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Petzl Summit Review

One of the most versatile models, the Summit excels in a wide-range of activities, from steep snow routes to alpine rock climbs.
Petzl Summit
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $150 List | $149.95 at REI
Compare prices at 3 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
Manufacturer:   Petzl
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 21, 2019
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89
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 15
  • Self-arresting - 22% 10
  • Digging & Step chopping - 17% 10
  • Use as improvised Anchor - 8% 9
  • Steep ice and snow - 22% 8
  • Comfort to carry - 11% 8
  • Weight - 20% 8

Our Verdict

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.


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Petzl Summit
Awards Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award Top Pick Award 
Price $149.95 at REI
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Pros Hot-forged pick, excellent self-arrest performance, fantastic adze design, below average weight particularly for an all-mountain option, solid steep snow climbing abilityHot-forged pick penetrates snow and ice extremely well, no-teeth on gripping area of pick, curved shaft and teardrop/oval shaped shaft excel in steeper terrain, exceptional self-arrest performance, one of the best overall adze designsBest steep snow climbing performance, durable, penetrates hard ice well, excellent self-arrest and steep snow climbing performanceClimbs steep ice extremely well, sweet slider pommel, one of the best performing adzes in the review, chops ice like a championLightest weight mountain axe with a spike, great price, very comfortable, solid self-arrest performance
Cons Slightly more expensive side, not the best ice performanceA little on the heavier sideExpensive, slightly on the heavier side, like its slider pummel but wished it could be placed in more positions along the shaftSelf-arrest performance is good but not great, heavy for basic mountaineering, expensiveOnly comes in one size, just okay steep snow performance
Bottom Line One of the most versatile models, the Summit excels in a wide-range of activities, from steep snow routes to alpine rock climbs.The best all-around ice axe; while other models might perform specific tasks better, there is no better do-everything model.Across-the-board high performance helps this axe excel at almost any application; from general glacier travel to steep snow routes to alpine rock climbs, this model is among the best.A true hybrid of a traditional ice axe and an ice tool; it has the shaft of an ice axe and the same head and pick selection as the rest of Petzl's ice tools.One of the most versatile axes for the weight, this model performs surprisingly well at a wide range of tasks while still weighing in less than several specialized options.
Rating Categories Petzl Summit Petzl Summit Evo Grivel Air Tech Evolution Petzl Sum'Tec Petzl Glacier Literide
Self Arresting (22%)
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
8
10
0
9
Digging & Step Chopping (17%)
10
0
10
10
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10
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
9
Use As Improvised Anchor (8%)
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
9
Steep Ice And Snow (22%)
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
7
Comfort To Carry (11%)
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
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8
Weight (20%)
10
0
8
10
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6
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5
10
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6
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9
Specs Petzl Summit Petzl Summit Evo Grivel Air Tech... Petzl Sum'Tec Petzl Glacier...
Weight (oz/gram) 13.4 oz/380g 14.8 oz/420g 17.6 oz 17.9 oz/507g 11.2 oz/320g
Size tested 59cm 59cm 58cm 59cm 50cm
Lengths availible 52, 59, 66cm 52, 59, 66cm 48, 53, 58, 66cm 52, 59, 66, 73cm 50cm
Rating CEN-B CEN-B CEN-T CEN-T CEN-B
Category General Modular

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.

Performance Comparison


Easily among the most versatile models currently on the market  there are very few mountaineering applications that this model doesn't perform well.
Easily among the most versatile models currently on the market, there are very few mountaineering applications that this model doesn't perform well.

Self-Arresting


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.

There are shallow ripples that increase grip ability on the lower portion of the shaft to assist while self-arresting and climbing steeper snow. The Summit's spike  while basic looking  proved more than adequate to assist in driving this model vertically into the snow. This helps users to quickly back up seated stances  beef up deadman anchors in Saxons cross position  or simply add security while driving the shaft deeply into softer snow.
There are shallow ripples that increase grip ability on the lower portion of the shaft to assist while self-arresting and climbing steeper snow. The Summit's spike, while basic looking, proved more than adequate to assist in driving this model vertically into the snow. This helps users to quickly back up seated stances, beef up deadman anchors in Saxons cross position, or simply add security while driving the shaft deeply into softer snow.

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.

The Summit was above average to carry in any position. Like most European produced models  its adze and overall head design are most focused on being carried in self-belay/piolet canne (pick-forward) position. However  to help make carrying this model in self-arrest (pick-backwards) more comfortable  Petzl removed all the teeth from the innermost/gripping area of the pick.
The Summit was above average to carry in any position. Like most European produced models, its adze and overall head design are most focused on being carried in self-belay/piolet canne (pick-forward) position. However, to help make carrying this model in self-arrest (pick-backwards) more comfortable, Petzl removed all the teeth from the innermost/gripping area of the pick.

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).

The large hole in the head of the summit also provides an easy clipping point if placed vertically for a belay  for standing ice axe belays  or other anchoring techniques. What is especially nice about the hole in the Summit is unlike several other models  most locking carabiners could be clipped through it without getting hung up or loading at awkward angles.
The large hole in the head of the summit also provides an easy clipping point if placed vertically for a belay, for standing ice axe belays, or other anchoring techniques. What is especially nice about the hole in the Summit is unlike several other models, most locking carabiners could be clipped through it without getting hung up or loading at awkward angles.

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.

The Summit's adze was among the best overall performing in our review. We found its adze had a near perfect amount of droop to dig into snow efficiently but also was comfortable to carry. We also appreciated the slight ripples in the adze that significantly increase its strength.  Photo: Fellow OutdoorGearLab Tester and Editor Thomas Greene helps compare products while digging T-slots near Mt. Rainier.
The Summit's adze was among the best overall performing in our review. We found its adze had a near perfect amount of droop to dig into snow efficiently but also was comfortable to carry. We also appreciated the slight ripples in the adze that significantly increase its strength. Photo: Fellow OutdoorGearLab Tester and Editor Thomas Greene helps compare products while digging T-slots near Mt. Rainier.

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.

This is one of the better all-around performers in our review. The Summit's pick is on the more aggressive side  and it is hot-forged  meaning it can be built thinner for better purchase in firm snow or ice while being as strong or stronger than models using other construction methods. The teeth on the top of the pick are designed to help with various flat-footed  face-out descending techniques that when mastered are quicker than descending face-in.
This is one of the better all-around performers in our review. The Summit's pick is on the more aggressive side, and it is hot-forged, meaning it can be built thinner for better purchase in firm snow or ice while being as strong or stronger than models using other construction methods. The teeth on the top of the pick are designed to help with various flat-footed, face-out descending techniques that when mastered are quicker than descending face-in.

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 pick of the Summit is heavily tapered  starting at 3mm in width and slowly widening as the pick moves toward the shaft. This design helps the axe get better purchase in softer conditions when it is being driven further into the snow.
The pick of the Summit is heavily tapered, starting at 3mm in width and slowly widening as the pick moves toward the shaft. This design helps the axe get better purchase in softer conditions when it is being driven further into the snow.

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.

The Petzl Summit was among the more comfortable ice axes to carry. It is slightly more comfortable in self-belay position than self-arrest position but was still above average overall.
The Petzl Summit was among the more comfortable ice axes to carry. It is slightly more comfortable in self-belay position than self-arrest position but was still above average overall.

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.

At just over 12.5 oz  the Summit is one of the lightest general mountaineering axes -- a pretty impressive stat  considering it is also among the best performing. Photo: Dan Whitmore waits for the Ross Lake water taxi for a trip onto the North Picket Range.
At just over 12.5 oz, the Summit is one of the lightest general mountaineering axes -- a pretty impressive stat, considering it is also among the best performing. Photo: Dan Whitmore waits for the Ross Lake water taxi for a trip onto the North Picket Range.

Weight


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 Petzl Summit is among the absolute most versatile models in our review. Light enough for alpine rock climbing or ski mountaineering  a pick that offers enough performance for most steep snow style routes  and good enough self-arresting and anchor building abilities for even the most complex glacier climbs. If you want one axe to do everything there aren't many that do it as well as this one.
The Petzl Summit is among the absolute most versatile models in our review. Light enough for alpine rock climbing or ski mountaineering, a pick that offers enough performance for most steep snow style routes, and good enough self-arresting and anchor building abilities for even the most complex glacier climbs. If you want one axe to do everything there aren't many that do it as well as this one.

Best Applications


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.

Value


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 work well for a wide range of trips and conditions. This former Editors' Choice winner remained a strong contender for our award and is still lighter than our current winner  the Petzl Summit Evo. Photo: Ian Nicholson and Zach Keskinen on the summit of Denali while performing direct side-by-side comparisons of our two top scoring models.
The Petzl Summit is a sweet all-around axe that will work well for a wide range of trips and conditions. This former Editors' Choice winner remained a strong contender for our award and is still lighter than our current winner, the Petzl Summit Evo. Photo: Ian Nicholson and Zach Keskinen on the summit of Denali while performing direct side-by-side comparisons of our two top scoring models.

Conclusion


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