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Petzl Summit Evo Review

While other models might perform specific tasks better, there is no better do-everything model
Petzl Summit Evo
Photo: Petzl
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $140 List | $104.96 at Amazon
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
Manufacturer:   Petzl
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 21, 2019
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84
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 17
  • Self-Arresting - 15% 9
  • Digging & Step Chopping - 15% 9
  • Use as Improvised Anchor - 15% 8
  • Steep Ice & Snow - 25% 9
  • Comfort to Carry - 5% 9
  • Weight - 25% 7
RELATED: Best Ice Axe

Our Verdict

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.

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Overall Score Sort Icon
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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 designsExtremely lightweight, second lightest model we tested and the lightest overall to feature a steel head, steep snow climbing performance and self-arrest abilities, versatilityLightest weight mountain axe with a spike, great price, very comfortable, solid self-arrest performanceLightest B-rated ice axe on the market, comfortable to carry in self-belay position, provides decent security in steeper terrainComfortable to carry, great price, decent adze performance, head is easy to clip in several fashions
Cons A little on the heavier sideNo real spike, only available in one fairly short length (45cm)Only comes in one size, just okay steep snow performanceLittle adze, no spike, pick doesn't penetrate ice or firm snow well, no plug in shaftDoesn't penetrate firm snow or ice well, below average steep snow performance
Bottom Line While other models might perform specific tasks better, there is no better do-everything modelThe lightest model to feature a 100% steel head, it's surprisingly versatile for its weightOne of the most versatile axes for the weight, this model performs surprisingly well at a wide range of tasksOne of the lightest rated ice axes on the market, it's ideal for basic mountaineeringExcellent price for a solid all-around mountaineering axe for use on moderate snow climbs and basic glacier routes
Rating Categories Petzl Summit Evo Petzl Ride Petzl Glacier Literide CAMP Corsa Black Diamond Raven
Self Arresting (15%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
5.0
5.0
Digging & Step Chopping (15%)
9.0
4.0
7.0
5.0
7.0
Use As Improvised Anchor (15%)
8.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Steep Ice & Snow (25%)
9.0
5.0
5.0
3.0
3.0
Comfort To Carry (5%)
9.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
10.0
Weight (25%)
7.0
9.0
8.0
10.0
5.0
Specs Petzl Summit Evo Petzl Ride Petzl Glacier Literide CAMP Corsa Black Diamond Raven
Measured Weight 14.1 oz / 400g 8.4 oz / 240g 11.2 oz /320g 7.4 oz / 209g 16 oz / 437g
Category General Ultralight Ultralight Ultralight General
Rating CEN-B CEN-B CEN-B CEN-B CEN-B
Pick Shape, Material, and Construction Hot-forged steel, Classic Positive curve Tempered steel, classic positive curve Forged steel, classic positve curve Forged aluminum pick, classic positive curve Laser cut, stainless steel, classic positive
Lengths Available 52, 59, 66 cm 45 cm 50 cm 50, 60, 70 cm 55, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80, 90 cm
Included Pommel or Leash? Lower Rubber Grip No No No No
Hammer Option No No No No No
Shaft Design Bent Bent Straight Straight Straight

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.

Performance Comparison


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 most at home on more complex glacier climbs and steep snow...
While most at home on more complex glacier climbs and steep snow routes, it is still light enough to consider taking on alpine rock climbs and ski mountaineering trips. Here, the Summit Evo being carried up and over Cutthroat Peak.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

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.

The Summit is right at home climbing 50-degree neve (firm snow). On...
The Summit is right at home climbing 50-degree neve (firm snow). On this route, we paired the Summit Evo with a Petzl Gully to provide better security, since there are fairly severe consequences if the leader were to fall.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

If you are someone who only plans to climb basic glacier and snow routes, the Evo will perform but is perhaps a little overkill.

The Summit and the Summit Evo aren't SUPER different axes, and many...
The Summit and the Summit Evo aren't SUPER different axes, and many folks debating between them will be fine with either. They have an identical head/pick/adze and spike, so the primary difference comes in the shaft design. The Summit Evo's shaft is more comfortable for sustained mid-daggering type routes and is 1.5 ounces heavier. The Summit climbs steep snow nearly as well, but as we mentioned, is marginally lighter.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

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 best all-around model in our review; the Summit Evo is also...
The best all-around model in our review; the Summit Evo is also among the most versatile. It performs on steep snow and complex glacier climbs as well as it does on basic climbs. If you could have only one ice axe for a wide range of mountaineering objectives, this would be it.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Self-Arresting


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.

We felt the Summit Evo's pick struck a nice balance between steep...
We felt the Summit Evo's pick struck a nice balance between steep snow climbing ability and smooth self-arresting. In direct side-by-side self-arrest tests, the Summit Evo was among the best overall models and was consistently able to provide a confident, smooth arrest.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

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.

We loved this model's overall adze design and its chopping prowess...
We loved this model's overall adze design and its chopping prowess. We felt this model has a pretty ideal amount of droop to facilitate swinging the axe with full strength into the snow surface. Additionally, the cutting edge is sliced at a 45-degree cutting angle, helping to penetrate the snow surface. The slightly rippled design add significant strength and increase durability.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

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.

Petzl removes the inner teeth on the underside of the pick closer to...
Petzl removes the inner teeth on the underside of the pick closer to the shaft (easily seen in this photo) in an effort to make this axe more comfortable to carry in self-arrest (pick-backwards) position. Our testers felt that this goal was wholly accomplished and the Summit Evo was far more comfortable to carry in self-arrest position than other contenders.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

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's CEN-B rating means its more than strong enough to...
The Summit Evo's CEN-B rating means its more than strong enough to be used as an anchor for improvised crevasse rescue or belaying on snow. We felt its adze, while basic in appearance, was more than adequate for assisting in plunging the shaft of the axe vertically to create or beef up existing anchors. One last thing of note: because the Evo does have a bent shaft, it was slightly harder to plunge in vertically in firmer conditions than a straight shafted model, but this difference was minor.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

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.

A cross view of the cutting edge of the Evo's adze, with a good view...
A cross view of the cutting edge of the Evo's adze, with a good view of its unique ergonomically shaped shaft as well.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

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 pick of the Summit Evo is hot-forged, meaning it can be...
The pick of the Summit Evo is hot-forged, meaning it can be constructed thinner for better penetration in firm snow or ice while being as strong (or stronger) than thicker models using other construction methods. The teeth on the top end of the pick are designed to help with various flat-footed, face-out descending techniques.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

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.

Compared to other models in our review, it was quickly apparent how...
Compared to other models in our review, it was quickly apparent how much easier it was for the Summit Evo's pick to penetrate firm snow. Here Walt and Phil Wadlow observe just that while using the Petzl Summit Evo to ascend steep snow slopes to gain the West Ridge proper on Forbidden Peak.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

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.

All of our testing team appreciated the curved shaft of the Summit...
All of our testing team appreciated the curved shaft of the Summit Evo over more traditional straight-shafted axes. The curved shaft had several benefits, including better leverage when low and mid-daggering, as well as keeping our hands out of the snow more and thus keeping them warmer and drier while climbing using these techniques.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

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.

While hard to truly do it justice in a photo, you can see here the...
While hard to truly do it justice in a photo, you can see here the teardrop-shaped design of the Summit Evo's shaft. This design is one of our review team's favorite aspects of this axe. This ergonomic shape, most heavily applied in the upper and most curved area of the shaft, proved fantastic for mid-dagger positions, as it was significantly less fatiguing on its user's hand. This is just one more reason the Summit Evo was one of our favorite models for steeper routes.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

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.

Overall, the Summit Evo was the best climbing non-modular ice axe we...
Overall, the Summit Evo was the best climbing non-modular ice axe we tested and is among the very best options on the market. This axe works well by itself on slopes to 45 or 50 degrees when snow is soft, or it can be mated with a second more traditional ice tool when conditions are firmer or the terrain is steeper. Here Danny Spreafico ascends the North Face of Mt. Shuksan.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

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).

Petzl Summit Evo sports a rubber coated lower shaft. This rubber...
Petzl Summit Evo sports a rubber coated lower shaft. This rubber area provided far better grip while swinging the axe overhead and while self-arresting. While we didn't swing this tool overhead very often (mainly climbing out of bergshrunds) it does happen and we appreciated how much nicer it made self-arresting. Overall we liked these designs and felt they only added to the Summit Evo's excellent steep snow and ice climbing performance.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

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.

We found the Summit Evo very comfortable in either position, which...
We found the Summit Evo very comfortable in either position, which is unusual for European manufacturers who more frequently gear their ice axes to be carried in self-belay/pick-forward position. However, even though we found the Summit Evo comfortable in either position, we found it MORE comfortable in self-belay position, and it was among the most comfortable axes to be carried in this position.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

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.


Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Weight


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.

We felt the Summit Evo was among the most versatile axes currently...
We felt the Summit Evo was among the most versatile axes currently available due to its combination of steep snow climbing ability, self-arresting performance, and extremely respectable weight. With that said it, is certainly most at home on more challenging mountaineering routes and steep snow climbs. Here the Summit Evo in use on day 5 of the Isolation Traverse on the Neve Glacier, Snowfield Peak, North Cascades, WA.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

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 is on the more expensive side of ice axes in our...
The Summit Evo is on the more expensive side of ice axes in our review and is twice the price of a handful of models. However, we still think the Summit Evo's superb versatility and top-of-the-review performance make it worth its high price.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Value


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.

This is our Editors' Choice winner because it is the overall best...
This is our Editors' Choice winner because it is the overall best performing model we tested and if we could only have one ice axe, then the Summit Evo would be it. You can buy axes that are lighter or may be better at specific types of routes, but no model works as well across the board (or specifically handles burly glacier climbs) as this one. Here, the Summit and Summit Evo being held by Ian Nicholson and Zach Keskinen on the summit of Denali (Ian's 7th Summit).
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Conclusion


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