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Adventures in Scotland

Top tips for winter: ice axe leashes

Choosing an ice axe

On February 17, 2016 By Andy Bateman

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Walking Ice Axe leashes – to have, or not to have.

Many gear shops will automatically sell you a leash as an essential and permanent accompaniment to your ice axe. Here we look at the pro’s and con’s of having a leash on your walking/general mountaineering axe. We discuss when and where it is appropriate to use one.

 

The fear of losing an Ice axe

There is at least one recorded instance where loosing grip of the axe during a sliding fall resulted in head injuries due to the axe flailing uncontrollably at the end of a leash. Rather than relying on a leash to retain possession of your axe, the emphasis is on instilling the mental capacity of not letting go.  The hand holding the head of the axe can pivot around the head but the grasp should remain the same. It’s also about developing that mental ability of properly securing your axe should you need to put it down.

 

Trip hazard

Except when cutting steps down slope, you should always carry the axe in the up hill hand. On a zig-zag ascent or descent, the axe is repeatedly swapped from one hand to the other to maintain it in the uphill hand. Having to swap the leash from one wrist at every turn is cumbersome and time consuming. Wrapping the leash around the head of the axe isn’t a secure solution either. There is the risk it can start to dangle with resultant hazard of a crampon point catching and causing a trip.

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Photo caption: cutting steps in the Cairngorms on a winter skills course with Scot Mountain Holidays

Step cutting

This is where a leash is desirable especially if you are cutting into hard snow or ice. Wet gloves, cutting the steps too vigorously, etc can all increase the chance of loosing grasp and this is where a leash comes into its own.

Conclusion

For winter hill walking, a leash should be minimalist, light weight and quickly attached and detached from the head of the axe. The simplest way is to make a loop in the attachment end of the leash. Thread the loop though the hole in the head of the axe. The other end of the leash is then threaded through the loop (Larks footed) and pulled tight. Store the leash in an easily accessible place like a jacket pocket and attached to the head of the axe when required.

 

Useful links:

Have fun in the snow: http://www.wikihow.com/Have-Fun-in-the-Snow

Snow related activities for kids: http://www.parents.com/fun/activities/outdoor/snow-activities-kids/#page=7

Family fun in the snow: http://powertochange.com/family/snow/

Free mountain weather service: Mountain Weather Information Service

Met Office forecast for the hills: Met Office Mountain Forecast

Scottish Avalanche Information service: Scottish Avalanche Information Service

USEFUL BLOGS

How to ice axe arrest: https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/skills-how-ice-axe-arrest/

Best practice: how to build a snow hole in Scotland: https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/best-practice-building-snow-hole-scotland/

How not to get lost – the art of navigation: https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/hiking-how-not-get-lost-art-navigation/

Top 10 winter skills tips (for Scotland): https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/top-10-winter-skills-tips/

How to prepare for a mountain challenge: https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/classic-ridges-and-horseshoes-hiking-tips/

Which boots to choose for winter: https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/which-boots-choose-winter-walking/

How to choose a walking ice axe: https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/how-choose-walking-ice-axe/

How to predict snow: https://scotmountainholidays.com/blog/how-predict-snow-uk/

 

EXPEDITIONS FROM SCOT MOUNTAIN HOLIDAYS: https://scotmountainholidays.com/activities/mountain-challenges/

 

SKILLS COURSES FROM SCOT MOUNTAIN HOLIDAYS: https://scotmountainholidays.com/activities/mountain-skills-courses/

 

WINTER WALKING HOLIDAYS FROM SCOT MOUNTAIN HOLIDAYS: https://scotmountainholidays.com/activities/walking-holidays-uk/

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