MSRP: $299.95 each
After a week-long press visit to Ouray last winter where I sampled Petzl’s updated line of ice tools and ice picks, I ordered a pair of Nomics ($299.95 each) for further testing. Petzl upgraded three tools in their line: the Quark, the Nomic and the Ergonomic. The Sum’Tec and Gully remain unchanged.
The updated Nomics (585g each with standard accessories included, 500g without) are only slightly lighter than their predecessors while adding useful features including an integrated bi-material rubber grip over the shaft (making tape unnecessary), a built-in smaller hammer for pounding in pins, a steel spike at the bottom for use in cane mode, and tapered pick weights that slot better in cracks.
The most noticeable change–which can be said for every one of the newly designed tools–is that they’re now more comfortable to hold in your hand. Though the swing is the same on the Nomic, the redesigned hydro-formed shaft (it’s shaped with water pressure) is now narrower in the middle and easier to grip.
Petzl also addressed an issue, a rattle that some users experienced in the head of the tools when using them in bitter-cold conditions. “They added a sleeve so it can accept temperature variables much better,” Dale Remsberg, IFMGA guide, Petzl athlete, and technical director of the AMGA, told me.
Also new in the line are two picks ($60 each), an improved Pur’Ice pick, and a dedicated drytooling pick called Pur’Dry. The Pur’Dry picks are 4mm thick (the width of two nickels) and retain the same thickness throughout their length. In addition to being thick for strength, the picks have an aggressive angle that makes them solid on balancy rock moves but harder to place and clean from the ice.
Petzl’s other new pick, the Pur’Ice, tapers from 4mm at the head to 2.9mm at the tip, over one millimeter thinner than the Pur’Dry. The Pur’Ice picks are thinner than Petzl’s Dry and Ice picks.
But, I did bend a Pur’Ice pick when I took the new Nomics on Two Dragons, a mixed route that was in dry condition, which I attempted with Tyler Kempney in Rocky Mountain National Park.
To get to the route, we post-holed for hundreds of feet through steep snow to reach the base, all the while making good use of the new spikes on the bottom of the tools.
Since the new tools have hollow handles with vertical slits through each one wide enough to fit an alpine sling, I girth-hitched a sling through one handle and equalized it with other gear at the (stance) anchor at the base of the route: a tool stabbed into a frozen bush, a nut in a constriction, and a tool-pick wedged behind a chockstone.
I asked Remsberg about this technique and he advised against it.
“In a pinch it can be done, but the tool is not designed to be used in an anchor in that configuration.”
I bent the pick about 60 feet up while following the first pitch, an M7 tips to- fingers- to hands crack. I came to a spot where there was nothing for my pick to rest on in the crack, and there were only a few edges on the face to rest my mono points on. Out of options, I plastered my front points against the wall and liebacked my full weight off the pick buried in the crack to make a full-extension move. This toprope-glory move worked (I stuck it) but sometime during the sequence I felt the pick bend under the pressure of the move combined with my body weight. I bent the pick near the redesigned Masselot weights but still finished the pitch clean (yippee skippy). Then we bailed.
We rapped off, but instead of pulling the rope right away, we ran laps on the first pitch until day’s end. I continued climbing with the bent pick.
The problem, I came to find out after talking with Remsberg, was that I was using Petzl’s new Pur’Ice picks–which is what the tools ship with–where I should have been using the Ice (which I have on my previous generation Nomics), Dry, or the new Pur’Dry picks. The Ergonomic ($359.95) tools ship with the Dry picks but I prefer the Nomics. But, it’s not quite that simple.
“If I was climbing a mixed route and anticipated difficult ice climbing as well, the Ice pick would be a better choice,” Remsberg says.
Since the Nomics ship with Pur’Ice picks, other picks have to be ordered separately. Four picks are available, from thinnest to thickest: Pur’Ice, Ice, Dry, Pur’Dry ($59.95 each).
The bent pick aside, the new Nomics performed as reliably as my 12-year-old pair–tools I’ve been using in all four seasons on the steeps in the East Vail Amphitheater and in Bear’s Den in RMNP. During this time, I’ve swung other tools including the Camp X Dream ($279.95; 600 grams) and Black Diamond Fuel Hammer Ice Tool ($299.95; 655 grams). The X Dreams adjusted to the Ice setting in the handle and the Fuel have similar angles. The Ergonomic and X-Dream set to the Dry setting in the handle have similar angles.
Chris Van Leuven is the former digital editor for Alpinist. He lives off the grid in a canvas-walled cabin near Yosemite Valley.
Updated design makes them easier to grip
Integrated features, including hammer and grip wrap, shave weight while adding functionality.
Ships standard with Pur’Ice pick, which is too narrow for hard mixed/dry tooling. Additional picks can be ordered at extra cost.