< Go to Ice Axes

Hands-on Gear Review

Petzl Sum'Tec Review

Ice Ax

Petzl Sum'Tec Ice Axe
Top Pick Award
Price:   $199 List | $194.95 at Bent Gate Mountaineering
Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros:  Climbs steep ice extremely well, sweet slider pommel, one of the best self-arrest performing adzes in the review, chops ice like a champion
Cons:  Self-arrest performance is good but not great, heavy for basic mountaineering, expensive
Editors' Rating:     
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Manufacturer:   Petzl

Our Verdict

The Petzl Sum'tec is a true hybird ice axe of a traditional ice axe and an ice tool. The Sum'tec features a modular (read interchangeable and replaceable) durable hot forged pick with a fixed adze and a bent shaft for added clearance. One of our testers favorite features is a sliding pommel which Petzl calls a Trigrest that provides support for our hand and increased the accuracy of our swing. As a result the Sum'Tec climbs ice better than any other axe in this review and is easily compared with basic (less dramatically curved) alpine ice tools. You can carry two of them easily too climb more difficult water or alpine ice. It is durable and it's only drawback is the fact it is on the heavier side for ice axes (but lighter than other modular tools). The slider pommel is cool; it turned nearly everyone's head.

This is one of the heavier ice axes we tested and a little overkill for many moderate routes. But if you climb a lot of steeper terrain, this ice axe is tough to beat. Along with the Petzl Summit and the Grivel Evolution, it is the best step chopping and platform digging axe we tested. Compared to the Black Diamond Venom, it was more expensive but lighter and easier to climb leashless.

View our complete Ice Axe Review to see how this product compared to others.

New Version Coming Soon — February 2017
Petzl has confirmed that a brand new, totally revamped version of the Sum'Tec is coming this summer! Keep reading to find out more.

RELATED: Our complete review of ice axes

Compare Side-by-Side

Compare all Ice Axes >

Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings

Review by:
Ian Nicholson
Review Editor

Last Updated:
May 18, 2015


New Version Coming Summer 2017

A brand new Sum'Tec will be released this summer, with estimates of a July release day, and Petzl has confirmed that it will be a complete re-haul of the original. Here's a note from the manufacturer about the new product:

The only things that the new SUM'TEC and old SUM'TEC have in common is the name and the use. The SUM'TEC has always been a hybrid ice axe. One that when pushed can perform as either a piolet or an ice tool. The previous SUM'TEC was custom designed for that purpose. The new SUM'TEC is a true hybrid. It feature a shaft that is a true piolet shaft while the head mount is identical to the one used on the QUARK, NOMIC, and ERGO. This allows the SUM'TEC to be mounted with either a spacer, hammer, or adze, and any of Petzl's existing ice tool picks, as opposed to the ALPIX pick which was unique to the SUM'TEC. The TRIGREST has also been improved to be lower profile and more versatile.


Performance Comparison

Petzl Sum'Tec Ice Axe
Petzl Sum'Tec Ice Axe


The Petzl Sum'tec stood out and was a top performer in nearly every category except it was just okay at self-arresting. The Sum'tec could easily self-arrest in even the firmest of snow but the reverse curve pick made it less smooth and our testers felt the Sum'tec self-arrested more "jerky" or bumpy". Of course with that said, the reverse curve pick is what makes the Sum'tec a better steep snow climber, so you can't have everything. We felt the Sum'tec self arrested similarly to the Black Diamond Venom but not near as good as the Grivel Evolution or the Petzl Summit Evo. Our testers did think the Sum'tec's bent shaft did help to get more leverage on the axe while battling to stop.

Petzl Sum'tec
Petzl Sum'tec

Steep Ice and Snow Climbing Performance

Steep ice and snow climbing performance is where the Sum'tec truly excels and was the top scorer in this category in our review. Our testers used the Sum'tec for over two dozen days in the Cascades and in the Alaska Range on routes up to WI 4 in difficulty and the Sum'tec performed fantastically. The Sum'tec features a reverse curve pick (just like the picks of nearly all ice tools) that is hot forged and provided excellent purchase in nearly all conditions. A small feature that really set the Sum'tec apart from the Black Diamond Venom and most of the other modular ice axes on the market was its straight up awesome slider pommel. This slider pommel provided enough support and increased accuracy for our hand while swinging the axe into steeper ice, but also easily moved out of the way while plunging the axe or simply walking on glaciers. The Sum'tec's bent shaft kept our hands drier and out of the snow while climbing in low and mid dagger position but also provided more than enough clearance on moderate to steeper ice.
Petzl Sum'tec
Petzl Sum'tec

Use As Improvised Anchor

The Petzl Sum'tec is one of the best axes we tested to be used as an improvised anchor. For "T'-slot" or Deadman style anchors, the Sum'tec features a CEN-T rated shaft, meaning it can hold 400 Kg of weight compared with most other axes we tested that have a CEN-B rating that can only hold 280Kg. The hole in the head of the axe is one of the easiest to clip and will load carabiners in one of the better orientations among axes we tested. The Sum'tec's spike is also extremely well designed and helps facilitate driving the axe to the hilt to assist in providing a quick anchor.

Petzl Sum'tec
Petzl Sum'tec

Digging Step Chopping

The Sum'tec digs anchors, hacks tent platforms and chops steps like a champion and was among the best performing ice axes in our review in this category. It performs as well as any axe can and features one of the best designed adzes on the market.

Petzl Sum'tec
Petzl Sum'tec

Comfort to Carry

The Sum'tec is above average overall in our comfort to carry catagory. In self-belay position (pick forward) it lives up to its European routes and is very comfortable. In self-arrest position (pick backward) it's good, but not excellent, and wasn't quite as comfortable as the Black Diamond Venom and is on par with the Petzl Summit or Grivel Evolution.

Petzl Sum'tec
Petzl Sum'tec


At 16.9 ounces the Petzl Sum'tec is about 2-4 ounces heavier than most other general mountaineering axes but remains lighter than the Black Diamond Venom and most other modular axes on the market. So while it isn't super light, for having an interchangeable reverse curve pick, a CEN-T rated shaft and a slider pommel, it is light for what it is.

Best Applications

The Sum'tec is a solid choice for general mountaineering routes and excels when the terrain gets steep and complex. Its only small drawback for moderate mountaineering routes is that it only has a reverse curve pick and also just the fact that it is a little overkill and is a few ounces heavier. The reverse curve is not as useful as a classic positive pick on mellow routes with no steep terrain. It is a steep snow and ice-crushing machine that also works sensationally as a leashless ice tool.


At $199 it is more expensive than the similarly designed Black Diamond Venom. But for that extra $49 you get better performing hot forged pick, half an ounce of weight savings and a super sick slider pommel instead of a more traditional leash.

Bottom Line

The Sum'tec is a stellar ice axe for moderate to difficult mountaineering and alpine routes that blurs the line between an ice axe and an ice tool. It's weight and price mean it might be a little heavier or a little on the expensive side for climbers who tend to stick only to easier or moderate mountaineering routes, but the Sum'tec remains a viable options for even those routes.

Other Versions

Sum'tec Hammer
Petzl SUM-TEC Adze Ice Axe
  • A hammer version of the same axe
  • $200

Sum'tec 43
  • A lighter, shorter (43 cm length) hammer
    Petzl SUM-TEC hammer ice axe 43cm
  • The only version that doesn't feature a spike
  • Still has the same slider pommel and pick
  • $200
Ian Nicholson

  • Share this article:

Where to Buy?

Thinking about buying some gear we've reviewed? Help OutdoorGearLab out if you do. Just click on any of the above seller links and if you make any purchase, the seller will contribute a portion of the sale to help support this site. It won't cost you anything extra, and it's a simple way to help us fund our gear reviews. Thanks!

*Most retailers free shipping offers apply only to lower 48 US states using ground/economy shipping. See retailer's website for details.

OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews

Most recent review: May 18, 2015
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Average Customer Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

100% of 1 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
2 Total Ratings
5 star: 100%  (2)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 1 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
Write a Review on this Gear

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Sep 27, 2011 - 10:42pm
Sergio Colombo · Climber · Red Rock
a great tool for sure. Light but very sturdy, I climbed WI4 in Ouray with it. Only downside - if I have to find one - is the price.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 

Have you used the Petzl Sum'Tec?
Don't hold back. Share your viewpoint by posting a review with your thoughts...

Write a Review on this Gear
Where's the Best Price?
Seller Price
Bent Gate Mountaineering $194.95  -  2% off!
Backcountry $198.95
Amazon $198.95
Compare prices at 4 sellers >

*You help support OutdoorGearLab's product testing and reviews by purchasing from our retail partners.
Related Review
Helpful Buying Tips
A comparison photo of several of the contenders in this review  during one of our side-by-side testing days.
 How to Choose the Best Ice Axe

by Ian Nicholson

Follow Us