One boot, one pack, one tool, one ski — sadly, it’s the pipe dream of the environmentally conscious. We’re all consumers now, we white-and-affluent alpine funhogs. The days of do-it-all gear are behind us. I’ve got a quiver of packs, a quiver of skis, not to mention boots, crampons, and sleeping bags.

At least I ride my townie around and have solar panels? Don’t ask me what the panels cost…

OK, I’m over it. We own stuff, guilty as charged. I got to thinking, though, “If I were to own just one ice tool, this one might be it: the CAMP Alpax Special.”

I took the Alpax (19 oz.; $199) on my AMGA alpine course last month and loved the thing. Sure, it came out of the box razor sharp and held up well (yes, even bashing in pickets with the head for days on end), but more important, it was the most versatile tool I had with me. And I had six…

The Alpax goes from a low-key piolet to an all-out tech tool in seconds flat, thanks to an ingenious lower shaft which holds a fold-up pinky rest in the handle. When undeployed, the lower shaft is smooth and straight, making it great for plunging. Slide up the plastic sleeve, though, and a workable pinky rest pops out, letting you hang on tight for steeper pitches.

Before

Before

 

 

 

The shaft and pick are both T-Rated, meaning they’re technical tools, plenty strong to use for dry-tooling, burying in a T-slot, or just generally abusing.

I did dozens of pitches in the course of my 10-day alpine course, on everything from low-angle, exposed glacial ice to steeper seracs during my movement practice. I loved the Alpax for its balanced swing, tenacious hold, and durability. It’s available in a hammer version, too, if you want a set of them.

My only gripe with the tool is its weight—but the CAMP gang explains, “That tool was designed 12 years ago, so it’s definitely due for an upgrade.”

And I say UPGRADE, boys! Take a few ounces off this thing and this could be THE tool for anybody doing routes on varying terrain (think Cascades and the Alps). I ran the 57cm version (also available in 50cm and 65cm), which seemed appropriate for Cascade routes (Baker, Shuksan, Rainier) with mostly walking, but a bit of steep stuff. If you’re inclined to bring a pole along, then the 50cm edition climbs steeper stuff really well. A co-candidate had a set of the 50s and they were great.

After

After

Check out the Alpax at a CAMP demo event soon. If you’re looking for a versatile tool to round out your arsenal, this might be it. I’m eagerly awaiting an updated version.