Kurt is an avid mountaineer who tests and reviews gear so you don't have to!
The Grivel Mont Blanc Nepal SA Ice Axe is a non-technical mountaineering tool intended for snow and glacier travel.
- Price: $90 USD
- Recommended Use: Basic snow and glacier travel
- Material: Carbon steel Aluminum shaft, hot forged carbon steel head
- Hot Forged: Yes
- Blade Type: Classical negative
- Horizontal Resistance: 280 B
- Weight: 480 grams
- Total Length Options: 58-66-74 (cm)
I won't lie: I initially purchased this axe because it said Mont Blanc on it and I was waiting in Chamonix for a weather window to climb it. As I'd only borrowed before, this was the first axe I've purchased.
There is no disputing that the axe is visually aesthetic. The bright red paint pops and the long, clean lines make it feel sleek and sophisticated. Although not the lightest, it was reasonableness weight for the size and comfortable to hold. The pick angle appeared adequate, the adze looked large although lacking a hole and the included leash just sweetened the deal.
I typically carry my axe pick forward in the self-belay position with the pick facing forward and the palm of my hand resting on the adze. It the adze is a fair size it provides a comfortable resting position. I couldn't figure out how best to hold the leash at first so after much experimenting I opted to loop the wrist strap over the pick and adze to hang around the shaft and wedge my hand through the strap before reaching back up to rest atop the adze. This enables me to plunge the spike into snow without much effort and carry the axe without maintaining a death grip. If anyone asks for it I'll post a demonstration video.
For general mountaineering the spike of the axe is most important than the pick as it will be plunged into the ground often on less technical terrain. The Nepal SA was able to penetrate into hard snow easily but often took a few extra pokes to get into harder ice. It wasn't difficult to push in and easy to remove afterwards. The shape of the headset was comfortable in both hands, possibly due to the small piece of pipe insulation I duct taped to it to prevent the conduction of cold into my hands. There were no sharp edges or teeth where they shouldn't be and I didn't have blisters of and rips in my gloves.
Personally,I believe this is the most important test a general axe must pass. You hope you'll never have to know how capable it is but when called upon you must know it'll perform. The Nepal has a slight curve in the shaft which I found very comfortable to lean against.
When practising self arrests I found that the angle perfect contoured along my torso between my hip and shoulder and I could really crank down into the ice to slow my descent. That little arch placed the pick in the perfect angle to dig into. I couldn't be happier with its performance.
I would have preferred if the adze were slightly deeper and a little wider to speed up shovelling and cutting but the angles were good and it did accomplish the job. For simple step cutting it worked perfectly. The axe swung easily and sliced nicely into the hard-packed snow.
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I also tried chopping out a few bollards and digging a hole for a deadman anchor. Both of these took far too long than would be required in a situation to warrant their use. The jobs were eventually accomplished to a satisfactory degree but I would not want to rely solely on this to carve out a snow cave during an unplanned bivy.
Nevertheless, it proved to be a very versatile tool particularly on moderate terrain where a few quick chops allowed me to pass tricky sections of ice without requiring crampons.
This is a B-Rated classic alpine axe and is not intended for technical climbing, nor is it built to the specifications required. That said, in a pinch it did perform admirably. The angle of the pick nicely complements the natural swing of the arm making both placing and cleaning simple.
I would be extremely leery of administrating lateral or twisting forces on the curved shaft as it would surely not survive. However, for maintaining your balance, free climbing something you probably shouldn't be or getting that last little pull over an obstacle whilst fatigued the Nepal SA will do. It simply requires much more care when climbing on steeper ground due to the limited hook ability.
Perfect for Beginner Climbers
The Grivel Mont Blanc Nepal SA Ice Axe met and exceeded all my expectations. It is an ideal tool for trekking, non-technical climbs and glacial travel. The curved shaft certainly speeds up the learning curve when in the hands of a beginner, making it an excellent choice for rental programs, schools or loaning to a friend.
I would give this axe five stars for its suitability for a beginner climber but to me it is merely a four out of five overall. The added weight would prevent me from bringing this on an extended trek but overall I am quite pleased.
Grivel Nepal SA Rating
The purpose of my reviews is to offer the reading audience an objective opinion, so they can make an informed decision before buying. All my reviews, opinions, and everything expressed here are my own and based on my experience with a product. I am not affiliated with any of the brands mentioned on my blog nor do I endorse them and they do not endorse me. I am not paid for my reviews. Occasionally, I am provided free products for review, in which case I will make that abundantly clear. Anything discussed on this site is expressed as my own opinion and I reserve the right to my own opinion when discussing my experiences, products, or anything else.
Mountaineering is inherently dangerous. Any information provided is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for advice by a trained professional. Please ensure you're climbing within your skill level and receive appropriate training before embarking on any potentially dangerous activities.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2014 Kurt Morrison