Pageviews past week

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Monday, December 6, 2010

Petzl Nomic and Ergo.."danger danger will robinson"

Petzl's answer on 12/21..less than a week after Petzl France got a look at the first pair of damaged tools.

"I have always been of the belief that the pommels needed to be as strong as the leashes they replaced since climbers will be betting the farm on them, like they did the leashes."

It should be obvious I am a big fan of the Petzl line of tools.  I'm been using Quarks and Nomics from almost day one of production.

One of the few weak points on a Nomic is the lower Delrin pommel and the upper grip support.  The upper grip support has been known to break off on occasion and generally a warranty issue at Petzl where they have in the past simply replaced the tool.

If you have read the "Old Nomic, New Nomic" comparison you have seen how the pommel male/female interface differs on the old and new model.  I had written about and speculated that the sloppy fit on the pommel/shaft interface would likely be an issue.  But I had thought the tools would make it through more than a few days of climbing.

The pictures here are from Daniel Harro's new set of Nomics with less than a dozen water ice pitches total on them.  As in less than a total of 12 full pitches of climbing and the pommel is stripped on one tool and about to go on the second.

My new Ergos are seeing similar wear issues with the interface and already dinged and showing premature wear.  Petzl says they will warranty them but replacement isn't going to stop it from happening again.  It is obvious we will need a better fix asap.   The metal inner face between shaft and pommel is 3mm on the pommel with one tooth and 6mm on the aluminum shaft end so it is not full strength and the harder stainless is cutting through the softer aluminum shaft with relative ease.  Before anyone cries foul and that it must be climber abuse, my original Nomic pommels are going on FOUR full winter and alpine seasons, hundreds of pitches by now and never a bobble as we start on the 5th season.

If you have the newest tools Nomic or Ergo and have climbed on them...check your gear now.. as you likely already have some wear happening.  Only two of us in our small climbing community that are on the newest tools, and we do.

Less teeth, and rounded teeth are making the new pommel much, much weaker in comparison to the older style tools with full width interface and a square cut interface.  Add to that the serrated "spike" digging into the ice,  loosing the ability to slide around a bit under that kind of force applied with each swing of the tool and  failure seems assured on the newest Nomic and Ergo pommels. 

The only answer I have at the moment is set the pommel in one position and use some very good steel based epoxy to keep it from moving and hopefully give your handles some added life.  But I don't know if that will void the warranty at Petzl yet.  (12/07/2001 update.. Petzl says it will void the don't do it)

No easy long term fix, but worth thinking about as well, is pull the new pommels off completely and bolt on the older pommels.  (they bolt right on but only in a "BIG" size)  The  grip will be bigger but at least that way you will strip a plastic part and not your aluminum shaft and need a new tool. That way if Petzl does come up with a quick answer your shaft won't be totally useless when they do.

Update directly from Petzl this morning 12/07/2010

This is info I gathered from a conversation with Rick Vance @ Petzl.  For those that wonder Rick is a climber just like the rest of us.  You can take him at his word.

These are the first failures Petzl has seen.  They are on to the problem now and working to identify the exact issues that caused the failure and most importantly a long term fix.  Broken tools will be covered under warranty.  So no worries there.  Don't start modifying tools or adding epoxy.  Give Petzl a chance to solve the problem first.   Petzl will give a public update once they know what caused the problem and their proposed solution.


inferno said...

as I don't have one of these in hand I am a bit confused about what is going on here. Is it possible you could draw some arrows and labels on your photos to illustrate the problem?

Dane said...

Sorry no drawings or arrows. The jist is there are three settings on the lower pommel of the new Nomic or Ergo for grip size. That size is controlled by a set of indents that mate up on the end of the tool and the plastic pommel piece.

Ideally the pommel should be able to hold several hundred pounds (a thousand or so would be better yet) and take multi thousands of full power strikes while hitting the ice and keep the same grip size.

The older Nomic's design will do both. The newer pommels design will do neither.

Bottom line? Tool is unrealible for even a day climb let alone anything longer. Risk? The bottom pommel adjustments will fail completely and offer little or no support.

inferno said...

so is the failure mechanism that the pommel (the pinky hook) loses support and just swings down so you are left with only your grip strength holding you to the tool?
Does this failure mean that your umbilicals might "fail" too?

And is this due to abrasion or deformation of steel wearing on aluminum, or worrying fatigue of the aluminum?

The picture I am getting is that the aluminum shaft extension and the steel pommel teeth insert mate up like a set of partial gears? And the failure occured with the steel "gear" stripping out over the aluminum one?

I am just trying to get a mental picture, as like I said, I don't have these tools in hand.

Dane said...

Yes, basically a set of meshing gears. The steel version in the pommel is stripping the aluminum shaft's "gears". The steel is thinner than the aluminum and is cutting through the aluminum gear. Easy to identify in the picture.

Once cut the pommel will collapse up ward so it no longer protects the hand on impact and downard so it no longer supports your hand.

Ian said...

Can you take a close up picture of the inside of the pommel/contact teeth?

Dane said...

Dbl click on the first photo and it will enlarge. Part of the problem is the pommel's interface is only as thick as the pommel's serrated blade, which is 3mm. The aluminum shaft that it has to mate against is 6mm thick. You can see clearly in one of the photos how that 3mm stainless steel fitting sheared through the pommmel's aluminum shaft adjustment notches.

Shoo said...

That's extremely unfortunate! I wonder if the production delays in the US have anything to do with this? They were originally expected to ship in August, but pushed it to October, then January. With any luck, they'll be shipping a modified version.

It seems like the easy "fix" would be a modification of the pommel to have a 6mm thick meshing gear. The spike on the bottom would then either have to be 6mm thick or be ground down.

Dane said...

Agreed..I looked at an original Ergo this weekend and it appeared to have a 6mm serrated "spike" in its pommel. That would have likely solved the problem.

I had heard it was the new picks that were slowing down delivery of the tools. But that is simply a guess. As of yesterday Petzl NA hadn't heard of the pommel issue. Sadly it is going to be a costly fix from what I can see.

And until it is fixed, as much as I like the new Ergo and Nomic and their obvious advantages, I have no use for the newest tools.

The newest Quark or BD are going to be my go to tools for a while I suspect.

Matt said...

Dane - I have a new set of nomics on order. Ironically I waited until the second version came out to order up as I've learned the hard way from BD about first generation products. Should I cancel the order and keep waiting?

Also - thanks a ton for securing the m10 monopoint kit for me. I have been having a good time trying out the new setup.

Dane said...


I am in a similar position. After talking with Rick Vance @ Petzl this morning I was somewhat relieved. Petzl will stand behind their products. This is the first they have seen of the failures.

As long as Petzl is addressing the issue and will cover broken tools under warrently I wouldn't worry. But I also have a old set of Niomics to use that I know are reliable until there is a "fix" in the works.

Anonymous said...

This is interesting. I have seen it with one pair of the old ones too but i think it was a heavily abused and just needed anew grip rest. I've had my high pummel snap off an old pair and petzl refused to warranty it. it is hard to tell if the new orange plastic is any different from the old one.

Kamil Tamiola said...

Dane! Big thanks for bringing this subject to our attention! I was planning to buy NOMICS as a replacement for my BD Vipers, but now... I'm hesitant! Actually it is quite difficult to order them in Europe right now (I live in the Netherlands).

Greetings from the Netherlands,

Dane said...

Hello Kamil!

Thank you for the update on what is available in Europe for tools. Hopefully we'll see more new Petzl tools soon that don't have the same issues as the earlier shipment.



Orange plastic or black is all the same I suspect. I doubt we'll see any difference in strength between the two.


Edvin MellergÄrd said...

Hi! Just received a pair of the new 2011 Nomics and took a couple of pictures of Petzl solution to the breaking pommel.

They can be found here:


Unknown said...

Dane, I have a pair of early --if not original--Ergos which I would like to put back in service for longer climbs. No being in favor of dropped tools off multi-pitch climbs, I would like to tether these dinosaurs: therein lies the rub--no clip-in point (no spike). Do you know of anyone who has satisfactorily solved this problem without drilling?---or, failing that sort of "non-invasive" fix--do you know of anyone who has drilled a 3mm - 5mm hole at the base of the grip which would permit an attachment loop of cord?

Dane said...

Hey Eric,

I've torn a pair of these totally apart. The entire handle (underneath the orange grip) on the original Ergo is backed by a solid aluminum plate that is riveted to the shaft. Drill away! I'd use a decent size hole and do it on the vertical section of the grip.