Amazingly light tools
- Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions
I purchased these at the end of ice season after climbing on friends' Quantum Carbons. Compared to my 2nd gen Cobras the Grivel tools felt very light, yet seemed to get one-swing sticks most of the time. One of my reasons for wanting to move on from Cobras is that I didn't seem to be getting those one-swing placements with them. Also, I got tired of the subtle weight shift when I move up the shaft of the Cobras; except for blasted-in placements, moving from lower to upper position would cause the pick to rock. Usually the placement would hold, but spooky nonetheless.. The double-bend shafts of the North Machines are a good compromise between the security of 2-grip tools like Nomics (which I came to love on this last trip) and the clean lines of Cobras. The second position on the North Machines is just a nubbin at the bottom of the upper curve, but based on my experience with the Quantum Carbons it will be enough. Finally, I love the picks on the Quantums, and the North Machine picks look like more of the same hot-forged goodness.
Carbon shafts; tape will be required. Also, I will wrap the upper shafts, just below the heads, with old bike tube to protect the carbon shafts. I don't expect any of this to affect the swing or the overall lightness.
I've climbed on a succession of Black Diamond tools for more than 20 years. I still love the sleek lines of my Cobras. If I did more true alpine climbing I might appreciate the Cobras more. However, based on my recent experiences I'm ready to shake it up a bit. Looking forward to getting some ice time on the North Machines. Hoping with more use I can move this to 5 stars..
2020 addition: after the 2019/2020 ice season I can indeed move to 5 stars. These tools are remarkable - light and slim, yet the picks sink even in hard ice with just a flick of the wrist. I taped the shafts with hockey tape for grip, which helps a lot. A mate brought me one of the Ice Vario picks from the UK; these are significantly better (IMO) than the supplied picks, solid sticks from even the lowest energy swing. The tools don't shift when transferring from the pommel to the mid-shaft grip position. The tools are easy, confidence-inspiring, to climb on. Now to find a second Ice Vario pick, and get some ice this winter.
Thanks so much for posting this amazing review, we really appreciate it!