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Can an ice tool be too technical for me ?

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Can an ice tool be too technical for me ?

Postby Strider » Sun Oct 06, 2013 3:42 pm

hello everyone,

im interested in buying a set of ice tool .
i have been using rental tools when climbing - Petzl Quarks which i liked quit a bit. but i this year i want to have my own.
im usually mountaineering, Alpine climbing and ice climbing. not dry tooling . this year my climbing "outings" will be a ice climbing in the alps in the winter and summer technical mountaineering in the alps as well.

i was very interested in the Petzl Nomic (after reading very good reviews) but im a beginner climber so i dont know if they would prove to be too technical and professional for my level of climbing. although i understand the nomics can be used in the alpine climbing as well.
also the Ergo and the black diamond fusion appears to be more dry tooling oriented.

will the nomics suit me? or will be an overkill for my abilities?
should i buy Petzl Quarks? or BD's Cobra?
is there something i missing?

any suggestions for me?

thanks.
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Re: Can an ice tool be too technical for me ?

Postby ExcitableBoy » Sun Oct 06, 2013 4:19 pm

I wouldn't worry about any tool being overkill for your ability, you will grow into them. I would think more about what you will be climbing more often and get the tool suited for that. I.e. will you be mostly alpine climbing and doing some waterfalls or mostly waterfalls and some alpine climbing?

Quarks and Cobras are definitely more all around ice/alpine tools than Ergos/Fusions. Nomics are very popular for pure ice and are also quite popular for alpine climbing. You can buy after market hammer heads for the Nomics to pound pins/pickets making them suitable for alpine routes.

As for particular brands, that is largely personal preference. I like Charlet-Moser/Petzl because they fit my smaller hands better and I find their picks are more durable than Black Diamond.
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Re: Can an ice tool be too technical for me ?

Postby Strider » Sun Oct 06, 2013 4:26 pm

thanks for the quick reply buddy.

i would say mostly Alpine climbing and some waterfall ice.

how is a more radical tool as the nomics can "hinder" my alpine climbing?
are they too difficult to swing at low angled ice? or not comfortable when using as a cane ?

are the quarks good enough for waterfall ice? clearance, shaft, handle ,pick wise
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Re: Can an ice tool be too technical for me ?

Postby Norris » Sun Oct 06, 2013 5:33 pm

Check out the Petzl Sumtec. It has a unique design where you can use it in a leashless fashion on steep ice but unlock and slide the hand-retention device up the shaft so that you can still use the tool as a conventional ice axe on moderate ground
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Re: Can an ice tool be too technical for me ?

Postby Strider » Sun Oct 06, 2013 7:13 pm

yes i am familiar with the sumtec but i really dont see any advantage it has over the quark.
in adition i am going for a week+ long dedicated waterfall ice climbing trip and really want to have something that is built for that.
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Re: Can an ice tool be too technical for me ?

Postby ExcitableBoy » Sun Oct 06, 2013 7:20 pm

Quark or Nomic, really can't go wrong. I personally would opt for the Quark because I likes to have a full size adze and hammer for alpine routes. One thing to consider, Bugs McKeith put up WI 6s with straight shafted, curved pick axes. WI 7 was put up with CM Pulsars and Grivel Rambos by Jeff Lowe and Joe Joesephson. Quarks are a quantum leap ahead of those tools. You can certainly press the Nomics into alpine duty; many, many climbers do just that because they love how well they climb.
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Re: Can an ice tool be too technical for me ?

Postby Strider » Sun Oct 06, 2013 9:57 pm

i am a big believer in "its not the tools its the climber" mantra . but you know if you already being expensive equipment might as well research around and buy something that is really suits your needs.

a question :
the equivalent of the Quarks in the BD line is the cobra right?
i just see alot of chatter about Cobra vs Nomic and i think its just not really a fair comparison

i think its more
BD fusion- Petzl Nomic or Ergo
BD cobra- petzl quarks

just for the sake of my market comparisons
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Re: Can an ice tool be too technical for me ?

Postby asmrz » Sun Oct 06, 2013 10:46 pm

My take on the question:

Which tool fits your grip the best? Some tools are wider than others, after holding on to it for hours, if it is too wide for your hand, your hands will start to cramp.

Weight is also issue. Some guys with very strong upper bodies will swing tools of any weight, others (me included) need as light tools as possible.

How balanced is the tool? Some tools swing in wonderful balanced arch, others just require strength.

Size is also important. The steeper the terrain, the more important the correct size is. Alpine terrain requires somewhat different tools than pure waterfall ice climbing.

Unless you use an ice tool as a cane or for self arrest only, you really cannot buy too technical tool. You can buy one with features that are not quite the best for you, but the above is a good start.
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Re: Can an ice tool be too technical for me ?

Postby Strider » Mon Oct 07, 2013 1:32 am

asmrz, good points .
do you have any tips on how would i know if the grip/fits me? or the swing of the tool is good?
yes newbie questions i know..

so you say that even a very technical tool - for example very curved shaft- could not be too curved for a low angled ice gully or glacier on the way to a summit while alpine climbing?
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Re: Can an ice tool be too technical for me ?

Postby Monster5 » Mon Oct 07, 2013 7:43 am

I went through the big ol' new ice tool search process recently. My preference sounds similar to yours. My criteria being:

-Light
-No fixed trigger/pinky rests and a good spike so I could plunge the shaft. This ruled out the Nomic. I ruled out the Cassin X all mountains because I didn't think I could plunge the shaft easily during quick belays either.
-Accepts modular components to go leashless for the rare WI/mixed and also has a hole large enough to accept a small carabiner (belays, tethers, etc). Basically, a do it all sort of tool.
-Decent swing/head weight/balance (shorter arms). Bit more wrist action required.
-Usable hammer/adze
-Would hold its own at the crag, but mostly suited to alpine. Ruled out all of the axe/tool crossbreeds.

I liked the new style Quarks as they met the above criteria; however I went with Grivel Matrix Lights with the modular horns/triggers sold by the company.The Quarks were fantastic and I enjoy using them. I would like a pair of those someday.

I don't particularly like BDs. The swing feels funky to me, personally.

The Matrix Lights were plenty capable and considerably more affordable. They have a smallish hammer that's annoying when pounding in pickets, but not unreasonable. The rubber thing tends to shred, but the added insulation was nice so I just taped it up. Thus far, I'm quite happy with them. They also sell a carbon composite shaft version that's even lighter, but I wasn't confident in the durability in the alpine.

I'd check out an ice fest at some point and play around with a bunch of different tools to see what you like best. Or rent/borrow. It's difficult to gauge the swing in a shop with security tags and spare bolts fixed to the heads.
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Re: Can an ice tool be too technical for me ?

Postby rgg » Mon Oct 07, 2013 1:13 pm

There is some pretty good advice above.

One point that doesn't seem to get enough attention though is that yes, an ice tool can be too technical for alpine climbing! Two reasons:

- With a regular ice axe, self arrest is easier. It certainly is still possible with a tool, and perhaps if I were to practice more with it, it would get easier.
- A regular ice axe can be plunged deep into the snow to set up a belay in seconds. With the right consistency of the snow and standing on the head of the axe, it's virtually bomb proof. In contrast, the handles of most ice tools make plunging simply impossible.

As for the climbing itself, I don't think ice tools can be too technical. The main thing is to find tools that you feel comfortable with, and the only way to find out is to try lots of them. I agree with Monster5's suggestion to go to an ice fest.

Combining all these reasons, on easy alpine routes I prefer one (long) ice axe, on moderately technical routes one axe and one tool and on harder routes two tools. But if I'm on a long trip (i.e. weeks or even months) without precisely knowing what I'm going to climb, well, the airline weight restrictions force me to choose, and I pack two tools. A pair of BD Vipers to be exact.

Good luck in your decision.
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Re: Can an ice tool be too technical for me ?

Postby ExcitableBoy » Mon Oct 07, 2013 1:40 pm

rgg wrote: an ice tool can be too technical for alpine climbing! Two reasons:

- With a regular ice axe, self arrest is easier. It certainly is still possible with a tool, and perhaps if I were to practice more with it, it would get easier.
- A regular ice axe can be plunged deep into the snow to set up a belay in seconds. With the right consistency of the snow and standing on the head of the axe, it's virtually bomb proof. In contrast, the handles of most ice tools make plunging simply impossible.


These are really good points. My personal preference for alpine climbing is a tool that can be easily plunged; no grip rests, full size adze and hammer, and wrist leashes. Old school, I know, but it works for me. In my view, the tools that offer the best balance of technical climbing ability and suitability for alpine climbing are the Quark, Cobra, and Viper (since the OP specifically mentioned BD and Petzl). That said, there are many climbers who really like the way the very technical tools climb and put up with the short comings you mentioned even on very big, very alpine routes.

As has been mentioned, the particular brands are a matter of personal preference. Some one mentioned BD tools swing 'funky'. BD tools typically have a steel head so more of their weight is in the head. Other tools use aluminum heads so the tool feels more balanced and easier to swing. Both have advantages and disadvantages, it really comes down to how it feels.
Last edited by ExcitableBoy on Fri Oct 11, 2013 4:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Can an ice tool be too technical for me ?

Postby Strider » Mon Oct 07, 2013 8:31 pm

yes i agree, the points are very valid.
well it puts me in a bad situation because i live in the middle east and the only way for me to try out several tool options i need to travel abroad. so yeah.. no ice fest for me guys.
well , i will figure something out.

meanwhile - questions.
1. the Quarks have a techy handly as well , so how do they preform plunging and cane using wise.
2. how are the quarks on Waterfall ice?
3. How would i know that i have a god grip on the handle and its not too big for my hand?
4. What should i look for while swinging the tool? i can only try out in a store and not actually climb in them. yes i know it sucks but that is life.
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Re: Can an ice tool be too technical for me ?

Postby divnamite » Mon Oct 07, 2013 9:16 pm

1. Plunging with ice tools suck. The biggest problem is they are generally too short for most people. For a short, steep section of snow and ice, that's fine. Anything longer, no way.
2. Quarks are good on waterfall ice. Some people think they are too light. But I like them that way.
3. If you wear medium or large gloves, Petzl tools should be ok.
4. It's near impossible to test out the swing without swing the tools into the ice. There are so many different factors (ice pick angles, arm strength, etc).

I think you should buy all my ice tools. Then figure out which one you want to keep, and sell the rest. MUahahahah!
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Re: Can an ice tool be too technical for me ?

Postby asmrz » Mon Oct 07, 2013 11:10 pm

Strider

Re your questions above:

There is no objective way to determine what grip size is best for you. Subjectively, some shafts are circular in shape, others oval, some have sharper curves forming the oval/circle of the shaft, some are shallower. The feel of the shaft and how it fits your hand is the issue. I recall the A5 Big Wall rock hammer for ex. had such a wide handle that my hand would not close around it. The old Yosemite rock hammer was much thinner and I could use it just fine. So, can you grip the handle with ease? Does the oval or circular shaft feel comfortable? Which shape feels better?

If you swing the tool into the air above your head, then compare the feel of it with another tool you might notice that they feel differently while you swinging them. It is just a feeling of balance and natural arc in the swing. Some tools have it, others don't. Again, just a subjective way to compare.

Regarding the too technical tool, I didn't mean to imply that severely bent waterfall tools would be in same category as alpine tools, sorry to muddy up the debate. But within each category there are more general and more specific tools and those should not make that much difference.

I would think that if you are just starting out, you might encounter all kinds of terrain, steep snow, alpine ice, mixed ground and waterfalls. I would buy something that does all the things somewhat well, but does not limit you in any way too much.

I have pair of Cobras for waterfalls and a pair of BD Venoms for alpine. I'm mostly alpine terrain climber these days and the Venoms seem to be with me most of the time.
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