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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Petzl Nomic Review..Old vs New

Colin Haley photo of Bjørn-Eivind Årtun on their new route, Dracula, Mt Foraker, June 2010.

"The old Nomic and a pair of C-T hammers"

Up front...the old Nomic is every bit the equal for climbing difficult ground as the new Nomic.

No need to panic.

Major change on the new Nomic? It is the new pommel that has a serrated stainless blade. It will add some stability on hard ice and can be used to give the pommel some stability as a cane on easy terrain. Better yet just use the top of the Astro or Dry pick while reversing the tool in that same easy terrain. Not suggested by Petzl but the new pommel can be retro fitted to the old Nomic. Just bolt it issues what so ever.

Biggest over all improvement? New pommel fits bigger hands and thicker gloves much, much better. But it can be bolted right on no fuss, no muss to the older tools if that is something you want to try. The new Pommel offers a tiny bit more support and more coverage and hand protection on the upward curve towards the ice. Maybe the most important improvement is a metal to metal interface where they mate up on the end of the shaft. BUT...the metal to metal female/male fittings have some slop in the mating surfaces so they move backwards and forwards a bit even when cranked down tight . That is not an improvement. You won't get every advantage of the size improvements for big hands using the new pommel on the old tools but a good bit of it. Worth buying that piece of kit and trying it on your old tools. It is an option now.

I don't like the serrated blade in some places on hard technical gets in the way during extreme rotation. I put the old pommel on my new Ergos because of it. But I do like having the option.

Hammer and adze? Yes you can add either the hammer or the adze designed for the new Quark to the Nomic. A small bit of round file or Dremel work to the tool head will allow you to fit the new Petzl hammer to the old style Nomic head. (see the detail photos below) But why would you? Needing a hammer is one thing, using the one Petzl made for the Quark is another. There is a better answer that is about to get even better shortly. That would be the Cold Thistle, 4mm, Nomic hammer. If it was not a LOT better than Petzl's offering I wouldn't bother making it. C-T hammers will also be much, much easier to change in the field using the newest Petzl picks or older style picks we cut for you. And the C-T hammer will fit the old and the new Nomic head with NO changes. Having it difficult to fit the hammer or change picks with the required spacer is a down side to the newest Petzl pick/hammer design. The new pick and spacer is truly a bitch to change in the field if the pair of Nomics I have here is any example.

C-T hammer info and pricing can be found in this link:

The new umbilical attachment? Good move on Petzl's part but if you want it to hold more than TOOL weight on your umbilicals you need to do a small mod on the newest Nomic's pommel. There isn't enough clearance between plastic and aluminum to get even 3mm cord through which you'll need to opened up for 4mm + cord. The hole Petzl drilled in my samples are 5.9mm. But these samples had some threads showing internally which will need to be taken out if you want to use 4 or 5mm cord there. The edges of the hole are well chambered on these but I would check that as well and do it if there is a sharp edge on either side of the shaft. Easy enough to drill out and chamfer the hole. I like 5mm cord there because you always know what the knot will do and it is easy to inspect cord for wear. Again easy to modify the older Nomic and now even easy enough to modify the new Nomic as well.

After cutting up the pommels on my first new set of Nomics I might modify these a bit different the next time around and cut up the grip a bit instead of going under the pommel. Looks like to me that you could now easily run a cord from the full strength hole in the handle and go behind the new smaller pommel. Done right it might be a better answer. I'm undecided at the moment. But the new tools are easy to cut with a Dremel or a round file where I used a vertical milling machine on the original Nomic's pommel. The best answer on the new tools is still a work in progress. What ever the answer the factory version isn't it for me.

New picks...DRY and ICE? Same materials, same heat treat, slightly different designs from the Astro and the Cascade. Still great picks...all still 3mm tips. Now rated as T picks instead of B picks. Little or no change in strength more likely just the label. Truly awesome picks, old or new!
Old picks fit new tools, new picks fit old tools. New picks require a spacer...which is a major PAIN to replace in the field. Buy the old Astro or Cascade if you need to carry spares and think you'll break or bend a pick or need to replace them on a climb. I like the original Cascade pick design on pure ice better FWIW. Either way buy the old picks because they are easier to replace and no spacer required if you aren't using a hammer.

Is it worth selling your old Nomic to get the new one? Obviously way in fact. Worth making a few mods on either tool to suit your own bet.

My old Nomic and umibilical about to pull a bulge on Curtain Call

Here are the details:

Tool weights:

old shaft 366g (+4g)
new shaft 362g

pommel old 20g (-4g)
pommel new 24g

old Cascade pick w/weight 188g (+8g)
new Cascade pick w/weight 180g

Old Nomic is 8g heavier with the old pick design. Old Nomic is the same weight with the new "ICE" pick design.

8g = 1.4 oz. Dbl click the pictures for the details where required.

My undying, loyalty, respect and appreciation to Daniel Harro for loaning me his new Nomics for this review :) But..... you'll need to get in line for the hammers!

The link below is worth a read as well.


Daniel Harro said...

Thanks for th info! I am supprized how much the tool swing changes when you add the Petzl hammer on, I can see why the light you can make the hammer and the closer the weight is to the head can really make a difference.

Anonymous said...


You are a real craftsman. The hammer fits my old Nomic perfect. I like how close it fits to the head and how light it feels.



Bruno Schull said...

HI Dane,

After several years on Quarks, I have gotten a pair of old style Nomics, and recently had the chance to try them out for the first time. The ultimate proof of their design, perhaps, is that they immediately felt natural and precise. It really is such a well-balanced tool.

I know that in this blog for the most part you focus on gear, however, I wondered if I could pick your brain about two technique questions related to Nomics.

1) It's interesting to have the option of swinging the tool with one or two fingers above the upper grip rest, and the other fingers below. I thought this would be uncomfortable, but it felt fine. I did notice that after some time swinging that way, my upper fingers got tired. What's the word on the street about holding/swinging the tool like this? Good thing? Bad thing? Just another option?

2) I'm wondering about the best way to integrate the higher grip position into upward progression. I understand that using the second grip can reduce the number of swings/tool placements on a climb, but how do people apply this? For example, swing and place one tool on the lower grip, step higher, change hands to the higher grip...and then step higher again? I guess my understanding is that you try to take another set of steps up with your feet on each tool placement, walking your feet as high as possible, and using the upper grip to balance. Another option would be to not take extra steps up with your feet, and just use the upper grip to reach higher. What do folks do?

OK, that's all, and many thanks,


Dane said...

Hi Bruno,
I'll try to give a short answer for each question. My opinions of course and not that of the publisher :)

"I did notice that after some time swinging that way, my upper fingers got tired. What's the word on the street about holding/swinging the tool like this?"

I think the general concensus is that using a "trigger" is an easy way to seriously damage the tendons in your index and middle finger if they are fully weighted and cold. On occasion I still use that position on easier terrain at times with big gloves...but I am aware of the the dangers of doing so.

"I understand that using the second grip can reduce the number of swings/tool placements on a climb, but how do people apply this?"

Here is what I do..
With a good stick on my 1st tool I will body holster my 2nd tool (usually around my neck or on my shoulder) and match on the 1st tool. Once I get set in the upper 2nd grip on tool #1 and with my feet as high as possible I'll then plant my 2nd tool. Great way to bypass one stick and sometimes really useful. I do it more on really steep and difficult technical ice than any where else. Generally saves a bunch of strength, time and swings even if you just do it a few times per pitch.

I originally found it a little stange to fully commit to having both hands on one tool. Still not my favorite feeling but I find much of climbing is just convincing yourself everything is normal anyway :)

It works, is faster and I am an obvious fan.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dane,

Just wondering, have you tried the new Quark?


Dane said...

I have used the new Quark. With the issues of the new pommels being unreliable on the Ergo and Nomic..the new Quark is the only current Petzl tool I can recommend.

I noticed Ueli Steck used a new Quark and an old Nomic on an Oct 2010 ascent of the Dru Coulior.

No suprize really as the newest Quark is really only an older Nomic with a spike on the shaft.