Grivel: North Machine

Test of Grivel's North Machine ice axes, designed for the most ambitious projects

03 March 2020
Light and versatile, the new version of the Grivel North Machine ice ax is designed to satisfy the most ambitious climbers.

In this strange winter, which has very little of winter, we were able to test Grivel's North Machines in many different situations, from pure ice to total dry, and we also took it to the top of Mont Blanc by one way medium difficulty technique.

Holding a North Machine for the first time, the sensation is immediately that of a solid tool, well made and well finished; the geometry appears at first glance very "straight", but as we will see the versatility of this tool allows a use that goes well beyond the ascent of frozen slopes.

The weight is about 560g for the version with headstock and 580g when mounting the hammer. Both of these accessories offer excellent functionality despite the very low weight; in particular, the hammer offers surprising striking efficiency. On the head of the ice ax there is a very evident ring hole which proves to be very useful, given the dimensions, facilitating the hooking / unhooking operations from material holders and carabiners.

A few placings are enough to appreciate the ease with which the beaks penetrate the ice thanks to an excellent balance, which facilitates their use even on very hard ice that is often found at high altitude.

The rubber of the handle offers excellent grip and is sufficiently extended to allow the coupling of the hands on a tool, which is very useful for hand changes. Despite the "straight" appearance, the handle is comfortable and effective even on vertical and sustained terrains.

In mixed use the beaks give an excellent feeling of solidity. As for ice, geometry is certainly not ideal for extreme degrees, but remains more than enough to tackle most of the technical routes in the Alps.

The lower tip was borrowed from the ski poles. It offers a discreet grip on ice, where a forged tip would be preferable, while it is very good on hard snow, facilitating progression on easy terrain with the pike resting. The simplicity and linearity of construction instead facilitate the penetration of the handle when used as a classic pike on a snowfield.

The only flaw we found is in the points on the upper part of the beak: being a tool designed to tackle great routes in an alpine environment, it is likely that it will also be used for long stretches in support (for example on long snowfields with moderate slope) holding it by the head, and in that case with thin gloves the tips near the handle become rather annoying.

Having used many multipurpose ice axes over the years, we can say that the real strength of the North Machines lies in their simplicity: they have everything you need to deal with the different situations that can be encountered in the high mountains, but nothing more. Thanks to this they offer a unique solidity and versatility.

In conclusion, we can say that the Grivel North Machines are extremely versatile and well-built tools, suitable both for those who need a single tool to practice different disciplines (ice, mixed, dry) at moderate levels, as well as for a high-level mountaineer who he will get the most out of it by using them on technical routes on large walls. They are not indicated for extreme degrees, both on ice and on rock, where more specialized tools will make the difference in achieving performance.

Technical data

  • Certification: CE EN 13089, type 2, UIAA 152
  • Weight: 515 g
  • Dimensions: 47 cm

Paolo Sartori

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