Review: Grivel Trail Three Poles

Posted in: Reviews, Athletes
By Natalie Afonina
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Review: Grivel Trail Three Poles

‘To bring the poles, or not to bring the poles’. That always used to be the question.

Until I started testing Grivel’s Trail Three Pole, I usually opted not to bring poles on ice climbing approaches. They tended to be clunky, heavy, unwieldy. If you weren’t descending the same route you ascended, you’d have to figure out how to holster them in your pack, where they’d awkwardly stick out and catch on things.

Now I bring poles for every approach. Always. They’ve even come with me on a couple bouldering excursions to the bemusement of my pebble-wrestling friends.

Mountaineer people in a line. All are using poles for stability on the slope.Mountaineer people in a line. All are using poles for stability on the slope.
Note how every climber in this photo has at least one pole with them for stability on snow and scree.

Weight: Weighing only 190g each, I’m not concerned about the extra weight hindering my climbing ability. I’m usually an ultralight hound (yes, I’m that person that snaps their toothbrush in half), but I don’t think about throwing these poles in my pack given their feather-light weight.

Natalie scrambling up some rock with Grivel poles visible on her backpack.Natalie scrambling up some rock with Grivel poles visible on her backpack.
When the going gets vertical, I stash the poles and continue on. Even if I’m descending the same way I ascended, I choose to bring the poles with me, because you never know if plans will change and you’re going to need to descend a different way.

Packability: They fold down into a length slightly longer than a Nalgene bottle. No longer do I spend time futzying and cursing trying to stuff two sticks into my pack. They’re so compact, that they easily fit inside a pack or attached to the outside straps (my usual method).

Natalie ice climbing with Grivel poles visible on her pack.Natalie ice climbing with Grivel poles visible on her pack.
Note the poles strapped to the outside of my pack for easy access when doing long approaches that interchange between uphill walking and climbing ice-steps.

Multifunctional: I started off using these poles for approaches to ice climbs. Now they’re my go-to poles for everything. They’re great for skimo and alpine climbing because I can quickly replace one with an ice axe or vice-versa when ascending steep slopes in the North Cascades. I use them for trad approaches, scree-talus navigation to certain sport crags, and recently on trail runs when I know there are significant, steep descents.

Natalie making her way up a snowy chute with skis on her back using the help of Trail Three poles.Natalie making her way up a snowy chute with skis on her back using the help of Trail Three poles.
They’re perfect for skimo alpine traverses because they’re light, easily fit on a pack and provide the stability for when the postholing gets rough.
Natalie atop a mountain holding up both arms in victory. A Grivel ice axe is in one hand a a grivel pole in the other.Natalie atop a mountain holding up both arms in victory. A Grivel ice axe is in one hand a a grivel pole in the other.
On steeper slopes, I’ll often have an ice axe in my upper hand that I can plunge on the slope and a pole in my lower hand for stability.

Let’s talk about why bring poles at all. Like I said, I used to be a purist that didn’t believe in bringing poles. Scree-filled approaches in Cody, river crossings and approach shenanigans of many types over the years have changed my mind. I consider it a safety enhancement to have two extra points for balance.

Stability and a way to take the weight off your knees on steep descents helps reduce pounding. But these poles really shine when you have to cross obstacles. Crossing a tree-bridge you built? The extra balance is reassuring that you’re not about to slip and slide your way into a log jam.

Natalie making her way across river using a log bridge and a Trail Three pole for stability.Natalie making her way across river using a log bridge and a Trail Three pole for stability.
An extra point of contact with the ground never hurt your stability and balance, especially when crossing rickety, self-built bridges.

Crossing a freezing cold river in early winter looking for ice? The poles help keep you from being swept downstream.

Aaron Mulkey is wearing no pants while up to his thighs in cold water. He uses the Grivel poles to keep his footing as he crosses.Aaron Mulkey is wearing no pants while up to his thighs in cold water. He uses the Grivel poles to keep his footing as he crosses.
Aaron Mulkey using the Trail Three poles for balance while crossing a river in the Clark’s Fork in Wyoming this spring.

In summary, bring the Trail poles. As one of my partners likes to say ‘trust me, your knees will thank you in a few years’.

Natalie posing awkwardly while unnesseraily decked out in Grivel gear for a hike through the woods.Natalie posing awkwardly while unnesseraily decked out in Grivel gear for a hike through the woods.
Note: This is not the recommended method for packing these poles if you don’t want to keep getting caught on every shrub and bush in your path.

by Natalie Afonina-

Natalie is a Grivel and Beal athlete. She grew up competitively ballroom dancing but secretly wishing she was an arctic explorer. Inspired by stories of her Soviet mountaineer dad, she booked a one way ticket to the Himalayas when she was 18, where she saw her first ice climbers scaling the frozen waterfalls of the Khumbu Valley. Inspired, she hitchhiked from Seattle to Bozeman with a pair of donated ice tools and crampons she found in her dad's old gear. Since then she's been chasing ice and alpine adventures around the world while working on autonomous robots and engaging in citizen science projects.

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June 1, 2020
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