The CAMP Corsa Ice Axe (8.8 oz) is the lightest weight walking ice axe available today, which explains its popularity with thru-hikers, ultralight backpackers, and ski mountaineers. It’s a straight-shafted walking axe designed to stop uncontrolled slides down snow and ice covered slopes, as opposed to a curved and shorter ice-climbing axe which is used to climb frozen waterfalls and high angle ice.
When you think you might need an ice axe, you carry it in what’s called the “ready position”, with the butt of your hand wrapped around the pick and your fingers wrapped around the rear part, called the adze, with the point of the pick pointed away from your body. If you do fall, there’s no time to think, so prepositioning the axe in your hand properly is the only way you’ll be able to deploy it in time to prevent serious injury.
I’ve always found it challenging to grip the CAMP Corsa in the ready position because a high dexterity glove is required to wrap around its small pick and shaft. But most high dexterity gloves lack the insulation required to grasp a freezing cold piece of aluminum and carry it for hours at a time. .
Then I saw a picture on facebook posted by Chris Townsend of a new walking axe called the Grivel Helix which comes with a pick head cover (not available yet in the US). I immediately started researching spray-on rubber-like insulation and decided to try to duplicate something like it for my Corsa.
This hack is pretty simple but surprisingly effective. First, buy some Plastic Dip ($6) This is a spray-on rubber-like insulation with all kinds of nasty solvents in it, so do your spraying and drying outside or in a very well ventilated place. Plasti-Dip is also easy to peel off by hand if you make a mistake or don’t like the outcome.
Next tape up the parts of the axe you don’t want to cover with painters masking tape.
Then spray 7-10 coats of Plasti-Dip on the exposed metal that you want to insulate. Let dry at least 30 minutes between coats. When finished, let the axe dry for a couple of days.
Before you remove the tape, cut the boundary between the tape and the uncoated bare metal portion with a razor blaze. Plastic-Dip forms a continuous skin over the exposed metal and the tape, so it’s important to slice through the boundary so it doesn’t peel off when you take off the tape.
Carefully peel the tape off. Ta dah! You now have an insulated ice axe head that you can bare hand in warm weather or hold with a high dexterity, lightly insulated glove.
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