Gear Review: Furnace Industries Kronos Ice Axes

I first heard about the Furnace Industries Kronos Ice Axes through a review posted on a fellow gear reviewer’s blog. Technical ice axes made out of wood? The concept was definitely intriguing and I was pretty excited to check a pair out. Unfortunately these did not work for me. My experience with them did not match what other online reviewers have reported, and that’s ok. Reviews after all are largely based on opinions. Here’s how I tested them:

About a dozen days of ice climbing in the White Mountains on grade 3 & 4 waterfall ice. Routes like Thresher, Unicorn, Pegasus, Standard Route, Chia, Dracula, Hitchcock, and The Cleft. I loaned them out to a few fellow guides who collectively put another half dozen days on them. Their opinions largely echoed the ones I had developed and will share here.

Furnace Industries Kronos Ice Axe Review
Furnace Industries Kronos Ice Axe Review- photo by Peter Brandon

First, the manufacturer info:


The KRONOS® is the world’s first ‘T’ rated, CE certified technical ice climbing tool made from organic material.

Technical Specifications

  • Weight: 1 lb 7.8 oz (675 g)
  • Size: One Size
  • Length: 19 in (48.26 cm)
  • Material: Densified Beech Laminate / Hardened Tool Steel

Other Features

  • Axe comes with a hand finished removable and replaceable Type B Furnace Industries Ice pick
  • Type T Pick sold separately available HERE
  • Replacement Type B Picks available HERE
  • A softer swing as the wood absorbs shock of the pick strike offering increased sensitivity at all temperatures
  • Wood handle offers enhanced grip and thermal insulation
  • Hand finished handle offers multiple grip options
  • The KRONOS Ice Tool has a Type T shaft

 The Swing

One of the reported advantages of the wooden construction is the ability for the shaft to dampen vibration with each strike which could have the benefit of reducing arm and hand fatigue. This dampening effect was not as noticeable as it is when swinging carbon fiber tools like the Black Diamond Cobras or Grivel Carbon Tech Machines. The weight of the tool (1 lb, 8 oz) is 3-4 ounces heavier than most similar tools. That extra weight was felt by more than one tester to be a bit on the heavy side. The bulk of the weight feels like it is around mid-shaft which also felt less ideal for easy sticks.

My opinion here is likely effected by two decades of climbing on tools like the Petzl Quarks and Cassin X-Dreams where most of the weight feels closer to the head of the axe allowing for a bit of a “wrist flick” type placement rather than the kind of “elbow drop” type swing this design seems to encourage. One tester thought attaching some head weights might help better balance the tool but at an already comparatively heavy weight I think it would be better if they could move some of this mass higher on the tool somehow.

All in all while seeking fresh sticks in virgin ice a few of our testers felt the pick angle would cause occasional “bounce out” failed sticks and the heavier weight would contribute to fatigue. For hooking pegged out routes and dry-tooling the tool performed quite well, though felt a little on the heavy side for that to be the primary benefit of the tool.


Durability/Thermal Effeciency

While I’ve seen claims of great durability come from a few sources this is the other place where these really fell short for me. During our local Ice Fest I got first hand reports of a demo pair breaking and then my sample was damaged while another guide was taking them for a test drive. While still fully functional the two spots here where the laminated wood broke leave me concerned for long term durability. To be fair that upper trigger rest is a vulnerable spot on many tools.

In the past I’ve broken the removable trigger rest on the Petzl Quarks (and shortly after just always removed that piece from the Quark). The picks however have held up great for the amount of use they have seen. The hardened tool steel used here is probably the best thing about these tools. I’ve only tuned them twice and they hold a tune longer than most other picks I’m familiar with!

There is a bit of thermal advantage to using wooden ice axes (I have really warm hands so this benefit probably doesn’t get the credit it should). If you suffer from cold hands ice climbing this change in material may be of a greater benefit.


Summary

Without question these are hand-crafted with passion and are a solid accomplishment in engineering, but in my opinion they still need to be refined to cross from novelty conversation item to competitive and practical technical ice axe. I would encourage you to try them though! Other reviewers and better ice climbers than I have sung praises for them so this could definitely be a case of “not right for me but could be right for you”. I’d encourage you to grab a pair at your local Ice Fest and see for yourself. If a Kronos 2.0 arrives I’ll be eager to take another look!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

A media sample was provided for the purpose of this review and has been returned to the manufacturer. All opinions expressed are my own. Affiliate links help support this blog.

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