Best Ice Axe
If you have ever dreamed of exploring Mount Shasta’s ice-covered mountain tops and looking over the incredibly blue and beautiful Lake Shasta, you will need a lot more than just your will and dedication. You may feel overwhelmed by the amount of suggested gear, but each piece is incredibly important and could save your life. One of what we consider to be the most important items to bring with you is an ice axe. A good axe can help you navigate your way through snowy passes, achieve balance, assist you in descending or ascending slopes, and even for protection while camping out in the middle of nowhere. The colder months are fast approaching, and it’s time to break out your gear and see what you’re missing or what needs replacing.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 17 hrs of research
Very durable materials
Top 10 Picks
1. Petzl Summit Evo
Very durable materials
Might be a bit heavy for some
The Petzl Summit Evo Ice Axe is probably the best choice overall when it comes to mountaineering through rough terrain and heavy snows. The curved axe head and handle make for an ice axe that is comfortable to hold, easy to carry, and still have enough weight to keep you safe while traveling through the mountains.Read more
The shaft is created from high-quality lightweight aluminum with an anodized coating for added protection. The curvature of the shaft is ergonomic in design and significantly aids in the repeated use of the ice ax for anchoring and climbing purposes. While the curved design can be problematic for some self-arrest situations, overall the design serves well.
Generally speaking, this ice axe weighs about 14.8 ounces, with a good majority of the weight being found in the head area for added striking power and anchoring ability. So found the ice axe to be a little on the heavy side overall, but for most people and situations it worked quite well indeed.
This ice axe comes in a fairly good range of sizes, including 52-centimeters, 59-centimeters, and 66-centimeters in length. Therefore, finding one that fits your body size and chosen activity type should not be too much of a hassle. This ice axe features positive clearance and a relatively small curvature angle, which makes this example a fantastic choice for making a quick stop or self-arrest in both firm and softer snows.
This particular ice axe has a “B” rating, which makes it ideal for general mountaineering, but not entirely suitable for more technical climbs.
If you’re looking for an ice axe that is easy to use and designed for comfort, but still able to handle emergencies when things go decidedly south, the Petzl Summit Evo Ice Axe is definitely one to consider. While some found the curved design and overall weight a slight hindrance, most people found this particular ice axe to be more than what was needed.
2. Petzl Glacier Literide
Easy to Transport
May be too light or small for some
The second entry on our list also comes from the people at Petzl, and it was a tough call between the two top choices provided. While the first place one because of its durability and hefty design, the Petzl Glacier Literide easily takes second based on its ultra-light nature and quality design overall.Read more
The straight shaft design is fairly simple but does feature a built-in handle, which makes using it for self-arrest purposes fairly easy, especially in colder weather conditions. It is also short overall and features a sharpened spike at the end, which can also double as a temporary anchoring point if necessary. While it doesn’t quite have the anchoring power of our top choice, it’s still a viable option for most safety issues.
Along with its smaller size, the Petzl Glacier Literide Axe is also one of the lightest we’ve come across. It weighs a mere 320 grams in total or just over 0.70 pounds. While its lightweight nature does have a few advantages overall, it does pose a bit of a problem especially when it comes to anchoring heavier people or objects.
This is one of the shortest ice axes on the list, measuring only about 50 centimeters in total length from axe head to spike tip. While it most likely won’t work well as a makeshift trekking pole, the shorter design does make transportation and carrying a bit easier overall.
This ice axe is rated for basic use, and really shouldn’t be used during more technical climbs and harder environments. This ice axe features a positive clearance and smaller curvature overall, which aids immensely in the act of self-arrest and use in both firm and softer snows.
If you’re looking for a very lightweight ice axe that is still useful for a typical climbing environment that is not too technical or as a back-up, the Petzl Glacier Literide Ice Axe is certainly one to have in your view.
3. Black Diamond Raven
Fairly good stopping power
Strong overall design
Only adequate self-arresting power
The Black Diamond Raven Pro Ice Axe offers a lightweight alternative to some of the heavier and more cumbersome ice axes available on the market today. Designed to be easily used by most mountain enthusiasts, and to function quite well in a number of environments, this is a great all-around choice for your next ice axe.Read more
The shaft is straight, and relatively long, making this particular ice axe well suited for use as a mountain trekking staff or as a walking stick in low elevation terrain. It is fairly lightweight as well, and can be easily carried in most situations, although the length does make swinging it time and time again a bit cumbersome overall.
The Black Diamond Raven Pro Ice Axe weighs about 14 ounces overall, so it’s not exactly the lightest out there, but it certainly won’t be a burden even if you’re traveling with a lot of equipment. However, because of its lighter nature, it’s stopping and anchoring power leaves a little bit to be desired overall.
This particular ice axe can come in a fairly good range of sizes, from 55 centimeters to 75 centimeters at 5-centimeter intervals. The likelihood of finding one that fits your body and activity level is pretty good overall.
This ice axe falls clearly into the basic category, although it does have uses on more technical climbs, such as using it for belay purposes and as an improvised anchor during rescue missions. While we certainly wouldn’t recommend that you use it for your only ice axe on technical climbs, it can certainly serve well as a back-up.
The curvature angle of the pick end of the axe head is relatively small, but larger than those found in more technical ice axes. It does feature a positive angle, though, which makes a self-arrest possible with this instrument, although one certainly shouldn’t expect a fast stop, but more of a gradual slow down.
The Black Diamond Raven Pro Ice Axe offers a very good all-around ice axe experience, and most people find that for their purposes this axe is hard to beat. While we certainly would have liked to see a curved handle and a technical rating, all in all, this is not a bad choice for mountaineering in general.
4. Petzl Quark Ice Tool
Great punching power
Not suitable for non-technical climbing
It’s hard to say whether or not this particular tool can technically be classified as an ice axe because it is so much more than that. There is no denying the usefulness and overall technical design of the Petzl Quark Hammer Tool in any situation. Designed to puncture hard ice and to swing easily in even the most extreme of climbing situations, this is one technical ice axe that can easily save the day.Read more
The shaft is comparatively short, so using it for trekking purposes is really not an option. However, the curved design does make for a powerful impact when swinging. The handles at the base are designed to maximize grip and are even removable if so desired.
This particular ice axe weighs a fairly hefty 550 grams, but it’s still smaller and more versatile than quite a few other ice axes on the market today.
The length is approximately 50 centimeters from bottom to tip, so this is a relatively small ice axe. It can easily be carried on your person, tied to a belt, or carried in a small backpack until needed.
This particular ice axe clearly falls into the “T” or technical category and is designed for vertical ice climbing, and crevice climbing where tight quarters are the name of the game. This tool features both a reverse acute angle for curvature and a very positive clearance, which makes it ideal for swinging into harder substances like ice, frozen ground or even rock. This ice tool is specifically designed for technical climbing, and can easily be used to quickly self-arrest if necessary.
If you enjoy going to extremes in your ice climbing adventures, having a quality technical ice axe that you can rely on is essential. Thankfully, this entry from Petzl can easily meet that requirement. While it’s not a great choice for the average climber, if you like to climb ice sheets or frozen waterfalls, this is likely to become an essential tool.
5. Grivel G Zero
Easy to hold
Not suitable for technical climbing
Not a lot of anchoring power
If you’re looking for an ice axe that is truly simple and lightweight, but still can easily get the job done, one that really should be taken into consideration is the Grivel G-Zero Ice Axe. Not only is it designed for alpine pursuits, but it features a one-piece axe head that provides a great deal of strength without too much added weight.Read more
The shaft of this ice axe is straight with rounded edges for a fairly comfortable grip, and the end of it features a good-sized spike for use for added stability and traction on mountainous terrain.
The weight can vary slightly based on the length, of course, but for the most part, this ice axe weighs about 15 ounces, which makes it fairly lightweight. While it doesn’t really provide a great deal of anchoring or stopping power, for general use in mountaineering and alpine environments, it is more than suitable.
There are three basic lengths available for this particular ice axe, namely 58 centimeters, 66 centimeters, and 74 centimeters. All three appear to be comfortable lengths to allow this item to be used as a trekking pole when needed.
This ice axe is rated for basic or type “B” use, and is really not suitable for more technical climbing. Unlike many of the others on this list, this particular ice axe doesn’t feature a positive or negative clearance, but rather a neutral one, meaning that the angle between the pick end and the surface when struck is actually very close to zero. The curvature angle is also a little on the larger size, which makes this one great for general mountaineering and hiking through rough terrain, but not really suitable for technical climbing.
If you want an ice axe that is both lightweight and relatively durable for the next time you climb into the foothills of a mountainous region, this entry from Grivel is a pretty good one to have along. While we wouldn’t trust it completely to do a self-arrest, it can certainly be an aid when hiking through more treacherous terrain.
6. Petzl Gully
Fantastic punching and stopping power
A bit expensive
Picks are not replaceable
If you’re looking for an expedition worthy ice axe, you may just have found what you need in the Grivel Air Tech Evolution Ice Axe. Not only is it a great choice for general mountaineering, but the overall design makes it easy to use, and it also features some significant stopping power in a small package.Read more
The shaft is slightly curved near the axe head and is constructed of aluminum, to maintain its lightweight. The pick is tapered and forged out of steel for added strength and durability and for deeper penetration. The bottom portion of the handle has horizontal grooves for easier handling and control.
Perhaps the best feature of this axe is its weight. This axe weighs in at only .617-pounds or 280-grams. This 45cm axe also features a beveled spike, making it easy to store inside your backpack and safer to attach outside your bag.
The length of the entire ice axe is only 45cm long. And while the shorter length may be seen as a disadvantage to some, for the most part, the length isn’t a hindrance to most people.
For the price point, this ice axe falls squarely into the technical rating and has significant punching power and the ability to make quick arrests on a moment’s notice. If you’re working through some terrain that is a bit unstable, this is definitely a great choice for an ice axe.
This particular ice axe features a relatively gentle curvature to the pick and positive clearance, making it usable as both a mountaineering pick and as a self-arrest tool when needed. With this particular ice axe, a type of balance has been found between general use and technical merit that works quite well.
The Petzl Gully Ice Axe is a solid, technically sound ice axe that is fairly comfortable to hold and use. While some might find the fact that the picks are non-replaceable a turnoff, this ice axe is a great choice to have around at all times because of its small size and portability.
7. Grivel Nepal Self-Arrest
Fairly good heft
The curvature of the shaft may be uncomfortable for some
Designed with the weekend mountaineer in mind, the Grivel Nepal Self-Arrest Ice Axe is one that is perfect for trekking, snow climbs, and overall enjoyment of the mountainous areas.Read more
The shaft is made from carbon steel and features a slight curve to it that isn’t quite ergonomically friendly but is still quite noticeable for those who prefer to have a straight shaft. While it can easily be used as a trekking aid, quite a few customers found the overall shaft design to be somewhat cumbersome.
The weight is approximately 16.9 ounces, which makes this ice axe a little on the heavier side. The added weight certainly aids in the stopping power that it possesses, but the overall design makes it easier to perform a slow-down instead of a full out arrest in most cases.
The length of this particular ice axe can vary between 58, 66 and 74 centimeters, so finding one that suits your body and style of climbing should be fairly easy.
This ice axe is rated for basic use, but can easily be used as a backup even on more technical climbs. We simply wouldn’t trust it to stop more than two hundred pounds of force when necessary. This ice axe features a negative clearance and a fairly shallow curvature, which aids in helping a person to slow down and stop when necessary.
The Grivel Nepal Self Arrest Axe provides a reasonable ice axe that can easily be used in a wide range of non-technical climbing and mountaineering situations. While it’s not ideal for technical use, for most climbers, this is more than adequate for mountaineering or an alpine adventure.
8. Grivel G1
Comfortable to hold
Durable Axe Head
A bit heavy for a lightweight ice axe
This next product on our list is, once again, from the Grivel brand and is no stranger to being used in a wide array of climbing environments. It’s lightweight, well built, and features a neutral clearance and curvature to keep things simple and straightforward.Read more
The shaft is straight, making it less than ideal for the very steep inclines where every added bit of force is an asset in the swing, but for the most part, this ice axe serves very well as both a pick and a stopping tool. The rubberized grip on the handle makes it easy to keep a firm hold, and the Ergal 7075 aluminum materials make for a fairly lightweight ice axe, given its dimensions.
The weight of the ice axe is about 1.2 pounds, which does make it a little heavy on the lightweight side of things, but again, the balance is quite good, and few people experienced significant fatigue during its use.
The overall length of this ice axe can vary between 58, 66 and 74 centimeters. While the weight may fluctuate according to the amount of material used, this ice axe appears to be fairly well balanced and can be used for trekking purposes if needed.
This ice axe features a “B” or basic rating, which means that it can easily be used for non-technical climbing, mountaineering, and to stop a moderate amount of weight. While we certainly would use a backup ice axe as a partner to this one, in most cases, it can be used as a primary tool.
As stated earlier, the pick and axe head on this particular ice axe features a more neutral design that is well suited for a wide range of uses and environments. While it may not be the best we’ve seen at self-arrest, if you’re looking for a tool that you can use on ice, snow, frozen ground or even rock, this is certainly a viable option.
The Grivel G-1 Axe provides a strong, yet relatively lightweight ice axe that can be used in a number of climbing and hiking situations, including mountaineering, and some gentle slope climbing. While we wouldn’t suggest using it on more vertical or steeper faces, for the majority of climbs, this is a good choice to have around.
9. Camp USA Neve
Comfortable to hold
Superior self-arrest ability
A bit on the heavier side
If you’re looking for a decent all-around ice axe that is suitable for a beginner ice climber but still can be easily used by veterans alike, our ninth pick is a great one to consider.Read more
The shaft is straight but tapers slightly in the middle to allow for an easier grip at a key swing point for the axe. In addition, the shaft is made from lightweight aluminum that is still sturdy enough to be used as an anchor and support when needed.
This ice axe averages about 17.1 ounces in weight, which makes it fairly heavy overall. While the heft does allow it to provide great stopping power and anchoring ability, it can also cause a bit of fatigue over time.
The length of this ice axe can vary between 57, 65 and 80 centimeters in length. These lengths are slightly longer than average, which can add a bit more force to a person’s natural swing. Conversely, though, it can be awkward to carry on the person, depending on the amount of equipment used.
This ice axe is rated for basic use, and does so superbly. While we wouldn’t necessarily use it on very steep climbs or vertical ascents, for most mountaineering needs, this one is certainly a great option.
The curvature of the axe head on this example is fairly shallow, almost bordering on straight, which makes it fairly versatile. The clearance is positive, so it can still easily be used for anchoring and self-arresting purposes. In fact, this particular ice axe is one of the best we’ve seen at self-arrest that we’ve seen. Add to that the CC4U wear indicator, and a user can easily see when the pick is no longer safe to use.
If you’re a beginner ice climber or know someone who is, the Camp Neve Ice Axe is a great overall choice. It’s fairly comfortable to use, has great stopping power, and is extremely durable as well. The only disadvantages that we could see were the overall weight and the fact that a leash is attached to the handle, and not the axe head itself.
10. Camp USA Corsa
Comfortable to use
Adequate arresting power
Poor adze functionality
Not as useful in very hard snow
The Camp USA Corsa Ice Axe rounds out our list, but it is by no means something to be tossed away. It is not only one of the lightest ice axes we’ve come across, but it is also fairly sturdy and is suited for low angled glacier travel, making it a fairly unique entry on this list.Read more
The shaft is straight and extremely light. Made from lightweight aluminum material, it is difficult to remember that it is being carried on your person until the time that it is needed. It’s very comfortable to grip and use as well.
This is by far one of the lightest ice axes that we’ve ever seen. It weighs just 7.2 ounces, making it extremely comfortable to use and carry.
This ice axe comes in three different sizes, namely 50 centimeters, 60 centimeters, and 70 centimeters.
This ice axe is suitable for general use and is specially designed for use on low relief glacier travel, or for self-arrest on gentle slopes with moderately packed snow. The curvature on this particular ice axe is fairly shallow, and the clearance is slightly positive compared to a neutral surface. Its ability to stop someone is established, as its ability to be used as an anchoring point, to some extent.
If you’re looking for a backup ice axe that is suitable for general mountaineering, especially in snowy and icy conditions, the Camp Corsa is definitely one to consider. Extremely lightweight, and yet durable, this ice axe is a great one to have while traveling across a glacier.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Check the CEN rating to determine durability. The CEN rating refers to a rating gain a pickaxe for ice by the ComEuropeanpeen de Normalisation concerning the overall quality and usefulness of the axes for ice for certain situations. A typical rating will either consist of a “B” or basic rating or a “T” or technical rating. A “B” rating is more suited for less strenuous and less technical climbs. They are usually much lighter, less expensive, and are also typically less durable. An ice pickaxe that is marked with a “T” however is tested to be strong enough and durable enough to work on technical climbs and to be used for self-arresting measures.
Depending on how much you are carrying with you during your expedition, the overall weight of each item can play a very important part overall. The weight of the axes for ice is no exception to this. When it comes to weight, quality axes for ice will be heavy enough to help stop you and your equipment from falling during a self-arrest, but also light enough to not become a significant burden for those that are carrying the pickaxe itself.
Most axes for ice weigh somewhere between 200 and 400 grams or between 0.4 and 0.8 pounds. Needing to make sure you are able to carry this axe on your belt or back is important when it comes to it being lightweight and easily portable.
The general rule of thumb when it comes to the best pickaxe for the individual is that they should be able to hold the head comfortably in their hand while standing relaxed, and have the spike, or lower end of the pickaxe just barely touching the ground. This allows the ice pickaxe to be both used as a climbing pickaxe and as a type of trekking pole when warranted.
In addition to your size, another factor to consider when choosing the proper length of the pickaxe is the intended use of the ice pickaxe. Typically speaking, axes for ice that have a length of fewer than 60 centimeters, or about 24 inches are usually designed for more technical climbing but don’t offer much leverage or stopping power. Those axes of ice that are 70 centimeters (about 28 inches) are fantastic for low angled terrain, and cross-country travel, but aren’t well suited for more technical climbs.
When determining the best axe for your needs, the most important thing to consider is the pick, or as some would call it, the business end of the head of the ice axe. This is what is used to perform a self-arrest, and to aid in climbing or mountaineering tasks. The curvature as is expected refers to the amount of bend, or curve the pick has in relation to the shaft. Generally speaking, the smaller the angle, the more suited the axe is for technical climbs. Usually, the curvature angle of the more technical picks ranges between 55 and 60 degrees, while ones with a greater angle, such as 65 to 70 degrees are usually reserved for general mountaineering purposes.
The clearance of a pick refers to whether or not the curvature angle is positive or negative in regards to the shaft of the pickaxe as it is measured against the ground surface or snow. In most cases, modern axes have a positive clearance, but there are a few out there that have been designed to highlight a negative one. While both a positive or negative clearance will work to help stop you from sliding further, ones that have a neutral or negative clearance will often skim across the surface of the snow and ice and require more force for penetration. Those with a positive clearance will often pull into a surface, making self-arresting a much easier task.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Ice climbing is a sport that requires determination, intelligence, pragmatism, as well as the right equipment to reach the summit. Having the best ice pickaxe in your arsenal can certainly assist you in reaching that goal. It will help you in times of need and will help you stay alive and safe while climbing an icy mountain. The list that we have provided here is a great place to start to find the ice pickaxe that is best suited to your needs. We invite you to not only consider these but also the other options available as well.
While leashes are an optional accessory, it could be the accessory that saves your life. When climbing a mountain, if you lose the most important tool for descending, you'll be in grave danger. An axe leash ensures that even if you drop your axe, you won't lose it forever. Many manufacturers make custom leashed for their axes. They are available in many different lengths. For steep and technical climbs, a long leash that allows you to easily switch hands is ideal.
Before heading out, well actually a few days before heading out, you should examine all of your equipment, especially your ice axe. Make sure that it is free of dents, chips, or any other imperfections. Tap it against a hard surface. There shouldn't be any unusual reverberation. There isn't a set date or lifespan of ice axes. It really depends on in which terrains and how often you use it. However, before every climb, you need to examine the axe before putting your life in its grip.
Other Factors to Consider
There are essentially two main shaft designs that are featured in the best ice axes on the market today. A pickaxe shaft can either be straight or curved. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. For example, a curved shaft makes it easier to swing into the ice, and are best suited for the art of climbing itself, but can be a bit problematic when a quick stop or when an anchor is needed. And while a straight shaft is great for belay and self-arrest purposes, swinging an ice ace with such an orientation can cause fatigue over time.
While preparing for a trek, an ice axe may be one of the last pieces of equipment to cross your mind. However, besides the monetary value, it's an invaluable piece of equipment. Not only can it save you from falling, but it also doubles as a protection tool. When determining the value of an ice axe, we don't just want to look at the price. To determine the value, we need to take a look at the features, size, use, and overall durability of the axe. If we made our decision judging by the price only, we could end up with a less reliable or less durable axe.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: How do I use an ice pickaxe to stop myself from falling?
Preventing, or stopping yourself from falling too far during a climb when you don’t have the use of a belay rope or another person is called self-arrest, and it is a very important skill to develop. There are quite a few techniques that are taught depending on the school of ice climbing presented, but the overall basic technique is basically the same.
First, how you perform a self-arrest depends on how you are sliding down the slope. If you’re slipping so that your face and stomach will hit the slope first, it’s important to make sure that the pick of your ice pickaxe is facing away from your body and towards the snow. As you’re falling, place the ice pickaxe diagonally across your body so that the pickaxe head is by your shoulder, and the spike is near your hip. Then, once you hit the slope, arch your back and press the ice pickaxe into the slope with your body weight, making sure to spread your knees apart and protect your face from the other end of the pickaxe head by turning away. If done correctly, this technique should slow your descent rapidly to a standstill, where you can adjust your footing as needed.
q: Does the weight of the axe really make a difference?
When it comes to ice climbing, you’ll probably have a fair amount of equipment by your side to make the trek a bit more bearable, if not enjoyable. And while this equipment may be necessary, it certainly does add a bit more weight to the equation. This is definitely something to consider when choosing an ice pickaxe as well.
While your first considerations should be safety, and the ability to do a self-arrest properly with your ice pickaxe, you also want to take into account the fact that the ice pickaxe could add some significant weight to what you are already carrying. This does not mean, however, that you want to carry the lightest pickaxe for ice you can find if you’re carrying a lot of equipment. In fact, you’ll want to make sure that you find a pickaxe for ice that can not only support your weight but also the weight of your equipment if the need arises during a fall. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll want a pickaxe for ice that can support at least three times the weight of your body as well as the equipment you’re taking with you.
q: Which type of axe is best for me?
Another factor to take into account when purchasing the best pickaxe for ice for your needs is how you will be using it. Ice axes, as a general rule, are classified for either general or basic use (category “B”) or technical use or classification “T”. B category axes are generally lighter, cheaper, and less durable. These B axes are not recommended for technical climbing and are better suited for winter walking or light glacier travel. While most types of mountaineering and climbing fall easily into the “B” category, there will be times when a pickaxe for ice featuring the “T” category will be necessary. These include highly steep terrain, icy conditions, times when you are carrying a good deal of equipment, and extreme weather conditions, or climbs where the face orientation can change rapidly.
q: Does my height make a difference in which axe is best for me?
When you are buying your first pickaxe for ice, it’s important to take a close look at your overall height as well as your body proportions. Many people use the pickaxe for ice not only for stopping themselves during a fall, but also as a way to support themselves while traveling over ice, snow, and rocky terrain. Therefore, finding a pickaxe for ice that fits not only your intended use but also your body type is important. For example, if you are 5’8 or shorter, a 50-60cm axe will be best for you. If you are between 5’8 and 6’0, a 60-70cm axe will be best for you. And lastly, if you are over 6’0, a 60-75cm axe will be ideal for you.
Think of it this way; a pickaxe for ice, just like any other climbing tool, should operate as an extension of your body. It should give you enough strength to support you in case one of your limbs becomes damaged. Therefore it needs to be long enough and strong enough to do the job of your arm, or your leg as the case may be.
q: Can I travel by plane with an ice axe?
If your dream climbing destination is a flight away, you'll need to pack your axe with caution. First of all, you can not carry it in your carry on luggage. It's no shock that an ice axe could be seen or used as a weapon. For this reason, it will have to be stored away in your checked luggage. However, you must be careful when packing it. These axes are sharp and could easily harm the items in your suitcase, the suitcase itself, or possibly even a TSA agent if they are inspecting your bag. To properly pack and protect the axe, you'll want to protect all of the sharp points and edges. This includes the adze, pick, and the spike. There are sleeves that you can purchase that are specifically made to protect the axe, but you can also make your own. You can use something like cardboard and tape to "dull" out the edges. After you have protected the sharp points, it would be a good idea to either put it in its carrying case or wrap it in a towel.
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