Aug 12, 2013 at 9:38 am #1306450
In preparation for a PCT I would like to gain the skills needed for high alpine travel. Mostly,I would like to learn to use an ice axe. I will be in Asheville all winter and would like to practice near there. I contacted SOL and NOC but they didn't know of any programs or instructors in the area. Any one have an idea how I can get the training I need?Aug 12, 2013 at 10:13 am #2014592
I'm sure formal training is a great idea. I'm no pro, but personally I just watched a bunch of youtube videos(lots out there), then practiced on less risky ice crossings. Many take self arrest seriously and say you should practice it over and over until it's intuitive.
Btw, the lightest ice axes I know of are the Suluk Ti (expensive though), the Camp Corsa (my choice), and the Black Diamond Raven (cheapest and most functional, but heavier).
-ChrisAug 12, 2013 at 10:15 am #2014593
@kalebcLocale: South West
I asked a ranger on Mt Shasta in winter and got a 5 minute tutorial on self arrest technique and how to hold the axe when walkingAug 12, 2013 at 10:30 am #2014596
I was thinking the Camp Corsa would be my choice as well. I think I will at least practice at a ski slope or something but would prefer more formal training.Aug 12, 2013 at 10:42 am #2014598
try your local alpine club …
;)Aug 12, 2013 at 10:48 am #2014599
Go to a snow slope that's about 45 degrees. With a good run out so if you can't stop, you won't hurt yourself.
Jump and start sliding. Jam pick. Stop. Do it a few times. Sort of like riding a bicycle. Yeah, look at video first.Aug 12, 2013 at 11:01 am #2014602
"Go to a snow slope that's about 45 degrees."
That is certainly steep enough for an injury.
It depends on the snow and whether it is hard or soft. I used to conduct training on a spot that was about 35 degrees (on Mount Shasta), but it had a very good run-out. That means that if you get into an uncontrolled fall, you will slide down to a relatively flat spot and then stop on your own. The idea is to learn to self arrest within the first two seconds of the start of your fall.
–B.G.–Aug 12, 2013 at 11:16 am #2014607
Yeah, that's better advice. Start with an easy slope and then try a steeper slope.
A class is good. They'll talk about using a rope, protection devices, crevasses, weather,… Might be over-kill if you just want to be able to self arrest while hiking PCTAug 12, 2013 at 11:41 am #2014617
In Asheville. Another option is to do all the book learning and then practice when you hit the Sierra on a real slope with a safe runout. You need real snow to work with.Aug 12, 2013 at 12:12 pm #2014628
some folks leave the rubber protector on all the time when not in use. think of it as one less metal thing to hit you in the face while practicing. and if you are going teh camp corsa route, at least take a look at teh nanotech. the all aluminum pick always made me shy away from that axe.
in regards to a class, if i remember correctly fox mountain guides have some winter trips in-state and appalachian mountain institute also runs a couple of programs.Aug 12, 2013 at 12:26 pm #2014632
I never worried about the adze too much, but the pick can do a lot of damage in a hurry. I would put the rubber protector on the pick.
–B.G.–Aug 12, 2013 at 12:40 pm #2014639
when practicing in soft snow covering the pick isn't a bad idea, but isn't going to be of much help when dealing with most ice.
not 100% applicable to the current thread, but always a good reminder of the harsh reality of making a mistake on ice:Aug 12, 2013 at 2:39 pm #2014676
The camp corsa I've found is actually really sturdy, I've abused it somewhat (used it to pry firewood from logs, pry rocks out of campsites, kill zombies, etc) and it's held up great.
The adze is certainly small, so if you had to chop a bunch of steps it would be cumbersome. But for the PCT it should be just fine.
Btw, most of the time it's used like a walking stick, so make sure to get one long enough.
Someone here on the forum suggested that when in your hand, the spike should just barely miss the ground. For me that's the 10cm camp corsa…which has served me well. :)
btw, for foot traction, I like microspikes for pct passes. Yaktrax aren't aggressive enough and break easy, and other instep 4 point crampons just make me trip all over the place.
Bummer is that between microspikes and the camp corsa, it's 24 oz on your back. bleh.Aug 12, 2013 at 2:47 pm #2014681
@robertm2sLocale: Lake Tahoe
From Jeff Lowe's video series on ice climbing: "No one can self arrest on ice."Aug 12, 2013 at 3:47 pm #2014696
Thank you for the information so far. Very helpful. Christopher you said this about the length,"For me that's the 10cm camp corsa…which has served me well. :)" What would the actual length be. I think for me it is 70cm. That leaves the axe about an inch from the ground when standing up straight. Does that seem to be about right?Aug 12, 2013 at 3:54 pm #2014701
An old anecdote.
Over twenty years ago, three of us had headed up to climb Mount Lyell, the highest point in Yosemite National Park. We spent one day for the approach, then camped. Rising early before dawn, we walked around the outside of the Lyell Glacier and carried our ice axes. We hit the summit, and then descended to the top of the glacier again. One buddy and I immediately started walking around the outside of the glacier to get to the bottom. One guy started walking straight down the glacier, and it was a mixture of blue ice and a few rocks. Worse, he did not have his ice axe in the ready position. A few seconds later, he had fallen and was sliding down the glacier. I said, "He's in trouble." But, there wasn't much that we could do except watch.
The poor guy slid and bounced halfway down the glacier. He hadn't been able to self arrest because his ice axe was on its tether, not in his hand. He was not seriously hurt, but he was banged up very badly. Then we had to hike all the way out that same day. The poor guy learned his lesson the hard way.
–B.G.–Aug 12, 2013 at 4:02 pm #2014708
ok – for clarification, how about icy, frozen snow :-) technique and ice axe selection are going to come into play as to whether or not you are gonna stop (before you find the end of the run-out) in certain situations. while heavier than the camp corsa ice axe, i wonder if a black diamond whippet might be more useful?Aug 12, 2013 at 4:11 pm #2014714
"icy, frozen snow"
Isn't that what we call Styrofoam Snow? Kind of crunchy.
–B.G.–Aug 12, 2013 at 4:14 pm #2014716
You need to have the ice axe in your hand if you want to self arrest : )Aug 12, 2013 at 4:36 pm #2014721
"Isn't that what we call Styrofoam Snow? Kind of crunchy."
how about névé or firn for proper terminology.Aug 12, 2013 at 4:46 pm #2014724
I realize it's not near Ashville but if you can make it up to the Adirondaks in February, this is a great program:Aug 12, 2013 at 4:47 pm #2014725
Oops, sorry I meant 70cm. Typo. ;)Aug 12, 2013 at 4:52 pm #2014728
"You need to have the ice axe in your hand if you want to self arrest : )"
No truer words have been spoken. And that applies to areas that seem straight-forward. One of notorious areas on the PCT is the snow chute on the south side of Forester Pass. Usually there is a nice set of steps across it. In 2011 when I crossed there was great steps so ice axe was put away on the pack. All I had to do was walk across. No big deal, I had just climbed straight up the snow covered switchbacks. It was early afternoon and the snow turned to crap. The step crumbled and down the chute I went. Luckily I jammed the handle of my LT-4s into the snow and stopped. I had to take the ice axe off my pack and cut steps back to the start point. You can see in the picture the slide and steps. You may also see a brown spot from a bodily reaction. That chute is much steeper than it looks in these pictures. Bottom line, if you carry an axe, be ready to use it. It could have ended quite badly for me.
Forester Pass and the big Butt SlideAug 12, 2013 at 5:01 pm #2014732
Plus, you really need to have that ice axe on a tether or wrist strap. Otherwise, if it gets ripped out of your hands, you have nothing. Then you might take your last ride ever.
On my very first ascent and descent of Mount Shasta, I was lucky that I had a wrist strap on. I fell, of course, and I had to quickly react into a self arrest. I chopped the pick in once, and then it popped out. Fortunately, I was able to pull it back by the strap and chop it in a second time. Again it popped out. The third time it worked. I instantly became a believer in wrist straps.
–B.G.–Aug 12, 2013 at 5:08 pm #2014735
"Oops, sorry I meant 70cm."
The general thinking is that if you are taking an ice axe to do some gnarly steep angle ice climbing, then you might get one with the short length (a North Wall Hammer). If you are taking an ice axe more as a walking stick, but you might possibly have to do an arrest, then you might get one more with the long length. For most PCT hikers, they end up with a compromise length.
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