Petzl’s redesigned Laser Speed and Laser Speed Light ice screws debuted last fall, giving me a chance to use them for a whole season. I particularly wanted to compare how the two versions performed across various temperatures and kinds of ice, and was curious about the durability of the aluminum version.
The Laser Speed is your basic ice screw: steel tube, aluminum hanger, fold-out handle, colour-coded knob. The Laser Speed Light utilize an aluminum tube but have the same steel teeth. Both screws come in 13, 17 and 21 cm lengths, with the steel version adding a shorty 10cm. The knobs are handily colour-coordinated with their major competitor, BD, even though the lengths don’t exactly match up (BD’s are 10, 13, 16, 19 and 22).
The first thing you notice is how light the aluminum version is — on average 30% lighter. On a typical rack, or what I bring anyway, (4x 13, 4x 17, 2x 21) that’s a weight difference of 416 grams (1376 steel vs 960 alu). That’s almost half a kilo (or near as a pound for you non-metric readers). It is and isn’t a lot of weight, depending on how you look at it, but it is most definitely noticeable either on your harness or in a pack.
Here’s the weight breakdown, and percentage of how much lighter the aluminum version is:
10cm – na / 112
13cm – 88 / 124 – 29%
17cm – 98 / 140 – 30%
21cm – 108 / 160 – 32.5%
Performance wise, they both bite the same, which is to say incredibly well. These are the best, fastest placing screws I’ve ever used, and the large fold-out knob makes cranking them all the way in a breeze, no matter how compact and hard the ice is.
Cleaning, the aluminums seem to freeze up more easily than the steels. Ice just seems to stick to the inside a bit more, though it doesn’t seem to impact their placing and screw-in performance very much, if at all. Maybe someone with more metal knowledge can explain this one but I’m going to stick with the empirical evidence.
The hanger is relatively short, so they don’t rack as well as the BD screws, but they do sit better than Grivel’s. I rack five per clipper comfortably, and you can put in a sixth, but then it sits angled out too much for my liking.
Racked with five screws. They just sit better, and are easier to unclip. I’ll generally rack 2x 17, 2x 13 and 1x 10 on each side, and rack the 21’s on a separate clipper each, leaving room for my tools (I climb with four clippers, typically).
The hanger has only one, though rather large, hole. I prefer the dual-hole design of the BD as you can isolate your biners, and more easily remove one if the system is weighted. However, the Petzl’s hole easily accommodates three lockers and will even fit four if the spines are small enough.
Durability wise, well, they’re ice screws, don’t run them into rocks too often and they’ll last for years. That said, I’ve been purposely abusing mine. I typically transport my screws in a roll-up sleeve, but out of curiosity (and so you don’t have to) I’ve been throwing them loosely into a crampon pouch. I can report that, yep, the aluminums will get more beaten up and that the threads have picked up some dings. They still seem to place just as well but you probably don’t want to abuse them like this too often.
I’ve also noticed a few dings on the threads that seem to have come from leaning against rock during belays, as I can’t imagine a portion of thread being taken out just by screws banging on each other!
Like most other things in life, it seems you often pay more for less and the same is true of the aluminum version. In Canada, the steel is $69 and the aluminum $86. That’s about 20% more for 30% less. But, after a whole season with a full rack of each, I know which ones I’ll keep using.
These are the best ice screws I’ve tried, and I’ve used all the ones readily available in North America. They bite fast and crank in very well. I’d prefer a longer hanger and two biner holes but I can live without both. Besides, the aluminum ones seem to weigh nothing at all and the weight savings is hard to live without.
Pros: bite fast, place well
Cons: single biner hole, shortish hanger
Overall: The best steel ice screws I’ve ever used.
Laser Speed Light
Pros: light, light, light, bite fast, place well, did I mention light?
Cons: not as durable as steel, single biner hole, shortish hanger, price
Overall: The best ice screws I’ve ever used.
I bought two full racks of these for testing, and promptly sold my BD’s. Yes, they are this good.