How to trash a $300 ice tool ?


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Social climber
way out there
Topic Author's Original Post - May 3, 2009 - 05:42pm PT
We are currently climbing on the best ice and mixed tools ever made. But the future still holds even better things to come.

I really like both the BD and the Petzl ice tools. I think the BD tools (Cobra and Viper) are better set up for alpine climbing than some of the other tools available. They are obviously some of the very best water ice and mixed tools as well. I'm just not a big fan of the BD picks in design, materials and manufacturing process.

When you look at the Petzl gear, picks aren't an issue.

But the Quark is out dated having been on the market now since the winter of 2000/2001. The Nomic on the other hand has some limitations that are hard to over come in the alpine. But the Nomic tool is so reliable and climbs everything so well that people are taking it to the mountains anyway. But both Petzel tools are lacking certain things we now take for granted with BD.

Trigger/second grip placement and umbilical attachments come to mind off hand.

The Nomic has shown just how light a tool can go and still climb exceptionally well.

But to date neither BD or Petzl has put all the current technology together in one tool.

Over the past two winters I keep seeing Quarks on some pretty hard routes with the adze and hammers missing like the Quark being used on the Droites pictured below. But I have seen Nomics being used on the Droites as well. The stock BD tools have been used to solo Droites as have the Petzel gear. Guys have added hammers to the Nomic and Quark heads to the Nomic shaft. That has to tell you something. Tells me no one has it at 100% yet.

Caroline George photo the North face of Droites '09

How about a tool that does it all and never misses a stick?
Here is my "mission statement" for a better design and the current leader in design imo.

lightest possible weight and excellence balance (Nomic)
reliable picks (Petzel/Grivel, hot forged)
easy umbilical attachment (Black Diamond)
spike and top grip specifically for plunging (1/2 to BD)
big clearence on the shaft (everyone)
second hold mid shaft for matching (1/2 BD Cobra)
range of 3 distinct picks for mixed, alpine, water ice (no one)
removeable micro and macro adze and hammer (BD)
shaft cover, is slick, insulates & sticky top to bottom (no one)
Tool head, shaft, picks and grip that are all ergonomic (no one)

Here is what a few minutes effort from my shop produced today.

Obviously I started with a Quark. Weight now is comparable to a Nomic. Added a Grivel slider bolted on and contoured into a over size trigger and second grip. It is higher on the shaft so no matter the glove thickness you use it will fit nicely. Also makes matching more efficent with a bit more ground gained. Micro hammer shown was easy to mill but a standard adze and regular hammer will still bolt right on if required. Plumbers tape on the upper half of shaft. Alpine pick installed. No teeth close to the shaft so you can plunge the thing with some comfort and security. Mixed and Cascade picks are already available. Any of the picks are easy to modify to take the Nomic head weights if required.

Funky umbilical attachment...which could easily be done better if the grip rest was molded in originally. Still needs a place to clip off on a biner for carry. But I suspect you get the idea and just how far this could go.

Think how easy and quick it would be for Petzel or BD to incorporate all this into a production piece? Where is the creativity and ability to innovate now, that Chouinard and crew showed over and over again at GPIW back in the '60s and '70's?

Who will be the first to step up and put it ALL together :)

Disclaimer for those that might want want to modify your own tools. I have a fully stocked machine/metal shop and work in that medium on a daily basis. I would never cut up a tool I paid retail for...never, ever. I paid less than a $70 for this Quark in a well used but fully functioning condition.

I did this one as a "one off project" for myself to get me thinking about optimum tool design to match my own requirements. Any of the stock BD or Petzl tools will serve you well 99.9% of the time if you match the tool to the climb. I can't think of any of the out of the box production tools that my chopped up Quark would out perform pat that .1%.

I need to take the mill and a grinder to a Cobra, it might up the % a point of two!

Isn't good design work just removing everything that isn't required?


Trad climber
The state of confusion
May 3, 2009 - 05:49pm PT
That's what Frost & Chouinard said!!!!

But I'm biased towards the BD stuff!

Trad climber
May 3, 2009 - 05:53pm PT
Cool... how did you get rid of the weight?

For me, I need the weight to swing and stick, so I won't be doing any mods on my beloved Quarks :-).

Trad climber
White Mountains
May 3, 2009 - 06:02pm PT
Same here. I climb leashless with Quarks and get great sticks. I tried Tomcat's new leashless Cobras and can't get a decent stick for anything. They are weighted totally different than the Quarks besides being lighter. I've come to the conclusion that I must need the extra weight in the head to get a decent stick.

Social climber
way out there
Topic Author's Reply - May 3, 2009 - 06:31pm PT
"For me, I need the weight to swing and stick, so I won't be doing any mods on my beloved Quarks :-). "

Try a'll change your life :) Seriously though how well the tool sticks has little to do with over all weight or swing weight for that matter. Quark is half way there on a scale of max goodness. The Nomic with a Cascade pic with the weights on is simply amazing if you like the Quark.

That performance difference is the only reason I would try to match the Nomic's abilities by chopping up a perfectly good Quark.

This from the guy who lost 1/2 his bicep mass in less than a year.

BTW the picture on the Droites above is by one of the best female ice climbers in the world...she normally uses Noimics from what I have seen. Dropping the hammer from a Quark is fairly typical to lower the swing weight.

Trad climber
May 3, 2009 - 06:59pm PT
It's nice to see some one else anylizing the engineering behind an ice tool and I respect your comittment.

But like the ski industry you need to keep re-inventing yourself to be sold.

I have a pair of BD Vipers but think the Petzels are superior, but have been waiting for the new model to arrive which seems to be every 3 years......

Juneau AK
May 3, 2009 - 09:11pm PT
I am curious why you chose to completely ignore the Grivel tool line. Do you feel they have strayed too far with the monster picks and carbon fiber shafts? I've climbed a good deal with all of the tool models you've listed and I still prefer my heavier Ta-Koons. Steve House and Marko Prezelj used a similarly modified ta-koon for their ascent of the North Twin, seemed like a great idea.

Social climber
way out there
Topic Author's Reply - May 3, 2009 - 09:33pm PT
I think the Grivel line of tools is exceptional even though they don't seem to want to support their NA customer base. Ta-Koons were a good tool for the day but are pretty dated now.

This one isn't dated though and I like it a lot. Grivel Quantum Tech

2004 new, north-face variation (House-Prezelj Variation: 5.9 A2) to the Lowe-Jones Route (VI 5.10 A3, 4,500', 1974) on North Twin. Would seem to make N twin a rock climb for the most part. Helps to realise that the Lowe/Jones was done with simple Chouinard piolets and wooden handled alpine hammers.

The 2008 House/Anderson on Alberta on the other hand is a good example of modern dry tooling @ a heady WI5+ M8 R/X, 1000m. But they made good use of the Grivel Quantum Race switching out on leads.

Much like the Nomic but with most of the improvements I am advocating.


May 3, 2009 - 10:34pm PT
I have a pair of the grivel quantum techs now. I sold my quarks because they are too heavy for me to swing anymore (neurological problems).

Still kind of getting used to them.. wrapped the shafts with electrical splicing tape for grip and to protect the carbon fiber, and did some filing on the picks to round the nose a bit (makes them easier to clean).

I have heard raves about the nomics, but I swung one in Ouray at the the climbing shop and it still seemed to heavy for my gimpy arms. I'm also not sure how I'd use one as a cane on walkoffs with no spike, but perhaps I just lack imagination ..

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
May 3, 2009 - 10:53pm PT
Grivel picks are too thick and clunky, Grivel tools tend to have an unnatural swing and hard to clean. Good grunt tools for strong arms, weak mind.

BD tools have the perfect swing and thin precise picks that break way too easy. Aditionaly the fact that the BD tools have such a natural swing by default makes them less agressive and sub standard for hooking.

Petzle has fairly precise picks that do not break and a good swing allong with the best grips.

Not shure that there really is a way to build a do everything tool.

I really like the feel and shape of the Camp Awaxes but they do seem just a bit too heavy. Additionaly I do not like the one piece head and pick design as it may be too expensive to replace when the picks wear down as well as not allowing hammer/adze removal. I do not know about the price as I have not investigated avalibility and price of the pick/hammer head replacement part.

Social climber
way out there
Topic Author's Reply - May 3, 2009 - 11:49pm PT
"Grivel tools tend to have an unnatural swing and hard to clean. Good grunt tools for strong arms, weak mind."

Ya, I'll be sure to mention that to Twight and House.

Social climber
way out there
Topic Author's Reply - May 4, 2009 - 02:35am PT
ilike eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees

but of course you are correct..thanks for adding to the content

but then what can bajae climber add to a ice tool thread?

Mountain climber
Northern NV
May 4, 2009 - 03:10am PT
I went from Axare's (not Aztar) to Taakoone (couldn't clean them)to Vipere (jurys out)to Nomice (freaking love'em for ice, but goddammit where'e the spike and hammer?)Back to Axare's for alpine.

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
May 4, 2009 - 07:47am PT
RDB, Twight and House will climb on and promote any brand of tool that writes their paycheck. Buying gear based on which sponsored athlete uses it is effin stupid unless the guy is your friend and you want to support his buisness.

Riley, Grivel picks are indrestuuctable. The tools are not. Friend of mine broke the head right off a grivel machine leading Wl 6

Big Wall climber
May 4, 2009 - 08:05am PT
Check out the axes from e-climb, they rule when it comes to ice-climbing!

pip the dog

Mountain climber
planet dogboy
May 4, 2009 - 09:33am PT

i can at least answer your topic question: drop a quark, oh, 2000 feet down the only tiny swath of actual exposed rock (replete with overhang, which really made it sail) available on an otherwhise relatively moderate ice face -- and straight into a bottomless bergshrund. i don't do GPS (me Luddite), but can show you on a map exactly where you will find it, if you are willing to go really deep into the deep deep blue of what Milton called "darkness visible" (Hell).

luck of the irish? and i wasn't climbing leashless, i just got kinda slack and stupid while stopping for a brew up. sheesh. and rotsa ruck finding a suitable replacement in outer kashmir.

made for a rather intense refresher course in old school french technique, that i can assure you. in retreat mode (another french technique... hee hee. the Maginot mentality. the french build their tanks with 1 gear in foward and 12 in reverse. i love doing this schtick -- my best buddy is a parisian). that said, i should have packed more pampers.

cool work you did on your quark. wish i had such a shop (wish i had a home). but the results are not for me -- as i need (ok, want) both an adze and a hammerhead on the more trivial stuff i prefer. i guess you nutty souls who like the almost upside down stuff have different needs. but how do you make a comfy sit-upon and feed your stove w/o an adze? how do you sink that escape lost arrow without a hammerhead?

i've used borrowed nomics on much steeper stuff and see your point. but while lighter, and easier on my girly arms, i found that i was pie-plating much more with the nomics than with my go-to quarks. perhaps simply poor technique with a new tool. but i kinda half suspect that the weight in the top end of a quark makes for "soft" yet solid sticks. the nomics seemed to have this rebound effect that shattered thin hard ice.

again, likely just poor form with a new tool. as my beloved grandfather used to say "it's not the axe, it's the axeman that is dull" but i much adore my quarks. so much so i've bought a second set for fear petzl dares fook with them. in my experience, you don't so much swing a quark (as the nomics seeemed to require) as lightly pop it down and in. all in the wrist. well, works for me. quarks seem to have this magic stick schtick. one that pays off over much terrain. a bit heavier? sure. but i've found the net weight penalty way lower than the cost of multi-shot fook'n around over big mileage.

all that said (admittedly too much - it was either this or actually doing some legitimate work) -- some cool work from your shop and a refreshing topic in a world so often full of "how do i haul 5 fat pigs up POW" threads (for one who finds such endless vertical engineering, well, outstanding - but not quite my gig).

never been esp jazzed by the BD tools i have used.


here's a question: got any ideas on how i can cobble together a pair of late stage mint chouinard blue rigids (got 3 pairs, via e-bay & etc) with bits and pieces of grivel step-in replacement parts? i'm thinking the marriage will prove light, tight, and right (if not legal in california) -- it's just i haven't quite tinkered it out right to date. but when i do it's gonna be a touchdown. i wanna machine shop for my birthday.

May 4, 2009 - 10:40am PT
Grivel quantum tech weight: 18.4 oz / 520 g

Matrix tech weight: 20 oz / 565 g

Haven't tried these, but a guy I climbed with in WY now has a pair and seems to love them (he climbed on BD Vipers and Reactors before).

CAMP Awax weight: 20 oz / 565 g

I should probably also try the Awax too. I hear it's possible to buy a leashless horn thingy for it, but just looking at the shaft shape I wonder if that's kind of silly.

I also have a pair of grivel x-monsters for playing around on mixed -

They're alright for hooking / torquing / etc, but they are really heavy for me: 1 pound 10 oz. I got them before my spinal cord injury and even then I found the swing weird. Now when I swing them my shoulders hurt for days afterwards. Otherwise they are not so bad. I did end up rounding the pick nose, as with the quantum techs. They are nice for playing around leashless on easier stuff.

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
May 4, 2009 - 10:47am PT
"Grivel picks are too thick and clunky, Grivel tools tend to have an unnatural swing and hard to clean. Good grunt tools for strong arms, weak mind."

Not the Quantum Techs. They rock for folks like me with low upper body strength. Sweet swing! I've worked my wimpy way up to following W4+ with these. They can be a little hard to clean, and I would love to know any pick tuning tips to improve this. For what it's worth, I found the Camp Awaxs harder to clean.


Ice climber
Pomfert VT
May 4, 2009 - 11:50am PT
To be fair i have not climbed on grivels since the machines. didn't really like the takoons either. That new tool looks pretty sweet.

Trad climber
May 4, 2009 - 12:49pm PT
what the OP did to those Quarks looks great. I still think Quarks are the greatest.
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