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Hands-on Gear Review
Grivel Air Tech Evolution Review
Cons: Expensive, a little on the heavy side.
The Grivel Air Tech Evolution (often shorted to Grivel Evo) is one of our former award winners that remains an excellent all-around axe that is designed down to the finest detail. It was our over-all favorite ice axes until Petzl released the Summit Evo which has a similar pick and adze, but a more ergonomic shaft that is more comfortable for steep snow climbing and is a little lighter weight. The Evo is one of the few T-rated ice axes in this review. T stands for Technical and refers to its shaft and pick being rated to 400kg. It sports a hot-forged chromoly steel pick and adze that will chop steps as well as any axe I tested. Its hot-forged pick is extremely durably and provides incredible ice incursion capabilities. The Evo climbs steep, firm ice as well as could be asked from a classic curved pick. Grivel was founded in 1818 and is the oldest ice axe manufacturer in the world today.
If extreme toughness and top-notch steep snow performance are priorities, then this is fantastic ice axe. If you are looking for a simple ice axe for general mountaineering, you can save a few dollars and ounces with another axe. But if there are steep alpine couloirs in your future or if you expect a lifetime of climbing, the Evo makes a great choice.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The entire head is hot-forged, which makes it stronger and thinner (for better ice penetration) than laser-cut or stamped models. This head, combined with its T-rated shaft, makes the Evo the toughest in the review. The shaft has a gentle curve just below the head, giving it greater clearance when climbing steeper snow and ice. Also, like the other ice axes with a slight bend, I liked the added "power" while self-arresting. It climbed firm ice better than nearly all the ice axes I looked at; similarly to the Petzl Summit and not quite as well as the Petzl Sum'Tec or the Black Diamond Venom. The hole in the middle of the head easily accepts a carabiner and the spike helps facilitate a vertical anchor extremely well. The Evo was one of the best step choppers no matter how hard the ice was. We thought it was similar to the Petzl Sum'Tec and Petzl Summit and outperformed the rest of the ice axes in the review. I have personally pounded over a thousand pickets with my own Evo and have seen very little wear. The hot forged chromoly steel head and T rating mean this axe is built to last.
This is the heaviest non-modular ice axe tested. It is also the second most expensive ice axe in this review. While it scored low for comfort, it was still comfortable enough. It has a larger bias (as many European ice axes do) to the self belay position.
This axe is best on steeper routes where you need to penetrate hard ice and don't mind carrying a few extra ounces. It pounds thousands of pickets without much wear, which makes this a good choice for guides and instructors or those who are extremely hard on their gear. Since it is heavy, it isn't an ideal choice for ski mountaineers, early season backpackers or alpine rock climbers. It is a sensational choice for 40-60 degree routes by itself and 75-degree routes when paired with an ice tool.
This is the second most expensive ice axe in the review, but it brings a lot to the table. It is an ice axe that can last you a lifetime if you are gentle on your gear, or at least a decade if you put serious hurt on your gear.
— Ian Nicholson
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