Petzl’s Alpenadapt System Review: versatility from rock to summit

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In warmer temperatures, ice and mixed climbing seasons subside. It is time to ponder efforts in higher places. With this transition comes the need for a functional shift in equipment.

As we move from winter cliffs to peaks in the Cascades, Sierras, and Tetons, we need to functionally change our equipment. Petzl’s modern Alpenadapt system facilitates the seasonal transition by manufacturing a modular range of technical climbing tools and crampons.

As a gram counter, I’m really excited to see the advances many brands are making in technical climbing equipment. I was a Petzl user long before I started using the brand’s more functional gear and using the original Lynx crampons and Quark ice tools for a lot of my big mountain activities.

I spent many days trying my hand at the cliff last season and now my sights are set on Alaska. As I finalize plans and equipment, I start sorting out which kit is coming and which kit is staying. Petzl’s Alpenadapt system makes this process more difficult than it should be.

In summary: Petzl has taken some tools up a notch by adding modular, interchangeable parts for a variety of uses in different fields. With a variety of ways to incorporate more mountain-specific features into Petzl’s ice axes, the tools are now used year round.

The same applies to the brand’s technical crampons, which Petzl has modernized considerably in recent years. Combine this with the flexible connection system CORD-TEC from Petzl and its crampons are like a completely new innovation. It has never been easier to swap out different picks, handles, front points, back plates or crampon connection systems.

The author introduces ice on the Petzl Nomic and arrow in the Eastern Alaska Range; Photo credit: Benjamin Lieber

Petzl Alpenadapt System Review

Modular ice ax

Petzl uses the Alpenadapt system for four tools. This includes the Sum’Tec, Quark, Nomic, and Ergonomic. This means that this series of tools consists mainly of interchangeable parts and accessories. The modularity of each tool is incredibly convenient and very efficient when it comes to changing terrain. For starters, the brand’s picks are compatible with all of the tools above.

This makes switching from different climbing genres within a single afternoon extremely easy. Now, whenever I pack for a day of cliffs, I always lock both Petzls in ice and Dry picks.

When I focus on dry tools I usually switch the selection to dry or Pur’Dry before I go and forego the need to change during my session. If my group is all ice climbing, I’ll reach for that Choose Pur’Ice. Since these picks are interchangeable across the axes, it’s easy to switch between a range of Nomics and Ergonomics – my favorite tools for climbing – and one of the picks mentioned above.

At the beginning of the season, I climbed a mixed route at Vail’s Rigid Designator Amphitheater. It started with nearly 5-7m of drying tools before moving on to ice for the rest of the pitch. I used a number of tools with dry tool specific picks.

This was great for the beginning of the track, but both frustrating and exhausting for the final part. Had I had an easy opportunity to swap out the selection for something more useful (i.e., a selection more geared towards mixed climbing) I would have been a much happier person.

Many companies are now promoting modular axes with easily interchangeable pick systems and handles. Petzl is by no means the only brand in this area. With this in mind, the brand really shines when it includes its technical ice and mountaineering axes in this discussion. These include the Petzl Sum’Tec and Quark.

Climbing - Petzl Alpenadapt SystemThe author climbs on Petzls Ergonomic and arrow Combination; Photo credit: Alex Marvin

It’s a fantastic perk to be able to take the Pur’Ice, Ice, or Dry pick and simply clip it to one of the brand’s more technical mountaineering axes. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been a Quark user for many years. I find that they are one of the better tools for climbing technical terrain in high mountains while also providing the necessary touch for mountaineers when the angle decreases.

This versatility means that on a larger expedition I can combine a set of tools and multiple sets of different picks and be sure to have many different destinations to choose from. An example kit for an extensive Alaska expedition might look something like this:

  • Quark Ax
  • Pur’Ice Pick
  • Ice ax (two sets)

The climbing ax and ice ax setup described above is extremely versatile and allows one person to safely climb multiple styles of terrain. (By the way, always take an extra pimple with you on the way!)

Petzl's Alpenadapt systemBenjamin Lieber easily changes picks and head weights on the Nomic;; Photo credit: Alexander Hansen

Petzl Alpenadapt accessories

Petzl has also developed a line of accessories that fit seamlessly into and between its technical tools. These accessories include the Mini hammer (ultra-light hammer), hammer (Standard hammer), Dismantle (adze) and Masselottes (Select weights). Each of these accessories are compatible with all four of the above tools, further increasing the overall adaptability of the line.

The brand is Griprest Nomic and Griprest ergonomic Hand rests are compatible with the Nomic and Ergonomic ice tools. The Griprest Nomic has a jagged point in the lower part that increases support and makes climbing on steep sections with harder snow or ice easier. It also has a connection hole that is compatible with loss prevention webbing.

The Griprest Ergonomic dispenses with this bottom toothing and is therefore safer and better suited for drying tools. For me, changing the palm rests is a standard switch when transitioning from rock climbing to days high in the hills.

petzl alpenadapt systemThe Ergonomic ((Griprest ergonomic) and Nomic ((Griprest Nomic) Side by side; Photo credit: Alexander Hansen

Modular crampons

The brand’s modular Alpenadapt system also extends to the range of crampons. Most of them have interchangeable parts.

In its ultra-light category, both the leopard (LLF and FL) and Irvis hybrid Crampon. The Leopard crampons are great crampons for ski touring and snow travel made of aluminum. They also incorporate the brand’s CORD-TEC connection system which eliminates a lot of bulk (compared to a steel bar). The Irvis Hybrid is a combination of an aluminum heel plate and a steel front part.

This is a fantastic setup if you need a more robust, durable setup while still looking to save weight. I’ve used this setup on more technical alpine routes in the Tetons and was very happy. Note, however, that any aluminum setup – back section or complete system – is much less durable when driving over rocks. Aluminum is (mostly) intended for snow travel. So keep this in mind when packing for your next trip.

Petzl's Alpenadapt system - cramponsA range of Petzl crampons underlines the modularity of the line. Photo credit: Alexander Hansen

The Kit CORD-TEC System can also be used to transform the arrow Crampons in a hybrid system. This can be a great option for climbing more technical routes where weight is of the utmost importance.

Many of the brand’s standard ice and climbing and mountaineering crampons also have interchangeable front and back panels. This means that the Irvis, Left, Sarken, lynx, and arrow Fronts can be purchased independently and connected to an already owned system.

For example, if a person owned a pair of dart crampons but needed something more geared towards technical mountaineering, that person could buy something like the front piece from Vasak or Sarken and attach it to the back of the dart. In theory, you can do this with all of the crampons mentioned above.

The brand also offers a variety of different toe and heel strap systems to match the style of the boot being worn. (These systems can adapt to shoes with or without a front or back weld.) When I’m rugged, I usually wear my dart crampons with a fully automated system that integrates a Back lever and FIL.

When I want to climb a more technical alpine route with my dart crampon, I often switch to a semi-automatic system that still integrates the rear lever, but replaces the FIL with the one FIL Flex. The modular system makes this transition really smooth. The versatility of the components also makes it easy to transport spare parts and change them on site if something goes wrong.

Climbing - Alpenadat systemThe author uses a Petzl Quark and lynx Combination in Alaska’s Hayes Range; Photo credit: Benjamin Lieber

Petzl Alpenadapt: ​​Final thoughts

Ultimately, the Petzl Alpenadapt system offers a high degree of versatility and efficiency. Petzl’s line of modular ice tools and crampons make an effective combination whether you’re on the local ledge or using the French technique on steeper terrain.

In my opinion, if you are an athlete involved in various climbing genres, Petzl’s line of alpine equipment should be high on your shopping list. The ability to swap picks for technical climbing and mountaineering tools, as well as the ability to swap out different crampon sections, is undoubtedly convenient.

Take the Pur’Ice or ice ax from your Nomic and attach it to your Sum’tec. Switch from the dart front piece to the vasak and you are now ready to accomplish a whole new goal. The brand makes it that easy. In a world where it’s almost impossible to have a quiver, Petzl has created – at least – a quiver with easily interchangeable parts that will take you from tough mixed climbing to general mountaineering in minutes.

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