K2 Wants to give you The Shaft, er, we mean Shaxe

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | January 22, 2013      
Shaxe is an axe, shovel, more.

Shaxe is an axe, shovel, sled, more.

One thing we’ve wanted around here for years is a multipurpose shovel shaft that doubles as an ice axe and perhaps other tools. I don’t know if it was serendipity or what, but when WildSnow progeny Louie worked in product design for K2 a while back, he was part of the team that designed and brought to retail exactly that product. Yep, great minds think alike and a product he’d been dreaming of for years came to fruition!

Ice axe shovel shaft, the Shax from K2 for ski mountaineers.

Ice axe shovel shaft, the Shaxe from K2 for ski mountaineers.

Shax as a shovel. We're thinking next step, in near future, is to adapt a modern curved pick tool so it attaches to the shaft.

Shaxe as a shovel. We're thinking next step, in near future, is to adapt a modern curved pick tool so it attaches to the shaft.

Full frontal view of le Shax

Full frontal view of le Shaxe

Press release folows, edited for brevity and clarity:

…Latest addition to K2’s tool collection – Rescue Shovel Plus-Ice Axe (Shaxe) – is the ultimate multi-purpose backcountry tool for a wide array of winter adventures. Modeled off K2’s successful Rescue Shovel Plus platform, which was designed to not only function as a standard shovel, but also as a hoe, emergency rescue sled, dead man anchor, and foundation surface for a stove. Shax (edit: Let’s just call it that cool name) features a removable handle with an interchangeable ice axe head. Complete with a storage sleeve and rescue sled instructions, the handy multi-purpose tool is certified (CE) standards for global distribution. Beyond the convenience of carrying one tool, the Rescue Shovel Plus-Ice Axe is lighter, deploys longer than the average backcountry shovel, and is more cost-effective than purchasing several separate tools. MSRP $139.95

Features: Emergency Sled Ready with included hardware, Hoe Mode, Blade Webbing Holes for use as a Deadman Anchor, Removable Handle, Interchangeable Ice Axe Head, Storage Sleeve

Weight: 810g, (Ice Axe Only: 365g) Handle Length: Extended 64cm (25 ¼”), Collapsed 41cm (16”) Blade Dimensions: 25cm x 28cm (9 ½” x 11”)

I can tell you we’ll be testing the heck out of this thing, and probably building a carbon shaft version. After all, even something that’s totally modified needs more mods since this is WildSnow.com


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48 Responses to “K2 Wants to give you The Shaft, er, we mean Shaxe”

  1. Lisa January 22nd, 2013 6:49 am

    Nice. I want one!

  2. Lou Dawson January 22nd, 2013 7:21 am

    This might be perfect for the classic spring hut traverses in the Alps.

  3. wyomingowen January 22nd, 2013 7:44 am

    Will it be available as a “part” already have the rescue shovel plus, at 365g that’s a plus +

  4. George January 22nd, 2013 7:47 am

    Any room for probe poles in the shaft or storage sleeve?
    This goes on my short list.

  5. Kurtkore January 22nd, 2013 8:02 am

    Where can i bay this from norway? This shaxe is perfect too use in norways montain

  6. Jim L January 22nd, 2013 8:11 am

    Cool. Another one of my ideas stolen!

    Now we need a ski pole that will accept that removable axe head to become a PAXE(pole/axe) aka whippet. If we can’t pull that off, how about a retractable whippet, like a switch blade.

    Also, need a bow saw blade that goes from the tip of the axe pick to the tip of the axe shaft for guys that like to camp at tree line and cut firewood/build fires.

    OK, I need to get off the Espresso

  7. wyomingowen January 22nd, 2013 8:14 am

    Jim L “how about a retractable whippet, like a switch blade.”

    Look at the Grivel Condor, I have a couple spring seasons on them and can’t say enough good things

  8. Dale January 22nd, 2013 8:25 am

    The Chouinard shovel blade from the mid-late 80s was constructed to accept a standard ice axe shaft as a shaft/handle. So, a new take on a not so new idea.

  9. Tom Gos January 22nd, 2013 8:49 am

    How does the ice axe had attach to the shaft? Its going to have to be a pretty bomber connection for me to trust it to self arrest with, certainly something more substantial than the spring pin that typically connects a shovel blade to the shaft.

  10. Jack January 22nd, 2013 8:53 am

    cool idea (cold water alert): what about a climber who keeps his pack (with shovel blade) but has his ice axe ripped from his grip (or outside of pack) and can’t effectively companion rescue? Redundancy is a good thing, but again, weight is bad and the “avi, lost my ice axe” scenarios are infrequent and “second order” events. Every interface is a source of failure.

    Overall, it looks like a win.

  11. Tuck January 22nd, 2013 8:56 am

    “…when WildSnow progeny Louie worked in product design for K2 a while back…”

    Clever idea to get gear designed to your liking!

  12. XXX_er January 22nd, 2013 8:57 am

    I don’t have an ice axe and I need a better shovel so this looks like something I could use

  13. Lou Dawson January 22nd, 2013 9:00 am

    Tuck, yeah, none of these guys listen to me but they do listen to Louie when he’s working for them (grin). I’m actually pretty surprised no one did this before, it’s always seemed like a no brainer.

  14. Mark January 22nd, 2013 9:24 am

    Yeah, I had the idea too but not the skills or business connections to make it happen. Good on you Louie and K2 for making it happen – if you pursue design you’ll always encounter folks who poo poo your accomplishments. Not me. Keep the cool gear coming.

  15. Piotr January 22nd, 2013 9:52 am

    Has been around for two years or so. When compared to K2, trades a bit of shoveling comfort for the axe being a solid one piece as opposed to fail-at-you-at-the-worst-moment two piece (wonder if K2 one has the UIAA B rating – the press note just mentions CE).

  16. Gregg Cronn January 22nd, 2013 10:03 am

    Stubai had a trick set up with their technical climbing tool in the early ’80’s. It was designed to be a modular tool with different picks, hammer heads or adzes. The shovel blade worked quite well. It was very popular in the Canadian Rockies and was a mandatory item of equipment on many expeditions.

  17. Ralph January 22nd, 2013 10:41 am


    I have one of those old BD/Choinard axes with shovel attachment. Works really great, but I’ve nearly brained myself working on the inside of a snow cave. You need to pay attention to where the pick is in relation to you.


  18. Louie Dawson January 22nd, 2013 11:39 am

    pretty cool to see this out in the public! I’m back in school, and not working for K2 anymore, so anything I say isn’t offical, so keep that in mind.

    Yeah, it’s not a totally new idea, but I think we improved on other’s takes in a few ways. Most of the other designs I’ve seen (although I haven’t seen the old Stubai or the one piotr mentioned) are a big compromise in either the shovel functionality, or the axe functionality. Having a sharp pick on your shovel handle just seems to be asking for trouble.

    We wanted to design one that was a 100% functional shovel, and a 100% functional axe. I think we achieved it pretty well. The shovel works just as well as the standard k2 shovel. The axe is just as light as other light steel-headed axes, and super strong as well. We designed it to pass the UIAA B rating test. The pick-shaft interface is actually much stronger than many other axes on the market. It also takes a few different movements to remove the pick from the shaft, it would be very difficult for it to come off accidentally. I’m not sure if it actually passed the UIAA tests, as that would have happened after I left.

    On a side note, it was interesting to see how the B rating tests work. I think it would actually be quite easy to make an axe that would pass the tests with flying colors, but wouldn’t hold up to one second of actual use. Kind of interesting.

  19. Lou Dawson January 22nd, 2013 11:47 am

    Thanks for chiming in Louie!

    All, one thing to remember about the K2 shovel is that it’s beefy. Some of the other offerings seem just strong enough to pass initial muster and feel light in the backpack, but I’m not sure they’re really strong enough. Also, if they’re any smaller than the k2 they’re too small for average use, though probably fine for carrying more as a gesture when you’re in times of zero avy danger… in other words, as part of your shovel quiver. For example, that old Chouinard Black Diamond shovel blade that fit on an axe is too small.

    Another thing about the K2 is I know that the guys involved wanted both a shovel and an ax that really worked. I’m pretty trusting of that, though I’ll of course test. It’ll be fun to review my own son’s project. Perhaps I can find some really obscure criticism (grin), like not liking the texture of the shaft finish and thinking it should be .05 mm longer.


  20. Lou Dawson January 22nd, 2013 11:49 am

    Question for alpinists out there, if this tool had a modern curved pick, would it need a curved shaft as well? Not an insurmountable problem, but one that might need to be addressed?

  21. Zach Winters January 22nd, 2013 12:08 pm

    It was awesome to get the low down on this project from Louie on a recent trip. I tried playing devils advocate with as many “what ifs” as I could think up, and concluded that this is going to be an invaluable tool for weight reduction in a ski mountaineering context.

    One limitation we came up with was length, it won’t be offered in multiple sizes as far as I know, and the shaft will be pretty short. No problem for ski mountaineering, somewhat limiting for glacier walking.
    Another was the spike. It doesn’t have a steel spike, just an aluminum angled shaft end. Again, not important for skiing in my opinion (better, in fact because it’s lighter), but those who use their axe as a cane on the trail may notice durability issues.

    I’m definitely excited to get my hands on one of these sooner or later, great work Louie!

  22. Tom Gos January 22nd, 2013 12:21 pm

    Thanks for the input Louie, I’m sure it’s cool for you to see your project become a reality. I would suspect that the axe meets the UIAA criteria, seems that it would be pretty tough to market and sell a product that dosen’t meet the accepted safety norm.

    This is a great idea for skiers, and as someone else said, would be perfect for the alps style ski traverses where you only ocassionally need an axe. A 41cm axe is pretty short, but for climbing on steep snow it will work, and for just walking on low angle glacier ice you can just use your ski poles.

    I’m no climber, so I’m having trouble understanding why as a skier I would want a curved pick/shaft style ice tool. In my expierience, the traditional style of mountaineering ice axe seems to work fine for what I need on a ski tour. Can anyone enlighten me as to why I would need anything else for ski touring?

  23. Mike Bromberg January 22nd, 2013 12:25 pm

    I don’t think a “modern” or reverse curve/droop pick would be appropriate at all in this application. Mountain axes with “classic” picks are designed for arresting sliding falls and chopping steps. The pick is shaped this way so that it digs into the ice/snow when the shaft is lifted while “modern” reverse curve picks are designed to lever out of the snow/ice when the shaft is lifted for pick removal when climbing ice.

    Great looking product.

  24. Charlie January 22nd, 2013 12:41 pm

    Very cool. One fewer aluminum tube to carry.

    Who makes the pick?

    Wouldn’t be too hard to add a steel reinforcement to the spike like the Raven Ultra (unless BD holds a patent?). Nothing beats steel when you need it…

  25. Tim January 22nd, 2013 3:27 pm

    are they on the market, or next seasons product?

  26. harpo January 22nd, 2013 7:15 pm

    hmm, interesting product.

    My aluminium, small, spring/summer Voille shovel weighs 480 grams and my CAMP 50cm Corsa Nano 50cm axe with steel spike and pick weighs 230 grams for a total of 720 grams. I wonder if the Shaxe is more functional as an axe or shovel than what I have for the extra 80 grams? My combo is indeed more expensive. Also, I don’t usually carry what I need to make a sled, but I wonder if the Shaxe rescue sled work will all skis or just skis with holes in the tip like K2?

    Also Lou, could you do a blog post about installing the new two forward lean position Dyna TLT5 spoiler I just got in the mail? Seems pretty straight forward but I am a technical idiot and don’t want to mess up a pair of expensive boots. Seems like all you have to do is knock a pin out and then knock it back in. What tool is narrow enough to knock it out? Do you need any epoxy when you put it back in, or will friction hold it in place? Sorry if I should have posted this in one of the TLT5 threads, I will do that too.

  27. Chris January 22nd, 2013 9:31 pm

    Am I missing something? How does the curved handle, that is shown, fit into the straight shovel blade socket to form a right angle to work in the hoe position? It says the handle is removable, is there another one provided for this position that isn’t shown or does this handle some how fit into the blade socket?

  28. Ktownskier January 22nd, 2013 9:42 pm

    A great innovation, love to see companies willing to bring new concepts to life for our sport. As a gear nut, I will buy one.

    Only scenario I would be concerned about is losing the ice axe / shaft in a slide while boot packing up a coulior with partners below…(as often depicted in the great ads these same companies produce).

    If you are worried about weight, keep the shovel in the bag and use a CAMP axe 🙂

  29. Erik Erikson January 23rd, 2013 1:16 am

    I would be a little concerned about the fact, that the edge of the blade is not straight, but a little pointed / corrugated / wavy (dont know the correct english word): I have seen shovels with pointed / corrugated edges getting bended and kind of rolled up at the egde of the blade, when beeing punched in really hard and packed avalanche-snow.
    Maybe K2 met this problem by making the blade beefier?!

  30. Dimitri January 23rd, 2013 6:29 am

    bottom line is, if the shaft hasn’t been fully tested yet, don’t use something like this when you actually ‘need’ an axe or traveling on a glacier. you don’t want to be building a dead man with a potentially weak shaft, that is the last thing you need to worry about. good innovation thou 🙂 and nice to have on trips were and Axe is optional 🙂

    Piotr is right (same Piotr sking with JoeV in LaGrave?), even if they use top grade machined materials for the fixation, this still wont be as strong as a traditional fixed axe, which are ‘strong enough’.

  31. Louie January 25th, 2013 10:44 am

    I was waiting until I had actually checked out a production version to comment. I checked it out yesterday.

    It IS certified to the UIAA B standard, and is pretty burly. It can be used anywhere you would use a normal B axe, e.g. deadmaned.

    The fixation between the head and shaft hasn’t changed since when I was working on it, with the exception of the silicone sleeve that slides over it. That part is strong, we made it much stronger than many other axes we tested.

    The shovel parts are the same as used in the current k2 shovels, so they’ve been field tested for a few season now.

    Of course, having worked on it, I’m pretty biased, but I think it’s pretty sweet!

  32. Chris January 25th, 2013 5:16 pm

    Louie- Do you know the answer to my question above concerning it’s ability to be used as a hoe?
    Thanks, Chris

  33. Louie January 25th, 2013 10:00 pm

    I don’t see how it can be used as a hoe, I think that must be a mistake in the press release.

  34. Lou Dawson January 26th, 2013 6:25 am

    “Hoe mode” was in that PR, we’ll check today and edit it out if wrong.

  35. Chris January 26th, 2013 9:13 am

    Thanks, I’m thinking wrong handle or wrong PR more likely.

  36. Jim February 22nd, 2013 4:28 pm

    Where can you buy a Grivel Condor?

  37. wyomingowen February 22nd, 2013 7:16 pm

    Condor, they’re great

    Hey Louie can you find an answer to my question/comment from when the post was fresh (first 5 comments) about will he axe be available as a part? Already have the shovel. Thanks

  38. Louie Dawson February 22nd, 2013 7:54 pm

    I haven’t used the condor, but they do look sweet.

    I’m not sure if the axe will be available as a separate part. I do know that it is designed to be able to be attached to any k2 shovel blade. I hope they do offer it as a ad-on.

    I’ll ask the guys at k2.

  39. Louie February 25th, 2013 3:01 pm

    Just heard back from K2, the axe won’t be offered by itself, it will only be sold as a full kit, with shovel, handle, and axe.

  40. Daniel June 23rd, 2013 3:25 am

    I like the concept. It adds an axe to many tours where you might otherwise not have decided to include an axe to the gear. There’s climbs in spring and winter that can be done w/o an axe and many doso, still do I feel better with some chance of self arrest.

  41. Dane June 23rd, 2013 3:54 pm

    “if this tool had a modern pick, would it need a curved shaft as well?”

    Its’ no Nomic. Never going to be but that is OK. It is a self arrest or a basic climbing tool. Shovels are great basic climbing tools! Good enough. I like it! Now can you make it half the wieght?

    When you start talking “modern” picks someone ought to go self arrest with a “modern pick” as opposed to a simple curved pick and get back to us on just how realistic the “modern” picks are for self arrest.

    In reality super short axes and classic curved pick is hard enough to self arrest with. Add a “modern” pick and it is a “non stopper” unless you get it done prior to a slip. And in that case a Whippet will get the job done.

    I know Lou has climbed some hard ice with classic tools and self arrested with them as well. “Modern” tools limit a lot of what we use to do easily with a piolet.

  42. Dane June 23rd, 2013 3:58 pm

    Am I reading that right? Axe is adjustable from a 41cm to a 64cm length? Shovel as well? Me like short axes 🙂

  43. Louie June 23rd, 2013 5:25 pm

    I think that must be a typo, as far as I know, the axe isn’t adjustable and is available as a 50 cm version.

    I agree that the basic piolet pick is probably the best for this kind of axe. It works great for arresting, and is passable for all other uses. I climbed a bit of alpine ice this weekend (north ridge of baker), and my friend used the k2 axe as a second tool, it seemed to work pretty well.

  44. Carver November 22nd, 2013 12:17 pm

    Hey all.
    Just checked one out in the shop. Super cool tool. Solid axe, solid shovel. I think for general ski mountaineering, it will work out great for most applications.
    From a mountaineering standpoint, the rubber ring thingy which covers the axe head clip will simply not withstand a stomped down axe belay, where the rope runs around the top of the shaft, while your foot with a crampon holds it securely in the stiff snow.
    Also, under the stress weight of such an anchor, im not sure id trust the pin clip either. The rope would need to be run around one side only, making it unsafe. Being the fastest effective belay, its a concern of mine. Otherwise, pretty trick.


  45. Frame February 7th, 2014 3:55 am

    For those in the UK, Shaxe is for sale via the sports pursuit website for 50 quid. It’s a site that you need to register before looking at things however. Some discounted K2 ski’s also.

  46. Mike January 14th, 2015 10:33 am

    Any updates on le Shaxe after field testing? Thinking of picking one up for spring touring.

  47. Louie III January 14th, 2015 10:43 am

    As mentioned before, I might be a little biased, but I’ve been using it as my main axe and shovel for about 2 years, and it’s held up well. For winter touring I do use an extendable shovel instead, and for a few more technical climbs I use a more technical axe (Petzl Sum’tec). However, for the majority of tours, it’s what I have with me. No parts have worn out yet, and it still connects together solidly. Also, I’ve always used it without the little rubber sleeve that covers the attachment mechanism, and have never had it come loose.

    Only issue I’ve had is that the top of the axe head is a bit sharp on the hand, so I knocked down the edges a tiny bit with a hand file.


  48. Mike January 15th, 2015 10:46 am

    Thanks Louie. And nice work!

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