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Preparing Your Winter Hardware

By Rocio Siemens

It's that time of year again, and in a kind of counter-nature migration, many of us will be flying up North of the Border, with the prospect of enjoying some more amazing Scottish winter conditions. In order to prepare for all those classic ticks, what better way to spend the long and rainy evenings than to file, sharpen, oil and inspect your winter hardware, in between readings of Cold Climbs? Here are a few tips to get your kit back in top form, ready for the ultimate British winter action. First of all, grab your winter hardware from the depths of the dark box where you last left it, and start by clearing away the cobwebs...

Ice Screws

Ice screws can become blunt by screwing them into shallow ice and hitting rock, which makes the teeth gnarled and twisted. File away any burs by sharpening the inside of the cutting edge of the front of the tooth by filing downwards. File down the back of all the teeth in order to get the same shape and size as when new. This might involve filing down the troughs as well. You need to make sure all the points of all the teeth are level because otherwise only the longer teeth will be cutting into ice at any time. This can be quite difficult to achieve so consider sending your screws back to the manufacturer for a face lift. See photo 1 pointing out different parts of an ice screw tooth. Spray some WD-40 inside the screw to make it easier getting rid of the ice built up inside when you retrieve the screw as you climb.


When sharpening the pick use a vice to hold the axe down. Try to get an even wedge effect at the tip by filing from the main body of the pick towards the end, with long strokes in a slight downwards direction. Sharpen the top of the blade into a wedge to aid in retrieving the axe when you pull up. The first two teeth need to be flat and angled slightly downwards underneath. You want them to be flat because on ice you want a platform as oppose to knifing effect through the ice. The teeth beyond the first two can be rounded off at the sides to reduce difficulty in retrieval from ice.
Compare the photos below. Once you've sharpened your pick so that it's about 1 1/2 cm shorter than the original length, consider replacing it.

Preparing Your Winter Hardware

Blunt Pick

Preparing Your Winter Hardware

Sharpened Pick


Preparing Your Winter Hardware

The aim of sharpening blunt crampon points is to create a chisel effect. With traditional flat front points, file on the top edge of your two front points and on the inside edge of the rest of the points, always in a downwards direction. This photo shows the blunt front points of a crampon.

Preparing Your Winter Hardware

In this photo, compare the left and right front points for a lance point (left) versus chisel (right) effect. The former one tends to shorten the point more than the latter one. If the points are getting overused or too short for ice, consider down grading your ice crampons to mixed-route crampons.

Note: Avoid using an angle grinder because it heats up the metal and changes the temper which causes the points to potentially snap off and wear down quicker.

Replacing the Rubber on your Ice Axe Shaft

Preparing Your Winter Hardware

You'll need a mountain bike inner tube and 'Free sole' glue. Cut inner tube to the right length (you need to decide whether you want the whole shaft or just the handle replaced). Expand the inner tube by placing for a few minutes in hot water. Next, fit the inner tube over the shaft and tape the ends off.


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