Some ice axes are labeled as “B”, others as “T”. What’s the meaning of these letters and what are their practical implications?

2 Answers 2


These letters stand for Basic and Technical

The real differences are:

  • B's are lighter, relatively cheap and not recommended for technical climbing. They are considered general mountaineering axes.
  • T axes are heavier and much stronger. They will cope with technical climbs and be much more durable.

Aside from that, they look similar and the same styles and shapes are available.

Additionally (and I didn't know this until I saw one that confused me) - you can have a technical axe with the blade and the shaft rated separately. For example a T shaft for strength and durability, with a B blade for flexibility.

  • I'm more of a rock than an ice guy. What do you mean by "technical"? Do you mean Real climbing as opposed to mountaineering? Or do you just mean harder ice climbing? Jan 31, 2013 at 18:29
  • 1
    Technical seems to encompass very hard ice climbing (not entirely sure as I'm more of a rock guy too)
    – Rory Alsop
    Jan 31, 2013 at 20:58
  • I think T-rated generally means stronger, or at least designed and tested for stronger stress and shear forces. So you can expect a harder blade steel, or a shaft that's designed to be swung into ice and be pulled and torqued on, rather than just have you fall over it in self arrest.
    – Nisan.H
    Feb 1, 2013 at 7:53
  • Disagree that B's are lighter, almost all technical climbing axes are T rated and are almost all lighter than general mountaineering axes, which make up most B rated axes.
    – Qwerky
    Feb 1, 2013 at 13:53
  • All the T rated ones in the climbing shop here are heavier, chunkier and generally more solid than the B's, but that's not a huge sample, I guess.
    – Rory Alsop
    Feb 1, 2013 at 15:22

A very important difference is that you should only belay from a 'T' rated axe.

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