I had a chance to test these in Adirondack Mountainfest. I was very impressed. The routes we climbed were of vide variety from steep and fat, to thin and no ice (some Dack style dry-tooling on mossy rock). The X-Dream Ice picks were modified with custom weights, so my experience may not be what a user with an of the shelf tool may get. I love my Nomics, but these performed at least as well. The swing was natural, the stick was great and not hard to remove (when there was ice). The picks are super tough, probably tougher than the Petzl Ice pick on my Nomics. The hand grip was super comfy and confidence inspiring on steep terrain. There are a few potential issues. First, as I mentioned I tested tools customized with pick weights. I expect that without the weights the tool would not swing well on ice. Second, the grip handle size cannot be adjusted. It was fine with me (my glove size is right between M and L) but beware if you have large hands. I was told that the X-dream Competition Pick and X-Dream Ice pick have quite different angles, something to be aware. Overall, this is an excellent tool that I highly recommend, especially if you are not happy with Nomic. Camp athlete Ian Osteyee has put a lot of hard work behind developing Cassin tools and the results are compelling.
I have been using 0.5 for a bit more than two years and have had only good experience. In fact, I took a short fall on what I considered a poor placement of 0.5 in a flaring crack and, to my surprise and satisfaction, it did hold. So I could have given it five stars based on my experience. I was considering buying other sizes to double my rack. However, I found way too many stories on internet of these cams breaking and failing and I am having my second thoughts. I believe these should not be used as "panic" or "magic" cams. Yes, they will go in easily, but, unless you put a lot of thought and skill into the placement, it may not be as secure as you think. The link cam appears to me to be a delicate instrument; C4 are much more robust and burly. I imagine that if the link cam is pulled sideways it may break due to a fine moving part (and there are way too many such) being loaded in the wrong direction. That can happen even to a seemingly perfect placement, if the cam walks due to rope drag. So I second the reviews that suggest that these ARE NOT FOR BEGINNERS. Since I consider myself still in the learning phase, I will wait with getting more of these. Meanwhile, I will double the rack with other brands (Metolius Ultralight seem appealing) and use 0.5 for what it may be suited best - back up peace for anchor building and in weird places where other cams do not fit.
I am struggling with sizing this harness. My measurements fall right between M and L. Would it be better to take M and hope that I will still get in with some thicker closing or go for L and hope that I will be able to tighten it up in summer?
I climbed all 2010-11 season with the recalled tools and did not have any problems, except that the screw on griprest was kind of loose and I had to tighten it. In any case, the griprest problem should be fixed in the fall 2011 model. I really liked the older Nomic (see BD Fusion for a review comparing Fusion with Nomic). The new Nomic is different. I have not compared the new and old side by side, but it seems that the main difference is in weight the new is lighter and the swing feels slightly different. Nomics are my favorite tools because of 1) extremely comfortable grip (I have weak forearms and I love the grip), 2) natural and well balanced swing and 3) excellent sticks that are surprisingly easy to remove. The new Ice Pick is superb. It is really tough and withstands brutal bouncing against granite on thin routes with minimal bend of the tip. With gentle application, it may well stay sharp all season long. I found the spike at the end of Nomics handle fairly feeble. Well, better than nothing on the older model and I do not feel it is a problem for pure ice climbing. Overall, the new Nomics are excellent tools and may be the most versatile steep ice/mixed tools, which still can perform well on alpine routes. I actually, practiced self-arrest with Nomics and found that it was not too much different than with a more classic mountaineering axe (BD Venom).
This is a useful accessory, especially on longer climbs where dropping a tool may turn a nice outing into a mini epic. The new Nomics have a hidden hole in the handle that is designed to accommodate a short loop of cord to which you clip the spinner leash. Unless you are very tall, the length is quite right. However, as noted by other reviews the leash is not that easy to use and has the potential of tangling around ropes and snagging on all sorts of things. You have to be very careful when seconding, as the two cords will find a way to wrap around the top-rope. It is easier on lead, but it is still possible (and quite easy from my own experience) to clip the ice screw over the spinner leash so that the leash will not allow you to move up. It takes a couple of steps to realize that you are tangled in the cords, so downclimbing may be required to sort things out. As these things tend to happen on the steepest and hardest sections (when one tries to get the screw in and clipped fast) it may be a very unpleasant surprise. In short, there is nothing wrong with the product. As always, the more ropes and cords are in use, the more attention should be paid to rope management. If you are sloppy with it, you will hate this product.
These are very well made and durable screws. They stay sharp despite some abuse. After three seasons, I had a little rust where the hanger meets the screw (nothing to be too concerned) otherwise they look and feel like new. The biggest advantage is the movable handle that allows to place them in awkward spots where other screws would not fit. That is why I have I couple of these on my rack. I have to agree that they are more difficult to take of ice clippers than BD or other screws I use, that is why four stars only. I would recommend them as complements to BD Express, but would not recommend building the whole rack of these.
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.
Adirondack Mountainfest 2011, Positive Reinforcement (right side line). The quarks performed unexpectedly well.
I had a chance to test the new BD Fusions side by side with Petzl Nomics at the Adirondack Mountainfest while running several laps on ice with a pair of each (pictures - http://picasaweb.google.com/erozners/AdirondackMountainfest2010#). I have also written a more detailed review on the test itself at www.rei.com. I should say that I was initially excited about the look and features of the Fusions. I had great expectations but was disappointed by performance of Fusions. The bottom line was that, at least for me, Nomics (Astro picks) worked much, much better than Fusions (Laser picks). With Fusions the swing was wobbly and awkward, leading to poor sticks. With Nomics the swing was balanced and natural, the stick was easier to get and felt more secure, and the handle felt more ergonomic. The issues with Fusions became more frustrating by the end of the day as the fatigue set in while my last lap with Fusions was miserable, I made another lap with Nomics afterwards and could go for more. A few weeks later, while playing with different tools at The Mountaineer (Keene Walley, NY) gear shop, we realized that the key difference between Fusion and Nomic was in the balance. The center of gravity for Nomic (and for many other ice tools, for example Cobras) was much closer to the head. The center of gravity for Fusion appeared to be near the middle of the shaft. It should be possible to learn to swing Fusions right. However, with all the great performance Nomics offer both on rock and ice, I just do not see the reason for choosing Fusions and struggling to learn a different swing. The verdict for me is that Fusions may be a great specialized rock tool (I have not tested them on rock) but for ice and modest mixed ground I will choose Nomics every time.