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skimbleshanks

Need ice tool suggestions for harder routes

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Looking to get onto some harder routes in the next few winters. I have a few Cascade volcano summits up the standard routes.  Leutholds coulior, and Devils kitchen head wall are the primary targets of the next 2 winters. I currently own and have used a Grivel G1 ice axe for all my summits. I have taken a Grivel Alp monster with me on 2 Mt. Hood trips up the pearly gates. Looking to get a moderate set of tools. One adz and one hammer. Average price would be nice, still usable on easier glacier travel. Im tall at 6'4" so longer might help there. The Petzl Quark looks nice but I really want to look at the field.

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I think as you get into climbing you will inevitably end up with multiple pairs of ice tools.  As an 'older' climber, it took me a few fits and starts to go leash less.  I've tried BD Cobras (best swinging tools ever), but the picks are inferior to Petzl and Grivel's forged ones.  Tried the Viper (older style, everything there is to hate on the Cobras, none of the great swing), the new ones look pretty nice though.  Tried the Quarks, too light for my tastes and were tough to hang onto when going leash less.  I decided to go full on leash less for harder routes (Grivel Tech Machine, basically identical to the Petzl Nomic's geometry), and use my Aztars for alpine routes, still the best alpine tool I've found.

For moderate alpine routes, I found one full length axe and one North Wall hammer to be a great combo.  My modern equivalent is a Petzl Summit Evo and a 50 cm Sum'Tec.  Great for routes like Liberty Ridge on Rainier, or North Ridge or Coleman Headwall on Baker where there is some technical climbing but a lot of lower angled climbing as well.  If you want an all around tool, look at the Grivel North Machine, although I hear the pommel is tough to hang onto in leash less mode, Petzl Quark, and BD Viper.  I find the hammer and adze on the Cobras to be ridiculous for real alpine use, but if you don't mind dropping $700 for tools with a useless hammers and adzes and an inferior pick, they swing like butter.

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Like DPS I learned to climb ice in the last century. I have found that people have gravitated to curved handled tools for climbs that really do not need them. Especially when there is barely any steep terrain. Which means the tool is worthless for caning and plunging. At the same time such tools force people to go all four well before it is really needed and thus crawl.  For Leutholds all one needs is a std. axe and a ski pole. Petzl Summit Evo and a 50 cm Sum'Tec are a good recommendation. That will get you up many routes even routes like Liberty Ridge.

IMHO the best all tools are the first generation BD Cobras. Slight curve, can plunge and cane, good swing, functional adze, can climb all kinds of stuff with them.

 

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Something can really be said for the right tool for the conditions, and the comfort / speed added in semi- or fully-technical terrain vs. the speed lost in non-technical by carrying two tools AND a non-technical long axe. 

 

Sure you can climb North Ridge or Coleman Headwall on Baker w/o two technical tools, but you'll be a lot slower through the technical terrain, and may struggle to even make it up.  This could significantly lower the overall safety of the party. 

 

I have never regretted carrying two technical tools, even when not truly needed because of the speed and security added when I did need them, even for a short time.  A fully functional, non-technical axe also makes travel through the remainder of the terrain safe and fast without needing to utilize a tool where it does not belong.  Are you any slower carrying three tools/axes - not really; do you ensure you have the right tool for the job, ensuring confidence and speed and therefore safety - yes. 

 

North Ridge, Liberty Ridge, Coleman Headwall (some examples above) - I would whole-heartedly recommend two tools and an axe, you never know what you might have to climb through.  I have not done Leutholds or DKH, so cannot comment at all (except Leutholds is a relatively benign ski descent, I think ...).

 

I am not advocating two tools on everything, but simply giving another perspective that has worked well for me.

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For any of the routes described above, something like a Quark (or Viper) is fine but the Petzl Gully is well worth checking out. It's dramatically lighter and climbs as well on moderate terrain. The aggressive pick swings well into ice and handles rock as well. The sliding pinky rest makes it easy to switch to plunging mode. I added pick weights to make it swing better into hard ice. 

The newest Sum-tec is similar but longer and with a replaceable pick (at a slight weight penalty). 

The Gully seems like it was almost custom made for routes like Baker's North Ridge or Liberty Ridge on Rainier. Mine have almost entirely taken over what I would use my Quarks for and if the climbing is any harder than what I'd use my Gullys for, I jump up to my Nomics. They aren't a quiver of one tool but for moderate stuff, they are amazing!

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I've been using a combo of Grivel Tech Machines and a Light Machine. For waterfall climbing I use two tech machines, for alpine climbing I use one tech machine with the light machine. It feels like the best compromise to me - the light machine isn't great at climbing nor is it great for the approach/decent, but it climbs a lot better than most mountaineering axes and plunges/self-arrests better than most technical tools. Plus the tech and light machines use the same pick.

A similar combo would be Petzl nomics and a sum'tec.

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I switch off between using north machines and nomics. Both are good, and will get you up any pitch you’re likely to find in the mountains. 

 

Start climbing ice, do some mixed, figure out what works for you. A set of nomics to start will most likely let you feel comfortable on the harder terrain, and once your skills are enough that the tool at your disposal doesn’t matter you’ll know what you want to climb with. There is no one right piece of gear. 

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I have been using the grivel alp wing for alpine ice routes for a while.    The bend in shaft is not too extreme and you can take the trigger rest off for routes with more snow plunging.   Trigger rest on and it is worthy for WI4.  My version is 15+ years old so I don't if it is still made but I would still look for something like that.  The trigger rest was a bear to get on but I would think they made a easier version by now. 

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as others have suggested above, ice up to I-5 or so can be climbed with a short (60cm) "standard" ice axe and an alpine/north wall hammer.   most any axe you can buy today will have a pick that will perform equal to or better than the original Chouinard piolet, which pioneers used to push standards to WI6 in the 1970s.  I am partial to DMM's tools, which are highly regarded worldwide, but hard to find in the US.  The DMM Fly has been a popular all-rounder over thirty years - modest bend, removable trigger-rests, at home on waterfalls or caning/ice-axe-belay.  My all time favorite has been the DMM Rebel - a full-on leashless waterfall tool with geometry and grip that still permits caning and ice-axe-belay.  Unfortunately, DMM discontinued the Rebel a few years ago, but I'm fairly sure you can still find them...   a further advantage dealing with DMM is their company policy of continuing to supply replacement picks for every ice tool they have ever manufactured.  If I were in your position, I would also look closely at what CAMP/Cassin has to offer.   I have had excellent performance from tools of theirs that I have owned, and although I have not climbed on their current offerings, acquaintances who have are raving about them.   I do not care for tools with exaggerated bend/arc  in the shaft; such geometry makes the hammer/adze practically unusable, and makes self-arrest virtually impossible.

-Haireball

 

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I used BD Cobras for a few seasons. They are good all around alpine/ice tools, but they do not dry tool very well, nowhere near as good as Nomics. I switched back to Nomics, as they are a great all around tools for me. 

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9 hours ago, G-spotter said:

Also I don't think x-all mountains come with an adze but honestly you rarely need an adze anyway.

I think in alpine far more important is the ability to hammer stuff in (like pins). However more bent tools climb better, particularly mixed, but they suck for hammering, so I bring light Petzl rock hammer with me. Adze comes handy to chop better feet on a semi-hanging belays. 

 

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Thanks for all the replies.  I think I have it figured out. Switch one of my trekking poles to a black diamond whippet for easier or lower angle stuff and a set of tools once the real climbing begins. I know the early days used very simple equipment. Those climbers were probably way more badass than I'll ever be. Grivel North Machines or Petzl Quarks and Cassin X light looks like what im looking for. The carbon shafts of the Grivel really do appeal to me but another $80+ might make the decision for me. Looking for deals now. But would love to try before I plunk down the cash. Anybody want to let me swing their tools once some ice comes in?

Edited by skimbleshanks

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Since the Quarks were mentioned...has anyone swung the new model Quark?  I have the generation 1 quarks and finding picks is starting to get pretty difficult.  Really like the tools and wondering if this generation of tool is that big of an improvement.  I apologize ahead of time for the thread hijack....

Edited by mikegillam

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I use Grivel North Machine Carbons for almost everything even sort of steep. Climbed DKH with them as well as Lib ridge, Bakers N ridge etc... I really like that they can be as light as 440g a piece with the ice pick. I usually run one this way and one with a hammer (540g I think) for a light weight and capable combo. I think for anything WI5 or harder I'd like an offset (nomic style) tool but NMC's were perfect on the Cosley Houstan (WI4 or 4+) this past weekend. That being said, Quarks are also a great all around tool as are carbon cobras, it comes down to what you like the swing of and can get cheapest. My climbing partner has elite climb salamandras, those are a stellar alpine tool I think. So light and climb ice VERY well, also picks are very cheap for them and you can get an adze and hammer. Many many options in this category, try them all if you can, if not get whats cheapest I suppose?

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On 11/5/2018 at 9:23 PM, glassgowkiss said:

I used BD Cobras for a few seasons. They are good all around alpine/ice tools, but they do not dry tool very well, nowhere near as good as Nomics. I switched back to Nomics, as they are a great all around tools for me. 

Cobra's retail price has drifted up to $400+ per tool.  For that price you can nearly buy a pair of Tech Machines or North Machines.  Cobras were pretty sweet when they came out 10 years ago or so but I would not buy them again today. 

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On 11/18/2018 at 4:57 PM, Jake_Gano said:

Cobra's retail price has drifted up to $400+ per tool. 

Sold my 2 season old Cobras with brand new picks for $350.

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