Dave takes a look at the all season, all use Alpine axes from sustainable Italians Grivel.
The head, which is hot forged from a single piece of steel, has become an established alpine classic.
I loved my Grivel Air Tech Racing ice axe and it had served me well for many years and an untold amount of UK and Alpine adventures. Eventually it got battered and I began to look for an alternative; more specifically a pair of technical axes that would serve me for Alpine classic routes and Scottish winter Grade III’s. Enter the Grivel AirTech Evolution ice axes. On top of the racing I also have a pair of Air Tech crampons so had confidence that the brand was to be trusted. I wasn’t disappointed and the Air Tech Evolution ice tools have been my trusty companion throughout my summer alpine holiday and my UK winter adventures.
The Air Tech Evolution has been around for some time but there have been some recent changes that have improved the performance, the shaft is slightly curved but not radically so and plunging is great with them. I have been using the 53cm versions which suit my body length and means that they almost feel like my technical tools on steeper ground but I don’t have to bend over too much to cut steps. The whole range comes in 4 sizes 48, 53, 58 and 66cm so there will be a size to suit everybody.
I liked the curved shaft for technical climbing, the Air Tech Evolution was great for slightly steeper routes and even good for hooking snowy rock, I found them most useful as a technical classic tool – so Alpine ridges, steep snow fields, glacier travel, Scottish gullies and even snowy buttress routes would all be fine using these axes. I have been using the adze and hammer pair which seem logical. On my super technical axes I prefer two small hammers as I can sometimes be required to hammer in a peg runner, hex or bulldog. But for a more classic pair an adze is more useful as on steep snowfields cutting steps and small ledges is something I do more often.
The bottom of the shaft has a nice rubber handle to aid secure holding and even using it leashless (I find leashes awkward now but Kev had a minor incident recently where his hand slipped off the shaft of his axe so I have been using them with all axes that don’t have a palm trigger!!!). The standard leash is the Long Leash which works perfectly well but the Air Tech’s will take the new Easy Slider 2.0 leashes with a palm rest which effectively turns the tools into leashless ones and I will definitely be upgrading to these in the New Year. One of the nice features of the Long Leash is that it comes with a rubber spike protector as part of the leash which keeps the leash nice and tidy on your pack.
One of the main reasons I chose to use the Air Tech Racing axe is for the forged head. The Air Tech Evolution has the same hot forged head that is super sharp and really bites well into neve and even ice. The adze is nice and wide and good enough to cut ledges and steps and it has a welcome ergonomically curved section where the adze meets the shaft which makes the axe comfortable to hold all day.
Finally another reason I have started to buy and use Grivel equipment for my Alpine use is their commitment to using Solar power in their Courmayeur HQ. It is a great example of how a company can produce fantastic products at a good price and still remain faithful to the environment, their people and their community. An ethos we can all fall in love with; just as we do with the Italian side of ‘The Hill’.
In conclusion, the Grivel Air Tech Evolution ice axe set is a great ‘semi’ technical set of winter tools that will serve you well through many years of use and abuse. They are light, well balanced and the hot forged head is a great bonus for hooking, bullet hard ice or that super crispy neve we all dream of climbing.
SRP: £130 each for Axe and Hammer
Stockists and from our partner Facewest
Dave Sarkar has tested and reviewed climbing, mountaineering and outdoor equipment for over 10 years. He works as a qualified MIA both in the UK and Internationally: working full time as a mountaineering instructor and expedition leader for his company Wild Spaces. When he isn’t working in the mountains he’s playing in the mountains and enjoys all aspects climbing and mountain sports whether bouldering at his local crag or ice climbing; as long as he’s going upwards he’s happy!
Hello Dave, this is a very well done review. I found it very useful since I am considering the AT Evolution. Out of interest what is your height? Asking because I am wondering about what length to buy. Will be doing activities similar to what you described.
Hi Norm, sorry about the late relpy we’ve been maxed out here! I’, 175cms. I found them a little too long for ice climbing but for Alpine work they were spot on. I hope that helps, Dave.