New Petzl Ergo Mixed Climbing Tool

I spent some time in Albuquerque, New Mexico, training for mixed climbing. I know, such a place as this and mixed climbing? You’re right, anything “mixed” is pretty much non-existent there, however what does exist are some top quality dry-tooling routes that offer a lot of varied movement and route style.  With this particular training trip I was lucky enough to bring along the new Petzl Ergo mixed climbing tool. The Ergo is no spring chicken in the history of Petzl’s lineup. Although replaced by the very well known Nomic several years ago, the new Ergo has once again set the standard in mixed climbing with its evolutionary design.

When I first held the tool everything felt different. The weight, the balance, swing angle, the third handle…all of it gave me an initial sense of skepticism. I really wasn’t sure that I wanted to give up my tried and true Nomics. With the nomics, I knew and trusted everything about how they climbed. But holding the new Ergo’s, I just wasn’t sure I wanted to change over, yet I was drawn in like a kid in a candy store, in awe over this new shiny sharp object.

Staring at my pick, glaring down the spine of it, shocked that it was still on the smallest of hold, suddenly my lack of trust began to transform into me continuing on through the route with a “touch” more confidence. It didn’t seem right. When I first held the tool, the swing angle felt too steep. In my mind, all I could see was the pick skating off any hold I touched, “The Specific shape of the shaft and the handle limits the risk of pick shift when switching hands.” – Petzl. But that’s just it, it wasn’t moving at all, not even a skiff.  Obviously taking this new relationship slow, I began by climbing several routes at moderate grades, so that I could see how they would perform under minimal pressure. And that they did, on two routes, side by side, a D6 and a D8 (“D” standing for “Dry”), both differing in style of climbing, the new Petzl Ergos held on beautifully. From that initial testing I moved onto something harder–I felt that how they performed on the first two routes, why not give them a bit more of a push.

My back was arced out in max position, face to face with an overhanging bulge, reaching up as high as possible, searching for the next hold, my tool found something. It didn’t seem big enough to pull on, and I wasn’t sure that the angle of the tool would keep the pick in place. But then something happened. Something different. Because of how you grip the handle, and with the shape of the tool, it was as if the tool just all of a sudden sat into the perfect position. It felt like there was just enough flex in the shaft of the ergo that it enabled the tool to sit properly, at any angle of position (when pulling down). I pulled on the tool, bringing my feet up, shocked that my pick hadn’t skated away. Quickly and somehow naturally I matched on the tool, and matched again…on the third handle. When I realized where my hand was, so much higher up on the shaft then normal, there was an instant moment of, “oh gosh, what are you doing, this tool shouldn’t be on still, don’t pull off, don’t pull off.” At that moment I had embraced this new tool, understanding it’s evolutionary face-lift. In a very short period of time the new Ergo gave me the confidence in attempting an onsight of an M10 and an M12 (after only using the tools for the first time the day before).

“The ERGO is the ultimate tool for the most difficult dry tooling pitches and the most unlikely ice columns. The ultra-curved shaft offers exceptional clearance under the head and allows a wider repertoire of movement.”-Petzl

What I found different (one of a few things) with the Ergo’s is how you hold the grip, and at what direction you’re pulling down on it. Unlike other tools, with the Ergo’s, it’s like you’re grabbing a chin up bar. You seem to use more of your bicep muscle then grip muscles. With the nomics, the way you hold your hands, you end up gripping the tool more (as your hand is in a vertical, downward position). This isn’t bad at all, I love the nomics…but with the handle on the Ergo’s, your hand is in a different position, almost a horizontal position, causing you to use different muscles. Stronger muscles. And what’s cool, is that when you do get pumped…you can almost treat the handle like a crimper (hold) which, for me, how I love crimpers, allows me to hang on just a little bit longer then normal.

The other major addition to the Ergo is the third handle. I had heard a lot of mixed thoughts based on where this third handle sat, that it’s too high, etc. Yes, naturally, when you first see how high the third handle is, you would think that it’s obscenely high…but it’s not. I found it especially useful when you’re cranking on the tool in a stein-pull position. You can just keep matching your way up the tool whether for height specific moves, if you matched the wrong hand and had to correct, or mantling to gain an even further height advantage. If you’re pulling down normally on the tool, the third handle is very stable when matching to gain a few extra inches. Also what I found interesting, and very cool, is that when on the second handle, placing the tool or even swinging the tool (we were using IceHoldz to swing into), the tool feels totally normal, as if you were holding onto a Nomic, or Quark normally. I’ve used tools with super steep swing angles and found that more often then not-they tend to bounce. The new Ergo’s don’t bounce, and the swing angle is steep, but because of the shape of the shaft, it seems to balance out nicely.

I trained for several days straight on these new tools and wow are they amazing. I was able to pull hard on routes that pushed my limits. The tools built up a great deal of confidence in a very short period of time. Whether on steep dry tooling routes, going from figure 4’s to 9’s, first, second, or third handle, or even swinging into Ice Holdz on a steep climbing wall (Ice Holdz are a type of hold that you can swing your ice axes into, like the real thing), the new Petzl Ergo’s perform, and perform beautifully.

Petzl Sama Harness

Whether working a route, crushing your redpoint, or trekking high up in the mountains, trusting the gear you use, knowing that it’s going to perform, is essential. “In the moment” you can’t be thinking about whether or not your gear is going to perform. Now, typically it does come down to the magician…not the wand but there are certain factors with gear that simply make particular actions more attainable.

Over the last 10 years of climbing I’ve had the opportunity to sit in a few harnesses. Some have been “kinda” comfortable and some have left my but cheeks as numb as could be. Harnesses, in my opinion, will never be 100% comfortable, I mean, come on…your butt, your nutts, and your legs are all being squeezed simultaneously whilst holding a human in the air. However, to give the industry leaders credit, harnesses have become lighter, more comfortable, and indeed more functional.

For the last several years I’ve become one with the Sama harness from Petzl–so much to the point that sometimes I wear it to bed. For me, it’s the perfect harness for my climbing. Petzl uses perforated foam padding and a mesh lining to evenly distribute pressure, wicking moisture away to make the Harness incredibly breathable and to help you stay comfortable when your sweatin’ your butt off. The elasticized leg loops stay snug to your legs keeping them in place, maintaining comfort after whipping and when your partner is hang-doggin’ , all the while without “getting in the way” if you’re gunning for the chains. The Sama also features pre-formed gear loops to keep your rack organized and within effortless reach.

I find that petzl puts a lot of time into making their gear as safe as possible. The Sama harness gives two examples: the doubleback buckle on the waist belt that provides simple, rapid closure, and redesigning the belay loop to reinforce safety when you tie in, helping users identify proper tie-in / attachment points.

The Petzl Sama harness is light (approx. 14.5 oz. medium), comfortable, and affordable. I use it for sport climbing, ice climbing, and mixed climbing. I find with the elastisized leg loops, the materials in the waist belt and leg loops – even in winter with multiple layers on my legs, the harness adjusts to the fit I need without becoming sloppy or uncomfortable and drys fast if saturated by wet ice climbs. The durability of the harness has held up through the toughness of winter conditions and the hardiness of cragging in the likes of deserts and forested sub alpine environments.

Obviously every harness (I would think) is approved by the UIAA (Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme, English: International Mountaineering and Climbing Organisation), so they’re all “safe” (I use that term lightly). It really comes down to what you see as functionality specific to your needs/budget/etc. The Petzl Sama harness has grown on me, and through this “relationship” I’ve gained a level of trust that allows me to climb without worrying about what’s holding me to the rope. It’s important to trust the gear you use. It’s also important to understand how your gear performs as well as its level of safety (even when it’s brand new, and especially after a period of time with usage).

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