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mike kann, Dec 2010
© Caspian James A pole's a pole right? That's what I thought until I saw the Grivel Trail pole on a stand in Snellsport in Chamonix. It looked different to the other poles on the stand – lighter and sleeker with no lumpy plastic joints. On closer inspection I realised that the pole folds up a bit like an avalanche probe. This I immediately realised was a revolution in poles!
That's a dramatic statement, but here's why it's true. If you've ever used poles to walk into routes before you will know how utterly irritating it is to get to the bottom of the route, to collapse your poles and then have to strap them to the outside of your pack. They then spend the rest of the day catching on anything it is possible to catch on and by the end of the day you're thoroughly hacked off with them and question whether they are worth the bother.
Next time you decide to go without, you think this time you will go light and will not need them. Half way up the hill you realise that even your light pack isn't that light and you're already wishing you had them with you and by half way back down again, you've totally changed your mind and they are now the best things since sliced doughnuts.
And there lies the conundrum – something you can't live with, and something you can't live without. Well here's the answer – a four-part pole that is lighter and folds down smaller than a telescopic pole so that it fits inside your pack with ease! In theory these Grivel Trail Poles should eliminate the minuses and just be a dream...
What do you get for £80? A pair of 4-part poles, which weigh 460g for the pair – lighter than BD's Carbon Alpine poles, one of the top of the range telescopic poles.
"...So in theory these should eliminate the minuses and just be a dream..."
It's an interesting design: the individual parts are kept together with a sturdy plastic sheathed steel cable. Once you slide the bottom two sections together you can then slide out the telescopic section, which is hidden inside the upper section of the pole. It clicks into place with a spring-loaded button to make it rigid. Once assembled, the poles' length cannot be changed.
The wrist loop can be used in a variety of ways. Firstly, it is has a Velcro strap to keep the sections together making it easy to handle. Being attached to the strap means you will never lose it. Secondly, you can slip your hand through the long loop and cinch the yellow strap down over your wrist, a bit like an ice axe wrist loop. And finally, you can use the loop a bit like on a standard ski pole, slipping your hand in from below and then trapping the strap under the palm of your hand.
Nearly the entire upper section of the pole is covered in soft rubber foam for grip and comfort, allowing you to hold the pole in many different positions and negating the need for length adjustment. Instead the poles come in two lengths: 115cm and 125cm. Last but not least, there is a small fixed basket and a carbide tip. (You can also buy the Himalaya pole with a more advanced basket for more snowy conditions.)
"...I've had them on trial for several months, with trips to Cornwall, the Lakes, Glencoe and the Brecon Beacons, so I've given them a pretty thorough thrashing..."
So do they deliver?
In a word, yes. I've now had them on trial for several months, with trips to Cornwall, the Lakes, Glencoe and the Brecon Beacons, so I feel I have given them a pretty thorough thrashing. Yes there are compromises but these are comparatively minor. The pluses are that the poles are light, strong, stiff and easy to assemble.
The minuses are that the basket is too small for soft snow use (see the Himalaya pole for a larger more effective basket) and the attempt at an innovative wrist strap doesn't really work - I ended up using them as I have always used pole straps. In fact the new position for holding the pole is actually not comfortable so I just ignored it and used the yellow strap for keeping the pole sections together.
Are they worth £80? Absolutely yes. Considering that most poles retail anywhere from £60 upwards, these sit in the middle of the range and in my opinion outshine most other poles in terms of performance. Well done Grivel for a brilliant piece of product design.
Grivel Trail Pole
A simple push on the button unlocks the system and the lower section slides into the upper tube. A simple pull to lengthen it, a click on the button and the system blocks. The exact point is indicated by a coloured line showing where upper section meets up and by the hand symbol showing where the spring releases blocking the system. Grip in super light and soft EVA covers the whole upper part so it can be held wherever preferred. Basket and spike in one piece, very compact with the long lasting and resistant tip in carbite, sinterised material.
MORE INFO: on the Grivel website.
About Mike Kann
I've been mucking about with ropes and falling off stuff since my very first visit to Pontresina, when my mum bought me a whole metre of red 5mm cord. Since then I've been moderately obsessed, with trips all over the Alps, the Dolomites, the US, Jordan and of course around our little island. In real life I design and build machines for a very poor living and really would much rather be out climbing...
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