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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Saturday, October 15, 2011

2012 Petzl Nomic and Petzl Ergo comments.

As much as I like the Nomic I climbed all of last winter in North America with the new Ergo.    And for the most part loved every minute of it.  We had the earliest ice and some of the latest ice I have ever seen..

For everything I got on the Ergo was big fun.  Even easier to climb with on steep terrain than the original Nomic.  With  a single exception.

There were a few times (OK be honest more than a few)  that I was flagging on.  I was getting tired.  When that happens I get sloppy.  Or it was just really cold.  I get sloppy then too.

Somewhere we were soloing easy terrain and I was both cold and tired.  And I had big gloves on.  When all that happens with a pair of Nomic I now realise that I will often drop my little finger (and sometimes even my ring finger) out of the grip and let them hang below the rotation point on the tool.

But let me back up a bit here.  Petzl has gone to great lengths to add a serrated stainless blade to the pommel of the newest tools.  With varying levels of success mind you over two seasons.   But what we have now allows you to use the Nomic or Ergo on moderate terrain easier and just as importantly (may be more so) add some stability to the tool on steep ice after a pick stick.

Call the serrated blade in the pommel a good thing.  Except when it is not.

New Ergo on the left with the older style and smooth pommel piece

New Nomic and the new serrated pommel on the right

I and many others have used the original Nomic in alpine terrain to good effect.  You adapt and use the tool differently on moderate terrain.  But the serrated pommel allows even more use of the Nomic in the mtns.  The pommel change is an improvement in normal conditions.

But on technical ground not so much in a very limited circumstance.  Here is why I think so.  Even if I don't drop a finger out of the grip, I want as much rotation from the tool as possible.  One reason I think the Fusion is an inferior tool for most in comparison to the Nomic.    The spike of the Fusion and the serrated blade on the Nomic will eventually limit the rotation of the tool in the palm of your hand.

I might accept that in the Nomic and have with the newest tools and while climbing with the new Fusion and the spike attached..  But on the Ergo...not so much.  Changing picks today on  my Ergos I got to thinking..."the Ergo would be a better tool for me on really difficult climbing with the older, smooth and non serrated pommel".     Easy change.  Now if I drop a finger or two I won't mutilate them at the end of the swing.  The stainless serrated pommel will do that and shred a pair of gloves as well if they get between your finger and the ice.

That experience can be painful and indelible.
Easy answer?  "Does that hurt?"  "Then stop doing *IT*!"   If I worked at it I could always keep my hands and arms in the bus.  But being tired comes with the game as does cold temps and big gloves.  Generally if I have my Ergos out I am likely to get bit again.  So I changed the pommels to the original style.   Depending on what the climb is I might even change out my new Nomic's pommels as well.

Not the typical response when looking at the old or new Petzl tools but something to think about if the parts are available.   Everyone seems to want the new serrated pommel on their old tools.  I prefer  having the option of both style of pommel.  And if I had to chose between the two for every condition I'd stay with the smooth, original ones.   I know I'll get tired again and I won't keep my hands and arms inside the bus.

Back to the issue of the pommels themselves.

It is not like I am making this stuff up!  What happened to the "old days" when a broken grip rest was the rare and only issue with a Nomic?

The new improved 2012-2013 tools just became available again recently in Europe and now here in the US and North America.  Already I am getting reports in of loose pommels. 

this is typical:

"Interestingly though I've had mine for 1 month now.  Bought a brand new pair at full retail as soon as they hit the shops here in Chamonix.  The bottom griprest has already started to wobble on me.  Pretty annoying but I was just wondering if you knew of anyone who has had the same issue?"

The answer is, yes.  The one pictured below is not the first I have heard about or seen.

photo courtesy of a CT reader

A few failures reported both loose inserts and inserts coming out early this winter so it is already obvious the "fix" isn't good enough.  A liberal application of steel based epoxy kept my Ergos going all of last winter.  Only one size grip though because of it.  I'd suggest doing the same to your new tools.  And I really hate adding dumb as it might sound.......but be gentle with your pommels.   You can imagine just how careful I am with mine when mixing and matching pommels.  Which has to be an almost a certain recipe for failure until Petzl decides to do this right again.

Petzl reports the new pommel at double the last versions strength.

"How strong is the GRIPREST?

GRIPREST strength was doubled to withstand loads of 300daN."

pommel photos courtesy of Dave Searle


Dane said...

I got a good laugh out of a recent email in reference to this blog post.

"I read your last blog post and I noticed you said you no longer use your little finger and ring finger when you get tired. It sounds as if you don't swing with the wrist at all when you are tired. You do realize (according to Will Gadd) that those are the two fingers most responsible for getting good swings and sticks into the ice? I don't see how the fusions don't swing as well or the cobras as the Nomics based on how you get tired. Sounds as if it is a technique issue guiding your choice in gear here. Which is all fine as I am criticizing your technique.

Here is a video by Will Gadd speaking about the grip:"

Dane then said:

I'll answer..."it is all about rotation". If you understand that you'll understand what it takes to get a stick with any tool using the least amount of energy. The original Nomic rotates easier that the Fusion or even the current version of the Nomic.

If you want to extend your rotation *and your tools will allow it* (most won't easily) try swinging with just your index and middle fingers which are also the strongest.

You swing a straight shafted framing hammer with your ring and little finger to be efficient. Modern ice tools offer several options on how you might hold and swing the shaft for the most efficient climbing. On my Ergos I use 5 different hand positions on a regular basis. With 5 slightly different swings depending on where my hand is located. Transitions from grip to grip are mindless as well as seamless.

Not that I want to hang off my fingers mind you. I'll use my entire hand for that. But I don't use that two or three finger "technique" when I need to hang off my hands/arms either.

Almost any current (or past) ice tool will climb steep ice. Some just make it easier than others. I find the more options for position that your tools allow and the more flexible your technique the more efficent you'll climb on ice.

Bruno Schull said...

Hi Dane,

What's that great piece of ice in the picture on your latest post? Looks great!

Posted a link to the shell test recently on UKClimbing.

Hope it helps keep the numbers up, and the great reviews rolling.

All the best from Switzerland,


Dane said...

Curtain Call, on the Icefield's Parkway, Bruno. Stellar feature. The links are much appreciated, thank you!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your amazingly detailed info. Any idea how strong 300 daN is?

Dane said...

You're welcome. 300daN = 675lbs.

Anonymous said...

"It is not like I am making this stuff up! What happened to the "old days" when a broken grip rest was the rare and only issue with a Nomic?

Is it just me, but to me it seems obvious that the tooths are getting whacked off because the serrated steel is being beaten to the wall before the pick. In other words, fist before pick. Call it bad technique or tiredness, but this can be easily deducted from the missing tooth. Was the pommel in medium setting, is the S-M tooth missing...
And therefor pointing the origin of the problem to the drawingboard insted of the material.
- Pyyno

Bruno Schull said...

Hi Dane,

There seem to be seveal things going on with these new pommels. First, I like the new, deeper shape, with a smoother curve on the inside (where your hand rests). This is nicely visible in one of the pictures. Especially for folks with big hands and/or bulky gloves, this can only be a good thing. That said, I do not really like the spike. You point out one of my first thoughts, which is that the spike will just reduce the amount of rotation possible with the tool. As for the added stability with each swing, I am skeptical that the new "mini" spike can make that much difference, but then again, I have not tried the tools. Also, when I feel like I need a spike for plunging or balance, I just flip my Nomic upside down and plunge the head (at which point the old smooth pommel makes a nice hand rest. Then there is the problems with the breaking teeth in the pommel, the loose fit, and so on. It seems like this version two of the new tool is a quick and awkward solution, and that is really dissapointing. Finally, there is the whole issue of a full strength attachment point for an umbilical, without using knotted cord, but that is a whole other story.... Can we have it all? Good rotation, functional spike, full strength umbilical attachment, all in a lightweight package, so that the tool has a nice swing? Not yet, in my opinion, although it seems like it could be done with current technology, so it is frustrating. But in the end I guess that is part of what makes it fun; the slow evolution of the gear.

Dane said...

"Is it just me, but to me it seems obvious that the tooths are getting whacked off because the serrated steel is being beaten to the wall before the pick. In other words, fist before pick. Call it bad technique"

Yes, Petzl uses that excuse as well. I might buy it if the pervious version of the Nomic had a similar problem...which it DID NOT. Good design in ice tools will over design for every use. Having the pommel hit the ice is not only common but typical on steep ice.

I hate excuses. "poor technique" for poorly designed gear gear is simply bs.

Anonymous said...

First of all I have to underline that I love my Nomics.

"Yes, Petzl uses that excuse as well... ... ...I hate excuses. "poor technique" for poorly designed gear gear is simply bs."

Yes this is exactly what I meant. The "design protocol" seems to have missed the real world scenario of the tools being used "wrong" in the most common way.

It is just ridiculous to expect that aluminum (in the original serrated pommels) would withstand the multiplyed force of the fisthit when all this force is execerted to abt. 1mm x 1,5mm contact area! Also bear in mind that the pommel is acting as a 2 cm lever, thus further multiplying the force coming from the pommel when the steel tooth catch the ice.

The original smooth plastic pommel acts differently when "fisted" hard against the ice, it glides and slides on the ice reducind the impact force delivered to the internal teeth.

Quote from Petzl: "GRIPREST strength was doubled to withstand loads of 300daN."
--> which exact area fails after this force? The tooth once again perhapsee?

Furthermore, look at Petzls frontpage banner, recall, recall, recall. To me this seems that the designprocess is missing some real world user scenario work.

For example: -Hmmm, what will happen if whilst a little panicked I will yank this lever a little harder? Oh great, it will get stuck in the "open" position (GriGri2). LOL!

- Pyynö

Dane said...

No doubt all this should have been caught by the Petzl testers. The serrated blade has added a lot of stress to the pommel in use.

MechanicalChris said...


I started ice climbing late last season and bought the Petzl Ergos this summer thinking I'd be dry tooling all summer (not really understanding that's not practical for a beginner in New Hampshire in July lol)

So as the next season is just around the corner here in New England and I'm a little concerned because I haven't seen anything about the Ergo being used for technical mountaineering.I'm also going to try some peaks in Colorado after a visit to the Ouray Ice Park.

My aspirations this winter aren't just waterfall ice but also long alpine routes like Huntington Ravine and Shoe String Gully.

Petzl markets the quark as the "do all tool". Is that just a marketing position, and the Ergo can be used for alpinism; or is the Ergo just too aggressive of a curve and unreasonable for snow slopes?

Should I sell my unused Ergos and go for a Nomic or Quark?

Or am I being over analytical and should stick with the Ergo as I and the sport progresses these tools will grow with me too and become the standard for technical mountaineering?

Will I get many miles out of the ergo both on ice and big peaks or should I bail on them for a more all-round tool?

I felt a bit better when I saw your pick of coming up what looks like a beak peak with them. Can you do all the angle snow positions? Which leash style would work best?

One of the problems is also now I have to buy $100 worth of ice pics because they came with dry tool pics, so I have to make a decision now.

I know its a lot but I appreciate any advice Dane =)

Dane said...

I realy like the Ergo for every thing. Hard to go wrong with them just get some ICE picks and tune them as I have suggested o nthe blog for water fall ice.

Mechanicalchris said...

Thanks Dane,

By the way, which leash are you using in the photo up top? I read that the Grivel double spring doesn't fit the Ergos well. If I take them alpine, how should I keep the, attached?

Dane said...

The Petzl Nomic and Ergo both require a loop of accessory cord to be cut/knotted and hangling fron the bottom of the tool. You attach your prefered umbilicals to that small loop or use the Blue Ice version that is hitched thrugh the main shaft hole or though the smaller addional loop.

With out a locker on the attachemnt biner you are liklely lose a tool eventually. Connect a binner directly to a steel spike and it is almost guaranteed,