Whether you are walking in winter conditions or climbing on snow and ice, an ice axe is an essential tool for any winter mountaineer. Axes can be used to brake a fall if you slip whilst walking, or help you ascend a vertical wall.
As a general rule, shorter axes are best for climbing and longer axes are designed for walking. For many winter adventures you can use your axe for both. The shape of an ice axe handle (shaft) and head section (pick) is a better clue to its use.
There are two types of axe ratings, B-rated and T-rated. B-rated or Basic Axes are designed for walking but strong enough to belay on if you need to. T-rated or Technical Axes are designed for mountaineering and climbing with a much stronger shaft and pick.