Like its namesake, the Merlin is a wizard: it’s a reliable, basic walking axe that’s a reasonable weight (500g/65cm incl. leash) and still performs well in basic alpine situations.
A nice wide adze facilitates efficient step cutting and the weight and balance are enough that it feels like it’s the tool doing the work, not you. The pick is narrow enough for névé and ice penetration in harder conditions, while cut-outs in the head allow a carabiner to be clipped to the axe.
A smooth, straight aluminium shaft makes this axe very easy to plunge into snow and the ferrule is low profile, but pointed enough that it catches the surface of hard snow well. The axe is supplied with a basic leash.
The Merlin is powder coated (shaft and head) and I noticed this had started to chip off in places after a weekend’s use. Anodising is possibly a better choice for shaft longevity – at least in terms of retaining looks. Where the head and ferrule insert into the shaft of the axe, the manufacturer has used plastic inserts. These are a good option for weight saving, but I suspect the more exposed insert at the bottom of the shaft will wear heavily with frequent use – aluminium would be a more durable option here.
I really liked the Merlin. It’s a nicely balanced, functional ice axe that will be a good companion for tramping, transalpine and basic mountain travel.