How much wear on an ice tool pick is too much?


Original Post
bantucaravan · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 5

How many seasons does an ice tool pick last on average? How many times can you sharpen a pick before it cannot be sharpened again? How do you know when you need to buy a new pick (if ever)?

I am obviously not a ice climber with years of experience. Can't seem to find an answer on the web, though maybe I didn't look hard enough. I am asking about primarily ice and not mixed climbing use.

I realize the question depends on how frequently you climb, but I want to know what signs of wear on the pick signal the need for a new pick.

Thanks in advance.

Luc-514 · · Montreal, Quebec · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 8,903

Depends on:

  • What you climb (thick water ice, thin ice over rock, sand filled alpine ice).
  • How you climb (lumberjack vs pecker)
  • Quality/type of pick used, Cassin picks will wear and need sharpening often while Petzl/Grivel are harder.
  • How OCD you are about always having the sharpest tool possible.
  • How long you keep your picks is dependent on how you find it affects your safety.
shoo · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 75
bantucaravan wrote:How many seasons does an ice tool pick last on average? How many times can you sharpen a pick before it cannot be sharpened again? How do you know when you need to buy a new pick (if ever)? I am obviously not a ice climber with years of experience. Can't seem to find an answer on the web, though maybe I didn't look hard enough. I am asking about primarily ice and not mixed climbing use. I realize the question depends on how frequently you climb, but I want to know what signs of wear on the pick signal the need for a new pick. Thanks in advance.
Your questions depend entirely on how much you destroy and sharpen and your picks, and can't be answered with anything other than anecdotes. But to give you a sense of scale, I usually get a new pair of picks every other season, but I rotate in old beater picks for mixed use.

How much you need to sharpen depends entirely on how aggressively you've dulled your picks, and how aggressively you are sharpening them. For the most part, you're going to sharpen your picks after you've bashed them into rock. Sharpening to fix that could be anything from a non-significant touch up to shaving a few mm of metal off.

A common beginner mistake is sharpening too much. Not only does that take a lot of metal off very quickly, but a very sharp pick is much easier to dull / bend, which means you'll have to sharpen it again. Leave your picks juuuuust a little dull. Ironically, that bit of prevention keeps your picks sharper and more usable in most cases.

As for when to retire, this is a preference thing. Some people go all the way down to shaving off a tooth or two before they retire. Some people retire earlier. Some people (like me) keep old picks around forever to beat on and keep a pair of newer picks for technical ice.
Chris C. · · Seattle, WA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 246
bantucaravan wrote:How many seasons does an ice tool pick last on average? How many times can you sharpen a pick before it cannot be sharpened again? How do you know when you need to buy a new pick (if ever)? I am obviously not a ice climber with years of experience. Can't seem to find an answer on the web, though maybe I didn't look hard enough. I am asking about primarily ice and not mixed climbing use. I realize the question depends on how frequently you climb, but I want to know what signs of wear on the pick signal the need for a new pick. Thanks in advance.


Climbing with somewhat dull picks isn't much different than climbing with sharp picks imo. I do find that climbing with bent picks is annoying though. I'll only sharpen mine when I accidentally bend a pick - usually this occurs when I swing at ice and accidentally penetrate through and hit rock.
Gunkiemike · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 2,755

What I suggest: buy a pair of new picks. Install them once the season is well under way and you've been out a few times. If they feel better, leave them on. If you can't tell a real difference, go back to the old ones for a while longer.

Just to expand on what others are saying - I got 4 years out of my first set of picks (actually a bit longer on one of them). But I was climbing nothing but fat ice and I have a light touch. One of my friends swings a bit more aggressively. OK, a lot more aggressively. And he drytools at a high level. He told me he goes through 3-5 sets of picks EACH YEAR.

cdec · · SLC, UT · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 460

These picks were brand new before 2 days in Maple Canyon, Utah. I was hoping that it was fatter.
Others have said the same thing, how long picks last depends. Could be years if you are climbing fat ice, could be weeks if it's thin or you are mixed climbing.

I have, on occasion, filed the 1st tooth off and continued to use them. Usually though I will retire a set when it comes to that.

Plan on buying picks if you live somewhere the ice is thin and fickle.

picks

Shepido · · CO · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 50

There are really two questions to be answered I think. One is how much can you file away on the pick before it should be replaced? This may not be so dependent on length of time but how much you bash your tools into rock, and are forced to resharpen them.

Looking at some picks such as the Cassin picks there is actually a small line etched which indicates a kind of limit for resharpening. You can see it here: The Alpine Start - Close Up of Cassin Pick

I've been told by much more experienced and wiser climbers to not resharpen beyond the first bottom tooth, which is something like 1/2" shorter than new - at least on BD picks.

The next question is assuming I swing for all eternity into perfect, thick ice, and never have to file the pick how long should they last? Which is more a question of fatigue.

Here is an answer from Black Diamonds QC archive, toward the bottom:
BD QC Lab

You should be able to get at least a season (20 - 50 days says BD) out of an ice pick. My own experience is that this is probably a very conservative number.

It's also been my experience that I end up having bashed the pick into rock enough that the first scenario for replacing the pick tends to limit the length of time until I replace them and not the second.

bantucaravan · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 5

Thanks all. Particularly @Shepido, never has a more cogent and direct forum post been written.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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