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How do you use an ice adze?

How to use an ice adze?

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Image of an expedition party climbing an ice slope Climbing up slopes of compacted snow can be both difficult and dangerous.
Image of a polar bear who has not seen the warning sign about slipping on ice It’s all too easy to slip over without the right amount of grip on the slope.
Image of an ice axe with an adze attachment An ice adze is a tool that can be used to carve steps into snow.
Image of an ice adze head separate from the ice axe tool Ice adzes are attachments on the reverse side of ice axes or ice tools. They are not sharp, but shaped so that they can hack through compacted ice and snow.

Why cut steps into an ice slope?

Image of a mountaineer with an ice adze, ready to cut steps into an ice slope Cutting steps in ice gives a mountaineer a flat surface to stand on, which is much more stable than an ice slope.

How to stand

Image of a mountaineer demonstrating the correct stance for cutting steps in ice with an adze as you travel downhill Depending on whether you’re travelling up or downhill, you will find that the ice you’re cutting is either closer to you or further away from you.

If you’re going downhill, you will need to use your knee to brace yourself so that you can reach to cut steps in the ice.

Image of a mountaineer standing in the right stance for cutting ice steps uphill If you’re travelling uphill, you can just stand normally.

Cutting steps

Image to show where an ice adze will be swung

Step 1 – Swing adze

You’ll be swinging the ice adze to the side of your feet this time, rather than between them.

Image of a mountaineer demonstrating how to swing an ice adze Swinging an ice adze is like swinging a hand adze. The first part of the swing brings the adze head into contact with the ice, while the second part removes the material that has been smashed off.
Image showing a mountaineer kicking into one of the steps they have carved with their ice adze

Step 2 – Kick a step

Once you’ve cut your step, you can kick into it with your closest foot. This will make the step more sturdy by compacting the snow under your foot. You can then move your trailing foot into the step it just vacated.

Image of a mountaineer who is very close to reaching the top of an ice slope

Step 3 – Repeat

You should repeat this process until you reach the top or bottom of the ice slope.

What else can an ice adze be used for?

Image of a mountaineer using an ice adze to dig a bucket seat into an ice slope so that he can do some body belaying Ice adzes can also be used to dig holes in ice. They have been designed to be effective where other tools would fail, thanks to the shape of their blades.
Image of an unfortunate DIYer's car, that is largely buried in ice It’s less likely that you’ll be using an ice adze in your home or garden, but if you happen to have one, you now know what to use to chip your car out of compacted snow drifts!
Image to warn a DIYer against using a wood carving adze to cut or dig in ice Wood carver’s adzes are not designed to be used for this purpose. They could easily become damaged from repeated impacts with a hard surface, or rusty through exposure to moisture.

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