/ Technical axes - ice vs. dry/mixed picks

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mcawle - on 05 Nov 2017
Hi,

Looking at picking up my first set of technical axes this year. Initial use will be Scottish easy ridges/gullies (I-II), with a view to moving up the grades as I gain experience.

The axes I've looked at (DMM Apex, Petzl Quark, Singing Rock Bandit) all come with "ice" picks.

DMM make a separate "mixed" pick for the Apex.

Petzl and Singing Rock both make separate "dry" picks (i.e. dry-tooling) for the Quark/Bandit respectively.

All the picks are T-rated, regardless of ice/mixed/dry.

I understand that part of the difference is about width at the tip, with mixed being thicker. It sounds like there may also be subtle differences in the geometry. Overall my assumption is that the mixed/dry picks will be more durable, and so I presume they are preferred unless actually doing dedicated ice climbing.

If not climbing pure ice, do people tend to swap out the ice picks for mixed/dry picks? Or not bother?

Cheers,

Michael
HeMa on 05 Nov 2017
In reply to mcawle:

Often (but not always) Drytooling picks might have more aggressive pick angle. Certainly more teeth on all the wrong places (for ice). And indeed more material where you don’t want it (for ice).

I tend to bring both with me, and swap if needed (pure ice). But for mixed I used aftermarket picks. Kuzniaplzezu or something from Poland or Krukonogi from St. Petersburg. Much more durable than BD picks.
PaulW - on 05 Nov 2017
In reply to mcawle:

I climbed mainly ice so tended to leave the ice picks on for any mixed routes that I did.

I would have swapped them for dry tooling though.
beardy mike - on 05 Nov 2017
In reply to mcawle:

Just a word of warning. IMHO the Apex is not a great axe for shallow angle ice. The head is so aggressive and dropped, that mit makes it awkward to place when moving over bulges to shallow angle ground. They are fine for steep ice where the extra clearance is great for hooking over mushrooms of ice, but you may find something a little more moderate anbetter bet to start with. I recenetly spent a week on Grivel North Machines and as a do it all axe up to WI 4 they were the best axe I've used.
Tricadam on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to mcawle:

Unless they've changed it in the last couple of years, the only difference between the Quark mix pick vs ice is the presence of some teeth on the upper surface of the handle end of the blade (for can openers/stein pulls). No difference in pick angle. Grivel mix picks, however, *do* have a steeper pick angle.
nniff - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to mcawle:

At those grades the pick won't make any difference. You'll be pulling out all of the stops to break any sort of modern pick on a moderately graded route and the chances are that you'll just batter the hell out of the tip of any pick you have (so don't do it - smiting the rock a furious blow will not achieve a good placement. Never has, never will).

By the time you've worked out what's what, you'll be in a position to make a more informed choice about what you want if you find yourself in need of a new pair of picks.

I'd be wary of buying anything too heavily curved unless you have a reasonable expectation of moving through the grades quickly.
mcawle - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to mcawle:

Thanks very much everyone. It sounds like it won't make much difference for a newbie. Noted that bashing rock is to be avoided.

beardy mike and nniff - thanks for the point about the technicality of the axes. I've thought quite a lot about this, although it's all been a bit theoretical as I've not been able to head out and test different axes on the terrain I'll be starting on.

I had considered that something like the Apex might be a bit extreme for starters. (Quarks and Bandits seem a bit less aggressive.)

My main thought was to try and pick something that could both get me going and see me through anything foreseeable. From what I've read, these axes are still okay on more moderate ground (even the Apex), and that from about III onwards they start to come into their own.

Whereas if I went with something a bit less aggressive (e.g. Flys, maybe Sum-Tec) then I'd potentially be looking at another purchase in the not so distant future. I had looked at the North Machine, but the lack of a spike put me off. (I know that plunging with curvy axes isn't great.)

Sounds like you guys might have a different view about the suitability of these axes for starting out though.

beardy mike - when you talk about shallow angle ice, what sort of angles do you mean by shallow? (Roughly)
beardy mike - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to mcawle:

I shouldn't be put off by the lack of spike as you learn to get around that. Much is made of plunging and I can't say I notice that much. The thing i like about them is that for an extremely lightweight axe they place extremely well I feel more comfortable with those on WI4 last year than I do with the Apex's so I think you'll be Ok with them. Also the head system is excellent and the picks are as good as they will get. I've not used quarks or nomics but I know people swear by them. Flys are plain heavy,

When I say shallow angle, I am primarily talking about when you pull over bulges to flatte ground. The problem I find is that you get to said bulge and then try to place above but because your elbow can't bend back on itself, it effectively means that you have to swing with your wrist. This means that the dropped head often is at an angle at which its night on impossible to place the pick. I found that it means you have to effectively place the axes in the edge of the bulge and then climb up and over them, shifting your hands up the shaft. It's just a pain in the a-hole. Never had it with any other axe, so it's the acuteness of the cranked shaft. Unless you are looking at petzl ergo's or sommit, they are just about the most aggressive axe of their type. And the plunging on them isn't exactly great as the pommel is still massive, the picks are pretty average, and the teeth for stein pulls is totally unnecessary unless you're genuinely climbing hard, so they just dig into your gloves and trash them.

Don't get me wrong, they are a good tool, but I've used better. A chum of mine who loves nomics used a pair last year and concluded the same as I have...
davew88 - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to mcawle:

getting ice or mixed picks made more of a difference when ice picks were B rated, these days most are T rated regardless. just stick with whatever the axe comes with while you are learning your trade, you will blunt both. a few years down the line when you know your stuff you can make an informed decision about which replacement you want, ice or mixed.

and for what its worth I would recommend the quarks. I have the old model which have been my only technical tools, with their only limitation being me! I haven't used the new models but they are even more versatile and you will happily use them for everything from a walking/alpine axe to grade VIII (if you ever get that good!).
angry pirate - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to Tricadam:

With Singing Rock the pick angles are steeper on the mixed picks too. I picked up a pair as back up picks but just tend to keep the ice picks on for everything. I do intend to swap for dry tooling though.
mcawle - on 07 Nov 2017
In reply to beardy mike:

Cool, thanks for that. I appreciate the info. Interesting really - I can't think how DMM could've managed to let what sounds like such a notable design flaw through the process.

I've got a set of Apexes on the way (jumped the gun soon after starting this thread due to a decent deal crossing my path... £260 for a pair!), as well as a set of Bandits, so I'll take a look at both and see how they feel when they arrive.

I do have the option to return, so I'll keep the Grivels in mind once I've had a feel of the Apex and Bandit. Grivels do seem to be coming in at a bit of a higher price point. Maybe it's time to go for some indoor ice climbing and see what they have to play with there.
mcawle - on 07 Nov 2017
In reply to davew88:

Thank you. Yes, I think that was my main confusion really - if they're both T rated, how much difference does it *really* make at the beginning? Consensus seems to be: not much!

I've heard pretty consistently good feedback about Quarks, with the only possible niggle being some concerns about loose heads on Petzls (though I mostly heard that about Nomics). Sounds like you've had no issues?

Grade VIII is, I think, a long ways away...!
mcawle - on 07 Nov 2017
In reply to angry pirate:

You like the Bandits?
TobyA on 07 Nov 2017
In reply to mcawle:

> Cool, thanks for that. I appreciate the info. Interesting really - I can't think how DMM could've managed to let what sounds like such a notable design flaw through the process.

It's swings and roundabouts, crank the shaft enough to mess up certain placements, and you'll improve it for others - read my review of the Switch tools and you'll see I noted something similar to what Mike mentions https://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/review.php?id=6189 in specific placements.

But if you are starting out I think this is all mainly academic, you'll make do with what you have. Buying a cheapy mountaineering axe and then one second, technical tool, might well make more sense for the first couple of seasons unless you climb absolutely loads and are already a very strong rock climber, so likely to be throwing yourself at V,6s or similar within the first few years?
beardy mike - on 07 Nov 2017
In reply to mcawle:

I guess it's not a flaw, it's a question of perspective. Personally I don't like it as a feature, I think they've done to far, but others will love the fact that you can hook over enormous lumps. Personally I'd say less radical for your first set will be fine, and you'll most likely beast the hell of of some tools for a few years until you need something else and get some ergo style tools and keep both for different purposes...
angry pirate - on 07 Nov 2017
In reply to mcawle:

Yeah, I really rate them. Great value for the tools and spares and climb very nicely on ice up to WI4 (not climbed beyond that in them but that says more about me than the tools!)
Yet to use them in Scottish winter but I reckon they'll manage anything I can brilliantly.
mcawle - on 07 Nov 2017
In reply to TobyA:

Thanks. I had read your review a while back, actually, but forgotten (or maybe not fully appreciated) the point on the ice. I also see there that you discuss climbing on the upper hand grips on easier ground.

Unlikely I'll be looking at V,6s in the next couple of years - at this stage there's a bit of tyranny of time and distance, though I am keen. I don't mind spending the money on the right axes - but I also want to pitch my gear at the right level (pun half-intended). So more about getting it straight in my head and picking up something that is suitable.
mcawle - on 07 Nov 2017
In reply to beardy mike:

That makes sense. Thanks. All right, I will have a think about that. I think it will be a while (if ever) before I actually need something like Ergo or Nomics. I think the main point that I'm taking from the thread is that the Apex could be closer to that end of the spectrum than it is to something Quark-y or North Machine-y. I hadn't fully appreciated that.
mcawle - on 07 Nov 2017
In reply to angry pirate:

That's good to hear. There are a few threads about them on here (in fact, I may have read you post about them previously), but I haven't really found any dedicated reviews. I ended up with some Singing Rock screwgates and ice screams recently and thought they were really good, so they do seem like a good bet (especially at the price).

Got some on the way so I will check them out.
beardy mike - on 08 Nov 2017
In reply to mcawle:

The thing about Singing Rock is that none of their stuff is particularly innovative but it is really good value for money and generally well made and designed. At ISPO I was looking at all their kit and if you laid it next to Petzl or other leading brands you'd be hard pressed to spot the differences.
HeMa on 08 Nov 2017
In reply to beardy mike:

Yup, not cutting edge but lots of bang for bucks (like Ocun and other Eastern European brands).

The Bandit is more or less a mix between the current and orig. Quark as far as I can tell. So a really good tool by all accounts.
coldwill - on 08 Nov 2017
In reply to beardy mike:
They make some nice cams as well
beardy mike - on 08 Nov 2017
In reply to coldwill:

Are you sure you don't mean rock empire?
CurlyStevo - on 08 Nov 2017
In reply to mcawle:

T rated ice picks are generally fine as all round picks. If you do find they wear out too fast replace with mixed picks. Probably the best picks for you are picks meant for general alpine climbing (ie bit of everything something like the BD titans). I used to have the old quarks and the mixed picks on them were gash on ice. They were so fat at the front they just smashed everything up, so I just used the B rated ice picks for everything. They sometimes bent a little bit, but I just bent them back when at home and carried on. Never broke one and I'm not that light ;)

Regarding axes. The Petzl axes are good but many of them have durability issues of one type or another. The quark its the soft alloy head and fragile upper grip rests.

Personally I'd either buy a second hand pair of something or go for the black diamond vipers, they are great all round axes and should last you years whilst performing very well over a large variety of styles of climbing.
mcawle - on 08 Nov 2017
In reply to beardy mike:

Yes agreed. Got a pair in the mail today. They do seem really solid and well made. I'm actually acquiring two pairs of axes - one for me and one for the lady. Was going to go one set of Apexes and one set of Bandits, but that might turn into two pairs of Bandits after this discussion, especially now that I've seen them...

I'm not really after anything fancy, nor necessarily top end. Just something solid that will cover most bases.
mcawle - on 08 Nov 2017
In reply to CurlyStevo:

That's good to know - sounds like the main difference (between T-rated ice vs T-rated dry/mixed) is going to be fairly minimal, especially at early bumbly stages - and if any difference at all, it's probably that ice might wear out a bit faster. But no harm in starting with the ice picks that come with the axes and seeing.

Thanks for the tips on the axes as well. I came into this thread thinking that the question of which axes was more or less settled, so this has been really valuable!
CurlyStevo - on 09 Nov 2017
In reply to mcawle:
tbh the bandits look descent enough. Bit of a unknown quantity durability wise for the UK (our terrain tends to be particularly hard on winter gear as not only are you often climbing rocks but you often hit them through the snow / ice) but for that price worth a punt.

https://www.totalaccess.co.uk/equipment/shop/alpine-equipment/ice-axes/singing-rock-bandit-ice-axe-b...
Post edited at 12:46
Steve Perry - on 09 Nov 2017
In reply to mcawle:

I wouldn't get too bogged about which individual picks do what as they really don't make much difference. The important thing is making sure they're fairly sharp if you're going to climb ice so keep a set of picks for mixed and a set for ice, whether they're ice picks or mixed picks or ones that do both doesn't really matter.
HeMa on 09 Nov 2017
In reply to Steve Perry:

> whether they're ice picks or mixed picks or ones that do both doesn't really matter.

Perhaps not at easy WI 2 grades, but certainly mixed picks with extra 'steinpull' spikes at the top can make life a missery on ice... Nothing more fun, than gettin' ones tool utterly stuck.
Steve Perry - on 09 Nov 2017
In reply to HeMa:

> Perhaps not at easy WI 2 grades, but certainly mixed picks with extra 'steinpull' spikes at the top can make life a missery on ice... Nothing more fun, than gettin' ones tool utterly stuck.

Yeah for sure. I was thinking easier grades. To be honest it wasn't that long ago I even knew picks differed so one type as always done all.
mcawle - on 09 Nov 2017
In reply to Steve Perry:

That makes sense. Thank you!
mcawle - on 09 Nov 2017
In reply to CurlyStevo:

Yes, I haven't found any "proper" reviews from experienced users in UK conditions. That said, there are good things through this forum and I haven't seen anything bad. I'm assuming that the pick is the main variant in durability, unless doing proper hard stuff (which I'm not), and if so (I assume) there can't really be that much variation in durability between hot forged steel picks if the geometry is roughly the same. As long as the head, shaft, and spike stay together...

I haven't heard any durability concerns though.
CurlyStevo - on 09 Nov 2017
In reply to mcawle:
its not just the pick, its things like the plastic grip rests (which are replaceable but often not cheap and a pain if they break mid route) . Also the type of metal the shaft and head are made of. Although mostly cosmetic if its really soft they can get really beaten up in the UK.

The old quarks the lower grip rests were fine replaced mine once when they started to look really beaten up, don't know about the new ones but the upper grip rest breaks far too easy, even climbing ice! ( I retro fitted them to my old quark and they just kept breaking and people with the new quarks kept reporting the same). In the end I got some from grivel which were much more robust.
Post edited at 16:01
Lil_Pete - on 09 Nov 2017
In reply to beardy mike:

Awww chum, how quaint!

P.S. Pity you paid so much for those Apexes given what you think of them ...
beardy mike - on 09 Nov 2017
In reply to Lil_Pete:

I didn't. I got them for free.
Lil_Pete - on 09 Nov 2017
In reply to beardy mike:

You missed my sarcasm :P
mcawle - on 12 Nov 2017
In reply to CurlyStevo:

Huh. Interesting. I had heard about the possibility of e.g. the head getting deformed. Hadn't really considered the grip rests :p

Ah well. Picked up a pair, so we will see!

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