Petzl Nomic - One Axe to Rule Them All

Wednesday 22 May 2013, 8:06pm -- daniel.joll

Daniel soloing E Tutto Relativo (WI4), Cogne, Italy.

Jonathan Griffith

I have been using the Petzl Nomic in both its original form and the new current model with its serrated blade under the griprest for the past three years. This axe has accompanied me on everything from classic snow faces in the Southern Alps to hard alpine ice and mixed in the Alps and Rockies. It has also been a solid performer on many new routes in the Balfour, Darrens, Alps and Remarkables. If I was going to own only one set of tools then the Petzl Nomic is the axe I would choose. It has one or two faults however overall I have not found a better performer. If you aspire to climb above WI3, and any form of modern alpine or mixed climbing then give this tool some serious consideration.

Ice Climbing

The Nomic combined with an ice pick and ice pick weights provides perhaps the best ice climbing tool on the market today. It does not swing with the traditional flick of the wrist like other ice climbing axes such as the BD Cobra or Petzl Quark but I have found the transition from a traditional ice tool to the Nomic comes quickly after one or two pitches. The griprests provide a very neutral holding position which minimises arm pump compared with traditional ice climbing leashed tools and I have found the additional higher griprest excellent when matching or traversing. For ice climbing I recommend using the ice pick and the pick weights. The ice pick vs the mixed pick is thinner and causes less shattering of the ice when placing. I also find the pick weight helps limit the amount of force required to secure a good placement in pure water ice For most single pitch climbing I would recommend not using a leash of any form. However if the climb is long or the terrain is very run out and the option of backing off should you drop an axe not exist then I suggest going for the Grivel Double Spring Leash. I prefer this over the Black Diamond Spinner Leash leash due to the security of having an actual screw gate krab to secure the leash to the tool. The Grivel Double Spring Leash is also stronger. For ice climbing I file back the large tooth on my new picks. I don’t take it out completely but remove around half the tooth. This helps the axe come out easier after being placed in water ice.

Weight 605 grams

Alpine Climbing

Nomic combined with the new Petzl Hammer and mixed pick with no pick weight. For alpine climbing I prefer to climb with a mixed blade on the Nomic. This is for the additional strength and durability that comes with a thicker pick. I will usually add the new Nomic hammers to the axe as well when im on an alpine route. This new hammer is very light and compared to the old versions of the hammer I notice no difference in the axe swing or weight of the axe in my hand when using this combination. With the mixed pick you will find placements in pure water ice slightly harder to get. The axe can bounce a little when the ice is very hard and the thickness of the pick will cause more ice to shatter when placing the tool. You will however appreciate the thickness of the mixed pick the moment you swing your pick into thin ice and hit the rock behind it. If my chosen alpine route has allot of hard ice climbing on it I will still stick with the mixed pick but I do file the tip thinner to help make the ice climbing a bit easier. I also do this if I think the ice will be very thin as a thin pick is much easier to climb fragile ice with. There is a fine line though when filing a pick down as you definitely make the pick weaker and less durable so I would take a cautious approach when filing your picks. For all alpine climbing I use a leash. My preference is the Grivel Double Spring Leash but the Black Diamond Spinner leash is still a good option. The adjustable grip rest on the Nomic is fantastic for those with small or large hands. I have found it also works well mid winter when you want to climb with a mitt or very thick glove and the medium position is tight. I have heard reports of the new grip rest wearing out over time but from my experience this has so far not been a problem. I do try not to adjust it to often though just encase the reports of grip rest failures are true. There are two main draw backs with the Nomic for alpine routes. I will say though that these have never caused me a serious problem. Firstly the grip rest is not rated. Therefore you can not clip into it and use it as part of an anchor. Secondly the shape of the handle does not plunge into firm snow as well as a traditional alpine tool like the Quarke or Cobra. In my experience however I have found if the snow is firm you don’t need to plunge your tool and if the snow is soft then you can plunge pretty much any tool in regardless of shape. For all of the advantages of the Nomic on ice steep snow and mixed i think these two small draw backs are easily outweighed.

Weight 525g Axe no weight and light Petzl Hammer

Mixed Climbing

Nomic combined with mixed pick and no pick weights. The Nomic excels on most mixed terrain. Slabs, vertical walls and corners and moderately overhanging terrain are all the domain of the Nomic. Petzl do warn that the tool is not designed for extreme torquing in cracks etc and I have see instances of axe heads coming loose and rattley but in my own experience with two sets of this tool i have had no problems with the axe. I would say that if you have the luxury of owning a set of tools for dry tooling only then grab a pair of Ergo’s and keep your Nomics for ice and alpine but if like most climbers you have to choose then I fully recommend the Nomic as your one and only tool. For most hard mixed climbing unless it is on an alpine route i prefer to climb without leashes. The one area of mixed climbing I have found the Nomic outperformed by tools like the Ergo is when you reach very overhanging terrain. If you plan to spend your days hanging upside down in a cave then a more aggressive tool such as the Ergo is the one for you.

Weight 485G Nomic with no hammer or pick weight.

Standard hammer 58g each, Light hammer 20g each, Pick Weights 60g per pick.

Modifying your old picks for dry tooling

It is possible to modify your old picks to make them hold onto small edges easier for dry tooling. This works well but be warned, file to much you risk the tip of your pick breaking. At the second tooth on your old pick take a half circle chainsaw style file and take out the second tooth. Keep working away until you have a half circle shape just back from the end of your pick. This semi circle filed into your pick will help it stick to small edges on steep terrain.

Where to attach your leash

On the new version of the Nomic and Ergo there is a small hole in the griprest as shown below. I usually attach two small cords here in the hope that two will hold better than one. I have seen on two occasions my partners fall and break their leash attachment point. It is also worth noting that the grip rest is not rated so attaching the leash is not to be considered part of an anchor it is only there to stop you dropping your tool. For the old version of the Nomic i put a thin cord through the hole in the handle.

Daniel Joll