Grivel Taa-k-oon

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Now that leashless ice tools have been around for several years, the designs are becoming more refined. These improvements have led to wide acceptance, not just among the elite mixed climbers but also the weekend warrior ice hacker. The Grivel Taa-k-oon is unique in that it's a tool designed for full leashless performance that can strip down to become a leashed alpine tool.

Most of the leashless tools on the market feature huge handles that place the hand in a somewhat horizontal, rather than vertical, position (e.g., Black Diamond Fusion, Petzl Quark Ergo, Simond Scud, Trango Madame Hook). These designs rotate from the pinkie finger when swinging the tool. By contrast, the Taa-k-oon uses a standard grip with a trigger, which makes the tool rotate from the trigger finger. It's a subtle difference that may take some getting used to. But it offers superb control and a natural swing.

The aluminum shaft of the Taa-k-oon has a double curve that offers good clearance and the desired hand position (somewhat like the old Camp Woodpecker but more refined). At the bottom is a removable pommel that helps support the hand and protects knuckles. The grip is made of silicon so it has good friction and warmth. With the trigger and pommel removed, the shaft is straight enough for plunging into snow.

Grivel offers the Taa-k-oon ($240 now, $250 next season) with either a B-rated Cascade pick for use on brittle ice or a T-rated Mixte pick that is burlier for torquing in cracks. Either an adze or small hammer head can be selected; the hammer can also slot into cracks. With everything attached, the Taa-k-oon weighs 26 ounces (740 grams), fairly average; those desiring a lighter tool can leave the hammer or adze off.

The balance and feel of the tool is superb, with sufficient mass in the head that it just requires a flick of the wrist to set the pick. However, for the tool to work properly, the trigger must be located just right for the given hand size and glove thickness – a tiny adjustment makes a noticeable difference.

Some minor nits: The bolt attaching the trigger juts out and tends to snag things; we cut off the extra with a hacksaw and that solved the problem. If the trigger is removed from the shaft, vice grips are required to re-install it (compresses the band around the shaft). Those with large hands may find the knuckle clearance on the pommel a bit tight.

While some climbers will prefer the mondo grips of other leashless tools, many will find the Taa-k-oon to be an exceptional design of a different ilk. The great feel and versatility make this a good value as well

SNEWS® Applause Meter: 4.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)

Suggested Retail: $250

For more information:www.grivelnorthamerica.com

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