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Ice axes used in belays.

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 Harry Martin 28 Feb 2020

Dear all,

If you choose to use your ice axes in a winter belay (some may think this is not appropriate at all, do add your 2 cents if this is the case) then which hole on the axe should you attach your krab to? I was told that the hole at the base of the shaft (on the spike), is not rated so shouldn't be used. A different person told me that the hole in the head of the axe increases the turning force on the placement so the spike hole should be used!  

I must say, I'm not sure I buy the second argument about turning angles, I don't think it makes a difference. But I'm happy to be convinced otherwise.

A key fact here is are either, both or neither is the holes rated? Does this vary from ace to axe? Is it irrelevant as the axes should only be used in addition to other great and not really treated as"proper placements"?

Looking forward to everyone's thoughts.

Harry

In reply to Harry Martin:

Very much depends on the axe  - manufacturers normally state what the shaft / pick etc is rated for.

Some shafts are not rated as an anchor- whilst others are.

 PaulJepson 28 Feb 2020
In reply to Nempnett Thrubwell:

But I think the rating of the shaft (T-Rating to be used for belays), is in relation to it being used as a deadman, rather than with a krab clipped into it?

 Basemetal 28 Feb 2020
In reply to Harry Martin:

Assuming you mean an inline ice/Neve/crack belay, my DMM Apex is rated for the lower spike hole to be used. As said above, your axe may differ!

If you mean a buried axe snow belay I don't use a hole but a hitched sling.

 Rick Graham 28 Feb 2020
In reply to Harry Martin:

It should be a last resort type of belay.

Having seen the spike of axes drop out in use I guess on a lot of them the fixing is pretty cosmetic .

The strongest in line connection is to use  a krab in the head hole and then half hitch the rope or sling on the shaft as low as possible to "directionise" the pull .

1
 Basemetal 28 Feb 2020
In reply to Rick Graham:

No, not if your axe is designed for this. I understand current Nomics might not be,  but the documentation that comes with your axe will tell you.

The latest Apexes have a printed indicator on the shaft specifically OKing this use. Have a look at DMM site and video.

(And sometimes it's the only resort!)

 Basemetal 28 Feb 2020

E.g.   "Full strength clip in point allows use of axe as an anchor

The clip in points on the base of the axe handle allow the axe to be used as an anchor. Inboard eyelets can be threaded with cord for attaching Freedom Leashes"

In reply to Harry Martin:

If you don't mean burying them in snow in hitching a sling round the shafts, then don't do it. It's not what they're designed for. If you're on pure ice and you don't have any ice screws for the belay, you've already f****d up. I'd start down climbing to your last ice screws and belay off that. 

8
 Tim Sparrow 28 Feb 2020
In reply to Harry Martin:A possible option as a back up to dodgy belays is to whack those axes in as best you can, larks foot the hole at the axe head with a thin sling, then thread that through the hole at the handle end. Clip that as part of an equalised belay.

May not reach best standards, but it keeps the pull in line and it’s  better than clipping just head or handle, even if the handle hole is rated.

Similar to what Rick Graham posted earlier!

Post edited at 19:13
 ScraggyGoat 28 Feb 2020

An Eastern European trick is to clove hitch with a thin sling or cord directly round the blade where it comes out of the ice, providing the routing of the sling doesn't lift the axe shaft.  Thus reducing the levering, and making the 'which hole' (oo-er missus (sorry it's Friday night and I've had a few already)) argument redundant. 

Post edited at 20:07
 Basemetal 28 Feb 2020
In reply to Toby A:

See ~8:30 in this vid by Alan Kimber, for example.... (nice vid from the start though the link will start at the relevant point for this discussion). Appropriate for just this situation... 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6sOFtFAp8_4&t=510

Deadeye 28 Feb 2020
In reply to TobyA:

> If you don't mean burying them in snow in hitching a sling round the shafts, then don't do it. It's not what they're designed for. If you're on pure ice and you don't have any ice screws for the belay, you've already f****d up. I'd start down climbing to your last ice screws and retreat off that. 

fixed

2
 Basemetal 28 Feb 2020
In reply to Deadeye:

> fixed

...and when you're not "on pure ice"?

 nniff 29 Feb 2020
In reply to Harry Martin:

What Tim Sparrow said, and as an addition to a belay.  Feed a sling through the lower hole, through the top hole and clip a krab into it so it can't be pulled back out.  Needs less tape than a lark's foot and means that a standard short sling is sufficient.  Adds a bit more oomph to that belay in aerated shite

 jon 29 Feb 2020
In reply to Harry Martin:

A reasonable last resort belay trick is to place both axes as well as possible - maybe even hammer the first one in - 30 cm or so apart, and level with each other, in such a way the shafts cross. Now larks foot or clove hitch a sling around the shafts where they cross. Clip into this. I've used this and it's pretty solid, though maybe slightly less so with very curved shafts.

Post edited at 11:27
In reply to Basemetal:

Watched the video especially from 8.30.

Always up for improvisation.

Might be worth screwing the gate shut though.

Just a reminder to check.

Post edited at 12:02
 Basemetal 29 Feb 2020
In reply to Prof. Outdoors:

> Might be worth screwing the gate shut though.

I could be wrong, but I think I'm looking at doubled back to back crabs there (8:57), and can understand not bothering with doing up the screws. I'd suggest they just happen to be screwgates where they don't have to be.

Post edited at 12:29
 wercat 29 Feb 2020
In reply to ScraggyGoat:

Some old alpine axes (Stubai Sierra Extrem for example) had a slot in the pick blade to allow that technique very close to the ice.

In reply to Basemetal:

I think he is tethered in with the rope on the one crab with the gate not screwed. The other locker in the anchor is for the Reverso in guide mode.

 Basemetal 01 Mar 2020
In reply to Stefan Jacobsen:

You could be right

In reply to TobyA:

> If you don't mean burying them in snow in hitching a sling round the shafts, then don't do it. It's not what they're designed for.

I think this is pretty unrealistic. I'm sure we've all been in situations where axes knocked into the snow or whacked into neve, ice or turf have been the only option either alone or as part of a nest of poor anchors which are an awful better than nothing.

 PaulJepson 02 Mar 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

Yeah, the pick is rated so there's no reason not to incorporate it as part of an anchor. How would that be any different to using a bulldog as part of an anchor? 

You wouldn't want it to be your only piece though; same as you wouldn't want a bulldog to be your only piece. 

The safest way to do it is a perfectly valid question, to which the answer is not 'don't do it, you have already f*cked up'. 

In reply to PaulJepson:

> The safest way to do it is a perfectly valid question, to which the answer is not 'don't do it, you have already f*cked up'. 

I don't know if you're old enough to remember when BD actually did the first serious research on ice gear and its actual failure mechanisms that led us all to putting ice screws in slightly upwards rather than slightly downwards? Late 90s I guess?

Anyway they tested ice tools incorporated into belays. Some none BD tools they sheared through the bolts that hold the blade to the head - so that's a different from a one piece bulldog - and others they pulled the head off the shaft. I'm sure we've all attached ourselves to something that was crap at some point, I guess it's just whether you know its crap or not. If you do, you'll try hard to avoid needing to trust it. If you don't you might trust it way too much.

My original point is if you are climbing a large icefall where you know you are very likely to be reliant on ice screws for belays, you need to make sure you keep two back for making a belay with - perhaps one if you are a master craftsmen at abalakovs and have a hook.

 PaulJepson 02 Mar 2020
In reply to TobyA:

But if the answer is 'the only rated way to do it is by tying off/clipping directly into the head' then that is still a valid answer for a valid question. 

It might be an icy crack, it might be turf, it might be ice; the OP wasn't specific. 

If it's mixed routes then you sometimes need all the weapons at your disposal. 

In reply to PaulJepson:

> If it's mixed routes then you sometimes need all the weapons at your disposal. 

I've used warthogs and later bulldogs in belays at times but never had to rely on one solely. I don't remember ever having to use a tool as part of belay on a mixed route.

I had a quick look at the UIAA regs for ice axes earlier and from what I can see, beyond using it as deadman (single or T axe style) the strength ratings aren't really relevant to using the tool to belay off. If I've read it correctly, a T rated axe only has to go to 4 kn in the bond between the head and the shaft and I can't see anything about how strong the connection between the blade and head needs to be.

 Basemetal 09 Mar 2020
In reply to TobyA:

Following on from this I wrote to ask DMM specifically about the APEX's strength rating with a view to use as an anchor and received a useful reply.

The end to end rating  that is, a pull test from the hole in the head-unit to the clip-in point on the spike – is rated to 12kN.  This is not a standard test and is not required for certification, but is well above what you would typically find in most other axes, and reflects their overall build-quality/strength of the APEX.  Obviously, this is the integral strength of the axe itself, not the strength of any given placement or anchor.


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