Feb 1, 2006 at 1:02 pm #1217677
Kevin SawchukBPL Member
@ksawchukLocale: Northern California
The new Helix ice ax has an appealing weight. I would love to buy one. However from Ryan’s comments it seems that the only thing you can use it for is as a walking stick and chopping steps. It specifically excludes the usual self-arrest method as an approved use. This would make it a pretty decoration but not a functional tool.
I certainly understand that it is not UIAA certified and that BPL needs to “CYA”. I’d like to get some data about how well the head stays on with axial forces, how much force you can apply to the shaft while trying to get the pick to stick into snow (lateral force on the shaft) without it failing–either from head detachment or carbon shaft failure. This would help all of us who carry an ice ax for general mountaineering (not ice climbing) understand its place.Feb 1, 2006 at 1:10 pm #1349680
@pyeyoLocale: pacific northwest
I’ve got the same questions, maybe a few of us like minded souls could chip in ten bucks and destroy one. How about it RJ…Feb 1, 2006 at 2:25 pm #1349685
@ryanLocale: Northern Rockies
My comments about the axe are there as a liability disclaimer, not to discourage ultralighters who really get it from using it.
I climbed a 50 degree 1,600′ long snow and alpine ice couloir with a pair a few weeks ago. I really wrenched on them. The consequences of a fall were somewhat serious. Which of course means nothing and would mean less if one broke.
I’ve self arrested on mine a ton in forgiving conditions and haven’t broke one yet. I sacrificed one by camming the head in a rock crack and pulling on the shaft. It broke catastrophically in the shaft below the head, but with a LOT of force. I needed to kick the shaft with my boot to do it. I don’t expect to put that much stress on these tools in normal self arrest situations.
“They are not certified as climbing tools and therefore cannot recommend them for any activity where the consequences of a fall and/or failure of the tool will result in mild injury, severe injury, death, or emotional stress…”Feb 2, 2006 at 2:02 pm #1349763
@pyeyoLocale: pacific northwest
Thanks Ryan…A friend asked me to participate in race doing the ski leg this spring, tele gear is not allowed so I took my alpine skiis down for a tune-up, the disclaimer I had to sign when I picked them up would make an ambulance chaser blush, I understand the need for disclaimers every manufacturer and retailer has been litigated to death over risk sports. Thanks again.Feb 21, 2006 at 6:40 am #1350923
I see that ULA is no longer calling it an Ice Ax. Its now a potty Trowel. Read the description, its quite funny.Feb 21, 2006 at 1:08 pm #1350948
@dfliednerLocale: North Texas
Finally! After searching for years for my UL potty trowel (digging with hiking poles and sticks is such a chore), ULA has come to the rescue. Also, it will look beautiful on my P-2. Can hardly wait to order!!!Mar 28, 2006 at 8:38 am #1353623
Bob BankheadBPL Member
@wandering_bobLocale: Oregon, USA
I LOVE IT !
and a great way to avoid any potential legal hassels if someone has an unfortunate experience whilst trying to use it for something else.
Wandering BobMay 28, 2006 at 12:21 pm #1357072
Earlier in this thread R Jordan described his testing of the Helix axe for self-arrest.
Based on those results, I think I’d be comfortable using the Helix for cutting steps, and also for SELF-ARREST with the following provisos:
-axe undamaged (mainly an issue for the shaft).
-chances of needing to self-arrest very low.
-no rope carried on the trip (no crevasse rescue, no use of the axe as a rope anchor).
-slope angle low to moderate.
-no hard ice (aluminum head unsuitable)
-not many rocks in the snow (could shatter the shaft).
-combined weight of person plus backpack not too large.
Self-arrest is (hopefully) a rare event. A much more frequent use is self-belay, where the spike is plunged as far as possible into the snow and one grabs the shaft or head of the axe. Self-belay is frequently employed to gain stability when traversing or ascending a steep slope, and it is also used to arrest a slip, hopefully obviating the need for self-arrest.
I’m not sure whether the Helix would be suitable for self-belay:
– Is the shaft strong enough? Self-belay stresses the carbon-fiber shaft, in contrast to self-arrest where all the stress passes through the aluminum head.
– Is the shaft wide enough? The buried shaft of the Helix will provide less resistance than a regular axe because the Helix’s shaft has a narrower cross-section. The amount of resistance is crucial to self-belay.
At present there is almost no data available on the strength of the carbon fiber shaft under the forces that arise during self-belay. That’s in stark contrast to trekking poles, where Luxury Lite, Titanium Goat, Bozeman Mountain Works and Gossamer Gear all provide detailed information about the strengths and weaknesses of their poles, including data from destructive testing. That data indicates that the Luxury Lite and Ti Goat poles are the strongest, while the Gossamer Gear poles are the lightest. Is the strength of the Helix shaft comparable to a Gossamer Gear shaft, a Luxury Lite shaft, or stronger than all of the above? Surely it is more important to provide data for an ice axe than for trekking poles!May 28, 2006 at 2:43 pm #1357081
You are right…surely it is important to provide data for an ice axe. But for a Potty Trowel? Seems a bit excessive to me.
Obviously the product has limitations. If I was ULA I’d keep from listing the specs you ask for, for that very reason. Numbers give people a false sense of security. Unfair comparisons are made, expectations are set. In the field numbers have no tangible use. If it causes you concern or frightens you, don’t buy it. Use what gives you the sense of safety you require to travel confidently in the backcountry.May 28, 2006 at 4:28 pm #1357083
Anonymous, your point that “numbers give people a false sense of security” is well taken. That’s especially true for carbon fiber, since it could develop cracks and weaken over time. Indeed it would an idea to add a cautionary note to the Helix webpage mentioning that the strength of a carbon fiber shaft may be compromised if it is thumped or bumped. But since carbon fiber comes in many different strengths, it is difficult to assess the limitations of the Helix without some data regarding the strength of the shaft. At one end of the scale are the ultralight shafts used in Gossamer Gear poles, which would likely snap if subjected to the force of a self-arrest. At the other end of the scale are carbon fiber shafts used in some technical ice-climbing axes, which can presumably withstand the rigors of iceclimbing. R Jordan has already supplied some qualitative data concerning the performance of the Helix for self-arrest, and I think it would be informative to supplement this with some self-belay tests.May 30, 2006 at 2:52 pm #1357179
Anonymous, your point that “numbers give people a false sense of security” is well taken. That’s especially true for …, since it could develop cracks and weaken over time. Indeed it would an idea to add a cautionary note to the …, mentioning that the strength of a … shaft may be compromised if it is thumped or bumped. But since … comes in many different strengths, it is difficult to assess the limitations of the … without some data regarding the strength of the shaft. At one end of the scale are the ultralight shafts …, which would likely snap if subjected to the force of a self- … ! At the other end of the scale are … shafts used in some technical …, which can presumably withstand the rigors of … ! R Jordan has already supplied some qualitative data concerning the performance of … for self- …, and I think it would be informative to supplement this with some self- … tests.May 30, 2006 at 4:11 pm #1357187
@jordanhurderLocale: Southern California
Okay, I don’t get it.May 30, 2006 at 4:23 pm #1357189
@pjLocale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
I needed to read it a second time slowly. It’s an edited post, eliminating references to product name, materials, uses, etc. Has something to do with legal issues and not endorsing its use for some applications????
At least, that’s my take on it.Dec 2, 2010 at 9:43 pm #1670355
I know this is an old thread but I used one on the PCT. It broke while I was chopping snow to melt for drinking water. It's an incredibly weak tool, and should not be relied upon for self arrest, that's for sure.Dec 2, 2010 at 10:43 pm #1670364
. .BPL Member
@biointegraLocale: Puget Sound
Where did it break – mid shaft? May have been due to subtle, yet terminal damage that began with a previously shrugged impact. Carbon fiber shafts, kind of like a lightweight helmet, probably needs to be retired from serious use after an appropriate impact and do need to 'babied' more than AL, Steel, or Ti.Dec 2, 2010 at 10:45 pm #1670365
eric chanBPL Member
they test and certify ice axes for a reason …
now whether you want to risk using one that isnt at least B rated is up to you, but it is your life on the line … the time you need to actually self arrest is the time you dont want it to fail
you can get a 200g camp corsa ice axe these days …Dec 3, 2010 at 5:53 pm #1670618
Steven EvansBPL Member
I'd be interested in some more information regarding the break aswell. Do you still have the axe? It would be great to see some pics.Dec 4, 2010 at 12:02 am #1670728
Eric BlumensaadtBPL Member
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
Mebbe yu'ns need a Ti ice axe/piolet. Light as strong as steel and as 'spensive as a Ferrari gas cap.Dec 5, 2010 at 11:27 pm #1671271
As you can see it broke where the head attaches to the shaft. Look how thin that aluminum is! I used Titanium Goat AGP (carbon) Poles the whole PCT and never broke one. This "Potty Trowel" broke right off the bat. At least one other hiker showed me that the head of his Helix was loose already, even before he hit the Sierras.
Seems like a great weight savings, until you need it for a self arrest. Then it might work. Or it might break in half.Dec 5, 2010 at 11:33 pm #1671272
eric chanBPL Member
thats scary … gear used for climbing should not fail if used properly
of course this isn't climbing gear …
thanks for postingDec 6, 2010 at 12:31 am #1671282
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
You know, it would be interesting to have that ice axe analyzed to determine the cause for failure. It might have been a design defect, a manufacturing defect, a metal fatigue failure, damage after purchase, or damage after purchase that was caused by user error.
Oh, well, I guess it won't be fixed by a little duct tape.
I am the owner of two wood-shafted ice axes (30 years old) that are still perfect and hanging up in my garage. All I have to worry about are termites.
–B.G.–Dec 6, 2010 at 1:00 am #1671284
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
> I am the owner of two wood-shafted ice axes (30 years old) that are still perfect
> and hanging up in my garage.
My two (circa late 60s) are hanging up in the cupboard. And the steel edges are still dangerously SHARP! I imagine yours are too?
CheersDec 6, 2010 at 12:27 pm #1671417
An ice axe should be able to safely ride on someone's pack without being fatally damaged. Chopping snow should not cause failure. The photo shows an obvious weak point. Perhaps there was some error in the manufacturing of this particular axe, but regardless, the margin of error is mighty thin with this design. It looks like the Helix is no longer being manufactured, and I think there's likely a good reason for that.
The Camp Corsa I bought to replace it has already made 2 trips through the Sierras, and I'm confident it could make the trip many more times. A much more sensible trade-off in weight/safety for a backpacking "just-in-case" ice axe.
Helix: About 5 oz
Camp Corsa: About 7.5 oz
ULA did promptly refund my money. The Helix is a bad piece of gear (formerly?) made by a good company.Dec 6, 2010 at 12:33 pm #1671420
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
"My two (circa late 60s) are hanging up in the cupboard. And the steel edges are still dangerously SHARP! I imagine yours are too?"
The pick points are sharp enough to penetrate heavy wool trousers. I can attest to that.
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