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Grivel Quantum Tech Review

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Although many people wear black and yellow crampons, the Grivel tool lineup is often over-looked, much like CAMP, e-tools, etc. But, while I find pretty small niches for their Light and Race models, the Tech tools bring an interesting option to the ice tool debate, which lately has been pretty dominated by BD and Petzl.

 

I've owned my QTs for a little while now, and can give some feedback. Before these I climbed first-gen Cobras, mostly leashless. I've climbed the same routes I tested the Grivels on with first-gen Nomics (Astro w/ weights) and new Vipers with Laser picks. I have climbed a long AI 1-2 snow/ice route, lead, followed, and TR'd WI2 to 4+, and climbed easy mixed to some M6/7 drytooling.

 

Note: The Matrix Tech is the same tool with a slightly heavier aluminum shaft. The Quantum and Matrix Light have the same pick but much straighter shaft, and are similar to the BD Venom or Petzl Aztar. The Matrix and Quantum Tech are all-around tools, focused on the Viper/Cobra/Quark market, but are more aggressive in geometry than any of those.

 

I paid $490 for the pair at the Mountaineer, but prices seem to have gone up to $265 each. This is still quite reasonable. The Matrix Tech, weighing 1oz more per tool was $194 each but has gone up as well.

 

The first thing you notice about the Quantum Tech is how light it is. Mine are 1lb 2.5oz each. The only comparable tools are the new Quarks, which are a little lighter or heavier, depending on the configuration. The weight is one of the things that drove me to these tools - I can put them in my pack for a long alpine trip with some moderate ice, buying myself lots of security for a little extra weight. I dreaded packing the Cobras for such trips - this cuts over a pound off my pack.

 

On low-angle terrain the curved shaft allows a variety of high-grip positions to dagger up easy slopes, easily slipping back into the bottom grip for swinging. This is a little easier than tools with big upper grip rests, but most (all?) of those are adjustable/removable these days, like the Slider you can put on the Grivel. Plunging in hard snow is poor due to the large pinkie rest, but the carbide tip provides security on ice in piolet cane.

 

On moderate ice (WI 3-4, and I assume WI5), the tool really shines. The swing is marvelous, and this is the place where the weight of the tool really shows up. They feel like feathers compared to Nomics or Cobras, and the weight is extremely biased towards the head, making them very much a wrist-flick tool. The Nomics feel very heavy and sluggish by comparison, although on thin ice the Nomic seems to be better at getting those precise peck-peck-peck placements. The Astro picks are also probably not a fair way to judge the ice performance of the Nomic. But, I was really expecting less pump from the Nomic's more aggressive grip, and didn't find it. Instead, I felt the weight of the tool tiring my skinny arms, even after I adapted to the different swing of the Nomic. One other factor - the Grivel has small grips, better suited for little hands. I wear an M glove, those with L or XL mitts might prefer the bigger, more positive Petzl handle. The Petzl was also adjusted to the Large grip setting, so maybe there is some pump-relief I was missing out on. Also, the Nomic protects your hands better. It takes some work to bash your fingers with the Quantum Tech, but it can be done, whereas it's almost impossible with the Nomic.

 

Mixed climbing was much better on the Tech than I'd expected. On overhanging terrain the grip was plenty aggressive, although I'd add a slider for easier matching. The picks have a large un-toothed but aggressively angled area on the tip which allows great purchase on thin edges, and the light weight is again brilliant for precision. The shaft is noticeably flexier than the Nomic. When placing the Nomic on a dime-edge and weighting it, the grip moves down the rock just a little as I apply my 160lb and it flexes in response. The Grivel moves at least twice as much, which is sometimes unsettling, but doesn't really seem to make it climb worse. This is even more noticeable on camming placements and Steinpulls. In general, I can't imagine that there exists a mixed or drytooling route that I could climb on Nomics but not QTs (or vice-versa). However, given the choice, I'd always pick a Nomic for the better ergonomics unless weight was an overriding concern, or if there was a lot of ice.

 

Much cheaper, much lighter, better on ice, nearly as good on rock... yeah, I'm happy I got the QTs. But, they have downsides. They just don't show up in the mountains (usually).

 

The minimalism that gets this weight and cost means they are not easy to maintain. To ensure a light, robust pick attachment, they use an integrated pick/hammer or pick/adze, with three small bolts and nuts. These bolts are mushroomed (hammered flat against the nut) to prevent them coming off. Given the extreme durability of the picks, and lack of pick options, this is not as much of an issue as it could be, but it's annoying coming from the Cobra's elegant system. The $55 pick price is hard to swallow too. If you tend to swap picks for mixed and ice, trade hammer for adze, and/or replace picks often, those could be really major downsides. You can always re-assemble the tool with locknuts and not mushroom the heads, but they are still small nuts and bolts that you could never mess with in the field.

 

Similarly, the pommel appears to not come off. Perhaps Grivel can replace it, I'm not sure. It's also not-adjustable, so if the grip or pommel doesn't fit - look elsewhere.

 

I have not yet climbed on the new Quarks. They appear to have all the light weight of the Quantum Tech, with configurability that makes them even more versatile. If they climb as hard as the QT, the extra cost might be worth it for those looking for an all-around tool.

 

For those looking to make climbing hard ice and mixed as easy as possible, the Nomics and the QTs are pretty evenly matched, although I don't doubt that as you get into really gnarly stuff the Nomics are better. If I stuck to crags and small mountains, the Nomics have a lot to offer. But I'm a weight geek, which is the biggest thing that kept me from them. Plus, my partner has Nomics, so I can borrow them on hard mixed routes when I want the better grips or don't want to mash my $110/pair picks up on thin stuff. :-) For those who don't tend to mess with (or mess up) their tools, the Quantum Tech provides awesome performance and no hassles, assuming they fit you.

 

The Matrix Tech might be the best buy in tools right now, and given how foolproof and versatile they are, are now my default recommendation for a first set of tools (which used to be the Viper).

 

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The Matrix Tech is around $220 now, but still a great deal and they've treated me right. The picks were really the biggest concern for me but they have held up to lots of ice, a little mixed, and plenty of moss/crud top outs--can't deny they could be more versatile, but I'm happy with the compromise. Now that I've swung the Matrix for a couple of seasons I'd be interested to give the Quantums a run to compare.

Thanks for the review.

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The Grivel tools are pretty sweet. Got a pair of the Matrix Lights and made a few mods to them (added Horns and mastic grip tape, subtracted accordeons).

 

I have to say these are probably ideal for most folks, especially as there are some pretty light prices out there (retail is $185), managed to pay $210 for the two tools and another $71 for two Horns and a Grivel Double Spring umbilical set.

 

The accordeons added 1.4 ounces and I couldn't figure what else (Grivel claims they are for "shock absorption", I say to cover up funky cheap/looking head/shaft connection). So they are gone and not missed.

 

Tried a slider and didn't like it as it only sits at the head or the bottom of the shaft and needs a set screw, so it can't give you an upper grip rest like Petzl's new Trigrest.

 

The mastic tape (thanks Dane!) can be had at Home Depot and is Scotch Brand 2228 Electrical Tape. Can't say enough good things about it. First it insulates and second it gives enough grip that I could get by without an second grip rest. VERY worthwhile imho. Really stretch it out when applying.

 

Picks are a bit thick (I guess), but are bomber solid and stick and hook very well.

 

Swing weight rally is the best thing about these tools, they are LIGHT! Especially where one is hooking/flicking more than swinging, the weight really saves one a ton of energy. I was skeptical having always swung heavy tools and liked how they stick, but am sold now.

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Could you post pics of the Matrix Lights without the accordion? I've been thinking of doing the same with mine.

 

I'm interested in trying the new Easy Slider, it looks more positive for vertical ice... I love the horns, but it sucks to have to take them off/put them on if you want to plunge the shaft

Edited by timmaio

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