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Black Diamond Raven Review

   
Best Buy Award

Ice Axes

  • Currently 4.2/5
Overall avg rating 4.2 of 5 based on 5 reviews. Most recent review: January 16, 2014
Street Price:   Varies from $71 - $100 | Compare prices at 9 resellers
Pros:  Comfortable, light weight.
Cons:  Doesn't penetrate hard ice well.
Best Uses:  General mountaineering, moderate snow routes, alpine rock routes.
User Rating:     
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  • 5
 (4.3 of 5) based on 4 reviews
Recommendations:  100% of reviewers (3/3) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
Review by: Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ January 16, 2014  
Overview
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

Likes
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.

Dislikes
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.

Best Application
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.

Value:
This gets the OutdoorGearLab Best Buy award because it is the same weight or lighter than other axes is the $86 and under range.

Ian Nicholson

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: January 16, 2014
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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  • 5
 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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  • 5
 (4.3)

100% of 3 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
4 Total Ratings
5 star: 25%  (1)
4 star: 75%  (3)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 4 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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   Jul 9, 2011 - 02:32am
WML · Climber · Edge of the Electric Ocean Beneath Red Rock
Basic ice axe. Really cannot go wrong with this, if you think you have, then you are overthinking it for general mountaineering/slogging.


Slog on!

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Sep 26, 2010 - 03:57pm
 
SteveW · Climber · The state of confusion
For a light axe, it did the trick on the West Rib of Denali.
Much better than the Raven Pro--it had enough heft to dig
out a tent platform from water ice where the Pro model just
bounced off.
Like my piolet, I wouldn't trade it for all the tea in China,
or all the Sierra Nevada Pale I could drink. . .
hee hee hee. . .
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   Apr 7, 2010 - 03:35am
White Lightning · Climber · Seattle, WA
I agree that it gets the job done….and it can take a beating. I carry a lighter axe for alpine rock climbs…but the Raven is my work horse.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Mar 10, 2010 - 01:48am
le_bruce · Climber · Oakland, CA
Has gotten the job done for me, and the price is right.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe
Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe
Credit: Steve
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Seller Price
Amazon $70.93  -  11% off!
Backcountry $71.95  -  10% off!
Oregon Mountain Community $74.54  -  7% off!
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Related Best-in-Class Review
Picking the Best Ice Axe

Picking the Best Ice Axe

We looked at 14 different ice axes and compared them head-to-head on tasks from self arrest to chopping steps.
Helpful Buying Tips
How to Choose the Best Ice Axe - Click for details
 How to Choose the Best Ice Axe

by Ian Nicholson
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