Hi, I need to hire a couple of axes for beginners ice climbing. How safe do you think it is to borrow from a university climbing club? I’d never borrow something like helmet or ropes as I wouldn’t know how many times they’d been fallen on. But what about axes? Can they be damaged? Is it safe to use axes when you don’t know their history?
They'll be fine although possibly old fashioned. I also wouldn't worry about borrowing a helmet and a rope from a uni club either.
Theoretically an ice axe could be damaged by being dropped and falling a long way. Hairline cracks etc, but this is very unlikely to occur, and it would show signs of scuffing etc.
If there was no evidence of such damage. I'd be prepared to use a club one.
A better question would be how safe is it to lend equipment to folk like you!
Ask to see their equipment check records if you are in doubt. If they have well kept records make a judgement based on that, if they don’t have any perhaps borrowing might not be a great idea (especially with ropes and soft goods, crampons and axes are less of a problem.
If you decide against, PYB and Glenmore lodge both do reasonably priced rental. Other options are hiring from gear shops in places like Aviemore or Fort William.
They will no doubt need sharpening
If a modern helmet looks ok it very likely is ok. If something nasty happens the helmet will show it. Cracks will be obvious and should not be used in that condition
How can borrowing ice axes be safe? You might end up ice climbing and that's certainly not safe...
If you plan to fall off an ice climb then the least of your worries would be whether your rope had previously taken a fall. Borrowing axes will be fine, as Deadeye amusingly noted if you're asking that question then the integrity of your axes is way down the list in terms of risks you need to consider.
Hard goods will be ok if they pass a visual inspection both under load and not, soft goods almost definitely ok (i would advise to check ropes for furry spots and then check if the rope bends normally pinched between finger and thumb) .
I think the most dangerous thing about your plan might be that, if you're borrowing from a university club not currently known for winter mountaineering, you may be given something more akin to an alpenstock than an axe.
I used to look after the equipment for a Uni climbing club - and, more recently, a Scout group.
Back in those days, it was a policy of replacing all soft gear every 3 years - or sooner in the case of major falls, on a case by case basis. Hardware somewhat less often - I forget the schedules for that, but some of the axes and so on were quite old. I've used them and not died.
Tried to keep a log of usage, but it boils down to how many days use the kit had had - it's hard to log each piece individually on a day's outing with a dozen, or more, users.
Anyway, everyone else has pretty much covered the advice - they will be solid.
If blunt, that can be dangerous on it's own - get someone who knows what they're doing to sharpen them.
The return of large numbers of people to national parks and other upland areas in England has brought a spike in littering, wildfires and mountain rescue incidents. Some issues appear to be worse than during equivalent periods in past years.