New Petzl ERGONOMIC Preview
Petzl asked for my thoughts on the new ERGONOMIC axe, released in early 2018. I've been psyched to use them. Here's what I think.
On steep ice, the Ergonomic swings nicely from the head, and the balance is well-tuned. It feels very much like the Nomic (which is obviously designed for ice climbing). In fact, it is a Nomic until you get to the handle - the head and shaft is the same on both axes. On long, vertical pitches it’s like every hold is a jug at the climbing wall.
Of course, such a dropped handle means it can feel awkward on lower-angled ice or steps, but a) it’s not designed for this, and b) you get used to it feeling a bit like a banana. It makes you psyched to climb steep ice again.
One of the most important functions of a mixed tool is to be stable on a small edge. The Ergonomic feels like it’ll hold precise placements, even when swapping hands - as long as you keep your hands still, of course! Once I know the pick is on a good edge, I feel I can shake out and recover. The dropped handle means the axe is obviously in its element on vertical and overhanging ground.
Another useful addition is the hammer (the 'Mini Marteau’), for placing pegs. It strikes well and is relatively efficient, considering how aggressive the tool is. I shift my hand to the top grip and then hammer away. It’s also flush with the back of the head so I don’t notice it whilst climbing. Two final points: the hammer doesn’t add much weight, or negatively affect the balance of the head.
The axe climbs steep ice like a dream, and you can dry tool upside down with it… but most importantly, can you take it into the mountains?
On sustained alpine routes, the Ergonomics have a lot of benefits. They climb well (making steep ice and mixed feel easier); they’re functional (you can place pegs); they’re reasonably light; and you can swap hands whilst hanging on a stable, juggy placement. You can also customise the axes by adding/removing the hammer and adze.
I think these axes might be overkill for moderate alpine routes, however. Perhaps a more classic, all-round axe like the Quark or Nomic is better suited to alpine routes with easier terrain or less sustained pitches. The ‘super dropped handle’ of the Ergonomic means these axes are for when things get steep, and it might be more efficient to use a more versatile tool on anything less. Then again, the Ergonomics are a bit like a Supercharger, or pressing the Nitros button: they’ll certainly make mixed and ice feel good.
It’s important to note they don’t come with a spike at the bottom of the handle. I think having the spike is important when in the mountains for two reasons. Firstly, so you can clip your leashes to the axe. I don’t have the spike yet and I’ve bodged a clip-in loop, but it’s only 1mm cord. Secondly, so you can securely plunge the axe into snow. The new Nomic handle comes with the spike and can be fitted to the Ergonomic.
Finally, the issue of the ‘wobbly head’ should be fixed with an insert between the head and the shaft.
I’d have been psyched to use these axes on the Leseuer on Le Grand Dru (Alps), Navigator Wall on Mt. Slesse (Canada) and Creme de Violette on Beinn Eighe (Scotland), for example. I'm looking forward to using them on many more routes!