How to Sharpen Climbing Spikes

How to Sharpen Climbing Spikes
For mountaineers, a climbing spike may refer to a spike on a climber's crampons (spiked metal straps attached to the feet to increase traction in snow and ice) or the spike of an ice axe. Maintaining these climbing spikes is important--especially considering that their functions include acting as emergency "stops" in case of a slide or fall. Part of that maintenance is keeping climbing spikes sharp.

Instructions

Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Climbing Spikes: Crampons

Things You’ll Need:
  • File or sharpening stone
  • Running water
  • Rag or cloth
  • Rope
Step 1
Consult manufacturer instructions. These instructions may indicate the use of a specific type of file or stone with which to sharpen your spikes. Follow these instructions when obtaining a sharpening tool.
Step 2
Clean your crampons. Placing them under gently running water should do the trick. You want to get rid of dust and other small particles before your begin sharpening the climbing spikes.
Step 3
Use a file (or, if manufacturer instructions direct, a sharpening stone) along the dull portions of the spike. Gently run the file, from base to tip in that one direction, along the edge of the spike. You want the climbing spike fairly sharp but not too sharp; this will only lead to a faster dulling of the spike later on.
Step 4
Place the freshly sharpened spiked under gently running water once again to remove sediment.
Step 5
Dry the crampons with a rag or cloth.

Climbing Spikes: Ice Axe

Step 1
Consult manufacturer instructions. These instructions may indicate the use of a specific type of file or stone with which to sharpen your ice axe's spike. Follow these instructions when obtaining a sharpening tool.
Step 2
Secure your ice axe. Tie it down with a rope to hold it steady. This will prevent the ice axe from spinning or getting knocked during the filing process, thereby risking your physical safety.
Step 3
Use a file or sharpening stone on the dull edge in question. Use regular strokes, holding the file consistently at the proper angle (see manufacturer instructions). Avoid sharpening the axe too much; you want a climbing spike that can easily penetrate ice and hard snow, not something you'll cut your finger on just by touching it. In fact, an overly-sharpened ice axe will simply wear down faster and pose a continual safety hazard to yourself and others with whom you climb.
Step 4
Use a cloth or rag to wipe away any metal filings or other sediment left over from the filing process.

Tips & Warnings

 
For your own safety, position your body on the base side of the spike during the filing process. The most common form of climbing spike injury comes from climbers being impaled with their own spikes.

Article Written By William Jackson

William Jackson has written, reported and edited professionally for more than 10 years. His work has been published in newspapers, magazines, scholarly journals, high-level government reports, books and online. He holds a master's degree in humanities from Pennsylvania State University.

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