2010 Petzl Ergo Ice Tool Review by Dave Burdick
The 2010 Petzl Ergo marks a significant step forwards in the design of ice tools. The Ergo expands upon the Petzl Nomic design by adding an extremely high clearance shaft and another handle option. The Ergo is unabashedly designed to perform in steep drytooling but retains many of the ice and alpine oriented features that have made the Nomic such a popular tool. Could this be the future direction that tools are headed for both rock and ice climbing?
If you haven’t already, read the Black Diamon Fusion vs Petzl Nomic review. This review will reference material covered there.
- Triple handle design
- Adjustable primary grip size
- Adjustable 3rd grip
- Extremely large clearance in shaft design
- Field replaceable picks
- Hammer, adze or nothing options
- Serrated bottom spike
- Full strength handle-hole umbilical attachment
- 4mm cord hole umbilical attachment
- Reinforced plastic upper grip
- Tape wrap on upper grip
- Double bolt pick attachment
- 600g – Axe + pick
- 5g – Pick spacer
- 58g – Pick weights
- 58g – Hammer
- 69g – Adze
- 605g – Axe + pick + spacer
- 663g – Axe + pick + weights
- 663g – Axe + pick + hammer
- 721g – Axe + pick + weights + hammer
The main two lower handle grips on of the Ergo are identical in manufacture to the Nomic but differ in their angle relative to the pick. The Ergo also offers a 3rd upper grip that can be adjusted to any location on the shaft. The 3rd grip is a great feature when drytooling for several reasons:
- For long reaches on good holds (or in ice) you can simply let go and grab the really high 3rd grip.
- When making long reaches on more tenuous hooks where you cannot unweight the tool, it is usually required that you match both hands on the tool at the same time. This motion flows naturally when traversing as, for example, the tool that was held by your left hand is now held by your right hand on the 2nd grip. To traverse, you grab the free tool off your shoulder with your left hand and move left. However, if you’re going strait up or back right, you need to get that left hand back onto the original tool. The 3rd grip solid and stable way to do this.
- When on-sighting mixed routes the 3rd grip gives you more options to adapt when you misread tricky hand sequences.
Handle to Pick Angle
The Ergo has a significantly steeper pick angle than any tool that has come before it. The main advantage here is that on very steep ground—30° or more overhanging—the handle moves into a horizontal, more pull-up bar like angle to your hand. It is easy to imagine being able to do more pull-ups on a horizontal bar versus a vertical bar. This difference in feeling is readily apparent between the Ergo and a tool like the Nomic or Black Diamond Fusion. The older style tools almost feel strait shafted in comparison, even on only moderately overhanging terrain.
However, there is a tradeoff here as a very steep pick angle makes the pick shift more prominent. With the Ergo, the quietest handle position is actually on the 2nd grip, not the primary. For more on grip shape, sizing and adjustment options, the spike and umbilical attachment options, please see the notes on the Nomic in the Fusion vs. Nomic review.
The Head & Swing
Something that Petzl has done well with many of their current product lines is not making assumptions about their user base. Their lightest weight sport climbing-oriented harnesses have ice-clipper slots (alpinists rejoice), and their hyper technical drytooling axe can have an adze or a hammer attached. An Ergo with an Adze on it? Maybe that’s crazy or maybe it’s just clever as you get the versatility with little to no compromise on the “original intent”. The Petzl Quark, Nomic and Ergo all share the same head and pick design, so you can put on an Ice style pick, a hammer, an adze, pick weights or none of the above.
I really wanted to love the Ergo for everything ice. Obviously it will do well drytooling, but how about the all around performance? The swing on the Ergo on ice is decently “compromised” by the large clearance on the shaft and the steep pick angle. This is the tradeoff we take for the more horizontal hand position on steep ground. On lower angled terrain (like, say, just plain old vertical), the pick connects with the ice much sooner than with tools like the Nomic or Fusion. I found it challenging to get enough speed and power into the swing before connecting with fresh ice. As a result, I would get a lot of bounced picks out of what would normally have been easy placements. I was able to adjust the swing to be more Nomic-like by removing the pick weights and putting on a pair of hammers. This made the swing weight feel similar to the Nomic. The following picture illustrates this as you can see that the Nomic picks weights align with the hammer location on the Ergo when the handles are in the same position.
However, the swing is still different and it would take me more than a few days of climbing to unwire years of swinging very different tools. I called it “compromised” earlier, but in reality I just think that it will take time to learn to swing the Ergo properly on ice.
Petzl includes the “Dry” pick with the Ergo which is their T-rated 4mm pick. The function and finish on this pick is among the best out-of-box designs available. For pure drytooling, you can improve pick stability on small edges by filing down the first tooth. More detail on this here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrF4rTtfr1E
The Ergo is a really intriguing new tool. It was designed for and has succeeded in maximizing your ability to climb very steep ground–rock or ice, with a tool in your hand. For these pursuits I think that Petzl has set the bar high. I also think many people will look at the new Ergo and deem it too radically curved, too awkward to swing and too specialized for all-around general use. I’m almost be ready to agree with them except that we’ve seen those statements before with tools like the Petzl Quasar, Grivel’s Machine, the original Black Diamond Cobra and even the Nomic. Is the Ergo the best tool for climbing WI3 and moderate alpine routes? Probably not. Will it prove to be the archetype for future technical tool design? Time will tell.