Considering I work in the outdoor industry I thought it would be relatively simple to get the conditions to review an ice axe. How wrong could I be? The Ronin Ice Axe has been travelling with me throughout Scotland this winter. Unfortunately, due to high winds whilst working, this has been on a lot of low level camping expeditions or trudging through soft wet snow on the tops. It has, however, been effortless to carry such a lightweight axe and its curved tubular shaft makes it more comfortable to store down the back than a straight shaft meaning it is always there for immediate use.
Fickle weather and bad timing on my part meant that we had some terrible conditions for testing out the axe. One memorable day saw us trudging through steep snow en route up Ben Wyvis. The wind had moved to the west and instead of the expected wind scoured slopes the higher temperatures were quickly melting the snow. We decided to put the axe through its paces nevertheless and sought out some crags and slopes to have a play on.
"...On grade one ground and low level mountaineering routes this axe comes into its own..."
When going up steep slopes it was simple to plunge. I was testing out a 70cm axe, which is much longer than my 5ft 4 frame would normally use (it's also available in a 60cm length), but I did discover that I would be more likely to put a walking pole away early and use the axe as I was not bent over double when going uphill.
On grade one ground and low level mountaineering routes this axe comes into its own as the curved shaft gives good clearance when the ground is steeper and combined with a substantial adze makes fighting one's way through a cornice, not quite pleasant, but certainly a little easier.
An amusing half hour was spent trying to set up conditions to do some ice axe arresting and the axe was very useful for digging out a trench, unfortunately the amount of water in the snow meant it was impossible to slide anywhere but again the curve in the shaft made it easier to end up in the proper position.
"...Blizzard conditions: perfect for building emergency shelters we thought and certainly the adze was very effective in clearing snow..."
The Ronin is a classic ice axe for glacier tours and general mountaineering. It has a hardened steel pick and (21°) curved tubular shaft to ensure penetration and precise placement on hard snow and ice. Its wide adze is ideal for cutting steps and the ergonomically-formed head makes for smooth plunging on the uphill. Optional modular adjustable finger rest and wrist loop. Leash included.
60 cm / 70 cm
510 g / 550 g
Another day when the winds were barring access to the Cairngorm Plateau we went searching for some lovely, crisp neve on Meall a Buachille. This time conditions were more blizzard than sunshine and blue skies – perfect for building emergency shelters we thought and certainly the adze was very effective in clearing snow but the snow was too soft for us to have a cosy lunch stop in a nice warm cave.
We did have a go at step cutting and I found the curve in the axe helped give a lovely swing. We did not have really hard conditions underfoot to test the ice cutting abilities but the axe has enough weight in the head for its cut to be substantial.
Unfortunately the ice axe was not tested out in ideal conditions but it is so light and unobtrusive I did not mind carrying it with me. I like this axe and would definitely use it although one drawback for me is the lack of a rubber grip. Holding metal, even through good gloves on a cold winters day can at best be uncomfortable.
Lorraine's day job is in the hills, running walking holidays for tour company Wilderness Scotland in summer and winter, and doing development training work for the Living Wild project of the Venture Trust. Mainly based in Scotland, she's also guided walks in the Atlas mountains, China, Tibet, Nepal and Kilimanjaro.
"I love journeying by land and sea and worked for five years on board a sail training vessel (an old gaff rigg schooner) mainly off the northwest coast of Scotland which must be one of the world's top sailing grounds. I raised some money for this boat (Spirit of Fairbridge) when doing my walk (see article linked below). I also love sea kayaking and sometimes act as an assistant guide on kayaking trips. I do a bit of climbing - prefer winter to summer, but never get very good because I do not train. One of my best memories was climbing the Orion Face in really wild conditions where the whole mountain seemed to be rushing down as we were moving up; feeling very small but part of something much bigger teetering across the ice fields in the middle of this big face. But my first love is probably disappearing on multi day trips with a backpack."