Grivel North America

Grivel North America

England, Mike
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Alp Wing Ice Axe - $220

What better place to try out new ice-climbing gear than the Genesis area up Hyalite? Using the wide range of routes available—from easy slopers with super-solid ice, to steep mixed routes, to overhanging, highly technical icefalls—my friends and I put the Alp Wing ice tool from Grivel to the test. Going head to head with several other axes, the Alp Wing performed well in all conditions, and ended up being the overall favorite.

“Good balance, it swings nicely,” was one climber’s initial assessment, and as he ascended the ice, he found the hot-forged modular head to be a tad weighty, but extremely strong and durable. The chromolly blade was sharp and penetrated the ice well. By day’s end, he’d decided that the Alp Wing’s interchangeable blade system was just as tough as that of any fixed-blade axe.

We all liked the Alp Wing’s shaft design—bent slightly at the upper end for accurate placement and clearance on bulges, and straight at the lower end for superior leverage and balance on harder swings. We also found the straight bottom helpful for anchoring, self-arrest, and other general mountaineering uses. The shaft’s rubber grip made for better ergonomics and less dependence on the leash.

Leashes are a notoriously personal choice, but everyone seemed happy with Grivel’s padded, wrap-around-the-wrist design. The slip-tight harness drew snug without constricting blood flow to our already-cold fingers. Leash adjustment was time-consuming, and couldn’t be done with gloves on, but that seems to be the nature of the beast—we faced the same challenges with all the other axes.

At 53 centimeters and 24 ounces, the Alp Wing is short and light, which makes it ideal for vertical and near-vertical icefalls. But like most Grivel products, there’s no over-specialization—it’ll do the job on moderately sloping ice and difficult overhangs too.
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