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02-19-2013, 07:22 PM #1
Trango Raptors - first (and second) impressions
I've had these out for a few days now. Here's the skinny:
General description - lightweight, aggressively angled tool. Steel heads no hammer or adze. Pick weights included. Molded ergo grip fits small hands.
Pros - The grips are sticky and well shaped and an absolute pleasure to hang from. Some folks with XL paws have had trouble with them but I have small hands and really like the size incl. the small diameter. The heads are also narrow and I can clip both of them to one biner on my harness.
Light is good. I haven't taken the pick weights off - they are essential IMO for ice - but removing them would make these a ridiculously nimble tool for drytooling.
The steepness of the pick makes these an insane hooking tool. If the pick is on (or in) something, it's going to stay there. Period. I have popped them out of the ice but only by doing stupid things.
The price can't be beat: $175 per tool, or even cheaper in pairs (duh...) at MountainTools. com. That's less than half the price of the new Ergos.
OK, now the other side of the story, the Con (and what I did about it):
These tools have the steepest pick angle I've ever seen. They're a full inch steeper (held tool-to-tool) than the green-shaft BD Fusions. I haven't played with the new Ergos but those might be in the same league. The problem with going too steep, and BD may have crossed the line with the orange-shaft Fusions based on what I read online, is that the TOP of the pick strikes the ice and the tool literally bounces off. I had read things like that when those Fusions first came out and - having never had the chance to swing them - chalked it up to pilot error. But it happens, and it's a crazy thing you have to experience to believe. The shaft of the Raptors is really small and that makes them springier than, say, a current (hydroformed shaft) BD tool. This may make the bounce worse. Swing real hard a few times and you'll make a small crater which then you can hook in. But that's not the way I feel ice tools should work. FWIW I see folks climbing this way with Nomics - very few one-swing sticks, but rather a couple quick downward hacks then hooking in the resulting hole.
The solution? I reshaped the tip of the pick, basically removing the metal at the top that hit the ice first. In stock form the Raptor pick is fairly square, like the older BD Cobra and Titan picks. So I rounded the upper "corner" off rather drastically, making it look like a BD Laser pick or the CAMP/Cassin picks. I also removed about 1/16" of the pronounced beak and thinned the tip just a touch by filing the sides (I do this on all my tools. Can you tell I like things pointy?). The idea was to reshape the tip so that a sharp point makes initial contact with the ice, hopefully resulting in a first-swing stick. That still wasn't happening, so I made a concerted effort to swing more frequently from the middle or upper grip position. That shortens the swing radius and brings the pick more nearly in line with the swing line (and therefore striking the ice a bit closer to perpendicularly). And swing harder than I do with my Quarks. A pronounced downwards finish to the swing helps too. The combination of all these seems to do the trick. They still wouldn't be my tool-of-choice for steep smooth ice, or a delicate curtain, or verglas, where blasting a crater to hook in isn't a smart play. But a stepped-out steep pillar? These things make me one happy hooker on that stuff.
Bottom line? They should be a real contender for rock work and for "featured" ice. Definitely not a beginners' tool. Not a "do it all" tool IMO either, but fun to have in the quiver for sure.
If Trango is reading this, please consider a pure ice pick with about 1.5" less drop. Do that and I'll hang up all my other tools.
Edited to add - after posting this I did some reading of online reviews of the new BD Fusions. It is striking how similar the problems are. We all seem to evolve the same response too re. pick and swing adjustment. It seems some tools are simply optimized for hooking steep rock at the expense of pure ice performance.
Last edited by gunkiemike; 02-20-2013 at 01:07 PM. Reason: added an afterthought
02-21-2013, 01:51 PM #2
- Join Date
- Dec 2004
- Western NJ
Great review. Last weekend in the ADKs I tried my new pair of Raptors and experienced some of the same issues you mention in your review. The tools seem to bounce off the hard ice that was prominent on most climbs and several swings were necessary for a decent stick I had taken the pick weights off an attributed the issue to the pronounce lightness of the Raptor and thought on my next outing I would evaluate the tools with more headweight (will post again after this trial). However, after reeading your review I am not expecting much of a difference in terms of how the tools function. I have small hands too and although the grips were somewhat snug, thery were very comfortable and I thought worked well as leashless tools in this perspective. As a note, like you I have been using the original "old" style Quark with clip on leashes since they came out anumber of years ago and love them--so that is also my baseline for comparison; I have never tried the old or new Nomics, Ergos or Fusions.
02-21-2013, 03:38 PM #3
Just an opinion, so take it for what it is worth. Coming from the heavier and original Quark, likely with Cascade picks puts Mike's NEI review into perspective.
I likely will never use the pick weights on my Raptors. And would have no problem recommending the Raptor as a first tool for a beginner set up like that. No pick weights. A beginner is usually open to new technques not knowing anything else.
I would have no problem owning a set of Raptors as my only ice tools. (I generally use a Nomic now) I don't personally modify my picks, Trangos or Petzls. I don't see the need. I would have to open up the grip for my XL size hands how ever.
If I could modify the Raptor I would drop the pick angle 2 maybe 3 degrees. And I'd make the stainless head a hammer face without adding any more weight. And I'd change the grip a bit. Same thing could be said of a current green Fusion. Basically a better Nomic...imagine that But I can live with the Raptor as they are. More importantly if I was looking for a first tool...the Raptor would be a no brainier. IMO it is a better tool than the Fusion. The Raptor could easily take a beginner (or an expert) any where they want to climb long into the future.
A look at the Raptor from my and my partner's perspective, coming from Nomics most recently.
03-12-2013, 10:14 PM #4
Update #2 - I got some second hand info that Trango is indeed working on a pure ice pick for the Raptor. Hopefully less steep, and thinner. I can't wait.
In the meantime if anyone sees me out there swinging my Raptors, ask to see the picks. I have gone WAY beyond what I described above, and they are now totally AWESOME.
03-13-2013, 07:36 PM #5
- Join Date
- Mar 2007
- Easton, Pa
Mike, you showed then to me at Wildcat on Sunday. Very creative, and they looked and felt great. Are you still calling them Raptors, or Quarptors? ;o)
03-13-2013, 11:44 PM #6
03-11-2014, 09:17 AM #7
Time for an update. Two months ago I installed the ice picks on these tools. This new option (the tools still come with the steep, dry tooling-optimized picks) is a touch less steep, as you'd expect. Not enough difference to deliver the sort of "natural swing" of a pure ice tool, but different enough. The tools still require a bit of a downward action at impact, something that most newbies I've loaned them to take a while to learn. But with that minor modification on the part of the user, and a bit of tapering of the top of the tip (think Cassin X tools profile) and taking JUST a bit off the prominent beak, the tools are superb on ice now. I have the pick weights on and feel they're a big assist on hard ice. The ice picks are a relative bargain at $37 apiece.
11-26-2014, 09:46 AM #8
Just pulled the trigger on a pair of the Gen 2's and will write up my thoughts after giving them the run through, but at first glance they are a well made tool, come with a leather pick sheath and allen wrench loop. Great weight in hand, nice feel to the swing and the new angle of the pick seems more reasonable for steep ice and the like. I removed the pick weights and will try them first without and see how they feel. Looking forward to taking these for a test drive in the Ravine this weekend
02-12-2015, 10:58 AM #9
Ok, so I have put some miles under these tools and I have to say that they are definitely growing on me. They are a solidly built tool (7075 T6 aluminum alloy) with and investment cast stainless steel head...very burly but you don't sacrifice weight..they are a relatively light tool weighing in at slightly under the Petzl Nomics.
I first took them out on a late evening solo run on a hooked out Thresher sans pick weights as I wanted to see how the swing was without them. They are a really well balanced tool but the swing is not intuitive. I liken it more to the Nomic with a bit of a flick and a pull at the end of the swing. purchase is good and I did overdrive the tool a couple of times and found the removal to be challenging...detuning the front to teeth would probably help. The tools hook very well and at no time did I feel as though the picks would rock out of the hook placement, The handles are comfortable and the picks displaced an average amount of ice when swinging into virgin territory...less than I expected actually.
The third time out, I added the pick weights and I think I like the swing better. Less effort was needed to drive the picks and I got the tools stuck far fewer times...in fact, I didn't get the picks stuck once on the last climb that we did...two pitches (Grade 3+-4). The tools swing well on steep ice and clearing bulges..again...a bit of a learning curve with the swing, but now that I am used to it, they are pure gold.
I am still a huge fan of my x-all mountains and my x-dreams and really don't see this tool replacing it, but it is going to stay in my quiver...it is really starting to grow on me and I am looking forward to taking them out this weekend on something a little longer and steeper.
I think if I were looking for one tool to do it all, the Trango Raptor II would be in the top three of my choices...just an excellent tool at an amazing price point.