View Full Version : Ice Axe

09-28-2006, 14:38
Is an ice axe really nessecary on the PCT if I plan on hiking it somewhat quickly and avoiding the worst of the snows?

09-28-2006, 19:58
You can do it without one providing: 1/it's a low snow year and you hit the Sierras after June. 2/ you use trekking poles and know how to self arrest with them (and have practiced the technique) 3/ have a lot of experience in snow travel. I have a few clips in my hiking video "Really Livin" in which we did NOT have an ice ax where we should have. we survived I had a few scary slides where i ended up in the rocks but my body was really flexible at this point in the hike (after 6,000 miles) and i don't think anything would've hurt me at that point. I did learn a good technique for self arresting with a collapsed hiking pole with the basket removed that i would trust again. but i had lots of practice with it. I've also seen people make a head (top ) that looked like an ice ax that they could somehow attach to their hiking stick. (i don't know if i'd trust that as much as the real thing) Problem is, you probably won't know what the snow level is going to be until well after you start your hike. so you should probably have one in readiness. (unless you're just not taking one because your too cheap, and have no fear) People do hike without them. Just beware of the consequences and hopefully you won't have much snow. global warming is on your side. good luck and have fun.

09-28-2006, 20:04
Not sure how you plan on hiking it quickly somehow avoiding the snows. Can to elaborate?

09-28-2006, 20:06
can= care to. Why no edit button?

09-29-2006, 14:18
Sly--I plan to SOBO, starting in mid-june, hopefully after the worst of the snows. If I hike quickly enough, I should be able to finish before the worst of the snows hit.

thanks for the link boston. I'm not sure if I'd trust my life to an ice axe that is so superultrauberlight that it has to be marketed as a trowel.

09-29-2006, 14:21
I headed north out of Kennedy Meadows this year on June 24th, 9 days later than the "normal" date for a "normal" snow year. Snow this year was big. The first snow of any consequence we hit was on the side trip up to Mt. Whitney. Several folks we saw at Crabtree Meadow said there was no need to take an axe up. I figured that I at least needed it for a photo on top and was glad I had it. There was one steep snow chute that the trail crossed twice and a large snowfield just below the summit. I was glad I was carrying it, as this was my first real experience on snow. Further north into the Sierra there was more and more snow. Above 10,800 feet it was solid. Mather Pass was sketchy both up and down, I wouldn't have just wanted to rely on my poles. Crossing Muir Pass, we were on snow for about 7 hours and I don't think I took it off of my pack. That was just a real long slog thru mushy snow. For most of the 240 miles that I carried it, the axe was on my pack, not in my hand. If I were to do it again, I would still carry the axe. An ice axe is about the best cathole digger, ever. The ULA axe mentioned above is actually listed as a trowel. It is very light, to the point where I don't think I would trust it to arrest a fall. Maybe if I was a tiny person, but not at 180 pounds plus gear.

09-30-2006, 08:57
[quote=ScottP;250900]Sly--I plan to SOBO, starting in mid-june, hopefully after the worst of the snows. If I hike quickly enough, I should be able to finish before the worst of the snows hit.
Then you should carry an ice ax. i had my worst fall (and save with the collapsed hiking pole) in August of 2002 doing a SOBO in WA state. There still can be snow in August so i'm sure there's some in June and the trail is cut into slopes so steep that a fall is potentially very dangerous. We were surprised that it was still icy, snowy dangerous crossings of snow that went down a good 200' into rocks at the bottom. If your goal is to hike without an ice ax, i think you'd be better off doing a normal NOBO starting May 1st or later than a SOBO starting in June. You would be practically guaranteed snowy crossings that time of year. good luck.

09-30-2006, 08:58
sorry, the quote above didn't come out right and i don't know what happened to the edit button???????

09-30-2006, 15:03
How late can I start SoBo and still have be able to finish before the worst of the snows if I take 3-4.5 months to do the hike? The later the better, as my apartment lease goes until mid-august, and I need to pay that rent no matter when I start hiking.

09-30-2006, 22:41
Well, i'd want to be thru the Sierras before mid to late Oct.
SOBO, that would be about 2,000 miles by then, so maybe 3 months by that fast schedule??? That would be a mid to late July start (by my calculations) but that is fast hiking for sure.
Depending on the snow year the previous winter, that could still mean snow enough for an ice ax although you should probably be ok in a normal year.

10-01-2006, 16:06
what deg. sleeping bag(s) would I need for that timeline?

10-04-2006, 14:28
I'd bring a solid 20 degree bag. You may want to back it up in the Sierra with some extra clothing.