Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Comfortable, light weight.
Cons: Doesn't penetrate hard ice well.
Best Uses: General mountaineering, moderate snow routes, alpine rock routes.
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
This is a popular ice axe because of its excellent general mountaineering abilities and good price. Along with the rest of the Black Diamond Raven family, it is comfortable to hold whether in carrying, self-arrest or self-belay position. It chops steps and cuts tent platforms well but scores just average for penetrating firm ice. It was updated in 2009 with a redesigned pick to penetrate ice better. Black Diamond also anodized the shaft instead of painting it, which lightened it up a bit.
This is an awesome value for a general mountaineering ice axe. It is fairly light and has a comfortable grip and well-designed head. It makes a great improvised snow anchor and takes years of picket pounding punishment. It has everything a climber needs for easy to moderately mountaineering routes. The Raven is a top performer in almost every category. It is slightly above average on steep ice performance. If you love this axe but want to save 2.5 ounces, check out the Black Diamond Raven Pro.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Raven and the entire Raven family is the most comfortable ice axe to hold for long periods of time while wearing any type of glove. It has a great positive, classic shaped pick that worked wonderfully. It is one of the smoother models at self-arresting; nicer than a Petzl Snow Walker or CAMP Neve and about the same as the SMC Capra and REI Yeti. Two holes in the middle of the head help with standing ice axe belays and clipping the axes off for snow anchors. These holes are some of the easiest to clip, which was a relief when our quads were screaming during a crevasse rescue. We never used the adze hole in an anchor but like the option. The adze is well shaped and chops steps and digs out tent platforms better than the Ushba Altai, about equally as well as a SMC Capra and not quite as well as a CAMP Neve. The head also pounds in snow pickets wonderfully and doesn't show immediate signs of wear. One of the Ravens I tested was used by a Rainier mountaineering guide for three seasons, had pounded hundreds of pickets and didn't show much wear. Finally, the Raven is one of the best priced ice axes on the market.
The pick penetrates ice better than the pre-2009 model but not as well as some other axes on the market. It isn't a poor performer; just slightly above average. It climbs steep and firm snow and ice slightly better than the Ushba Altai and CAMP Neve and worse than a Petzl Summit or Snow Walker. This isn't a huge deal on moderate snow and glacier routes.
This axe is fantastic at self-arresting and step chopping. This makes it perfect for general mountaineering and moderate snow climbing. If you climb a lot of steeper snow and ice it might work, but you are probably better off with a different model. It is on the heavier side, which makes it a little less suitable for early season backpackers, adventure racers and ski mountaineers.
This gets the OutdoorGearLab Best Buy award because it is the same weight or lighter than other axes is the $86 and under range.
For the lightest in this model, consider the Black Diamond Raven Ultra. For versatility and lightweight, consider the Black Diamond Raven Pro. Both models were awarded Top Picks.
— Ian Nicholson
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: January 9, 2014
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