Some might see this as an old-fashioned looking axe, but we’d prefer to call its distinctive head shape a “classic”. Though the unaggressive pick isn’t the best choice for the steepest terrain, it’s a superb traditional piolet that is also undoubtedly built to last, with a one-piece, hot-forged head.
Well-made and durable
Solid and well-balanced
Pick not very aggressive
Small adze makes step cutting tricky
Small hole in head doesn’t work with all carabiners
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Grivel G1 Plus: first impressions
The Grivel G1 Plus is perhaps the most classical ice axe we reviewed for our best ice axe buying guide. Its traditional looks make it one for the purists. But it also takes advantage of the Italian brand’s long and well-established manufacturing expertise, boasting a one-piece hot-forged head. These days, it’s relatively unusual for a company to hot forge components for non-technical climbing hardware – you might find them in specialist ice tools, but most B-rated axe picks are now made from cold-rolled steel, which is then welded to an adze – a cheaper and quicker way to build axes.
In contrast, the G1 is a bit of a design rarity, a throwback even. But the result is that it feels extremely solid and well-balanced, with an ergonomic head that lacks any unsightly welding joints. It has an extended pick with very little downturn, a rounded upper edge and a neutral angle. The adze is relatively small, with rounded shoulders, and the head has a small carabiner hole. The shaft has a rubber grip at the lower end though, and the bottom spike is pronounced and robust.
• RRP: £86 (UK) / €101.30 (EU)
• Weight (58cm version): 440g / 15.5oz
• Materials: Hot-forged steel head, aluminum shaft
• Available lengths: 58cm / 23in, 66cm / 26in, 74cm / 29in
Grivel G1 Plus: on the hills
The pick is the least aggressive of the axes on test and the adze is fairly narrow, with rounded shoulders. This makes it very comfortable to hold in the hand but comes with a slight cost in technical performance. Having said that, it has enough heft and head weight to swing with confidence. The Plus model also adds a rubber grip at the bottom of the shaft for a more secure feel. The teeth aren’t particularly sharp though. Similarly, the adze is not the best if you’re doing a lot of step cutting or clearing away snow. (For more on what to consider when buying a new ice axe, see how to choose an ice axe).
Then again, it’s primarily designed for hillwalking and glacier hiking, and when held in piolet position, you really appreciate its solidity and balance, especially in the longer 66 and 74cm lengths. Like other Grivel axes, 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.
There’s no doubt that this is a strong, robust and reliable piolet. That hot-forged head is undoubtedly something special too, ensuring the G1 looks and feels like a high-quality bit of kit – this is an axe that has been crafted rather than just manufactured.
On the hills and mountains, it’s also a competent companion, providing a stable third point of contact on moderately angled slopes, uneven ground and glaciated terrain. In an emergency scenario it also self-arrests decently, thanks to that extended pick (see also: How to use an ice axe: wield your ice tool with confidence). If you don’t need to climb steep snow and prefer a more traditional Alpine-style axe, this is a superlative choice.
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.