Ice Tool Reviews

From classic mountaineering axes to cutting-edge mixed-climbing tools, Climbing's reviewers have tested the full range of ice axes and ice tools. These reviews will help you make the right choice…and find the best value. Plus, you'll find helpful advice on sharpening and caring for your tools.
  • Climbing Gear Guide 2015: Editors' Choice Awards

    Climbing Gear Guide 2015: Editors' Choice Awards

    As editors of a climbing magazine, part of our job description includes traveling to cool climbing areas with the latest and greatest gear and putting it through its paces—all in the name of “testing.” Yeah, we’re pretty lucky. Of course, it’s not all peaches and cream. We eventually have to decide which products are worthy of a mention, and which are better left on the shelf. Every year there are several items that shine brightest, proving themselves to be absolutely must-have pieces of gear. We bestow those top picks with the gear world’s premier prize: Editors’ Choice. This year, we winnowed a field of hundreds of products to select these 15 coolest, best-performing, and most drool-worthy gear picks.

  • Cassin-X-Gyro-Leash

    Cassin X-Gyro Leash

    Leashless tools are great—until you drop one from the fifth pitch of an alpine route (though a guide we know met her husband that way). Cassin’s new tether makes drops inconsequential, and numerous innovations make this tether more versatile than its competitors. For starters, each of the three attachments (harness and two elasticized tethers) swivels independently from a connector at your waist.

  • Trango-Raptor-Ice-Tool

    Trango Raptor

    Modeled after the popular curved, double-gripped Black Diamond Fusion and Petzl Nomic tools, the Raptor is a fairly worthy competitor. Female and small-handed testers especially loved this tool for its light weight (19 oz. without the optional 2-oz. pick weights) and smaller grip size. “I have tiny hands, and I didn’t have to over-grip for fear of losing a tool. With a mid-weight glove on, the main grip above the pinky rest encased my hand near perfectly,” said one tester.

  • Brooks-Range-Snow-Fluke

    Not Dead Yet

    Snow flukes (aka deadmen) have been around for ages, but most mountaineers today seem to prefer carrying pickets for snow anchors. The new Brooks-Range Deadman will challenge alpinists to add this gear back into the mix. These flukes (available in three sizes) feature a single-cable design—unique in the fluke market—which makes placements faster and stronger in firm snow, especially in the smallest size, since the cable readily slices into the snow.

  • New and Notable: Black Diamond Equipment Fusion - 2010 Gear Guide

    New and Notable: Black Diamond Equipment Fusion - 2010 Gear Guide

    In ice and mixed climbing, gear is your primary point of contact with the vertical world. As such, the design of this gear is critical for more than just safety, but for upward progress itself. With their new Fusion, Black Diamond offers mixed climbers a sweet new tool for going higher on longer, harder, and steeper lines.

  • From Monsters to Bastards - No. 246

    From Monsters to Bastards - No. 246

    A year and a half ago, I noted in our leashless tool review that the designs then available were only a precursor of shapes to come.

  • Gearing Up For Winter - No. 245

    Gearing Up For Winter

    Sub-zero temps, brittle ice, horizontal snowfall - if terms like that get your adrenal glands revving and your hands grasping for tools, then it's time to check out what's new in gear for this season.

  • Leashless Tool Review - No 235 - December 2004

    2004 Leashless Tool Guide

    There are certainly more folks out there who are still using leashed tools, but my bet is that their next tool purchase will likely be leashless.

  • Ice tool review - No 225 - November 2003

    Ice tool review - No 225 - November 2003

    The growth and popularity of waterfall ice climbing has financed tremendous R&D by climbing manufacturers trying to create the perfect ice tool, and it's obvious in this year's stable of tools.

  • Ice Screw Review - No 217 - December 2002

    We collected the premier screws offered by seven manufacturers and gave them a rigorous shakedown. Climbing online ice climbing equipment review.

  • Trango Mantis - Leashless Tool Review

    Trango Mantis - Leashless Tool Review

    Trango’s line of ice tools is modular, with interchangeable grips and numerous head options based around a common shaft design; the Mantis is the latest design in the line.

  • Simond Coyote - Leashless Tool Review

    Simond Coyote - Leashless Tool Review

    The Coyote is a very direct descendant of the first World Cup-driven designs and suffers greatly for it, earning the worst marks for dry-tooling overall.

  • Petzl Ergo - Leashless Tool Review

    Petzl Ergo - Leashless Tool Review

    The Petzl Ergo was one of the first commercial leashless tools to hit the market. It’s also the best on the market right now, taking top honors for our test in both ice climbing and dry tooling.

  • Grivel Racing Wing - Leashless Tool Review

    Grivel Racing Wing - Leashless Tool Review

    While Grivel, which has been manufacturing ice-climbing equipment for much of the past century, was one of the first companies to offer leashless capability on its traditional tools, it was one of the last ice-tool makers to bring a “full-on” leashless tool to the market.

  • Black Diamond Fusion - Leashless Tool Review

    Black Diamond Fusion - Leashless Tool Review

    Black Diamond’s Fusion was a standout on the rock, earning high marks for hooking and torquing.

  • Austri Alpin Phreak - Leashless Tool Review

    Austri Alpin Phreak - Leashless Tool Review

    There’s no doubt that the Phreak is aptly named — it was easily the most outrageous looking tool in the bunch, with its bare metal framing and stainless steel knobs.

  • Trango Madame Hook

    Trango Madame Hook

    Madame Hook has a dual identity: She can be a good leashed tool, or swap in her included multi-grip handle and — voila! — she becomes a modern leashless marvel.

  • Stubai Scorpion

    Stubai Scorpion

    This tool's a real clunker. The pick is too big and its teeth are not beveled, so the Scorpio got hopelessly stuck when planted securely, plus the shallow droop angle made the pick insecure when hooking.

  • Omega Pacific Alpha Ti

    Omega Pacific Alpha Ti

    The Alpha Ti’s titanium shaft makes it the lightest tool in the review, and concentrates the weight in the head for a nice balance.

  • Hugh Banner Spitfire

    Hugh Banner Spitfire

    Here's another potentially excellent tool that needs some work on the details. The Spitfire has a radical curve that offers great clearance.

  • Grivel Tech Wing

    Grivel Tech Wing

    The Tech Wing has a comfortable, ergonomic grip and pinky shelf. The shaft's radical curve offers good clearance but adapting your swing takes some practice.

  • DMM Xeno

    DMM Xeno

    The Xeno is a solid tool that could move up in the rankings with some minor modifications. The shaft has a radical bend that delivers excellent clearance and a smooth swing.

  • Charlet Moser Quark - Ice Tool Review

    Charlet Moser Quark - Ice Tool Review

    Charlet Moser Quark The hyper-curved Quark shaft offers a great grip and big clearance, and was the favorite at Quebec’s raucous Festiglace ice climbing festival.

  • Cassin Mirage

    Cassin Mirage

    The Mirage has decent clearance and its pick is versatile, requiring only minor modification for dry-tooling or use in cold conditions.

  • C.A.M.P. Tiburon

    C.A.M.P. Tiburon

    The surprise of the review, the primeval-looking Tiburon pick penetrates with minimal effort and little ice disturbance, and was our favorite in cold, brittle conditions.

  • Black Diamond Viper

    Black Diamond Viper

    The Viper shaft's 90-degree-rotated major axis adds space between the shaft and the tip of the pick for extra clearance.