Here’s the TLDR version: the new-for-2018 Petzl Ergonomic is absolutely fantastic, the re-designed Nomic gets some relevant and useful performance and feature upgrades, while the Quark mostly remains the Quark albeit with a few subtle changes.
Petzl did not attend the semi-annual Outdoor Retailer tradeshow this winter but in lieu the company held a pre-launch event in Ouray, Colorado, for select members of the media and retail buyers. I was fortunate to have been invited to the event, and we all got to spend two days climbing with the new tools in the Ouray Ice Park and chatting with Petzl staff and athletes.
The biggest improvement — especially for those of us who live in certain specific areas affected by the dreaded head-wobble — is a new soft-plastic insert between the shaft and the head that will be used on all three new tools. This plastic insert is specifically designed to expand and contract with varying temperatures to fill in any minimal gaps resulting from manufacturing tolerances: i.e. sometimes both the shaft and the head will be within tolerance but at opposite ends of the tolerance parameters — resulting in a tiny gap that leads to the head wobble. The insert is designed to eliminate this gap.
Aside from this new insert, the new tools share a few common features: a hydroformed shaft that is more comfortable and secure to hold in the high dagger position, new rubber materials for the handle and upper grip, as well as a redesigned small hammer that better protects the head.
The new Quark’s coolest feature is the folding bottom Griprest, which locks in either the open or closed position and disengages with the push of a button. The mechanism for this is actually really cool, but rather difficult to show in photos so you’ll just have to trust me that it looks like it’ll clear snow well, and even if it does freeze up you should be able to press down on the release button with your other tools’ pick or spike and force it to work.
The redesigned grip is flatter and slightly wider and is more comfortable to swing compared to the previous generation. The Trigrest upper grip is easily adjustable without tools, the same as on the previous model. The tools swing wonderfully, though as someone who is not used to less-aggressive tools I found it easy to bash my knuckles when climbing featured ice. On smooth ice, however, the Quarks swing easily, penetrating well and feeling very secure.
Petzl claims a weight of 535 grams, compared to the previous model’s 550 gram weight, but of course I’ll have to wait until I can get a retail sample to verify this.
The new Nomic is more of an evolution than a revolution but it is full of worthwhile improvements, especially for those who climb on the current Nomic. The new plastic insert should alleviate any loose head issues, while the redesigned grip is slightly wider with softer and grippier rubber. The new handle is 20 grams lighter allowing Petzl to fit the redesigned Mini Marteau hammer without increasing the tool’s weight (which remains at 605-grams — to be independently verified once I have a production sample in hand, of course). There’s also a new bottom pommel — Griprest Nomic in Petzl-speak — that features a proper spike and lanyard attachment, rated to 1.5kN (i.e. it is not weight bearing). In addition, the upper pommel is now slightly higher which increases the vertical distance gained when matching. The pick weights, Masselottes, have also been redesigned and are now shaped more like nuts, aka stoppers, for better purchase in cracks.
The new Nomic swings much the same as the previous generation, a natural, easy, wrist-flick that drives the pick into the ice. Designed specifically for ice climbing, the Nomic comes stock with the also-redesigned Pur’Ice pick, and together the combination swings and cleans as well as any other tool out there. Climbing ice with the Nomic is a pleasure, and feels even more effortless than with the current Nomic and current Pur’Ice combo (which in itself climbs very well).
The most exciting tool for me is the new Ergonomic. It is not to be confused with the previous Ergo, and is an all-new design that shares more DNA with the current Nomic than with other Petzl tools, or even the previous Ergo. And, let’s all be honest here, nobody is going to call the new Ergonomic the Ergonomic: it’ll be an Ergo no matter what Petzl tries to call it. Sorry, Pierre.
The Ergo(nomic) has pretty much the same shaft curvature as the Nomic, but the handle is offset even further to the back and the angle is slightly steeper. The handle has received a lot of attention, and is flatter and thicker for a more comfortable grip, especially for those who climb a lot and (as a result) have larger hands that can accommodate the bigger handle. The Ergo(nomic) swings from an open-handed grip, the pinky and two lower fingers directing the swing. Thanks to the redesigned bottom pommel — Griprest Ergonomic a la Petzl — the tool freely rotates in your palm during the swing. For someone used to curved, technical, tools the Ergo(nomic) swings easily and places solidly: it is by far the most confidence-inspiring of the new tools, especially on tricky, featured ice or when swinging over bulges.
Of course, as it was designed primarily as a steep ice and mixed tool, the Ergo(nomic) climbs rock fantastically with minimal pick shift and that similar, very secure, feeling of driving the tip of the pick into the rock that the Ergo exhibits when weighed (but with little to no flex, unlike the Ergo). The wider handle promotes an open-handed grip, leading to less pump, and seems to work as advertised.
The new Ergo(nomic) will come equipped with the Dry pick, the new mini hammer and the new pick weights. Given that it is designed mainly for steep ice and mixed, I’d rather see it come with the Ice pick, which is a bit thicker and burlier than the Pur’Ice, but not as aggressive and easier to clean than the Dry. As we’re still a few months off from shipping, perhaps there’s still hope for this change but my suspicion is that if you get the Ergo(nomic), you’ll want to buy a pair of Ice or Pur’Ice picks and save the stock Dry picks for dedicated mixed or drytooling days. The new tool weighs a claimed 645 grams.
Availability of the new tools is scheduled for mid-summer 2018, with Petzl hoping to get production versions into our hands for proper, thorough, testing sometime in April — just in time, hopefully, to get on some late-season ice in the Canadian Rockies, and beat them up dry-tooling over the summer and fall.
Prices for the new tools and accessories are as follows:
Quark – $260 USD / $340 CAD
Nomic – $300 USD / $400 CAD
Ergonomic – $360 USD / $480 CAD
Ice Pick – $60 USD / $80 CAN
Pur’Ice Pick – $60 USD / $80 CAN
Dry Pick – $60 USD / $80 CAN
Pur’Dry Pick – $60 USD / $80 CAN
Griprest Nomic- $40 USD / $53 CAN
Griprest Ergonomic – $40 USD / $53 CAN
Masselottes (pick weights) – $40 USD / $50 CAN
Mini Marteau (small hammer) – $40 USD / $50 CAN
Of course, me being me, I brought some competition along to compare with the new Petzl toys. Grivel’s The Tech Machine has one of the best picks currently available but when compared directly to the Petzl Pur’Ice, it displaces slightly more ice, though it cleans just as well as the latest from Petzl. I just don’t get along with that Grivel handle, though.
The current (released in early 2017) Petzl Pur-Ice appears a bit thicker in profile than the new (coming in mid 2018) Pur’Ice, and the improved performance of the new Pur’Ice is noticeable as it places and cleans just that little bit more easily. The Ice pick, especially fitted to the first-gen Nomic, feels like a hammer by comparison and readily shows the advances in design of the new Petzl tools and picks.
My current favourite tool, the Cassin X-Dream, falls somewhere between the new Nomic and Ergo(nomic) — the shaft has a bit more clearance than either Petzl tool, and the handle angle falls somewhere in between the two Petzl offerings. Climbing on all three tools side-by-side, the Nomic feels a bit ‘straighter’ than the X-Dream and doesn’t place quite as easily, but it does feel more secure when hooking. The Ergo(nomic) seems to have been designed for hooking, and I’m impressed that it feels even more secure than the X-Dream on small placements in featured, overhanging ice. The swing, for me, is superb and feels very natural, especially when trying to get a stick on top of those awkward bulges and mushrooms that are so common on steeper, harder, ice routes.
All that said, I don’t have enough time on any of the Petzl tools on terrain that is familiar enough for me to make any conclusive decisions, but those two short days in the Ouray Ice Park have made some very strong impressions — I am looking forward to spending more time on these new toys from Petzl in the coming months. And just as the original Nomic revolutionized ice climbing back in 2005, and in the last few years the X-Dream has made ice and mixed climbing easier than ever, I suspect the new Ergo(nomic) will be a common sight everywhere there’s overhanging ice and rock in the coming years.