from the garage to the street, bathroom to desk.   190+ in a hard physical short term effort, gasping for breath.

This is a 48 minute 2000' gain, uphill effort

So for most normal human beings doubling your heart rate means NOTHING!

It still means nothing even if you actually know what your resting heart rate is!

Helps to know that your heart rate  number are personal, yours alone.   And they have very little or nothing to do with your age.  My maximum heat rate by those that are suppose to know is 160BPM.  And seemingly "they" don't know shit!  Or at least aren't telling us much!

160BPM is hardly a difficult an effort for me running.  Even less so on the bike.

The above 231 number on my bike computer?

The 231 MHR on my bike computer is in error.  Simply a bad chest strap connection.  I know that because I have seen my actual MHR in continued testing, long term over several decades.   Testing?    Or at least the number very close to my MHR, which is 194 running.  A beat or two less on the bike and less than that swimming.

In straight talk...a 190HR for me, hurts.  But in a good way.  I know it is a hard work out and I also know I can't hold that HR for long.  Sitting here at my desk, on a good day, well rested and well hydrated while typing?  My average HR is 46 bpm.  That I can hold as long as I eat, drink and keep my body temperature stable :)   Today it is up to 50 after two days previous of moderately hard work outs.  Which I feel this morning.  Ageing does slow recovery time.

I have a personal connection to HR monitors that I've mentioned previous.  I'll get to that again eventually.

For the most part, when I have "trained", and I use that term loosely, it was at what ever maximum I could muster.  There was no long slow efforts.  There were just hard as I could go as long as I could go.  Stupid way to train.  Almost as dumb as the "double your heart rate method".....almost.

Endurance efforts just meant getting it done.  Getting something "big" done climbing wise was as much luck with the nutrition as it was my "training".   Thankfully for most reading this that has changed.   Not so much for my buddy and doubling his HR.  But he has never trained that way, anyway :)

There is a ton of info out there for better/smarter training using a HR monitor.  If that kind of thing interests you  check it out.  Eventually for most it turns into Perceived Effort anyway.  HR generally matches that effort.   But not always, which is where things start to get really interesting for me.  And why a HR monitor makes sense if you want to train smart.

I've been a big fan of Polar products for a decade or more.  But I have used Mio in the past as well.  Just recently been testing the newest Mio Alpha.

Party line below:

"MIO Alpha Strapless Heart Rate Monitor
The world of strapless, continuous heart rate monitoring has changed. Introducing: the MIO Alpha. This MIO strapless heart rate monitor is the world�s first strapless, continuous heart rate monitor that offers chest-strap free monitoring right from your wrist. Using groundbreaking optical sensor technology, the MIO Alpha gives you user-settable heart rate training options and monitoring like never before. Use your favorite fitness apps to track GPS, distance, speed, and pace, and take your workout to the next level.

The MIO Alpha offers long battery life, able to charge in just under an hour, and offer 8-10 hours of continuous monitoring. When you�re not training, shut off the HR feature and wear as a sleek daily watch for up to 2 to 3 weeks before needing another charge.

The MIO delivers monitoring at performance speeds, so you never have to slow down or modify your workout to get accurate tracking. Finally � untether yourself from chest straps and train in comfort at top performance speed with the MIO Alpha strapless heart rate watch."

I've been using one on and off for a week now.  Not having a chest strap is a cool thing.  Limited information is not.  More to come on the Mio Alpha's technology.

And  if all else fails...sure, "double your heart rate" every day ;)

Some titles I found useful on HR Monitors and their use:


Joe Friel's 2006 edition Precision Heart Rate Training


Gore-Tex Pro @ Arc'teryx

Choose carefully.
more here:!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Friday, August 16, 2013

Gear on the 1st Ascent of the Eiger?

10 point crampons and tricounis!
Very skilled and hard men.
Best detail account of the original gear used on the Eiger I've seen sin the "White Spider".  I knew about the 12 point crampons of Harrer but the rumor of a "short" axe  may be not unfounded.  A "short axe" in 1938 could have been anything under 95cm.
No question this axe is closer to a 65/70cm than 100cm.
I do not know if the photo above are from the actual 1st ascent.

Kasparek on the Hinterstoisser
with what looks to be a short North Wall hammer on the 1st ascent.
Heckmair and Vörg. Perfect French technique of "ax anchor" using what could easily be 70cm. axes

Heckmair and crew with him holding his axe after the 1st ascent.
Heckmair was not a tall man and my thought is that axe can't be more than 70cm.
As a modern comparison, Jeff Lowe and Mike Weiss used 70cm Chouinard Piolets as there primary tools on the 1st Ascent of Bridalveil falls.
"The most experienced mountaineer in the group (Heckmair, Ludwig Vörg, Heinrich Harrer and Fritz Kasparek), Heckmair led the most difficult pitches in the ascent, aided by the extensive kit (including new 12-point crampons) that he and Vörg had purchased using sponsors' money. Even as the most experienced climber, he still ran into several problems on the North Face of the Eiger, such as when he slipped whilst climbing out of the exit cracks. Luckily, Ludwig Vörg caught him by his feet, piercing his hand on Heckmair's crampons as he did so."
From the Eiger ascent:

"The same day Kasparek and Harrer ascension began leaving the two Germans at the base of the wall. After several hours of climbing reach the Rote Fluh and Hinterstoisser Crossing, which easily crossed by fixed ropes had left a few weeks before other climbers. Take a snack at a bivouac conditioning called "Swallow's Nest", where 40m rope stop by if you must back out there. A lesson learned from the misfortune of Toni Kurz and his colleagues two years ago."
"The next morning, July 22, Second face the Snowfield, and here Harrer no longer fit doubts: he made ​​a big mistake by not wearing crampons. Fritz Kasparek is forced into an excess of grief and effort to go to Harrer carving steps can follow. And so, slowly move up through the frozen snow diagonal Right to Left."
"When you are about to finish the lengthy Second Snowfield, something leaves them amazed. Behind them two climbers are reaching them at a rate they believe they will run. In seconds they reach. To his surprise are Heckmair and Vörg, which come climbing at a stretch from the base of the wall. As Harrer himself wrote: "... wearing their 12-point crampons, and I, with my boots winged fly (tricounis), I am out of place ...". The Germans advance and come to a head. From that time, fit the ascent and continue climbing 4 more or less together."


Photos and comments courtesy of:

The Classic Piolet, "Chouinard-Frost"


"Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."

Antoine de Saint-Exupery
French writer (1900 - 1944)

A bit about crampons first:

"The whirlwind Oscar Eckenstein (1859 - 1921) broke into this rather quiet environment in the early 20th century.. An engineer, brilliant mountaineer, argumentative and a loner, he published two articles in the Ostereich Alpenzeitung, on the 20th. July 1908 and the 5th. June 1909, detailing the results of his research on the manufacture of crampons, their systematic use and the incredible feats they could perform. In fig.9 illustrates his designs. Eckenstein’s real innovation and its importance doesn’t just lie in the technical perfection of the crampons but rather in the spirit of courage and innovation with which he defined their use..... his major contribution has been that of a moral nature. This ultimately consists in the faith that mountaineers laid in his inventions: nobody dared before him, but afterwards everybody trusted crampons. (Manual d’Alpinisme du C.A.F. 1934)

Our hero bought his plans to the blacksmith at Courmayeur, Henry Grivel – who, even though he was doubtful, made the crampons for the “English gentleman”, who had the undoubtedly had the advantage of being able to pay. Success was immediate, so much so that on the 30th. of June 1912 a competition for “cramponneurs”, between guides and porters, was organized on the Brenva glacier."

More here:

But prior to a discussion on the classic piolet, its partner the crampon deserves credit.  The design efforts really should have no differences.  Less can be more.

Previous Bruno Schull made a compelling case for the classic axe here:

Some great info on the true "classic ice axe" here:

There is more than one classic Piolet!

photo courtesy of

These days the majority of my own efforts involve a pair of Nomics.   But I am fully aware a classic axe is a better tool for moderate mountaineering.    Often just the kind of climbs I really like to do.

What follows is a historical account (and hopefully a living history) on the production models of the now classic Chouinard Piolet.

On to the topic of this story.

By several accounts 1970 was the "magic" year.   Terros (Peck/MacInnes' Terrodactyl) and the Piolet (Chouinard's Piolet) were introduced to the public.  But that may not be totally accurate.  The "magic years" came slowly over the prior 40 or so from 1970.  Chouinard rightly gives them credit in his "Climbing Ice" tome.

Forgive me if I  ponder and then question a Californian writing about the history of alpine ice climbing now..... let alone in the 60s and 70's.

Yvon Chouinard tells of having the Charlet factory make him a 55cm curved pick axe at some point during the Fall/Winter of 1966. His (YC)  and Tom Frost's alpine hammer and rigid crampons were introduced commercially in '67 according to the catalog and the Piolet in '69. So my guess is it took awhile for the Charlet factory to come around. Might be a reason Interalp made the Chouinard Piolet for GPIW. (Great Pacific Iron Works) . Bet there is an interesting story there.

Doug Robinson sez:
" the catalog date of introduction of the Piolet is listed as 1969. And by October of that year Yvon delivered to me on the edge of the Palisade Glacier the hickory-handled 70 cm one (and that hand-forged Alpine Hammer) that we put to good use on the V-Notch the next day.......He was very intent on letting me know in no uncertain terms about Scottish primogeniture of the droop. Others listening agreed. May have even said that YC had come through Scotland to take in their development. "

Robinson's recollection was even Chouinard gave credit of his "curve" to the Scots.   And that actual production started in '69 on the Piolet.  The thought process months prior to the summer of  '66.

The Chouinard Piolet became commercially available in the fall of '69 at least in limited quantities and was gone forever world wide by late fall of  1978.

From the beginning of production the Piolet had a classic curve on the blade and a single set of teeth at the blade's tip. The 1972 and 1973 catalog/supplement shows teeth only at the tip.

The spring 1974 Great Pacific Ironworks new catalog shows a new set of teeth by the shaft as well as the original set at the tip.  The 1974 news catalog tells us the extra set of teeth have been added on the pick next to the shaft for climbing waterfalls.   This is restated in the 1975 catalog.

Bit more trivia for you ;)

"Chouinard and Frost first used hickory wood handles on their tools, but changed to laminated Bamboo in 1972 as it was believed to be lighter, stronger and provided a warmer, better grip than other materials. It was soon superseded by other materials, but the beauty of those early ice axes and tools have endured."

"The Rexilon shaft on Chouinard ice axes was made of a laminate of beech ("faggio" in Italian). It was originally used for pole-vaulting poles in the days before fiberglass composites. CAMP used this before bamboo but both were available for a while."

I remember seeing the Piolet in ash (Euro only), hickory, bamboo and Rexilon. By '78/'79 the wood and laminate shafts were no longer imported into the USA. You couldn't buy a wood handled Chouinard piolet in Chamonix by the fall of '78. The hand forged head was now being attached to a synthetic shaft. Although I have seen all of the wood handle materials never seen a ash tool available in the USA. Although I had a later dbl toothed piolet with a hickory handle that I bought in England.

So what is the deal with the axes only marked CHOUINARD and not CHOUINARD-FROST? At closer inspection it is obvious that the Chouinard-Frost stamp is a two part stamp. Can anyone tell me why the tools were marked with one or both names?  

"Frost left the partnership in '75 and shortly after that all the axes were marked CHOUINARD only. '78 catalog clearly shows the new logo on the newest synthetic shafted piolet and the Zero."

Doug Robinson again:

"I think the very earliest Piolets were stamped only CHOUINARD. Then FROST was added. Rumor around the Diamond-C shop was that it was at the insistence of Tom's then-wife, Dorene. That could account for the double stamp, btw.   The modest Frost would never have suggested such a thing himself. I always thought it was particularly ironic for his name to show up only on the axes, because of all the hardware that went out of there the axe was mostly YCs design, with the least input from Frost.  No question, of course, that the later 70s Piolets, after YC bought out Tom, were stamped only CHOUINARD.

The famous "Diamond-C" mark was on everything else. That too seemed at times ironic. Like on the Stoppers, which Frost and I designed together (and I got to name), with very little input from Yvon, who was partial to Hexes."

I have a couple of old 55s. One in hickory that is a later production axe by the dbl set of teeth in the pick and 3 rivets in the shaft.    My earlier 55cm bamboo piolet has one set of teeth and 2 rivets in the shaft and only the Chouinard logo.

Obvious the stamp on all my tools is a two part CHOUINARD...FROST stamping with close inspection. If the production started and ended with a "CHOUINARD" only stamp, it would more easily fit what I see on the tools I have.

The first fiberglass/aluminum shafted tools?

Doug Robinson again:
"Chouinard himself was very active in making the first fiberglass shafts for the Piolet. Driven to it I assume just by breakage. The glass was laid up on an aluminum blank that gave the shape. He was very proud of the used pizza oven he had just installed in the shop to cook the resin. I could see that he liked the technical challenge of getting it all to work. I was writing for a new magazine, a start up called Outside, and did a review."

The first of those axes (fiberglass/aluminum shafts) had hand forged and finished heads from Premanas on the GPIW fiberglass/aluminum shafts.

I was buying what ever Chouinard came out with new for ice climbing.   I had wrongfully assumed  each new version would offer some advantage and increase either my abilities or safety on ice.

The early fiberglass Zeros in the '78 catalog (that might well have been bamboo painted) turned out to be  some what lacking on hard Canadian water fall ice  compared to the original bamboo model.

Less than a season into using the new carbon versions I was begging to re-buy my old set of shorter bamboo 50cm Zeros. They also had a shorter spike and came in 50s instead of the 55.  It made a difference as did the balance.  Most importantly the bamboo versions placed with less effort imo.

from Don Lauria:
"Once when conversing with Yvon I asked what he recommended as the ideal shaft length for an ice axe. His answer of 50-60 cm seemed a little short to me so I asked, Why so short? His answer, If 55cm doesn't reach the snow then the slope doesn't warrant using an axe."

Dates of Production?

If you follow the past catalogs for a historical reference to date gear, you'll find that sometimes Chouinard and the later GPIW catalogs were not as up to date as one might have hoped.   It could be a long time long time before actual delivery to the retailers.   In the '70s it was common in the climbing/outdoor  community to use their catalog's advertising  for a new product prior to a public release.  And soem times it was never released in that form or in very small numbers!  Chouinard became notorious about that sort of thing.

Much of this info came from public conversations on Supertopo.  There is a true wealth of historical info.  More here:

A short photo essay of the Chouinard-Frost axe:

This is a mid production laminated bamboo model.  Two rivets head to handle, single set of teeth and the double stamp of  "Chouinard Frost".  Between 1970 and Spring 1975 time frame.  I bought my first shown lower in the photos in 1973.  I suspect this one to be of a similar vintage.


The set of pictures below are of a 2nd gen (two sets of teeth and 3 rivets in the head/handle and a hickory shaft.  By the single stamp of "Chouinard" we know it was one of the last production runs.  After Frost left GPIW in '75.  So this one was made between Summer of  '75 and summer of '78.

The bottom axe below was one of the last bamboo tools to come from Camp.  Head is the same as a Chouinard Zero but other than the Camp markings unmarked.  I bought it in the sell bin at Snell's, Chamonix in Sept of 1978.

2nd gen Zero below with the "new" fiberglass shaft with a forged Camp head, Chouinard designed Zero

Don Lauria photo

 1st American production shaft with a machine cut and welded head, 1980
Likely the head was cut and welded  by SMC in the PNW.

This axe was offered by SMC within months (1980) of Chouinard/GPIW showing it in their catalog with a fiberglass/aluminum handle.  It is also a current SMC Himalayan and no question in my mind, the carbon/fiberglass Chouinard Zero in a past life.  Look closer at what follows.

1980 GPIW catalog description of the Zero

The 1980 Zero axe, machine cut and welded with a aluminum/fiberglass shaft. 

This one has an aluminum ferrule and spike.  Not a plastic ferrule as listed.  The standard Piolet had a aluminum ferrule as well.   Adze on both is flat as a pancake, not cupped as suggested.  The drop on the pick is the same exact angle as the original 1973 versions.   There is no more curve on any Zero (wood or composite shaft) with a fixed pick than the original standard axes. 

and yet another vesrion of the Chouinard Zero from the same time frame

Bottom axe is a Piolet bamboo clone cut as a Zero. The other two are bamboo as well, one new and the other well used.

The '78 catalog shows what I believe are painted bamboo Zeros as carbon fiber and the first carbon fiber piolets with Interalp hand forged heads.  But again the ferrules are different than the bamboo production models in that '78 catalog.  So I could easily be mistaken on the "paint job".

Europe got ash, hickory, Rexilon and bamboo Chouinard tools.  The Chouinard-Frost logo changed to Chouinard sometime shortly after '75 and Frost leaving GPIW.   Long before '78 if the catalog typical publish date and when the gear was available was any indication. Catalogs were always months if not years behind current production and availability.

Rexilon is not laminated ash or hickory from my understanding. Rexilon is not a synthetic but a simple wood laminate. Grivel also used Rexilon for some of their early technical axes from the same time frame, mid '70s.  '75 perchance?  Below is a mid '70s Rexilon axe.

FWIW I asked the Grivel factory to date this axe's production and were unable past "the mid '70s". Looks a lot like the Chouinard Zero from late '77/'78. Makes one wonder which came first. The short (50/45cm) steeply curved axes were all the rage with the European/English ice climbers in Chamonix by 1977/78. Snowdon Moldings, Charlet Moser, Grivel and Simond all offered a version. If any one has a short Grivel or any of the early short wood versions similar to what is pictured I would be interested in purchasing it.

Simond's Chacal would change ice tools again for ever shortly. More on that below.


The last Chouinard "copy"?

Interalp/Camp did make a McKinley axe that was similar to the Chouinard Piolet for REI as early as 1980. Close examination shows there are a lot of differences. They had a positive clearance pick, a slightly curved/cupped adze and a ash or Rexilon shaft. 1980 REI catalog shows ash shafted axes. Same big profile Chouinard spike though. 

REI McKinley

Rexilon shafted REI McKinley

I have kept my original bamboo and a early, 2 rivet handle duplicate that is in like new, and unused condition. I just never liked the thicker bladed dbl tooth tools. Then or now. Totally different feel and look for me from the earliest Piolets. That and the fact that most every late axe I have seen has a slightly bent pick from the hand forging. Looking at the pick straight on almost all bend slightly to the right. ( right hand forgers)   The thicker bladed dbl tooth picks even more so.

New, '73 vintage

Old, with well worn and rewelded/hammer forged teeth and pick end
Fun that so many of us used these tools as our first technical tool. I had a 75cm Stubia previous that was unsuitable for steep water ice.  And of course long enough to be less handy.   I climbed my first frozen water ice with the Chouinard Piolet pictured in 1973.

A few years later  I  appreciated the added security and ease of placement on water ice with a Zero axe mated with a Terrodactyl.   Later yet I used a Zero axe and a Chacal for pure water ice routes till the spring of '82. The thing I find the most amazing is the wooden handled Piolets were only available for a very short amount of time, between late 1969 and summer of 1978.  Under 9 years all told.

I cracked the shaft on my original bamboo piolet on a Canadian waterfall back in winter of '76/'77 and then relegated it to guiding for the next decade until I just couldn't justify it any more by late '80s.
Buy the  '74/'75 winter season I was using a multitude of new and never ending stream of ice tools.  Each and every one modified in some manner to heighten their performance.  The search for the one "best" ice tool still continues.

Crack is the small black line bottom right of the tang.

The classic Chouinard Piolet spike

2nd gen Rexilon Piolet


By the mid '80s only the older guides would know what my tool was. And clients were questioning my choice of equipment, "climbing with a "wooden" axe" ;-)  I was able to rewelded the tip several times early on to keep the axe working i the field.  I did a terrible job last year bringing it back to "new". Just haven't gotten around to redoing it yet. Way more work than I remember.

Teh questions behind :

I think much of the important info on the Chouinard Piolet from the Bradley web site is misinformed at best.  Let me detail why I think that.   I would also be pleased if anyone can dispute my comments and would offer first hand evidence of more accurate details. I am only looking to document the truth, nothing more.

My comments are highlighted.


RE: Chouinard-Frost Piolet
"Somewhere long about 1969, Yvon Chouinard and Tom Frost, of Chouinard Equipment in Ventura, California, commissioned the Codega brothers to build an axe to their specifications. This axe, called the Chouinard-Frost Piolet, featured a hand forged, ground and polished chrome-nickle steel head and a hickory shaft, and has since been a mountaineering equipment classic in the both the US and in the Alps. By printing time of Chouinard Equipment's first catalog in 1972, the Chouinard Piolet shown on page 34 had a new laminated bamboo shaft design, dubbed to be lighter weight and just as strong as the hickory shafted original.

Over the next 7 years, the Chouinard Piolet went through a few other design changes, including a revised marking on the head, omitting "Frost" from "Chouinard-Frost". This change was first seen in the 1978 catalog, even though Tom Frost had left the company years earlier, in 1975."

Chouinard catalogs were long known to retailers for being late to the retail market with many items discontinued or unavailable by the time the catalog made it to print and to the dealers. By 1978 the wooden handle Chouinard axes of any type were no longer available in Europe or by then easily available in the USA. And by the fall of '78 even Snell's in Chamonix had the Camp bamboo Chouinard clones on sale, what few they did have. Mind you these were "newest" three rivet, dbl tooth heads but with no Chouinard marking. In 1978 The last of the US imported axes had a 3 rivet head, dbl teeth and only Chouinard stamped on them.

The 1978 Great Pacific Iron Works catalog (formerly Chouinard Co. their 3rd catalog) is a interesting mix of the newest carbon fiber Piolet with a hand forged head and "fake" carbon fiber Zeros with bamboo shafts painted to resemble carbon fiber. Clearly a transition time for Chouinard piolets. The Carbon fiber axes were available by the winter of '79. I bought both a carbon fiber piolet and a Zero axe that winter. Found the early carbon fiber lacking on hard Canadian ice and went back to a bamboo Zero axe, now then,  in '79, extremely hard to find.

Doug Robinson commented on his original Piolet from '69 as being a Rexilon handled version not hickory.

"Other designs of the Piolet included a version with two sections of teeth or notches(double-toothed) on the drooped and curved pick. In other modifications, the shaft material changed again, first to a laminated hickory, then laminated ash for a short time, and eventually a synthetic called Rexilon in 1975, after the UIAA began to raise concerns with the integrity of "wooden" axe shafts. All wooden shafted variations of the Chouinard's Piolet were made by C.A.M.P., but the axe model was phased out of production after 1978."

I've not seen laminated hickory or laminated ash Chouinard Piolets.   No record of either in any Chouinard or GPIW printed material. (3 catalogs and one major update flyer)    But I trust Doug Robinson's comment on what handle materials were used.  The reasoning behind that end of production was the new UIAA guidelines for shaft strength.   Imagine my surprise with two of us showing up for the late alpine ice season thinking we'd buy new tools at Snell's! Plan "B" wasn't all that attractive.

My partner bought a Rexilon marked shaft Piolet in either Spokane or Seattle the 1st half of the winter of '75/'76.  I like the added weight pf the Rexilon compared to the bamboo piolet..  And I have owned a number of both hickory and bamboo piolets since.

The Codega brothers offered virtually the same ice axe (same head, with bamboo or hickory hafts)in Europe, sans the Chouinard marking (although markings still included "Interalp", "CAMP" and "Made in Premana" which are all also found on the "Chouinard-Frost: and "Chouinard" stamped versions..

"In the early 80's, the REI Coop contracted with with C.A.M.P., having this same axe design originated by Chouinard, stamped with the REI logo. These axes were offered in REI's original Seattle store through the mid 1980's."

Close but I don't think that is accurate. The CAMP McKinley was offered in the '80 catalog and maybe even earlier but while a CAMP axe it was not a clone of the original Chouinard Piolet design.

Slightly off topic but worth repeating after finding the info again.
I mentioned the first Chacal? (widely acknowledged as the first reverse curved blade)

THE very first Chacel was Gordon Smith's and the design didn't become commercially available until '79. Simond gave samples to all the climbers attending the International Resemblance in Chamonix in '79.

From the "Ice Primer" on Super Topo thread linked above:
A must read btw if this sort of historical trivia interest you.

"In 1978 I got hold of THE prototype Chacal from Luger Simond - He was going to make a straight drooped pick but I held the shaft of the axe while he cut holes in an ordinary curved pick blank reversed. Then he cut teeth and changed the angle of the end of the pick to make a point to penetrate the ice and lo, the first reversed banana pick. Worked brilliantly!!
Gordon Smith"

The "classic axe" today?

There are "walking axes" and there are "ice axes" .  The "ice axe" is designed to climb steep ice and cut steps.  It gets hard to identify the pretenders here for me some times because of the advertising hype. 

Here is a short list and likely not every tool that will fulfill the role as a "classic" axe.  It is a multifunctional tool.  More than most of the gear  we take climbing today.  Pays to remember the Chouinard Piolet and it ilk climbed a lot of steep ice bitd.   And still can.  If your choice in an axe won't, easily, it is more likely a "walking" axe.

"Where there is snow, one can go!"

Only two of the  several classic axes from Grivel

Blue Ice...and a new "classic axe"

SMC has obviously been at it a while now

Petzl's offering
It is no accident that the functional design and angles are so similar over the past 40+ years.Virtually the same pick angle and length today as the original Chouinard Piolet.


Remember the rule of steel.


"Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."