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Current conditions in North Conway, NH at 6:29a on 11/14/19 - Temperature: 11.1 °F - Wind speed: 0.0 mph - Wind chill: 11.1 °F - Barometric pressure: 30.399 in - 3 Hour Barometer Trend: Steady - Humidity: 85 %
IceCON 0. Minimal ice available for the hard core and mixed aficionados!
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ERGONOMIC Ice Axe
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Contact: PETZL
ERGONOMIC Ice Axe
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ERGONOMIC Ice Axe

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ERGONOMIC Ice Axe
PETZL
$359.95

YUP, I drank the leashless tool koolaid very early on, starting with the tool generally considered to be the progenitor of the leashless climbing revolution - the venerable Petzl ERGO. I've had my pair for at least 15 years, and just really felt the for me they were everything I was looking for in an ice tool. They excelled on vertical ice and mushrooms, hooked on ice and flutes extremely well, and with their great hand rest/hook they really slowed down my "pump clock". Compared to my Carbon Fibre Cobras, which are a great all-around tool in their own right, they were a LOT easier on my wrists. Due to all the stuff I do with my hands, I have a problem using a tool that requires me to do the wrist-flick style swing. The ERGO handle allowed me to do a stab motion, significantly reducing the strain on the tendons in my wrist and elbows. I was a happy camper...err, ice climber!

When Petzl stopped manufacturing the Quark style picks that the Ergo used a couple of years ago, I saw the writing on the wall. I quickly bought the few pick sets that were locally available and started looking at new tools. But what could I find out there that would give me that same level of comfort?

Being a guide at the local climbing school and working at our Ice Fest every year afford me the ability to try lots of different tools that were on the market at that time. I checked out the Quark-Ergo, Nomic, Cassin X-Dream, Trango Raptor, Grivel Tech Machine and BD Viper. None were a direct replacement, but the X-Dreams felt the best of the bunch so I bought a pair mid-season 2017. I used them the rest of that year and started 2018 with them. Unfortunately I started feeling a twinge of tendonitis returning in early season, switched back to my Ergo's and it went away. I sold the X-Dreams and restarted my quest.

Around this time Petzl had released a revamped line of tools. I checked out the new NOMIC's - nope, the new QUARK - close but no cigar, and finally the new ERGONOMIC's! Now I admit I had tried a prototype pair of these tools at the end of the previous season on a run up The Unicorn with local Petzl rep Dave Karl. I liked them, but one climb can't provide enough info for my hands and wrists. This time I borrowed a pair from the climbing school and used them on a bunch of climbs including Thresher, laps on the North End pillars, Standard Route, Dracula, Hobbit and Black Pudding. No wrist issues over that time so I jumped.

I climbed a couple of times a week the rest of the season and really didn't have any issues with them or my hands - at least as far as the tools were involved. I started having some trigger-finger problems, but I'm pretty certain that has nothing to do with ice tools. It's more 50+ year music and 35 year climbing careers finally catching up with me. [sigh]

So how do they climb? Very well in fact, but better with the Pur'Ice picks. The ERGONOMIC is kind of portrayed as a mixed-tool, and ships with their DRY pick. While this pick is stronger and certainly should last longer, in my opinion it's a bit thick for regular ice climbing and I found that it would tend to fracture the ice a bit more often. The optional Pur'Ice pick on the other hand, is really amazing.

The curve in the handle is a bit different than the original ERGO, but as my buddy Phil is want to say "close enough for government work". [wry grin] The swing is stab-like and the tool feels good in my hands. The grip is large and solid and I can hang on it for as long as my hands will hold up, and that's quite a while. It has a little hammer that you "could" use to tap in a piton, but that's not really what this tool is for. Along the same lines, it doesn't come with a spike on the finger rest and doesn't plunge, so it isn't a very good choice for mountaineering. That said it is compatible with the spike version that comes on the NOMIC.

Conclusion:  So...in case you didn't get it, I really like this tool. Is it the absolute perfect replacement for my original ERGO, hmmm...probably not. But it's darn close. It climbs vertical ice very well, it climbs mixed lines very well, it swings very well and it feels good in my hands. It doesn't do all that well in the mountains, but that's not what it was designed to do. While certainly YMMV, the ERGONOMIC pretty much ticks all the boxes for me. Yes, it's expensive, but they all are - for example the BD Cobra is $420! Can I climb better with a pair of these, I dunno about that - maybe. But I sure can climb everything I'm willing or capable of climbing these days, and I don't hurt after doing it. And that makes me feel very good.

Details: 3 year warranty
635 grams
Comes with T DRY pick
Compatible with Pur'Ice pick (recommended)
Handset is adjustable to 3 positions
Optional handset with metal point available

Al Hospers
October 2019

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