Petzl Nomic Ice Axe

We’ve just got the Petzl Nomic Ice Axe in stock for this winter; I have used them a bit so thought I would share my thoughts on them.

Petzl Nomic Ice Axe
Petzl Nomic Ice Axe

Firstly the Petzl Nomic Ice Axe are so good for ice and mixed climbing that using them is almost cheating! I’ve used the Nomic’s both drytooling and ice-fall climbing – they basically made everything feel easy. The axe is brilliantly weighted, meaning a lower amount of force is required to get the pick into hard ice, saving you energy with every swing. The Astro pick is a remarkable piece of engineering, when you swap hand positions the pick does not have the characteristic shift of other axes – this is because the different hand positions on the ice axe corresponds to specific teeth on the pick. So for technical ice and mixed climbing I can highly recommend the Nomic’s.

Reg Using the Nomic's on the North Face of Les Courtes
Reg Using the Nomic's on the North Face of Les Courtes

I was pretty sceptical about there use on alpine and mountaineering routes, however my climbing partner Reg used them on our ascent of the North Faces of Les Courtes and Les Droites, and they worked brilliantly. They are really for good for any snow/ice/mixed climbing past about 45, and you can plunge them. To plunge them you have to just keep holding the handle and plunge the pick. The down side of using them on Alpine terrain is that they are not as secure plunging, it is hard to place/remove pitons with them (although it is possible, yet not recommended by Petzl), and they do not have adzes, so any cutting has to be done with the pick. On anything longer than one pitch you are also really going to want some spring leashes the best options seem to be the Black Diamond Spinner Leash and the Grivel Double Spring Leash. With these leashes you get all the advantages of leashless climbing – gear being a doddle to place, easy to swap hands making traversing and mixed climbing a breeze, as well as making Ice climbing less pumpy – with the security of knowing if you drop you axe you will not loose it. The other advantages of the spring leashes are that at belay the axes are still attached to you, so if the rope flicks the axe(s) out from where you have placed them – your not going to loose the axe (I have managed to do this a couple of pitches up the Weeping Wall in Canada). Also with the spring leashes you can get extra security while placing ice screws as you can weight your axes with the spring leashes if necessary (this is of course cheating!).

These axes are never going to catch on for classic alpine and mountaineering as they are not suitable; however for any kind of technical ground they a brilliant.

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