Having used an array of ice tools starting from the Trango Captain Hooks to the Cassin X-Dreams I thought I knew what I wanted and expected from ice tools.  Once I got my hands on the Grivel Carbon North Machines though… my mind was forever changed regarding what a good ice tool feels like. Anyone looking for an all around workhorse tool for ice climbing should look no further.

3 ice tools comparison

In my five years of ice climbing I have climbed with my own first set of straight shaft tools, borrowed friends new state of the art tools, and demoed a handful of different brands and styles. When I got the Carbon North Machines for an upcoming ice climbing trip to Norway I assumed that they would be good tools and left it at that. Upon my first time swinging them, however, my opinion quickly changed. They genuinely made ice climbing easier by making solid placements with ease on the first set.


Weight – I understand that carbon products are inherently lighter than alternative materials but I was amazed at how much lighter these tools (445 grams, no hammer/adze) were than my last pair, Cassin X-Dreams (600 grams, no hammer/adze). This lightness lent itself to more endurance while climbing and easier, solid placements on long routes once the pump began to set in.

Feel – The rubber handle on the North Machine lends itself to several different grip positions and easy transfer of tools when climbing more technical flows. The carbon is also warmer than the metal alternatives when holding the upper side of the tool.

I am still going back and forth on the upper pommel. I like the streamlined nature of the North because it feels a bit less cumbersome but I miss the upper grip when I need to match or switch on a tool.

The pinky rest is also narrow, so the tool can be used for plunging.

Blades – I have both the Ice and Mixed Plus blades, however, I only climbed with the Ice blade during the 2018/2019 winter season. That being said I did a small amount of mixed climbing with the Ice blade and at no point did I feel insecure with my placements and hooking.

All of Grivel’s ice tool picks are hot-forged in Italy and are T-rated (Technical vs Basic on the certification testing).

The mixed blade has a more severe downward angle compared to the Ice blade. The Mixed blade also tapers to a wider 4.2mm compared to the Ice blade which tapers to 3mm wide. The weight stays quite similar.

carbon north machine picks

Versatility – These tools have interchangeable blades for ice and mixed climbing as well as interchangeable hammer and shovel (adze) attachments. Also, the tool shafts are double bent which makes them feel like a hybrid between 2-grip tools and more straight shaft tools thus making them comfortable and functional on low angle and vertical ice.

carbon north machine heads

As you see in the photo, I use a 2 hammer setup. Rarely when purely ice climbing do I find myself needing the shovel. It’s more convenient to have hammers on both for breaking up ice or tapping screws the final few turns and not have to worry about switching tools in order to do so. When I take tools into the alpine I will usually take one of my older straight shaft tools that has the shovel. Probably more out of habit than anything though.

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Price – Price is hard for me to directly review because I did receive this pair for free, in exchange for an unbiased review of the features.

All ice tools are damn expensive. Given the amount of value that I have derived from climbing with the Grivel Carbon North Machine I am amazed that they are available for a similar price as other tools in their class (all between $250 and $300 a piece).

WI5 and above – I can’t say how these tools hold up beyond WI5 because I haven’t tested them there yet. When climbing the handful of WI5 routes that I did I felt that some placements were easier with the X-Dreams.


None – After a season of climbing ice with these tools I genuinely found no cons and can firmly say that these are my favorite ice tools that I have ever used. 

WI5 and above – I am always hesitant to give the tool too much credit/blame, because more often than not I am to blame, but as the ice gets steeper I think that the overall geometry of the X-Dream is more favorable when it comes to ease of placement. Trying to get a solid placement on overhanging ice with the North Machines I find myself often smacking my knuckles. On vertical to slab though the North Machines reign supreme.

Other Impressive Sounding Features

Aerospace Carbon Composite construction – I am no aerospace engineer but, let’s be honest, knowing that these tools come equipped with aerospace carbon is pretty sweet.

Editors note: There is no “aerospace” grade of carbon. This is a just fancy way of saying carbon. This tool does have an advanced shape in the shaft. The cross-section is like a dog bone (Grivel calls this the “G-bone”), that adds an enhanced grip for your fingers.

Story Time

The first ice tools I owned were Trango Captain Hooks followed by Black Diamond Cobras and, most recently, Cassin X-Dreams. While I was very happy with my X-Dreams I don’t know that I can go back to them after climbing with the Carbon North Machines for a season. More than weight, aesthetics, or any other detail, the key determining factor is the ease of use. With little more than the flick of a wrist the tools made near perfect placements every time. This coupled with the light weight made long, daunting lines all the more enjoyable and kept the pump and barfies at bay.  

3 pairs of ice tools

Winter is now upon us here in Wyoming and I am looking forward to getting after my winter activities once again. In a sport known for suffering and Type II fun these tools undoubtedly helped me have a better time and feel more confident pushing outside of my own comfort zones into more difficult terrain. Over the past season I used my North Machines primarily on ice but I am excited to see how they hold up in the alpine this winter for ski mountaineering.

Looking up at the next objective, a stunning WI4 in Rjukan, Norway

Looking to buy?

Here are the current prices for US buying options for the North Machine: