Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Comfortable, Great price, okay adze performance, head is easy to clip
Cons: Little on the heavy side, Doesn't penetrate hard ice well, below average steep snow performance.
Best Uses: General mountaineering, moderate snow routes
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
This is a popular ice axe because of its good general mountaineering abilities and excellent price and is the winner of our OutdoorGearLab Best Buy Award. Along with the rest of the Black Diamond Raven family, it is super comfortable to hold whether carrying in self-arrest or self-belay position. It was average in self-arresting but performs poorly in steeper or more complex terrain because of its wider, laser cut pick. If you love this axe but want to save 2.5 ounces, check out the Black Diamond Raven Pro. Or consider the Petzl Glacier which is 4 ounces lighter and climbs steep snow and self-arrests better.
Check out our complete Ice Axe review to see how the Raven compared to all of the products we tested.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Black Diamond Raven preformed average to slightly below average in our side-by-side self-arrest comparison. In softer snow its wider pick helped gather snow to more effectively slow us down; however, when in firmer conditions the Raven struggled to grab a "bite" compared to many of the other ice axes we tested. The Raven features a straight shaft which is fine for self arresting but our testers across the board preferred the additional leverage that a slightly curved shaft provides. We thought the Raven didn't self-arrest as nicely as the Petzl Summit, Petzl Glacier, or the Grivel Evolution but did self-arrest better than the all aluminum CAMP Corsa. We did think all of the ice axes in the Raven family performed about the same in our side-by-side testing.
Steep Ice and Snow Climbing Performance
This is one category where the Raven really struggled compared to most other ice axes on the market. The Raven features a very wide, not-very-aggressive pick that climbs steep snow poorly. It was fine when the snow was soft and any ice would do, but when swinging into ice the Raven was noticeably less secure. Even compared to the similarly shaped and similarly priced, Petzl Glacier the Raven was below average. This is another category where the entire line of Raven Ice axes struggled compared to most other ice axes we tested.
Use As Improvised Anchor
The Black Diamond Raven is CEN-B rated and works well in a "T-Slot or deadman for crevasse rescue. The whole in the top of its head is great for clipping most carabiners and easily accommodates a sling. The spike is well designed and helps assist the Raven to be driven vertically for self anchoring or as a back up while belaying on snow.
The Ravens adze was okay for hacking out icy tent platforms and chopping steps. Its adze didn't penetrating firmer snow or ice as well as most other ice axes we tested including the similarly priced Petzl Glacier or Grivel G1. When it was super firm we had to work noticeably harder to chop the same about of ice away with the Raven. In softer snow while digging T-slots for crevasse rescue the Raven preformed average to above average and could get the job done.
Comfort to carry
The comfort to carry category is where the Raven really shines and it was the most comfortable ice axe to carry in either the self-arrest (pick backward) or the self belay position (pick forward). While other ice axes were hardly uncomfortable the Raven was easily the best. We also felt that the Raven line of ice axes along with the Petzl Glacier and Glacier Litride were the most comfortable to carry for folks with smaller hands.
At 16.1 ounces the Black Diamond Raven is heavier than average compared to ice axes on the market and in our review. For $20 you can get the lighter Petzl Glacier or Black Diamond Raven Pro. The Raven is super heavy, but its on the heavier side of ice axes out there.
Best Applications, Value and the Bottom Line
The Raven is best for generally mountaineering because its comfortable to carry for long periods of time and is good enough at what most general mountaineers need their ice axe for. If climbers are willing to spend an extra $20 we would the Petzl Glacier which is 4 ounces lighter and features a better preforming pick. If You aspire to climb steeper or more complex routes consider the general mountaineering axes the Petzl Summit and the Grivel Evolution or if a lot of steeper alpine ice routes are in your future then check out the Petzl Sum'tec or the Black Diamond Venom.
Other Versions and Accessories
The Black Diamond Raven Pro slightly lighter version that still features a Spike
The Black Diamond Raven Ultra is 4 ounces lighter and does not feature a spike.
— Ian Nicholson
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: January 8, 2014
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