Petzl Laser Speed Light Ice Screws Review

Monday 26 January 2015, 11:49am -- daniel.joll

Daniel Joll leading the classic Pilsner Pillar WI6

Creator: 
Jaz Morris

Aluminum and light weight ice screws have been around for many years in various forms. Early Jeff Lowe models that were in short supply or Russian titanium ones that had a tendency to bend or break saw most climbers steer clear of the light weight screw options.

On our recent NZAT ice climbing trip to Canada I climbed with a friend Ian Welsted who had a rack of Petzl Laser Speed Light screws. Afterwards I was sold and headed into the climbing super store MEC to purchase my own set. The privilege of light gear is rarely cheap. Petzl Laser Speed Screws were no exception costing approx $70 CAD each. However I do feel for long alpine routes the weight saving is worthwhile. The 13cm screw is about half the weight of its regular steel cousin. Over a 12 screw rack consisting of 2 BD 10cm stubby screws, 5 13cm, 4 17 cm and one 21cm Petzl Laser Speed Light screw you will save around 1kg off your ice climbing rack. Match that with a couple of 7.8mm Tendon Master half ropes and some light weight draws and your winter alpine pack is going to feel pretty nice. Its useful to remember that when building your ice climbing rack the strength of an ice screw is determined by the length of the thread. Therefor in good ice a 13cm screw has the same strength as a 17cm or a 21cm screw. Shorter screws are also much easier and faster to place when your pumped so I usually recommend take more short length screws over the longer versions. I still carry one long screw a 21cm for V threads.

New Zealand ice can be an exception, usually because the actual ice is more like snow and many climbers prefer to take longer screws in their racks with the hope that eventually the screw will find something solid to attach itself to. However for myself I prefer to go with the shorter options and simply dig out a placement a bit more if thats what is required to find the good ice. Until using these screws I used to think the BD Express screws had the best bite and teeth of the ice screw world. I must say though that after the last trip I am very much convienced that the Petzl Laser in both its original steel version and the new light aluminium version are as good and if not better than the BD model.

The main problems with these screws is the softness of the aluminium. It can be very easy to damage the thread by aggressively cleaning the screw incorrectly or packing it against other hard objects in your pack. For that reason i usually carry mine in a small cloth case or get some protection sleeve off my old BD express screws to make sure they stay in good condition. I found it disappointing that for the price of the screw Petzl do not include a protection sleeve for the screw on a cap. I also found the handle can bend when you try to force the last few turns of the screw when the placement has not been cleaned correctly. For me these screws are a definite luxury item and I will not be using them for regular cragging routes. I will however pack them for expeditions and long alpine climbs where weight is a factor.  

In Summery

For expedition climbing even though the price is high I rate these as the best ice screws on the market today. For regualar cragging I still favor the BD Express or the regular Petzl Laser screw based on the fact they will last longer and are much cheaper to buy. I doubt very much that the local importer will bring these into NZ, and I cant imagine what kind of crazy price they would probably be so if your a kiwi climber who wants to get your hands on some of these screws I suggest ordering online or having a friend ship them to you from either the States or Europe.

Update Sept 2016.............................

Since using the screws now for over a year I have noticed a few more issues with the screws. Firstly the handles can break with regular use. See pic below. We also found the coating wears off pretty fast making the screws prone to having ice stick inside them or difficult to screw in. So while I still really like these screws i definitely only use them on alpine trips where weight savings are the most important.  Have contacted Petzl to see if they will warrenty the broken handle.  Hopefully they will as the design is clearly not strong enough to stand up to regular wear and tear.  I have also seen one case of the screw shaft splitting where the alloy joins the steel tip.  

ice screw pic.JPG

A broken handle, other friends have had theirs bend. This broke under regular use (i.e not being hit with the ice axe etc.)

Creator: 
Daniel Joll

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