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From horizontal to vertical.
Petzl made the Sum'Tec Ice Axe light and versatile for mountaineering across glaciers and climbing steep terrain. Its thin Alpix pick effectively penetrates ice and is quickly and easily replaced thanks to Petzl's unique screw lock system.The stainless steel spike allows for secure piolet-canne positions over flat to moderately steep ground. The Trigrest handle can be adjusted up and down the axe for efficient use in technical passages, bergschrunds, and ice gullies. The Sum'Tec is available with either an adze for cleaning snow and ice, or a hammer for placing pitons.
- Lightweight ice axe for technical mountaineering
- Versatile for piolet-traction or piolet-canne positions
- Thin, replaceable Alpix pick
- Adjustable Trigrest handle
- Stainless steel spike
- Available with adze or hammer ends
- Item #PTZ005W
- Q & A
Good axe with room for improvement
I've used this axe on technical alpine climbs up to AI3/WI3, and felt it performed very well compared to basic ice axes and technical ice tools. Unlike technical ice tools this axe is comfortable to grip and use in piolet cane mode, thanks to the flat head. The security of the pinky rest isn't super confidence inspiring on steep terrain, but it's never actually slipped on me while weighting it. The pick also penetrates ice and holds its sticks surprisingly well considering it's thickness and that the teeth are a bit rounded. The pick is well suited for axe belays as well, since the teeth only cover the half of the pick near the tip, allowing a rope to run under the shaft-side half with the pick without any risk of being shredded.
That said, there are two issues with this axe which could be improved upon.
First, the addition of a second bolt to the pick/shaft interface. The pick is held in place by a single bolt. This bolt loosens on me after sustained use in piolet traction mode (like an ice tool). The torque/vibrations that come from repeated strikes into the ice seem to work the screw loose, and once loose it becomes much harder to get good sticks. I now always carry a hex wrench with me when climbing with this tool. The hex wrench comes with the tool and isn't heavy, but it means I sometimes have to finish a pitch with a loose pick and wait until a belay stance to fix it.
Second, the lack of a leash clip loop on the pinky rest is a shame. When moving from piolet cane to piolet traction mode if you're using a leash you need to move it back and forth between the head (where it will affect your swing) and the spike (where it gets in the way of plunging). You need to move the pinky rest back and forth for the same reasons, but in the case of the pinky rest there's no avoiding it (after all, the mobile pinky rest is the entire point of this axe). The transition between piolet cane and traction modes is made easier on the Jorasses 2.0 from Grivel thanks to an attachment point for a leash at the pinky rest. It would be nice if Petzl adopted a similar strategy.
Both of these problems could be easily solved in an update of the tool. I've seen photos of a prototype next generation of the sum'tec, that uses a modular quark/nomic style head. This is encouraging, but hopefully Petzl doesn't consign us to using a quark pick on the updated sum'tec. Those picks have teeth along the entire length of the pick and prevent the use of axe belays. Hopefully petzl will design a new, less aggressively toothed pick to go with the nomic/quark style modular head if they commit to going that route, leaving the user the option of picking which pick to use (hint hint, if any petzl reps are reading this, please don't screw this up).
This is a great axe though. Given the choice I would definitely buy it again. In fact, I recently lost one of these in Chamonix like an idiot on an acclimation climb, and replaced it the same day without giving it a second thought, despite the practically limitless selection of axes available in the local shops.
Light, Solid, Versatile
- Familiarity: I've used it several times
I picked this axe up last minute for a trip down south ski mountaineering this summer. I have a few different axes at this point but needed something a little more solid and versatile for all the late season ice down in Patagonia but that will also perform basic functions, especially in glaciated terrain. I've previously used the hammer version in 52cm, and liked it and thought the adze would be a good all around option for this trip. The length at 52cm is ideal for steeper snow, couloir climbing, working your way around cornices, bergschrunds and for added security in tricky places. Just as the description says. Length is ideal for traveling as well because it fits into a medium sized north face duffel and the lighter weight is a big help and an added benefit for the conscious traveler. In terms of performance, the pick grips nicely, penetrates ice easily and keeps you secure. I like the shape of the shaft as I get a secure plunge when climbing steep snow. This is a versatile little tool not to be left at home and a great travel option for ski mountaineers unsure of exactly what kind of conditions they will encounter on their adventures. One drawback is the movable trigger handle, which gets in the way when I store the axe on the back of my pack or throw inside a shoulder strap. Some kind of grip tape on the bottom of the shaft would be better. I generally do not use the trigger and have pushed it pretty high up the shaft toward the spike. I suppose in certain situations of harder, more technical ice it could be useful to bring it down to add extra grip. However, I haven't used this function at all and in these situations may rather bring a more aggressive tool. All and all, I recommend this as a versatile option, especially for traveling ski mountaineers.