Edelrid Attila Tec Axe Review

With its gently curved shaft, and reverse curved steel pick, the Attila Tec is at the more technical end of the mountaineering axe spectrum. It also features a fold-out grip rest, making it easier to hold whilst climbing tricky sections, and an ergonomic plastic head grip, to keep your hands warm when holding the axe in the classic way. But how well do these additions stand up to the rigours of winter mountain use?

It's suitable for winter walking, ski touring and general mountaineering   © Tom Ripley
It's suitable for winter walking, ski touring and general mountaineering
© Tom Ripley

I've spent the last month using the 55cm version of this axe for all my hillwalking and one-axe climbing days, from easy gullies like Way Up in Corrie Dubh Mor through to classics ridges like Golden Oldie and Curved Ridge. I've also taken it on a multi day ski tour in the Silvretta. Whilst the Attila Tec climbs well, I've found there are some limitations in terms of durability.

Head

The Attila Tec has a steel head, with a reverse curved pick and an adze. The middle section of the head is coated in plastic, which makes it more comfortable to hold, and keep one's hands a bit warmer.

I have added grip tape to the bottom of the shaft  © Tom Ripley
I've added grip tape to the bottom of the shaft

Attila Tec prod shot  © Edelrid
How the axe looks before the plastic bits break

Although it is now blunt through use the pick seems to climb well and is strong enough for all-round mountain abuse (I've not snapped it torquing).

The adze works OK, but I think it's much too narrow. It is roughly half the width of the adze on my very old Mountain Technology technical axe, and consequently it takes about twice as long to cut a platform, or dig a bucket seat with. Whilst some climbers might try to argue that big adzes are not necessary on modern axes, they would be wrong. An adze is an essential component on a mountaineering axe that is used for all sorts of things, from creating snow bollards and stances through to chopping steps.

At first I was a big fan of the plastic grip, as it was both warm and comfortable. However when I hit it with a hammer whilst making a stomper belay, the plastic splintered and broke off into a thousand tiny pieces, never to be seen again.

Ski touring in the Silvretta with the Attila Tec  © Tom Ripley
Ski touring in the Silvretta with the Attila Tec
© Tom Ripley

The hole in the head is bigger than on many axes  © Tom Ripley
The hole in the head is bigger than on many axes
© Tom Ripley

The head of the axe also has a large hole in it - perfect for threading a wrist loop through, or clipping a karabiner. This presents no major problems, but due to the size of this hole the tool toggles on my rucksack are only just long enough, and it has rattled free on occasion.

Shaft

The Attila Tec is only available in 55cm or 65cm lengths, both of which are a little longer than I would like. I personally prefer a shorter shaft because I like to put my axe inside my rucksack when ski touring or alpine rock climbing; however, users who regularly use the axe as a 'walking stick' (and arguably that's most of the time with an axe of this nature) may prefer the extra length on offer here.

The shaft has a gentle curve, to allow clearance over bulges when climbing tricky steps of ice or mixed. I'm not sure how necessary this actually is on routes of grades I, II and III, or even those a little harder. However, consensus does seem to favour a slight curve these days.

I quite like the asymmetric cross section shape of the shaft, which feels stable in the hand compared to the classic rounded oblong shape. This is especially noticeable when holding the top of the shaft, whilst daggering.

Presumably for reasons of aesthetics, Edelrid choose not to add any rubber to the shaft. Instead they supplied the axe with a small roll of self amalgamating tape for users who want the extra cover. I added the tape to the bottom of the shaft, which despite looking a little Heath Robinson has greatly improved its grippiness. That said, the taped area has a greater girth, which is a little wider than I would have liked.

The spike

Like all good mountaineering axes the Attila Tec features a spike at the base of the shaft. The primary purpose of the spike is to provide grip on icy surfaces, when holding the axe in the classic way. The spike also includes a karabiner clip hole, enabling a spring leash to be attached, though personally I never use them on this sort of axe. There is also a natty fold-out finger rest, similar to those found on technical climbing axes. This is designed to aid grip on trickier moves but, once folded away, not to impede plunging. I think this is a nice idea, but poorly executed - especially compared with sliding grip rests used by Grivel and Petzl. It is relatively fiddly to flip out, and when folded away often gets clogged with frozen gunk and slush.

Unfortunately this trigger didn't last long - it broke off when I whacked the axe against my boot to unball my crampons, something we all have to do. This left me with a nice simple metal axe, minus a grip rest.

Weight

I did not manage to weigh my review axe while it still had all its parts. Edelrid quote 550g, which we assume is for the 55cm version. I make mine 545g with the grip tape added, but minus the plastic bits. So the Attila Tec is not ultra light, but for a semi-technical mountaineering axe it is clearly on the lighter side. By comparison the DMM Raptor weighs 680g. The weight difference reflects the Attila Tec's flimsier build, which makes it less suited to all-round knockabout mountaineering. But on the other hand this also makes it an attractive choice for activities in which it's less likely to get a hammering - ski touring and winter walking for instance.

Conclusion

With the Attila Tec, Edelrid have tried to create a hybrid between a climbing and a mountaineering axe. Off the shelf they appear to have largely succeeded, though the adze needs to be bigger. Problems arise in use, however, when the weakness of the non-replaceable plastic components is soon evident. It would be disappointing if you'd purchased this axe for these unique selling points, only for them to break at the first sign of rough use. Mountaineering axes need to be strong enough to take some knocks - that's the nature of the job! Thankfully these are 'nice to haves' rather than essential safety components, and the axe is still functional without its plastic trigger and head grip.

Edelrid say:

Combining the advantages of a classic guides' ice tool with a more technical design for steep ice. The foldout hand rest is ideal for more technical passages or leashless climbing.

  • Weight: 550g
  • Length: 55cm or 65cm
  • Slightly curved aluminium shaft and hardened steel pick make light work of steep, alpine terrain
  • Hardened steel spike with opening to accommodate a carabiner
  • Ergonomically-shaped thermoplastic grip stops your hands freezing when plunging on the uphill
  • Patented, fold out hand rest (no tools required)
  • Centroid marking for T-anchor buildup
  • Grip tape supplied
  • Accelerator can be fitted to improve penetration in hard ice

For more info see edelrid.de




15 Apr

So the 'hand warmer' (the plasticky bit around the head of the pick) didn't stand up to much punishment. And neither did the trigger rest. And the adze is too narrow to be much use. And the shaft looks like a bugger to grip properly because the manufacturer has specifically excluded a grip - so it won't be much fun an anything vaguely technical. And it costs 50% more than your average walking axe.

I admit that I haven't used this axe. I haven't even seen it. And now I definetely don't want to.

I'm suprised at the positivity shown in the review's Conclusions, given all the caveats uncovered by the reviewer. To me, this is a poor review. It doesn't even discuss how the axe measures up to its competitors - is it value for money. Come on UKC, you can do better than this.

As to the axe, it looks like an ill-conceived design excercise, aimed at novice punters who know know better. It will cost a few quid more to manufacture but will add £40 to its profit margin. And the user will quickly realise it's crap and buy something else. Who is more cynical, me or the manufacturer ?!

15 Apr

I've just re read my review, and whilst the conclusion isn’t as blunt as it could have been, it in no way sings the axes praises. It simply states its failures in terms of both design and durability, whilst recognising that the axe still functions okay as an axe.

HTH