There’s lots to like about this no-frills winter hillwalking axe – particularly the comfort-focused head design, with its unusual integrated cover or guard. It’s a feature that makes this a nice axe to use in classic “piolet canne” position, ensuring balance and stability on frozen terrain.
- Very comfortable in the hand
- Well-made and durable
- Relatively inexpensive
- Pick not very aggressive
- Small adze makes step cutting tricky
Grivel G-Zero: first impressions
The Grivel G-Zero comes from an Italian brand that is one of the oldest manufacturers of climbing hardware, with a history that dates all the way back to 1818. They produce everything from highly specialized, technical ice tools to entry-level equipment, such as the hillwalking-focused G-Zero.
This is a well-made axe designed to do the basics well – in other words, it’s a great axe for those setting out on their first winter adventures. It’s available in three different lengths (58cm, 66cm and 74cm) and has an aluminum shaft with a two-piece welded pick and adze. It’s supplied with an adjustable webbing leash with an integrated rubber cover for the spike, which helps to prevent the axe from damaging other kit (or floors!) during storage or travel. Unusually, it’s also available in four colors, which isn’t normally one of the criteria when it comes to choosing an ice axe.
However, the G-Zero’s most distinctive feature is a soft plastic cover that fits over the central portion of the head. Since walking axes are mostly carried by the head, not the shaft, this addition is intended to make it more comfortable to hold in the hand.
As the pick suggests, this is not a technical axe. It is only slightly down-turned with neutral geometry, and the teeth serrations are not particularly sharp. However, it has a strong and sharp bottom spike for reliable traction on smooth, polished ice and easy plunging into deep, soft snow.
So, how did the Grivel G-Zero perform under test conditions for our best ice axe buying guide? Read on…
• RRP: £70 (UK) / €75 (EU)
• Weight (58cm version): 425g / 14.9oz
• Materials: Welded steel head, aluminum shaft, plastic blade cover
• Colors: Black / Green / Pink / Blue
• Available lengths: 58cm / 23in, 66cm / 26in, 74cm / 29in
Grivel G-Zero: on the hills
That unusual head cover certainly works, providing a bit of welcome insulation against the cold steel while also protecting your hands and gloves from the sharp upper edges and teeth of the pick. The cover still leaves enough of the pick exposed to perform a safe self-arrest if needed, though, and if preferred it can be removed altogether.
The G-Zero isn’t such a great performer if you need to swing it. It has decent head weight, but the teeth aren’t particularly sharp, and the shallow pick geometry doesn’t make for super secure placement. Similarly, the adze is relatively narrow and has rounded shoulders – not ideal for step cutting or clearing away snow. Essentially, the head shape is designed more for comfort in the hand than technical performance (see also: How to use an ice axe: wield your ice tool with confidence).
That aside, it’s still a solid winter hillwalking axe. It’s comfortable, reasonably well-balanced and sits squarely in the mid-range when it comes to overall weight. It’s strong and robust enough to perform well as a classic piolet for balance and stability on moderately angled slopes, uneven ground and glaciated terrain. In an emergency scenario it also self-arrests competently enough.
For harder mountaineering routes and steeper, more technical terrain, you might want a T-rated axe with a more aggressive pick, but as a just-in-case safety aid that provides added reassurance on frozen fells, the G-Zero is an ideal companion.
An outdoors writer and editor, Matt Jones has been testing kit in the field for nearly a decade. Having worked for both the Ramblers and the Scouts, he knows one or two things about walking and camping, and loves all things adventure, particularly long-distance backpacking, wild camping and climbing mountains – especially in Wales. He’s based in Snowdonia and last year thru-hiked the Cambrian Way, which runs for 298 miles from Cardiff to Conwy, with a total ascent of 73,700 feet – that’s nearly 2½ times the height of Everest. Follow Matt on Instagram and Twitter.
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