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 UKC Gear 20 Dec 2019
QUARK montage Last winter Petzl brought out a revamped range of technical axes. We covered the NOMIC and ERGONOMIC back in March, but a broken leg put our review of the updated QUARK on hold. So here it is...

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 Misha 21 Dec 2019
In reply to UKC Gear:

As you say, that trigrest thing is annoying as the orange mini trigger is way too small for gloved fingers. I suppose the orange thing can be cut off and the main trigrest glued into place.

I can see the advantage for the Alps and easier winter climbing but I just don’t buy the argument that these will see you through to harder grades. I’m sure you can climb V, VI, VII and more with these but why make life hard for yourself? A pair or Nomics or other more technical tools would be much better.

I’d say the perfect grade range for these is mostly up to IV with some V. If someone is mostly climbing V and above, I wouldn’t recommend these. The handle isn’t that ergonomic, the trigrest is rubbish, the overall shape isn’t as good - these things become more important at higher grades. In the same way that it’s possible to rock climb fairly hard in floppy shoes but no one does because again why make life hard for yourself?

A quick google shows that there’s hardly any difference in price (less than £50) between a pair deal for Quarks and Nomics from established UK retailers. It’s just a no brainer to go for the more technical tool if you will be doing more technical climbing. Though the new Nomic does have some issues of its own.

Get the mixed picks for mixed climbing (or better still the tougher Kuzniaszpeju ones) and keep the ice ones for water ice. 

Post edited at 12:58
 alexm198 21 Dec 2019
In reply to Misha:

Completely agree. I have never understood the argument that Quarks or equivalent are the best all-round axe unless you're doing upside down sport mixed shenanigans.

Maybe other folk will disagree here, but I think basically anything you can do with a Quark you can do easier with a Nomic. As for the whole 'easier for plunging' argument, just try pushing harder with a Nomic?! On the sort of terrain where you want to plunge your tool in deep, the snow's probably soft anyway. 

I own both and only ever use the Quark when the benefit of the weight saving outweighs the decrease in climbing performance (e.g. when on a big alpine route with only moderate technical difficulty). 

 Tom Green 21 Dec 2019
In reply to alexm198:

>  I think basically anything you can do with a Quark you can do easier with a Nomic.  

Not quite... anything that uses the tool 'backwards' is totally useless with the Nomic! Some people moan about this re: hammering pegs/gear, but this doesn't bother me that much. What DOES annoy me is how difficult it is to clean shitty ice away before placing an ice-screw. I'd probably get used to it if I used Nomics regularly but I found myself desperate to get back to my Quark Adze when I swapped to my partners Nomes on steep ice in Cogne! 

I'm sure you (and almost everyone else!) is right in general though. I reckon Nomes take a good half grade off tooling routes (but you know I like to make life hard for myself so I'll probably stick stubbornly to my Quarks for a while longer!)

 ColdWill 21 Dec 2019
In reply to UKC Gear:

Hydro formed shaft will be for rigidity and weight saving me thinks. 

 Mr. Lee 21 Dec 2019
In reply to UKC Gear:

I use BD Vipers for less technical alpine stuff, which have a far better build quality in my opinion for a fractionally heavier weight. I agree with Misha though. Why use a straighter shafted axe for more technical stuff? I had permanently enlarged index finger knuckles during winter when I used these sorts of axes regularly. Pegs are no doubt easier, but I've largely given up using these anyway due to the degree they scar the rock. There's some pretty lightweight deadmans out there if ice axe belays are a necessity (eg MSR). I've arrested with Nomics and generally use an axe and walking pole combo on moderate terrain if I want a bit of walking stability. 

 alexm198 22 Dec 2019
In reply to Tom Green:

Fair point, they’re not great at that. I never use an adze, even on the quarks. Have always managed to get by using a combination of pick and sideways tool bashing!

Obviously no disrespect to all the quark and adze-loving folk out there. 

Post edited at 09:29
 Tom Green 22 Dec 2019
In reply to alexm198:

The flip side of that adze that I was sharing the love for is that I regularly crap myself on mixed routes when my face comes level with it whilst pulling through on a marginal flatty!

I guess there’s a reason the Canadians call them ‘melon scoopers’! One day I’ll turn up to climb with an eyepatch (and you’ll have my permission to laugh)!

 Misha 22 Dec 2019
In reply to Tom Green:

Good point re clearing bad ice. You can get little adzes for the Nomics though. I’ve never bothered, though thought about it. Of course there’s a school of thought that if you’re in a strenuous position and can’t place a screw quickly, you may be better off just pressing on... it depends! Not really an issue in Scotland as there isn’t that much sustained steep ice around and I mostly climb mixed anyway. A good adze or any adze would still be handy sometimes but on the whole I prefer the weight saving and not having to worry about the risk of clobbering myself with an adze.

 Misha 22 Dec 2019
In reply to alexm198:

As you say, Nomics aren’t good at plunging unless the snow is soft. However if someone is climbing V and above, where Nomics become useful, they should be good on their feet on snow slopes anyway. If it gets steeper and the snow is firm / neve, it’s better to dagger anyway.

I’m talking about personal climbing here, not guiding, where techniques like a stomper belay might be used - impossible with a Nomic but it’s just not something you’d use in personal climbing so again not really a good argument. 

 TobyA 24 Dec 2019
In reply to alexm198:

On Saturday I was taking some friends climbing in Coire an-t Sneachda. Tony had his 90s vintage piranhas, but Simon needed to borrow some tools so I lent him my Vipers and I took my DMM Switches. I have used the Switches for a number of routes in the UK over the last 5 years since I came back from Finland, but I've used the Vipers for more and can't find any disadvantages with the Vipers up to grade V,6 which is what I can climb (on a good day!). Whilst the Switches are great on steeper technical mixed climbing, that's actually quite a small part of my mountain winter days. On saturday the corrie was full of hard snow after Friday's thaw - and cramponing up to the buttresses, trying to keep an eye on my mates who haven't worn crampons for a good few years, I was reminded how bad the Switches are for that sort of thing! The alloy bases were just skidding on the snow and holding the handle and pushing the head against the snow wasn't really any better.

I can well understand if you are trying hard routes, perhaps harder than VI (?), the compromise is worth it, but for people where the roped climbing is not only part of the day where you need an axe to keep you says - technical but still all-rounder tools with usable spikes for the approach and descents, like Vipers and Quarks, seem the optimal choice for many UK winter climbers where "mountaineering", with exposed slopes and climbing snow, is still what we do.

 innes 24 Dec 2019
In reply to UKC Gear:

Here's an interesting little test which is relevant:
Go to a scruffy piece of rock with your peg rack, nomics and a quark (or claw hammer). Spend some time whacking pegs in and bounce test them. 
If you've never practiced like this you'll pretty quickly see the difference a "real' hammer can make - particularly with wedge pegs (bugaboos, LAs).
I'm convinced that if you're thinking if placing pegs for whatever reason then quarks, or similar, can make you and your partner safer. Try it and see...

(Oh, and buy some hooks/peckers).


Removed User 06 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Gear:

In my opinion, the main reasons to opt for a quark over other similar ice tools is:

(1) The quark is very stable when using the upper grip on insecure holds.  This is mainly due to the fact that the stock ICE pick is less open than other "ice" picks and the secondary grip rest can be placed lower down on the shaft than other tools.  

(2) The flip-up pommel makes plunging the shaft in hard or crusty snow more efficient, and it doesn't require using tools nor is there a risk of dropping and loosing a removable pommel.  Unlike the UKC reviewer, I have not had any issues with the new pommel.  

(3) The tapered pick weight accessories (need to bought separately) are great for climbing wide cracks and rime ice.  

(4) The index finger trigger is a nice feature for more precise swings, when climbing thin & delicate ice.

The main benefits of the Quark (relative to the Nomic) are:

(1) The clip in point at the spike is significantly stronger.  If you might take a tether fall or want to incorporate your ice axes into your belay anchor, Quark is likely a better option (especially if you wrap your handle).  

(2) Hammering in pitons.  Hammering in pitons using a Quark is significantly worse than using a separate specialized hammer, but still a lot better than using a Nomic.  

(3) Climbing long, steep, and exposed snow on big mountain routes.  

For those that don't want the trigger, but want to keep the upper pommel, follow these instructions:

(1) Wrap the shaft with some tape, where you want to have the upper pommel

(2) Slide the orange trigger off of the bolt.

(3) Put the pommel over the taped shaft and then tighten the bolt.  

Post edited at 16:49

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