$190 per tool
$50 per hand-clip leash
New to the market as of last season is the Spanish company e-Climb. The centerpiece of their line, the Cryo, is a water-ice and alpine climbing axe that boasts truly unique features. However, for all its bells and whistles, the first generation is sub par; if a few bugs are worked out, future models could promise to reshape ice-climbing tools.
The Cryo’s pick is strong, more resistant to blunting than most I’ve used. It penetrated Colorado’s plastic ice easily, but the thick pick displaced too much ice for it to be used on the thin stuff with any reliability.
Onto the Cryo’s most noticeable design feature: the four holes near the head of the axe. The first two oblong slits, just below the adze/hammer, are actually designed to be used as a belay device. You can rappel off your ice tool or use the tool as a belay plate — a feature you’d only use in a bind. Trying to belay and rappel off an ice tool, is not nearly as easy as using a standard ATC.
Either of the two rectangular holes beneath the belay/rappel slits can be clipped with a large carabiner, which gives you the ability to construct an anchor off two tools placed in the ice.
The Cryo comes with a removable Ergonomic Handrest, with an aggressive spike beneath it. The rest is definitely good, allowing you to use the tools sans leashes and take weight off so you don’t have to grip too tightly. The spike, however, frightened me. I worried the spike would maul my face if a tool popped. Also, because the spike is so large, in certain mixed situations it prevented the Cryo from fitting in rock crannies — places where regular tools excelled.
Another innovation is the Hand Clip leash system. You put on a strap that tightens down on your wrist and between your thumb and forefinger. On your palm is a piece of metal that locks down onto a screw and washer on the ice tool. Ostensibly, the Hand Clip will let you clip into and out of the tool easily. However, the jostling action of swinging the tool back and forth often released my hand from the clip, usually without me knowing it. Also, the Hand Clip does not take very much weight off your arms, at least not like standard leashes. Finally, if the Cryo is supposed to be an alpine tool, too, then the Hand Clip is superfluous for plunging the shaft into snow because you can’t stay attached to the tool.
The Cryo swings well. At 1.3 pounds, it’s extremely light, and the narrow shaft is great for people with small hands. I also think that the tip of the pick is too far forward of the hand. When you place the tool, you feel like you are miles away from the ice — good for keeping your knuckles away from the ice, but bad for keeping your weight under the pick. The Cryo is a decent tool that only suffers from trying to be too nifty.