Excited for an upcoming ski mountaineering trip to the Fuhrer Finger in May.

I've seen many guided groups (e.g. IMG) recommend two ice-axes.

This left me wondering, what is the ideal tool combo for traveling up glaciated terrain between 40-60 degree slope? The FF doesn't approach 60 degrees, but it would be helpful to know when people think the transition from 1-2 tools makes sense.

Seems like one Whippet and one piolet would be a good compromise of weight/functionality since I plan to be on skis as much as possible.

  • We're planning on being on skis as much as possible (hence the consideration of the whippet). I'm not sure what the local standard is for FF - hoping someone on here knows :) I did the standard DC route last year, and a single ice axe was more than sufficient, but it doesn't have as much sustained ~45 degree slope as does the FF.
    – Rocinante
    Commented Apr 3, 2017 at 20:49
  • 1
    I personally don't have any experience on Rainier, and have limited experience ski mountaineering. I found a trip report where people did the trip you are planning with a whippet/ice axe combo. That feels like a reasonable approach to me. If someone with more experience doesn't post an answer then I will.
    – Erik
    Commented Apr 3, 2017 at 21:02

2 Answers 2


Personally I would go with poles and one ice-axe as long as possible. As soon as there are have prolonged steep slopes (defined by having to ascend with front points of crampons) I would take two axes.

I originally wrote the paragraph below assuming it was mountaineering (in May - silly me). It is still relevant and applicable, but it assumes that a pole is an additional item. As you have one (two) anyway for skiing, the threshold is much lower for exchanging one ice-axe with a whippet. As I have no experience at all with whippets, I am not really knowledgeable to advice on its usage. I will delete this when more complete answer comes up.

If you go with the worst case of your requirements, it is clearly two ice-axes. In hard frozen snow or ice in a 60deg slope you will be ascending using the front points of the crampons and both ice axes with picks in the snow and hands on the shaft. In snow that allows to create good steps, you can ascend upright zigzagging in slopes up to 60deg. So really it is a judgment call, so you should go with what local guides recommend.

  • Thanks for the pointer and additionally, May should have been a big red flag: That really sounds more like skiing than climbing. I am going to wait for the OP to clarify.
    – imsodin
    Commented Apr 3, 2017 at 20:48
  • Yes, we are planning on skiing as much as possible. I'm wondering if I need to pick up an additional piolet, or a whippet, or neither (and just use a single piolet).
    – Rocinante
    Commented Apr 3, 2017 at 20:50
  • @imsodin feel free to pull in that trip report that I found if you want. That would save me the trouble of posting a supplementary answer to yours with that report as an example if someone with more experience doesn't post an answer in the next day or two.
    – Erik
    Commented Apr 3, 2017 at 21:09

One of the most important thing in ski mountaineering is weight of equipment. So you should take only what you really need. That will allow you quickly move and enjoy a trip.

Regarding what to take (Piolet(s), Whippets, ice tools):

  • ice tools used only for ice climbing and technical routes. Usage is very limited. Also ice tools can't be used for self arresting.
  • whippets - I don't have experience with them but I think it might be good candidate. It depends on the route and snow\ice condition.
  • 2 ice axes. Again 2 ice axes should only be used when you need to climb hard ice\snow 60 degree or more. I would better use ice axes instead of ice tools as I would better suffer 30-60m on the route climbing with ice axe then caring additionally ice tools.

So my choose for this rouse would be poles and 1 light ice axe for self arresting (something like Camp Corsa or Climbing Technology Agile)

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