The Petzl Summit is a former winner of our Editors' Choice award and remains one of the best all-around models in our fleet. From top to bottom, all of its performance characteristics are at, or very near the top of every category for measured metrics. In addition to being a high performing model, the Summit is lighter than most general mountaineering ice axes in our review. It features a well-designed, high-quality hot-forged pick, which is widely regarded as the best construction method an axe could have. All of our testers found that the Summit's pick was aggressive enough to consider pairing with an ice tool for moderately steep snow and ice routes but also light enough for basic snow climbs or glacier routes. While other alternatives are better at specific applications, few models work as well for as many types of snowy adventures.
Petzl Summit Review
Compare prices at 4 resellers Pros: Hot-forged pick, excellent self-arrest performance, fantastic adze design, below average weight particularly for an all-mountain option, solid steep snow climbing ability
Cons: Slightly more expensive side, not the best ice performance
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Petzl Summit offered top-notch across the board performance in all of our comparisons categories and was a strong contender for our overall Editors' Choice. One of the most versatile models, there were few applications that it didn't excel in. Its pick climbs steep snow routes confidently, while also providing a smooth self-arrest. The Summit's curved shaft provides more leverage for self-arresting while also providing clearance while mid-daggering up sustained sections of steep snow. Best of all, the Summit is impressively light.
The Summit is one of our favorite axes for its ease and smoothness while self-arresting. Many of the same designs that go into its steep snow climbing performance also help it to effectively self-arrest, most notably, its tapered pick, which gets wider as it gets closer to the shaft. Its positively curved pick bites soundly and securely.
Besides its pick design, our entire review team appreciated its slightly curved shaft which increases leverage while self-arresting, particularly at higher speeds or in softer conditions. The Grivel Air Tech Evolution, Grivel Air Tech Racing SA, and the Petzl Summit Evo (which sports an identical head) all receive top marks from our tester group.
Digging and Step Chopping
This model features one of our favorite adzes in the review. The well designed, hot-forged adze blew many other ice axes out of the water while chopping icy tent platforms and digging T-slots during crevasse rescue.
What makes the Petzl's adze so easy to use is mostly due to its design. It features a nearly perfect amount of droop matched only by the Grivel Air Tech Evolution and Air Tech Racing SA. There are slight ripples in the adze itself which dramatically increase strength, and the cutting edge is sliced at 45 degrees. This helps the cutting angle and strikes a nice balance between being sharp enough to cut into glacial ice, without being so sharp as to damage our hands or our equipment.
Use As Improvised Anchor
The Summit carries a CEN-B/UIAA Type 1 rating, meaning it is suitable for use as an anchor for improvised crevasse rescue or for belaying people on non-vertical snow. Our review team appreciated several design aspects that contributed to the Summit's use as an improvised anchor. The CEN-B rating means the Summit can withstand at least 2.5 KN when used as a deadman or T-slot during crevasse rescue (unlike a CEN-T rating which means it can hold 3.5 KN).
Its spike is well-designed and facilitates the ability to be driven in vertically to back up a seated stance or while being placed in front of a snow picket (for a Saxon's cross). The hole in its head fits nearly any sized locking carabiner and can be used for a sitting or standing ice axe belay.
Steep Ice and Snow
The Summit's pick is hot-forged, which allows it to be crafted thinner at its tip, while still maintaining a great deal of strength. A thinner pick allows the Summit to penetrate better in firmer conditions. The pick design doesn't stop there; as the pick gets closer to the shaft, it gets wider, a design that results in better performance in softer snow and provides a more secure bite and purchase.
It's worth noting that the Summit features the same hot-forged, positive curve pick design as our Editors' Choice Petzl Summit Evo. Our testers appreciated the curved shaft design on the Summit, which provides clearance for our hand, keeping it warmer and drier while climbing in mid-dagger/piolet appui position. It also offers additional leverage while climbing in both mid and low-dagger/piolet panne positions.
The Summit does feature slight grooves on the lowest part of its shaft; this is to help grip the lowest part of the axe during a variety of maneuvers. While these grooves weren't near as grippy as the rubberized lower shaft of the Summit Evo, we still appreciated them. While we didn't swing this ice axe overhead very often (piolet traction) it allowed for better grip better during self-arrests and while descending where we might use piolet anchor for a move or two.
Overall the Summit provides above average steep snow climbing performance. It wasn't quite as good as the modular headed Petzl Sum'Tec, which sports a similar shaft, but is equipped with Petzl's ice-tool picks. The Summit was close to the Petzl Summit Evo and Grivel Air Tech Evolution in this metric, but both of those models had some small features that made them just slightly more adept at steep snow or ice routes. The Summit performed similarly to the Black Diamond Swift and the Grivel Air Tech Racing SA when tested on steep snow.
Comfort to Carry
The Summit is one of the more comfortable ice axes to carry in our review, just barely edged out by the Black Diamond's family of ice axes. With that said, we still call the Summit a comfortable ice axe to carry.
In self-arrest/pick forward position, there are no teeth on the pick where your hand grips to, so it is quite comfortable. Being a European designed ice axe, the Summit is most comfortable in self-belay/piolet canne (pick-forward) position. It's also the most comfortable European designed model to be carried in self-arrest/pick-backward, as European models are designed to be carried pick-forward/self-belay.
The Summit checks in at 12.6 ounces, which is one of the lighter general mountaineering axes in the review. It is also the lightest ice axe we reviewed that our review staff would take on fairly complex glacier routes. Its closest competition is the Grivel Air Tech Racing SA, which weighs in at 14.3 ounces, and performs pretty similarly overall. The Summit is lighter than our Editors' Choice the Summit Evo (14.1), but we feel its performance differences make up for its slightly heavier weight. With that said, if more moderate glacier and snow climbs are in your future, the Summit is still quite capable and can be an easy way to save a few ounces.
The Summit is the perfect choice for nearly any general mountaineering application thanks to its fantastic self-arresting ability, solid steep snow climbing performance, and capacity to easily create anchors for belaying or crevasse rescue. If you only plan to climb easy and moderate mountaineering routes, you could consider saving money and an ounce of weight with the Petzl Glacier or Black Diamond Raven. For those who want to occasionally climb steeper routes, pairing their axe with a second ice tool is possible, but we would recommend a different method. Instead, consider the Petzl Summit Evo, the modular Petzl Sum'Tec, or the Black Diamond Venom.
The Summit Compared to the Summit Evo
The Summit and the Summit Evo have the same head (pick and adze) and the same spike. The primary difference between the two is the Summit Evo's more ergonomically shaped shaft, which is more curved and sports a unique oval-ish/teardrop shape that performs slightly better on steeper terrain (while using this axe in low and mid-dagger positions). The Summit Evo also has a rubberized grip to make swinging the axe overhead (like an ice tool) more secure. This rubberized grip is also easier to stay latched onto during self-arrest. The Summit is 1.5 ounces lighter and costs less. Both are capable all-mountain axes, but the Summit Evo is more proficient at only a very marginal weight penalty. These two axes are not radically different from the Summit Evo, performing slightly better on steep routes.
The Summit isn't cheap, but if you want a higher performance ice axe with a design and materials that last many climbers a lifetime of mountaineering adventures, it could easily be worth the extra cost. You can purchase the Summit Evo for just a bit more, which is nearly the same model, but with better steep climbing ability. While you can purchase several models for under one hundred dollars, you certainly get what you pay for. The Summit is made in France and sports a hot-forged pick, which is the currently the best such constructed method for ice axes. The Air Tech Racing SA is the same price and also features a hot-forged head (made in Italy). Conversely, a model like the Black Diamond Raven is made in China and sports a laser cut head, which is not nearly as strong or durable.
The Petzl Summit is a sweet all-around axe that will perform well for a wide range of trips and conditions. This former Editors' Choice winner remains a strong contender for our award and is still lighter than our current winner, the Petzl Summit Evo. This axe works just as well on 85% of routes that the Summit Evo excels on; unless you are getting into complex glacier routes or routes with extended steep snow climbing, the Summit is a worthy choice. While it's entirely possible to utilize the Summit on the adventures mentioned above, we would recommend another option.
— Ian Nicholson