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Gear Review

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Best all around tool

I tested the new Quarks during Adirondack 2011 Mountainfest driven more by curiosity than by real interest in buying them. I have already made my choice that Nomics are the best steep ice tools for me. I am very happy with the new models I am climbing with this season. I also own Grivel Alp Wings for alpine climbing and do not need new all around tools. So I was somewhat skeptic about the redesigned lightweight Quarks. I must admit I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by how well they performed. The swing felt very natural and balanced and resulted in a nice and remarkably solid stick. The guides who also tried them, all agreed that the Quarks are surprisingly sharp and sticky. The Quarks climbed very well on easy and plastic grade three ice. Even when my overly enthusiastic swing buried the pick way too deep, the tool was easy to pull out. Somewhat surprisingly to me, they did equally well on a sketchy steep and thin ice route (see pictures posted here). The test was without the pick weights, and it is conceivable that adding the weights may further boost performance on pure ice. The grip feels very ergonomic, though it will not beat the Nomic’s handle on steep stuff. The new trigger is probably the most interesting novel feature – you can customize grips by moving the trigger up and down so you can engage the trigger with different fingers while holding the tool in a slightly different way (you can have like 5-6 different grips). This may be very welcomed relief when you get pumped and are struggling to hold the tool in the same way. The new ice pick is amazingly strong. It survived rather brutal bouncing against the Dacks granite (the ice run out two thirds up the steep route) with minimal bend of the tip. After 20 laps on ice (some on thin routes, but with gentle application) with my new Nomics, which have the same pick, I finally felt I may need a couple of file strokes to get back the razor sharpness. This pick will last long. Overall, the new Quarks seem to be high performance all around tools that will work on alpine adventures as well as on steep ice. It may easily be the best all around tool on the market right now. I was voting for Cobras before I tried Quarks. It may be personal, but I feel the new Quarks are better, because they are lighter, more customizable (movable trigger and pick weights) and the Petzl ice pick is clearly superior.

Best all around tool
Responded on


I've been climbing with the Nomics since they came out and love them, but am currently in the market for a set of ice tools that can be used on high alpine routes (I've taken the Nomics on a trip to Peru, but had to take an extra tool for sections where they weren't appropriate). I'm currently looking at the Black Diamond Cobras and the Petzl Quarks. It sounds like you've used both recently and I'd like to know what you like/dislike about either tool, and which you would go with.


Responded on


Thank you for your comment. My current climbing partners had Cobras for a couple of years and I had plenty of chance to test them. Cobras are nicely designed and climb ice very well. The strengths for me are the nice balance, ergonomic grip and natural swing. The obvious weakness is the poor pick design. The pick does not stick as well in ice as it could and my partner broke a pick when leading. The new Quarks have all the strengths that Cobras offer and no obvious weaknesses (at least not for me). I tried them only on WI3-4+ for six top-rope laps over a couple of days, so the experience is limited. As I mentioned in my review, I was skeptical initially but got quite excited and convinced by the end. The advantages of Quarks over Cobras are 1) the clearly superior T rated Ice pick (this may be less important for alpine routes, however, it is reassuring to know that the pick is less likely to break in an awkward crack torque), 2) customizable trigger grip (should be sweet on various steep snow/low angle ice alpine pitches), 3) less weight, which is nice fore alpine climbing and 4) last but not least, almost $200 per pair cheaper. I have not done alpine climbing with either tool (though I have a little experience with my Grivel Alp Wings) but from what I learned trying out both Cobras and the new Quarks, I strongly prefer Quarks. It seems that Petzl has made significant improvements on an already great alpine tool - you cannot go wrong with it.