Be an expert tool user

Posted by Patrick Lam on Tuesday, April 7, 2020

This week’s tip is about tools. I’ve attached a picture of a replica of the ice axe that Sir Edmund Hillary used on his first ascent of Mount Everest. This was at the North Egmont Visitor Centre at the base of Mount Taranaki, a prominent cone-shaped ex-volcano in New Zealand. Sir Edmund’s original ice axe is in a museum in Auckland, and one can buy replicas of it on the Internet. [1]

Sir Edmund wrote in his autobiography: “The crisp snow and the smooth easy blows of the ice axe all combined to make me feel a greater sense of power than I had ever felt at great altitude before.”

Ice axes are key tools for climbing mountains with snow or ice. Their various pointy bits dig into the snow and you can lean on them for balance; a normal walking stick would slide down the hill. On steeper terrain you can use technical ice axes to climb icy waterfalls. And if you slip on a slippery slope you can try to use the ice axe to self arrest and not fall all the way down the mountain. Ice axes have also evolved to be really ergonomic (lighter and more comfortable than the one in the picture) and as user-friendly as possible for something with multiple pointy bits.

But, like your compilers and text editors, ice axes are just tools, and require practice to use effectively. Skilled users can get a lot more out of their tools than beginners. If you learn to use your tools, you’ll find that they enormously amplify your capabilities.

Good luck on exams!



Sir Edmund Hillary's ice axe, as seen at Egmont National Park.