I’ve been using lightweight axes for a few years now, aluminum it turns out, is not to be feared in your winter hardware, and that includes on your feet.
The choice has widened though, the gap between the lightest and the old-school sees models creeping in to fill it, bringing little advantages without too much extra weight. And, just in for test, the Petzl Charlet Snowalker is one of those very models.
I hate the name, it might as well say “lame ice axe for country park ramblers”, it sells it short as it’s a proper piece of winter kit. The 60cm version I have here weighs in at 438g with the sliding leash attached. It’s a nice weight in the hand, with a slightly head-heavy balance which will be perfect for swinging to cut steps or dig in the tent. Step cutting has made resurgence since I’ve been wearing bendy boots in winter, a skill worth learning.
The shaft is anodized 7075 aluminium, lightly textured for reasonable grip. There’s no standard gripper, which I don’t miss as they always make shaft placement in snow more difficult grip, but the orange rubber ring can be slid down to act like a trigger-finger grip if you’re wielding the axe pick or adze first.
The pick is stainless steel with a neatly welded-on steel adze. The pick is nicely curved with a good point and set of teeth. It’s weight-relieved which gives you somewhere to thread a regular leash and stick your fingertips when carrying it. It’s good in a bare hand, but I’ll report back on how it does with gloves and mitts. The adze has nicely rounded edges, and should be a smooth digger.
The shaft is capped with a nicely shaped blade-style point, set in a scalloped plastic plug, this’ll be great for plunging into hard neve. The sliding wrist-loop is non-adjustable and I’m not sure if it’s a token gesture or not as yet, but I’ll use it and see what the score is.
Ignore the Snowalker name, although it’s tagged as “B” for basic, it looks and feels like a proper all-rounder and Ill be as happy sticking the pick into ice to pull myself over something short and steep as I will carrying it all day.
More as we go.