For this review, we set the Wayback Machine to 2006 and conjured up our good friend and former PEMBA team member Brian Hall. We’re super-proud that Brian has gone on to bigger and better things with Red Wing Shoes, and are really thankful that he agreed to test out our new Petzl Ergos for us. Little Known Fact: Brian has made his own ice tools out of carbon fiber, and they’re beautiful. Really. It’s true…
First, a little background that I feel is prudent and necessary; I have climbed with nothing but the Nomic since the fall of 2005. I love this tool and think it is the best all around rig I have ever used. I have a deep trust with this tool, as it has never let me down.
My friends and I have always referred to them as “French Magic” and we are fairly cultish when it comes to this black beauty. My only real gripe has been the lack of a hammer, which is solved on the latest Nomic. So, when I first held the new Ergo last January at a trade show I was mighty skeptical. It was so radically different from my beloved Nomic that it seemed unlikely that it could improve on its performance. The Ergo was being sold as a high end steep mixed tool, but to be honest, I thought the Nomic was already great on that terrain.
Fast-forward eight months, and I’m delighted that PEMBAserves asked me if I will try the Ergo out and write this review. For the last two months I have been putting them to use. Most of the time I have used them on a steep woody built specifically for dry tooling, but I also got them out for some thuggy overhanging rock and this past weekend swung them into a bunch of fantastic thin and technical ice.
I forced myself to be as objective as possible when they showed up. The first day in the gym was a little deflating, but I chalked it up to being so ingrained with using the Nomic. The Ergo felt very different and I was having issues accurately hitting small holds during dynamic moves. I stuck with them, and they began to reveal themselves in a positive manner every time I used them.
It was hard to nail down at first, but there was something that made these tools really good. The angle of the handle allows for more of a pull up bar position as opposed to the Nomic’s more vertical position. This let me hang on longer by using a more open grip, but that wasn’t it. Something about that crazy curve in the shaft was working to my advantage.
It all became clear after a day at a local mixed crag that is known for thin technical placements. The French Magic that graced the Nomic was now apparent in the Ergo. The magic is the shaft is dynamic, not static. Loading up the pick on a tiny edge with my body weight creates a miniscule, barely perceivable flex in the shaft. When really getting after them in the gym, they even make a little sound when you load them. This small amount of dynamic flex holds the pick onto tiny holds exceedingly well.
This is fantastic for rock, but I still had my reservations with these tools on ice. I thought all of the mid shaft curve would be great for featured, mushroomy routes, or overhanging grade 6 affairs, but was worried about the angles on straight up grade 5 ice. Again, I already thought the Nomic excelled on all ice, so the Ergo had big shoes to fill. I was immediately surprised with how smooth they were on the straight up routes, but I was also getting away with some really thin sticks due the magic shaft flex. Swinging the tool over a ledge into turf or a veneer of ice was like cheating. The harder you pull, the more positive it became. This is true in degrees where ever the tool is placed.
Overall, these are tools to behold! I still believe that the Nomic is the best choice if you only want one pair of great all-around tools. However, if you are looking to add a little magic to the top end of your quiver, the Ergo is like nothing else.
- Powerful geometry that has a more restful hand position on overhangs
- Dynamic shaft flex anchors the picks on small holds
- Aggressive curve drives the pick when weighted and makes the most 3D routes a breeze
- Best pick in the business
- I didn’t like the upper, removable pommel. It ejected the tool on all but the most positive holds and annoyingly (painfully) dug into my calf or behind my knee during some funky gym maneuvers. Not a big deal as it is removable.
- The alloy head is still too wide to easily come out of a Caritool/Ice Clipper device and there is no way to stack a pair in one of these devices either.
Brian is a Twin Cities transplant who is in the pursuit of beauty and balance between fatherhood, being a decent endurance athlete, and scratching a creative itch. Lately he has been all consumed with cycling and is training for the mighty Trans Iowa gravel race next April. Professionally, Brian works to develop new technologies for the Red Wing Shoe Company. Brian has been climbing in the winter for the past 13 years and takes great pleasure in training and climbing with a tight cadre of like-minded friends.