If we could only have one ice axe to use for everything from alpine rock climbing to complex glacier routes, the Petzl Summit Evo is the model we'd choose. Our top overall scoring model did have some tight competition, but in the end, the Summit Evo offered the best balance of performance, weight, and comfort that no model could touch. You can buy different models that might excel at specific applications, but for the best overall option for nearly any trip, Summit Evo won't let you down.
Petzl Summit Evo Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Hot-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 designs
Cons: A little on the heavier side
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Summit Evo is stacked full of performance-oriented features; a hot-forged pick allows for greater strength and better penetration into ice and firm snow. Its curved shaft and rubberized lower grip helped set it apart for both self-arresting and steep snow climbing performance. All of our testers loved its teardrop/oval-ish shaped shaft for less hand fatigue while climbing in mid-dagger positions. Best of all, while stacked on the performance side of the spectrum, it's still able to offer up a respectable weight, making it a reasonable option for almost any alpine adventure.
The Summit Evo is great for general mountaineering but particularly climbers who enjoy complex or steep routes. With that said, the Summit Evo is still light enough to be a reasonable option for nearly any adventure you might want to bring an axe on. If you want a versatile model to handle a wide range of route conditions, and is still light enough to use for early season alpine rock climbs, this fits the bill nicely. If you are someone who only wants an ice axe for early season alpine rock climbs in places like the Sierra or Rocky Mountain National Park, this model might be overkill.
While you can buy an axe that is lighter, few models offer as much versatility at such a reasonable weight. We've used the Summit Evo while climbing steep north-facing glacier routes in the North Cascades, while alpine rock climbing in the Bugaboos, and while ski mountaineering in the Alps, and can verify that it's a viable option.
If you are someone who only plans to climb basic glacier and snow routes, the Evo will perform but is perhaps a little overkill.
For more challenging routes, the Summit Evo is an excellent option and can be paired with an ice tool for step snow and glacier routes.
The Summit Evo is one of our favorites for self-arresting. During our side-by-side testing comparisons, it was one of our highest rated and best performing models. Part of the reason the Summit Evo self-arrests so smoothly is thanks to its pick design; with just the right amount of drop, it has the ability to bite into a variety of conditions without feeling jerky or experiencing overbite.
We also appreciated the curved shaft, which provided additional leverage while self-arresting. Lastly, the rubber grip, while likely designed for ascending steeper terrain, provides a nice textured place to grab and minimize the chance our hand might slip off.
Digging and Step Chopping
The Evo features one of our review team's favorite overall adzes. Its 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. All of our testers noted that the Summit felt noticeably easier to use than other axes, like the Black Diamond Raven and Raven Pro.
The Summit Evo's adze sports an ideal amount of droop, which helps facilitate swinging the axe (with full strength) into the snow surface. Additionally, the cutting edge of the adze features a 45-degree cutting angle which allowed the axe to excel in penetrating firm snow surfaces. Its slightly rippled design adds significant strength and makes it extremely durable and resistant to bending.
Use As Improvised Anchor
The Summit Evo carries a CEN-B/UIAA Type 1 strength rating, meaning it is designed to be used as an improvised anchor for crevasse rescue or to belay off of for climbers ascending snow; this is the same rating that the majority of models in our review carry and is ideal for most climbers and mountaineers.
The CEN-B/Type 1 rating consists of six individual tests, but the most directly relatable is the strength test, as if the axe were used in a "T"-slot/deadman; it would be able to withstand 2.5 KN in this orientation, whereas a CEN-T rated model needs to be able to withstand 3.5 KN as a deadman with a sling based around the shaft.
The Summit Evo performs well when used in various improvised anchor set ups. It features a well-designed spike, which makes it one of the easier ice axes to be driven in vertically for use as a quick backup while belaying. The hole in the head facilities the use of nearly any sized carabiner and makes for quick transitions and anchor points; it's also perfect for standing/sitting ice axe belays.
Steep Ice and Snow
The Summit Evo is a general mountaineering axe with a strong steep snow bias, which certainly proved true to its design during our field testing. It features a hot-forged pick, meaning it has a thin construction, yet still offers exceptional strength. The narrow profile allows it to penetrate firmer snow and ice better than models with wider picks.
The Summit Evo penetrates steep ice and snow well and was the best among the non-modular axes. It performed similarly to the Grivel Air Tech Evolution and the Petzl Summit.
While these models might offer a similar ability to penetrate firm snow and ice, the Summit Evo has a number of additional advantages for ascending routes that require sustained stretches of steep snow or short near-vertical steps of snow or glacial ice. The Evo excels at these types of routes thanks to its curved and extremely ergonomic oval-shaped shaft.
The curved shaft helped to keep our hands out of snow while in mid-dagger position; thus, we typically had drier and warmer hands than when using straight-shafted models. The curved shaft also allows the user to obtain far more leverage on the axe, making it easier to get good purchase and ascend the route safely. The oval/teardrop-shaped shaft was extremely comfortable for long stretches in mid-dagger/piolet appui and was a favorite among testers. In addition to comfort, the shaft's shape allows its user to push harder, which enables you to keep daggering upward after a long day. The Evo also features a rubberized lower handle to help improve grip while swinging it like an ice tool.
The Summit Evo's pick slowly becomes wider as it gets farther from the point of the pick; this provides more support or better purchase while climbing snow in softer conditions (where the added width translates to support). Several of our testers appreciated and noted this design while ascending steep snow routes in Washington's North Cascades and the Central Alaska range, particularly when climbing routes that require a lot of low-dagger/piolet panne and mid-dagger/piolet appui positions.
The Summit Evo's pick also has a fairly unique design, in which there are teeth on the top of the pick in addition to the traditionally located ones on the bottom. The teeth are designed to reinforce bite while using the axe to the banister position or while descending face-out using mid-dagger/piolet appui.
The thin, rubber grip on the lower portion of the shaft was a nice touch for short, steep steps. While it does not appear to be designed for sustained sections of vertical ice, the added grip was appreciated and was used while swinging the tool to bypass steep bulges, pull out of crevasses, and for use in piolet anchor position (for added security during descents and traverses).
Comfort to Carry
Like many European-made models, the Summit Evo is most comfortable when carried in self-belay/piolet canne (pick forward position). However, it is still quite comfortable to hold in self-arrest (pick backwards) positions.
Like the similarly designed Summit, there are no teeth on the pick where your hand grips the head; this, coupled with the narrow center and pleasantly shaped adze, only add to the Summit Evo's comfortable ergonomics.
Only a decade ago, this model would have been one of the lightest axes available, but now it runs in the middle of the pack as far as weight is concerned. The Summit Evo is still a very respectable 14 ounces; it's one of the lightest, performance-based models currently out there, with the Petzl Summit weighing 12.6 ounces.
Compared to its most direct competitors, the Grivel Air Tech Evolution (15.2 oz), Black Diamond Swift (17 ounces), and Summit Evo are lighter. At 14 ounces, it is in line with most lesser-performing general purpose models and is still respectable enough in weight to use for almost any application. It's ideal for folks who are only going to own one ice axe or want to use it for a wide range of activities from ski mountaineering to complex glacier routes.
The Summit Compared to the Summit Evo
The Summit and the Summit Evo have the same head (pick and adze) and spike. The primary difference between the two is that the Summit Evo has a more ergonomically shaped shaft, which performs better when climbing in steep terrain, particularly while using low and mid-dagger positions or while swinging. The Summit Evo also has a rubberized grip, which makes swinging the axe like an ice tool more secure. The Summit is 1.5 ounces lighter and costs less. We generally find the Summit Evo's increased performance characteristics worth the 1.5 ounces of weight penalty; however, if you think you'll rarely climb in this terrain, the Petzl Summit is an ideal option.
The Summit Evo isn't crushing it on the price point, but it is an excellent ice axe; it boasts exceptional construction and features a shaft that excels on steep routes. Its less expensive than its closest competition, the Grivel Air Tech Evolution and the Black Diamond Swift. Aspects like the Summit Evo's hot-forged pick allow for excellent snow and ice use, while its hydroformed handle provides great value. For more involved routes, you'll likely appreciate your investment in the increased security that the Evo will provide. If you are mostly planning to climb simple routes or you're just getting into the sport, a lesser priced model will likely serve you well.
The Petzl Summit Evo is our best scoring all-around ice axe and stands out for its overall performance. If you have a quiver of ice axes, you can buy specific models that will excel at distinct applications better than the Evo; however, no other models in our fleet will provide the range of applications that the Summit Evo will. Simply put, if we could only own one ice axe, (or even multiple for that matter), the Summit Evo would be it.
— Ian Nicholson