Last Updated on November 10, 2022 by tawhid

An ice axe is a versatile tool that every mountaineer should have in their kit. It can be used for self-arrest, to build anchors, or even as a walking stick in snow. Here are some tips on how to use an ice axe.

When using an ice axe for self-arrest, always keep the pick pointing uphill. If you are sliding down a slope and need to stop yourself, jam the pick of the ice axe into the snow at an angle so that it digs in and slows you down. To do this effectively, you need to be able to drive the pick all the way into the snow – if it just skims the surface, it won’t do much to arrest your fall.

  • Assuming you are using an ice axe for mountaineering: 1
  • Grip the axe in your dominant hand, with the pick pointing downwards
  • Place your other hand near the top of the shaft
  • Use your weight to drive the axe into the ice above you, angling it slightly inwards
  • Keep your arms straight and use your whole body to apply pressure
  • As you drive the pick in, twist it so that the flat of the blade is facing outwards (perpendicular to the direction of travel)
  • This will help prevent it from getting stuck in the ice
  • Once the blade is buried deep enough, pull down on the shaft with both hands to lever yourself up
  • If necessary, use your foot or knee to push against the ice for extra leverage
How to Use an Ice Axe


Do You Need 1 Or 2 Ice Axes?

One of the most common questions we get asked here at Ice Axe is whether you need one or two ice axes. The simple answer is that it depends on what you’re using them for. If you’re just doing some easy glacier travel or basic snow climbing, then one axe is usually all you need.

However, if you’re planning on doing any serious mountaineering or technical ice climbing, then having two axes is a good idea. Here’s a more detailed look at when you might want to use one or two axes: If you’re just doing some basic glacier travel (e.g., crossing a crevasse field), then one axe will suffice.

The main reason for this is that your primary concern will be self-arrest in the event of a fall, and having two axes doesn’t really offer any significant advantage over having just one. In fact, having two axes can actually be somewhat cumbersome and make it more difficult to self-arrest effectively. If you’re planning on doing any serious mountaineering (e.g., ascending Denali or Everest), then having two ice axes is definitely a good idea.

This is because your primary concern will be route-finding and safety, and having two ice axes gives you a lot more options in terms of securing yourself to the mountain (e.g., using them as pickets). Additionally, if you do happen to fall, being able to arrest with both arms will give you a much better chance of succeeding than if you only had one axe. So, as you can see, whether or not you need one or two ice axes really depends on what kind of climbing/mountaineering you’re planning on doing.

If it’s something relatively easy and low-risk, then one axe should suffice; but if it’s something more challenging/technical, then having two axes is definitely the way to go.

Should I Use a Leash on My Ice Axe?

The use of a leash on an ice axe is not required, but it is recommended as a safety precaution. If you do choose to use a leash, make sure that it is the right length for your ice axe and your height. Attach the leash to your wrist or harness so that if you drop your ice axe, it will not fall far and hurt someone.

How Do You Anchor an Ice Axe?

In order to properly anchor an ice axe, it is important to first select a secure location. The ideal spot for anchoring an ice axe is on a firm surface with little snow or debris. Once you have found a suitable location, use the pick of the axe to drive it into the ground at a 45 degree angle.

For extra security, you can use your body weight to push down on the handle of the axe as you drive it into the ground. Once the axe is securely anchored, you can attach your rope to the head of the axe using a carabiner. Make sure that the rope is attached tightly so that it does not come loose during use.

You can also use webbing or another type of cordage to create an anchor point if there is no suitable place to attach a carabiner. When using an anchored ice axe, be sure to keep your body weight evenly distributed and avoid putting all of your weight on one side. This will help prevent theaxe from becoming dislodged and potentially injuring you or your climbing partners.

Always be aware of your surroundings and only use anchors when absolutely necessary—ice axes are sharp tools and can cause serious injury if used improperly!

How to Use an Ice Axe | Explained

How to Use an Ice Axe for Self-Arrest

Most people think of an ice axe as a tool for mountaineers, but it can also be a useful tool for backcountry skiers and snowboarders. If you find yourself sliding out of control on a steep slope, you can use your ice axe to arrest your fall. This can be a lifesaving skill to have in the backcountry.

Here’s how to do it: 1. Position yourself so that the pick of the ice axe is pointing downhill. 2. Place your dominant hand near the head of the ice axe, with your thumb pointing down the shaft.

3. Wrap your other hand around the bottom of the shaft, close to where it meets the pick. 4. Dig the pick of the ice axe into the snow, angling it towards your body so that it catches on any obstacles in its path (rocks, trees, etc.). The goal is to create friction and stop your fall quickly.

5. As you come to a stop, keep hold of the ice axe with both hands and dig in with your toes to help prevent sliding further downhill.


In the winter, when conditions are icy and dangerous, it is essential to know how to use an ice axe. This tool can help you self-arrest if you slip and fall, as well as provide stability when climbing or walking on treacherous terrain. Here are some tips on how to use an ice axe:

1. When carrying your ice axe, point the pick downwards so that it does not injure anyone if you accidentally drop it. 2. If you do slip and fall, attempt to dig the pick of the ice axe into the snow to arrest your fall. 3. To climb up steep icy slopes, use the adze (the flat part of the head) of the ice axe to chop steps into the slope.

Then kick your feet into these steps and pull yourself up with your hands gripping the shaft of the iceaxe close to the head. 4. To walk downhill on a slope without slipping, place the shaft of your ice axe across your body so that one hand is above and one hand is below the head of the axe.

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