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Petzl’s Alpenadapt System Review: Versatility From the Crag to the Summit

petzl’s alpenadapt systemPhoto credit: Alexander Hansen
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Warmer temps mean ice and mixed climbing seasons are winding down. It’s time to start thinking about endeavors in higher places. With this transition comes the need for a functional shift in equipment.

As we move from the likes of winter crags to peaks in the Cascades, Sierras, and Tetons, we need a functional shift in our equipment. Petzl’s modern Alpenadapt system makes the seasonal transition easy by producing a modular line of technical climbing tools and crampons.

As a gram-counter myself, I can’t help but feel excited about the progress many brands are making in the realm of technical climbing gear. I was a Petzl user long before using the brand’s more utilitarian gear, sporting the original Lynx crampon and Quark ice tool for many of my big-mountain pursuits.

This past season, I’ve spent many days trying hard at the crag, and now have my sights set on Alaska. As I finalize plans and equipment, I’m beginning to sort through what kit comes and what kit stays. Petzl’s Alpenadapt system makes this process harder than it should be.

In short: Petzl has taken a few tools up several notches by adding modular, interchangeable parts for a variety of usages across different terrain. Now, with a multitude of ways to integrate more mountain-specific features to Petzl’s ice axes, its tools see year-round use.

The same can be said for the brand’s line of technical crampons, which Petzl has substantially modernized over the past couple of years. Combine this with Petzl’s CORD-TEC flexible linking system, and its crampons are like a whole new innovation. It has never been easier to switch out different picks, hand grips, front points, back plates, or crampon linking systems.

petzl alpenadapt system
The author leading ice on the Petzl Nomic and Dart in the eastern Alaska Range; photo credit: Benjamin Lieber

Petzl Alpenadapt System Review

Modular Ice Axes

Petzl utilizes the Alpenadapt system across four tools. These include the Sum’Tec, Quark, Nomic, and Ergonomic. This means that this series of tools has mostly interchangeable parts and accessories. The modularity of each tool is incredibly convenient and very efficient when it comes to varying terrain. For starters, the brand’s picks are compatible across the line of tools mentioned above.

This makes switching from different genres of climbing all within a single afternoon extremely easy. When I pack for a day of cragging, I now always include both the Petzl Ice and Dry picks.

If I’m focusing on dry-tooling, I will usually switch picks to the Dry or Pur’Dry before I leave and forgo the need to change out during my session. If my party is strictly ice climbing, I’ll reach for the Pur’Ice pick. Because these picks are interchangeable across the axes, it’s easy to switch between a set of Nomics and Ergonomics — my tools of choice for cragging — and any of the above pick selection.

Early in the season, I found myself climbing a mixed route in Vail’s Rigid Designator Amphitheater area. It started with nearly 5-7 m of dry-tooling before transitioning to Ice for the rest of the pitch. I was using a set of tools with dry-tooling-specific picks.

This was great for the beginning portion of the route, but both frustrating and tiring for the latter part. Had I an easy opportunity to switch out picks to something more utilitarian (i.e., a pick more oriented toward mixed climbing), I would have been a much happier person.

Now, many companies promote modular axes with easily interchangeable pick systems and handles. Petzl is by no means the only brand in this field. With that being said, the brand really shines when incorporating its technical ice and mountaineering axes into this discussion. These include the Petzl Sum’Tec and Quark.

climbing - petzl alpenadapt system
The author climbs on Petzl’s Ergonomic and Dart combination; photo credit: Alex Marvin

Being able to take the Pur’Ice, Ice, or Dry pick and easily attach it to one of the brand’s more technical mountaineering axes is a fantastic perk. As I mentioned earlier, I have been a Quark user for many years. I find them to be one of the better tools for climbing technical terrain in the high mountains while also providing the necessary mountaineering touch when the angle levels off.

This versatility means that I can pair one set of tools and multiple sets of different picks on a larger expedition and feel confident in my ability to choose from many differing objectives. An example kit for an extended Alaskan expedition might look something like this:

  • Quark Axe
  • Pur’Ice Pick
  • Ice Pick (two sets)

The above climbing axe and pick setup is extremely versatile and would allow a person to climb on multiple styles of terrain with confidence. (As an aside, always carry an extra pick with you on-route!)

petzl’s alpenadapt system
Benjamin Lieber easily changes out picks and head weights on the Nomic; photo credit: Alexander Hansen

Petzl Alpenadapt Accessories

Petzl has also created a line of accessories that blends seamlessly on and between its technical tools. These accessories include the Mini Marteau (ultralight hammer), Marteau (standard hammer), Panne (adze), and Masselottes (pick weights). Each of these accessories is compatible with all four tools mentioned above, further adding to the line’s overall adaptability.

The brand’s Griprest Nomic and Griprest Ergonomic hand-rests are compatible with the Nomic and Ergonomic ice tools. The Griprest Nomic integrates a serrated point on the lower part, which reinforces support and helps facilitate climbing steep sections of harder snow or ice. It also has a connection hole compatible with loss-prevention webbing.

The Griprest Ergonomic forgoes this bottom serration, making it safer and more adapted for dry-tooling. For me, changing out the hand-rests is a standard switch when transitioning from climbing at the crag to days spent high in the hills.

petzl alpenadapt system
The Ergonomic (Griprest Ergonomic) and Nomic (Griprest Nomic) side by side; photo credit: Alexander Hansen

Modular Crampons

The brand’s Alpenadapt modular system also extends across its line of crampons. The majority of them feature interchangeable parts.

Its ultralight category features both the Leopard (LLF and FL) and Irvis Hybrid crampons. The Leopard crampons are a great ski touring and snow travel crampon constructed out of aluminum. They also integrate the brand’s CORD-TEC linking system, which gets rid of lots of bulk (compared to a steel bar.) The Irvis Hybrid is a combination of an aluminum heel plate and steel front piece.

This is a fantastic setup if you need a more robust, durable setup but still care about weight savings. I’ve used this setup on more technical alpine routes in the Tetons and have been very happy. Just be aware that any aluminum setup — back section or complete system — is much less durable when traveling over rock. Aluminum is meant (mostly) for snow travel, so keep that in mind when packing for your next trip.

petzl’s alpenadapt system - crampons
A series of Petzl crampons highlights the line’s modularity; photo credit: Alexander Hansen

The Kit CORD-TEC system can also be used to transform the Dart crampon into 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 more standard ice and mixed climbing and mountaineering crampons also feature interchangeable front and back sections. This means that the Irvis, Vasak, Sarken, Lynx, and Dart front sections can be purchased independently and attached to an already-owned system.

For instance, if a person owned a pair of Dart crampons but needed something more oriented toward technical mountaineering, that person could purchase something like the Vasak or Sarken front section and attach them to the back section of the Dart. In theory, you can do this with all of the crampons we mentioned above.

The brand also provides a variety of different toe and heel bail systems to match the style of boot worn. (These systems can adapt to footwear with or without front or rear welts.) If I’m cragging, I will usually wear my Dart crampon with a fully automatic system that integrates a Back Lever and FIL.

If I want to climb with my Dart crampon on a more technical alpine route, I often switch to a semiautomatic system that still integrates the Back Lever but exchanges the FIL for the FIL Flex. The modular system makes this transition really smooth. And the versatility of the components also means it’s easy to carry spare parts and make a switch in the field if something were to go wrong.

climbing - alpenadat system
The author uses a Petzl Quark and Lynx combination in Alaska’s Hayes Range; photo credit: Benjamin Lieber

Petzl Alpenadapt: Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, Petzl’s Alpenadapt system offers a great amount of versatility and efficiency. Whether you find yourself pulling down at the local crag or using the French technique on steeper terrain, Petzl’s line of modular ice tools and crampons offers an effective combination.

In my opinion, if you’re an athlete who dwells in multiple genres of climbing, Petzl’s line of alpine equipment should be top of your purchase list. The ability to switch out picks on technical climbing and mountaineering tools, along with the ability to change out different sections of crampons, is undeniably convenient.

Take the Pur’Ice or Ice pick from your Nomic and attach it to your Sum’tec. Switch from the Dart front section to the Vasak, and you’re now ready to tackle a completely new objective. The brand makes it that easy. In a world where having a quiver of one is nearly impossible, Petzl has — at the very least — created a quiver with easily interchangeable parts that will take you from hard mixed climbing to general mountaineering in a matter of minutes.

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