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 Nomics 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.