Black Diamond Cobra | $339.95 | bdel.com ★★★★★
The carbon-fiber Cobra has the rigidity of a steel pipe with virtually none of the weight, and what heft there is, is mostly in the head, right where it should be. The best part, though, is the tool’s feel. The carbon-fiber dampens vibrations as effectively as hickory: the Cobra feels featherweight in hand, but solid. Although the Cobra’s forte is ice, it shines on modern mixed, working as well with a leash as without. Snap on the optional Android Leash ($46.95) and you’re good for Norway’s 1,000-foot Vettisfossen. Snap it off (process takes about a blink of an eye) and you’re ready for the latest dry wonder.
The Cobra won Rock and Ice’s 2009 BEST IN GEAR (BIG) AWARD and I’ve used extensively for five years now, and had no issues. It continues to be a great tool for alpine and waterfall ice, and occasionally for dry tooling where you exit onto an ice climb. I like that you can easily clip the tool’s spike and use this as an overhead belay when you release a hand to place a screw. One large bolt lets you change out the pick or modular hammer/adze, and this is an easy task.
The lower grip, with a rubberized handle is easy to hold. The secondary “choke up” grip has a small, removable pinky rest. This isn’t so easy to grip, but is better than having no rest at all. For alpine ice I remove the secondary rest.
The swing and strike of the Cobra is just about perfect for me. It feels natural and the Laser pick ($54.95) is my choice for pure ice. The Fusion pick is the same, but thicker and a better choice if you are going to be sharpening often. The Fusion pick is more for dry-tooling; I rarely use it on the Cobra.
I climb with my right tool getting the Standard Hammer head ($24.95), and the left tool set up with the Micro ($24.95). The Standard is as you would guess a regular hammer. You can beat in pins or tap in screws with this hammer. The Micro is smaller and not as good for hammering. I put it on my left tool so I can use one tool to hammer in the other. I never use the adze, on this tool or any other.
For an all-arounder, the Cobra is among the very best. The more extreme shafts shapes and grips, such as those of the Petzl Ergo and Black Diamond Fusion are better for leashless climbing on vertical ice, and much better when the climbing is steeper than vertical, but for slabby ice, alpine routes and some vert, the Cobra dominates. I only wish that the picks weren’t so expensive.
ABOUT THE RATING
I gave the Cobra five out of five stars because it has held up to a lot of abuse and is one of the best and most versatile ice tools I have used.
The carbon-fiber dampens vibrations as effectively as hickory: the Cobra feels featherweight in hand, but solid.