The absolutely brilliant new Tech Machine Ice Axes from Grivel are, well, brilliant. We've passed them round 5 different testers so far this season and everyone has come back with a resoundingly positive response. These axes work, and they work well.
The Tech Machine axes are available in aluminium (that's what we have) and a lighter carbon version is due out this coming September. The aluminium ones weigh 634g per axe on our scales and are 49cm in length and they retail at £200 per axe.
The geometry of these axes is absolutely spot on, the feel, the swing, the way the tool moves is really, really good. But it is the perfect ice axe? Not quite, but it comes close - here's the full review:
Straight out of the box the 3mm Grivel ice picks are amazing. They are hot forged and they feel really positive, grip brilliantly in ice, hook well on mixed ground and they seem to be lasting pretty well too. They have a great shape, with a hooked point that is, we think, pretty much the perfect pick design. Maximum points here Grivel - well done! The pick is held in by two allen bolts, and is quite easy to remove when you need to change it, but stays totally solid if you don't - simple. You can also get a 4.2mm mixed pick if you want, but we stuck with the 3mm ice pick and haven't managed to break it yet. There's an option to buy an adze or hammer to fit on the mixed pick, but not on the ice pick. We haven't used the mixed pick or the add ons, so can't comment on how well they work, but the ice pick is superb.
The head design is also really simple on the Tech Machine, it is basically a chunky piece of aluminium with a slot that accepts the pick. In the middle of the piece of aluminium is a large hole or eyelet - which acts as a clip-in point. What we really liked about this clip-in point was its size - it is bloody massive, and therefore really easy to use. It accepts carabiners (yep, you can clip 2 in to it) and is really easy to larksfoot a sling in to. It has a nicely finished edge too - it just feels right.
It's a simple aluminium tube shaft that is double riveted at the base and single riveted at the top. The shaft is an aggressive angle, and as we said above the geometry of the axe seems spot on to us for climbing steeper ice and mixed ground. For slabby ice then this tool is perhaps a bit too aggressive, but when the going gets tough, and the ice gets cauliflowered, we thought the Grivel tech Machine was fantastic, with great clearance due to the aggressive angle, and a really positive swing.
Looks-wise - the shaft comes in a nice yellow colour, with a black stripe down the back. Don't expect the stripe to last long though as it is just a piece of black sticky tape
Grivel say that the handle is a dual density foam that reduces shock. We say that it is a fairly narrow feeling handle, but is very comfortable and grippy. There is grip tape on the shaft just above the handle to make the upper grip feel more secure, and it worked pretty well for us, and the lip at the top of the handle workled really well as a handrest for the upper grip position.
The handle is made up of a flat steel piece with rubber riveted on either side and feels really positive. The only concern we had was that you can peel the edges rubber back quite easily up to the rivets, and although the handle is absolutely solidly in position after this season and the rubber doesn't pull over the rivets, we wondered if it would be possible to peel the rubber right off after extended use? I guess we shall see 5 years down the line. As it stands though this is our only concern, and it hasn't actually happened.
There is a clip in point on the base of the handle that is slightly spiked and works fine, accepting carabiners for lanyards, and as far as any large handled axe is concerned can be plunged (kind of) in softer snow.
All in all it's a narrow to medium sized handle that is very comfortable.
Positive: Great swing on steep ground, perfect picks.
Negative: The handle pulls open a little.
Overall: Fantastic tools for steep ice and mixed. We love these tools! Good work Grivel!
What Grivel Say:
If you want a technical, leashless axe for alpine, hard Scottish mixed or steep ice climbing, then The Tech Machine is axe to choose.
The Tech Machine is strong, with a T tested shaft and blade, and light weight. It comes with the Grivel new Ice blade which is tapered (3mm at the point) for excellent penetration, even in brittle ice, yet is strong enough to see you through any tough mixed sections or even a dry tooling session or two. If mixed climbing is your thing, then the optional Mix blade (4.2mm) is available as a direct replacement as well as a hammer and an adze.
The new handle is very comfortable to use over long periods, it's well insulated and includes a spike on the base which is use full for topping out and for use on approach but you can also attach your spring leash to them to keep your tools secure.
The balance of The Tech Machine is quite neutral, rather than being head heavy, which makes it a great all-round technical tool but this can be adapted with the addition of the optional hammer (Mix pick required), making the balance a bit more top heavy meaning a more efficient place on longer routes and ice that's hard to penetrate
- More Info: Grivel Website