I like to crunch numbers sometimes. It’s fun to engage the left-brain and get a little meticulous from time to time. I recently acquired some of Petzl’s newest Laser Speed Light ice screws and could certainly feel the overall weight difference of my ice rack in-hand but figured I would play around with the numbers a little bit and determine what my weight savings actually were.
It can be tough to make an an objective comparison when individual ice racks can vary in make up from climber to climber and region to region (and season to season and condition to condition) so for the sake of simplicity we are going to have to settle on a base line for comparison. I have settled on this as my base ice rack in New England and will make some changes based on route conditions and what not, but this is to me a “baseline” 10 screw ice rack:
Now before you ask why no 17’s, 19’s, etc let me explain…
First, testing shows screw holding power is all from the threads; in good ice a 13 cm screw is as strong as a 19 cm screw. I can chop through rotten ice to find the good stuff.
Second, falling while leading pure ice routes up to grade 5 in difficulty is, and should always be, quite rare. We climb in control with all these sharp things attached to us least we end up with expensive hospital bills.
Third, anchor stances are usually adequate enough that I can clear rotten ice to get full strength 13 cm screws. If it is particularly crappy ice or warm/sunny hanging belay I’ll use my 22 cm in the anchor, but the 22’s main purpose is my v-thread building screw.
Finally, if I am heading to someplace steep with hanging belays (Willoughby) I will add about four 19 cm screws to mix in with anchors and pre-crux placements bringing my screw total to 14. If I need more than 14 screws it is probably above my pay grade.
And one last note, I’m only looking at screws with fold-able speed knobs. If you want to save an extra 20% in cost you could go for “non-speed knob” screws but the extra savings are not worth it in my personal opinion.
Ok, enough on that. Let’s get to the comparison. I want to compare a Black Diamond Express rack, a pure Petzl Laser Speed rack, and a Petzl Laser Speed Light rack side by side. We will first look at the weight differences between each choice then other pro’s and con’s.
Black Diamond Express Rack
Full 10 screw baseline rack
Weight: 47.06 ounces (just shy of 3 pounds) MRSP $599.50
Pros: Time tested design with a hanger with dual carabiner holes for versatility. Durable finish. Long re-sharp-ability period.
Cons: Larger hanger requires more “clear space” for placements. Threads are more prone to damage then Petzl design.
Petzl Laser Speed Rack
Full 10 screw baseline rack
Weight: 48.63 ounces (just over 3 pounds) MRSP $599.50
Pros: Low profile hanger allows placements with less “clear space”. Large hanger hole allows 2-3 carabiners for versatility. Rounded threads resist damage while still maintaining full holding strength.
Cons: Slightly heavier than Black Diamond Express. Some reports of finish wearing off quicker than Black Diamond screws (I have not noticed after 2 seasons of use).
Petzl Laser Speed Light Rack
Full 10 screw baseline rack
Weight: 35.52 ounces (2.22 pounds) MRSP $734.50*
Pros: Lightest option available, save almost a pound on your ice rack. Low profile hanger allows placements with less “clear space”. Large hanger hole allows 2-3 carabiners for versatility. Rounded threads resist damage while still maintaining full holding strength. Limited re-sharp-ability.
Cons: Most expensive option. Least durable option (it is aluminum vs. steel). UPDATE 1/20/17: I have started to experience the sticky placement issues that Jacon mentions in a comments below. So far it has been in very dense ice or wet ice and I have managed with solid stances to crank hard enough to overcome the resistance, but I could definitely see this being an issue on a climb where firing in a screw easily is clutch. This is definitely a con, and one I plan on exploring more this season (and will update accordingly).
So what should you get? This is a personal choice. What do you value most? Lightest weight? Durability? Ease of placement? If you count ounces like I do you might justify the added expense and lower durability of the Petzl Laser Speed Light screws. If you only replace your one 22 cm ice screw (the one you carry to make v-threads) with a Petzl Laser Speed Light you save a full 2 ounces. Replacing half your running protection screws with Petzl Laser Speed Light screws will probably save you a half a pound. Replacing all will save you close to a pound with a sacrifice to durability (less of a concern for those who pro-deal or shop the best sale times).
The real bottom line is all three of these options are great. Meticulously thought-out designs made out of the best material that could be sourced. I hope this info helps you round out your ice rack the way you want it. Please let me know in the comments below your opinions on this topic!
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A big thanks to my good friend, fellow mountain guide, former jeweler, and current magician at making dull things sharp again, Jason Hurwitz of A Nice Screw dot Com. Jason can sharpen ice screws, crampons, and ice axes to better than factory condition. Please check out his website out for details!
*total weight assumed 9 Petzl Laser Speed Light screws and one BD Turbo Express 10 cm screw since Petzl does not make the Laser Speed Light in 10 cm.
Disclaimer: I purchased all the items referred to in this comparison with my own money. Affiliate links above help support this blog.