This year as I see the ice forming, I want to get into the world of ice climbing. When I started looking into the gear though, I get lost. There's Petzl tools and BD tools and Grivel and and and. Beyond the brands they all have their own tools, in similar styles at least, but how do you sort through what's right for a person. Today I want to start ice climbing so a reasonably priced tool, doesn't need to be fancy much like the Quark. But what about later when I want to try some dry tooling or Andromeda Strain, moving to a Nomic style tool. Does a person really need a whole string of different tools depending on the day and climb or are they more versatile than the companies make them out to be? What do you use and why? Do you have different tools depending on what you're climbing that day? Youtube wasn't really helpful except to find endorsements by pros that I don't climb like anyways, hoping you could shed some light and maybe even turn into some inspiration for Climbing Tools.
Ice climbing sounds strange and waterfall ice climbing sounds just plain stupid. Yet it is so Canadian it fits right in between hockey and Dog sledding. Your question of tools which one and why I could see being a confusing one. Petzl, Black Diamond, and Grivel are the big players in the game at least here in North America. Not looking at mountaineering axes each of the big three have a couple high end ice tools.
First lets define the type of tool Climber4Him is talking about. We are not looking at the standard mountaineering axe 70cm or so in length. Straight shaft adze on one side of the head and a pick on the other. No we are talking about the more technical waterfall ice tools and their close relatives. We should note right now that even the worst waterfall tool on the market is heaps better then any tool we had 20 years ago.
I can go into a big long rant about the evolution of the ice tool but will spare you that because I have already done that. Check out this blog post “ Why would somebody prefer not to use leash less tools “ I have a blog already covering the evolution at mountainguide.com
“ Any tool will work for you as long as you believe in it”
There are good all round tools but that is very much like saying there are 4 season tires. Meaning that you can make them work and if your careful you won’t crash in our case that means hitting the ground. The two models that come to mind is the Black Diamond Viper Carbon Fiber. The Petzl quark also makes it in the all terrain vehicle status. C4H is asking for a reasonably priced tool. Dude we are talking waterfall ice climbing. Symbolically it represents everything that is wrong with the western world. Rack of screws = $780 Draws and slings = $150 Crampons = $200 Pack= $300 Boots = $600 High-tech layers =$2500+ Gas to typical climb $40 Coffee and donuts and lunch and thermos $15 Gear wears out so there is a cycle of equipment that has to be replaced constantly. Then at the end of the day I wash the whole experience down with $25 worth of beer at some sleazy climbers hangout. All this to climb a waterfall. Turn that around and how many water wells could I have drilled in some village in a poor part of Africa or India. How many lives could I have saved. So when you talk affordable or reasonable I guess I just think about it differently.
Carbon Fiber Black Diamond Cobra: These are beautifully crafted tools. The combination of carbon fiber and metal looks like something that the Apple design team dreamed up while under the watchful eye of Steve Jobs. The elegant curve is for more then just show it gives plenty of clearance allowing to place the well back into pockets and behind or between icicles. Locations that are more receptive to the violence of an invasive ice pick. On the head you have the option to place an adze or a hammer. If your using these as a alpine tool then I suggest getting a adze and hammer. Who uses a adze you may be wondering. Well alpine climbers. In the pure water and dry tooling arenas a adze has no real value. Shovel your way through a cornice and need that purchasing power because your pick just keeps ripping through the the hard pack snow. Flip your tool upside down and dig in with the wide blade of the adze. This is an extremely common situation in the technical mountaineering world. These tool have great balance and weight. They are fairly light weighing in at 617gm with the adze. This is light enough that you would consider it for high altitude technical mountaineering. The spike at the end is effectual enough that walking with the head in hand there is little worry of the spike slipping out from under you in anything but the most bullet proof of ice conditions. There are screws on the backside in case you want to set up a pair of Android leashes. Leashes still have a place out there in the real world.
If your guessing that I like these tools you’d be guessing right.