Some ice axes are labeled as “B”, others as “T”. What’s the meaning of these letters and what are their practical implications?
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.
A very important difference is that you should only belay from a 'T' rated axe.