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Ice Axe Self-Arrest Training (Improvised)

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Ice Axe Self-Arrest Training (Improvised)

Postby Hetchy » Mon Feb 09, 2009 10:44 pm

Well, I must say I am having quite a time lately. I don't remember this preparation thing being so much fun back in 1991.
So, I have been wanting to practice with my ice axe something fierce. (Plus it is the most cool looking tool we got.. lets face it our non-hiker buddies don't go gaga over the 3 ounce beer can alcohol stove, or the really cool light weight backpack.. it's the axe baby.)
I try to tell them it is a the one piece of equiptment you never need but could save your life.. blah blah blah .. they just want to use it to chop away at the bushes or something.
Lately though I have been practicing my ice axe skills for a real purpose... just not in the snow.
In fact, I cannot at this moment drop everything and reach the snow cause the nearest snow is 200 miles away and I still gotta' work back here till it is time to go there and slide down the snowslope at 100 mph into the rocks.
Anyways I have devised a way to at least work on my old self-arrest reflexes that does not require snow.
I started on the steep redwood hillsides of the horse ranch where I live (for now). Finding the steepest slope I would roll over backwards and at least attempt to roll onto the pick as intended. That worked but was messy and the Banana Slugs hate me so... then I had an epiphany... THE BEACH!
I went down to the coast and found some really great steep sand dunes (hwy 1 at greyhound rock) to practice on. The trick works great and I don't get all banged up on roots and rocks(the banana slugs are content with this arangement as well!). The axe does not do much good at stopping me in the sand but It does allow me to at least simulate the motions.
Of course I would recommend anyone to go take a course, as I did years ago, on at least Ice axe self arrest if travelling in such country as you would carry an axe for survival(obviously not the beach).
The one caveat is: I would go early in the AM when only the crazy jogger types are around because later when the tourists get there they might not understand why some crazed person is carrying a sharpened pointy aluminum axe thingy (in self arrest position) down the coast.
Maybe this is not all that helpful but it sure helps me.. I think.
Hey, If nothing else it is a day on the beach and a great calf exercise climbing the dunes.
Cheers, Hetchy
You can make more money, but you can't make more time.

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Re: Ice Axe Self-Arrest Training (Improvised)

Postby BSquared » Tue Feb 10, 2009 4:49 pm

Hetchy wrote: I would go early in the AM when only the crazy jogger types are around because later when the tourists get there they might not understand why some crazed person is carrying a sharpened pointy aluminum axe thingy (in self arrest position) down the coast.

Quite an image :lol:
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Re: Ice Axe Self-Arrest Training (Improvised)

Postby giantbrookie » Wed Feb 11, 2009 10:16 pm

Ice Axe out of place on the beach? That reminds me of my first REI sale (or first one I went to without my dad) I went to in 1978 as a Berkeley student. I rode my bike from the dorms to REI. I purchased a beautiful ice axe there then rode back across town. I figured Berkeley would be one of the few places that nobody would even bat an eyelash at a guy riding a bike with an ice axe. In fact several folks exclaimed "nice ice axe!" as they drove by. The ice axe has a very special place with me as it saved my life with a do or fly self arrest during an early season climb of Brewer in 1979. I had self arrested several times on trips between 1969 (when I first learned how to use an ice axe on a Sierra Club peak bagging trip on my 10th birthday) and that fateful climb in 1979 but never before or (fortunately) since had the stakes been so obviously high.

Incidentally on the 1979 trip I suffered a painful hip injury (bad bruise or perhaps hairline fracture or chip) hiking into East Lake when I fell on a stream crossing. My climbing partner had no ice axe experience, so I trained him a bit above East Lake en route to the peak (it was solid snow almost down to East Lake). I'm right handed so I prefer to self arrest rolling onto my right side. It was my right hip that was damaged and I can say that I was glad that my friend was a quick learner because each "demonstration" fall was excruciating. As it turned out my buddy burned out from the miles of postholing approaching the crux at the top of the East Ridge so he had long turned around (before reaching the true steep part) by the time I had my accident, which occurred after I had summitted and was descending.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: ... ayshi.html
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