Mountaineers Axe and Ice Tools

February 10, 2019
By: Randall Chapman

Several years ago I made a set of ice tools and a mountaineers axe, I can’t recall when exactly but it was around 2006 or 2007. I was working at the shop that had the water jet. The shop I worked at used to make sand blasting cabinets for a local company that made custom rims until the EPA shut them down for continuously polluting. It was bad, and they got caught on more than one occasion and several people even went to jail over it. We had no knowledge of this at the time, we just built the cabinets for them. They did so much sand blasting that we made the cabinets out of 3/16″ AR Plate (abrasion resistant) and had to rebuild them every year or so. After they got shut down we had a bunch of the plate left over and no real use for it. We were a custom build shop and built to customer spec, AR plate isn’t used a lot outside of bull dozer scoops and they aren’t using 3/16″.

While it sucked for my boss to get stuck with all this material it was good for me, and a few others, as he let us just use what ever I wanted and didn’t charge us. Several of the guys built targets for the shooting range, I made a set of ice tools. Now these things were heavy as all get out, but it was a fun little toy to play around with. I made the heads removable and made two different style noses, I couldn’t tell you which worked better though, they were so heavy that each swing buried 1″ to 1 1/2″ into the ice no matter which pick was on it. For the handle I cut two aluminum plates out of 1/4″ and sandwiched the AR plate between them. This made for some nice heat transfer and turned your fingers to ice pretty quick.  I can’t remember how much they weighed but at one point I took them into the post office and weighed them on their lobby scale along with the X15s I was swinging at the time, they were just over twice the weight of the X15.

Despite all the design flaws it was fun to plan around with and it made for one hell of a workout in the Ouray Ice Park. I used them a few times, even making myself use only them for a full day of 8 pitches just to do it, my arms were jello by the end. I eventually gave them to a friend that hung them up at his house, he wasn’t an ice climber, he just thought they looked cool. One of these days I’ll design and build a proper ice tool, too many hobbies not enough time or money.

I did draw up a new design at one point that would make the tools a lot lighter but I never cut them. This would have made them weigh roughly what the X15s weiged and would have cost about 8 times as much to cut so while it would have looked cool, it wasn’t worth cutting them. 

Around the same time I also built a mountaineers axe. For this I ordered in some 4130 chromoly from a supplier in California since we didn’t stock it. I cut the head in multiple layers and then welded them together to give a 3D look and feel that was more comfortable in the hand. I had cut 4 sets but only put one together. For the shaft I used 1″ .058 wall 6061 T6 aluminum round tube and smashed it in the press break with flattening dies to make it more oval. The pick at the end of the shaft was the same AR plate used for the tools. 

I just threw out the other 3 sets as I moved all of my tools down to work on this house in Delta a few months ago. Really I was never going to finish putting them together and I have other, better designs, in my head if I were to make another one now. I do wish I had taken pictures before tossing them though. For the life of me I can’t remember what happened to the the one I finished. It sat in a display case at the gym while I owned it but lost track of it after that, I probably gave it to someone.  Another fun project but I eventually bought the CAMP CORSA NANOTECH that is so light I don’t mind carrying it, for as little as a mountaineers axe is used in modern mountaineering I can’t see every carrying anything else. I may some day design my own super light axe, but probably not. 

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