Materials science and engineering student Isaiah Paul Janzen recently filed a patent application for an ice axe with a detachable head and I-beam shaped handle. For use in mountaineering situations, this ice axe design will supposedly improve its performance as an anchor as well as offer you more versatility on the mountain.
The mountaineering ice axe's head and handle are interchangeable, allowing for increased versatility and usefulness. You will be able to switch between using an adze or a hammer or even switch from a straight to a curved handle when you are planning to climb more vertical ice. One mountaineering ice axe with interchangeable heads offers a less expensive and lighter weight alternative to carrying multiple tools.
The ice axe handle is I-beam shaped and joined with the head in a machined, interlocking joint. At least one threaded fastening system secures that joint. The handle's I-beam construction facilitates the handle being driven into the snow or ice, while increasing the ice axe's resistance to applied torsional forces.
A common way of using an ice axe as an anchor when mountaineering involves plunging the handle of the ice axe vertically into the snow of the uphill slope as you climb. When the ice axe head is gripped, there will be resistance to a rotation of the axe when a perpendicular force is applied to the head (i.e., when you slip or fall).
A typical ice axe handle has a tubular cross section and a plugged lower end. This results in a greater cross sectional area, which requires more force to plunge into the snow than an I-beam design as well as offering less resistance to twisting forces.
Isaiah's proposed I-beam handle has flanges that provide torsional and bending resistance in all three dimensions. An ergonomic hand hold at one end is designed to be small enough so that it can be gripped with gloves while still maintaining some handle flanges in order to provide resistance to bending and torsion.
A spike along the major axis allows the handle to easily be plunged into snow or ice and provide a third point of balance. An optional pinky rest can be added to support the little finger when the ice axe is used for self arrest or for vertical climbing.
I would love to hear from all you mechanical engineers out there- do you think this is a better mountaineering ice axe design than the ones currently in use? Will the I-beam handle design improve performance as an anchor? Does it mean that your ice axe will perform more like a snow picket when you use it for a T-slot anchor during a crevasse rescue?