Grivel of Italy are a world leading manufacturer of ice tools. The Grivel North Machine Carbon, weighing as little as 450 grams, is a lightweight, well balanced, technical tool intended for high-performance climbing.

This is a very technical tool made with a a hot-forged, chromolly steel head, an easy-to-grip rubber handle, and a composite shaft, using primarily carbon.


Grivel Machine: A Little History

Grivel began hot-forging ice axes in 1818, when the Grivel family of Italy started creating some of the first mountaineering-specific tools. In ice axe and ice tool development, Grivel has been an industry leader for radical new designs. The North Machine Carbon is just one model in a range of Machine tools.

In 1986, Grivel made the first carbon-fibre shafts for ice axes. In 1996, the Machine tool was made. This was revolutionary in ice tool design, because it had a radically curved shaft. In 1998, after tinkering with the design for use in climbing competitions, the Top Machine tool was released, which had some small tweaks to an already high-performance tool.

More recently, Grivel released the Machine 3.0 and the Tech Machine (both with two grips), the Light Machine (with an aluminium alloy shaft and a sliding pinky rest) and now the North Machine Carbon.

All the Grivel ice axes and tools are made in Italy, hot-forged and made with energy that was collected by solar panels.


What it's For

As the name suggests, the North Machine ice axe was designed with features that make it excel on north-facing slopes. In the northern hemisphere, that implies shaded slopes with cool conditions and, generally, more ice. In the southern hemisphere, it's ideally suited to climbing south faces, where you get a variety of terrain types.



Curved, Composite Shaft

The North Machine Carbon features what Grivel calls their G-Bone shaft. If you were to take a cross-section of the shaft, it loosely resembles a dog's bone. This structure strengthens the shaft, giving it increased rigidity. Plus, it gives exceptionally good grip.

The carbon shaft is remarkably warm. Even while wearing a pair of gloves, an ice tool constructed of an aluminium alloy is cold. When climbing in the cold, conserving your warmth is essential. The carbon shaft insulates, allowing warmth to stay in your hand, instead of warming up the ice tool.

The North Machine Carbon's curved shaft and handle design gives it good clearance, keeping your hands clear of ice and rock formations. In fact, this is the same shaft design as on the Grivel Quantum Tech ice axe, which the North Machine Carbon replaces in Grivel's range of ice axes.


Small, Plastic Pinky Rest

The pinky rest helps you conserve energy when you're climbing. It's particularly important when you're climbing leashless. What's more, it protects your fingers from getting bashed by the terrain.

Also, this pinky rest has a relatively small surface area. It's small enough that it's not going to impede you too much when you're plunging the shaft into a surface of snow and ice.

Further, a large clip-in point here accepts attachments for your ice tool tethers.


Carbide Tip

At the bottom end of the ice axe, there is a tip made of carbide. This is much the same as what you'd find on the tip of a trekking pole. This tip gives you good traction on any mountain terrain, particularly if you use the ice axe in the cane position (piolet canne), as a walking aid.


Customisable Picks

You can customise the North Machine with a few different picks. You can kit it out with either an ice pick or an mixed pick.

The mixed is a more severely angled pick. It tapers to a width of 4.2mm at the point.

The ice pick tapers to 3mm and has a less severe angle.

There isn't much of a weight difference, but there is a practical difference. The narrower ice blade is more easily placed in ice (and also more easily removed). The mixed blade is ideally suited to giving a very hard time on rock.

All of the picks you can buy for Grivel's Machine tools are T-rated. They're all hot-forged. There is also a big clip-in point, as across all of the Machine range.


Shovel and Hammer Versions

Grivel makes the North Machine in a few different versions. (The mounts at the back of the picks accommodate either a hammer or a shovel.)

You can buy it in the shovel, which is good for clearing away snow and rotten ice.

You can buy it in the hammer, which is suited for pounding in pitons, and driving in snow stakes. This particular hammer is a very usable, good size.

If you're going to buy the North Machine Carbon with the ice plus blade with the hammer, that increases the weight of the tool to 550 grams.

Instead of going with either the ice or mixed blades that have the attachment point for the hammer, the final way you can buy this tool is with the pick that lacks both the shovel and the hammer. This brings the weight from 550 grams down to 450 grams.

Even with the shovel or the hammer, the North Machine Carbon is still a very light tool. Most of the weight is in the head, because the carbon composite is so light. That means, with just a simple flick of the wrist and good technique, this tool places very easily into ice.



This is the tool for your technical alpinism if you're after a tool that is lightweight, well balanced, insulated, has great grip and is forged.


See more on the North Machine Carbon

See our range of Grivel products

See more ice axes


More articles:

Mountaineering, Gear and Mishaps

Climbing Austria's Highest Mountain (Grossglockner 3798m)

Climbing Mt Kenya: Hard Decisions on The Ice Window