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.
The Black Diamond Raven Pro is 2.5 ounces lighter and slightly more expensive than its little sibling, the Black Diamond Raven, and shares the Raven's comfortable head, the most comfortable we tested. A redesigned pick in 2009 brings a slight increase in steep snow and ice performance. This Ice Axe has a superbly designed adze that chopped steps nicely. It is an excellent all-around ice axe for moderate snow and glacier routes. It excels where weight is an issue such as on alpine rock routes and more challenging ski mountaineering terrain.
If you love all of the features of the Raven but want a little less weight, then this is the ice axe for you. Along with the other Ravens, it is the most comfortable ice axe for either self-arrest or self-belay positions. It is a perfect axe for general mountaineering and is maybe light enough for adventure racers and early season backpackers. It is the second lightest axe to have a real spike and comes at a good price.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Next to the Ushba Altai, the Black Diamond Raven Pro is the lightest ice axe in this review to have a real spike. Like the rest of the Raven family, it has a comfortable head to hold either in self-arrest or self-belay (Piolet Cane) positions. The adze digs out tent platforms quickly and efficiently, performing better than an Ushba Altai and is just a step behind the CAMP Neve. The holes in the head and adze easily facilitate its use as a snow anchor. It is one of the easiest to clip of any axe in the review. It is tied for "smoothest self-arresting axe" with the rest of the Ravens, the REI Yeti and the SMC Capra. The head pounds snow pickets wonderfully and didn't show immediate signs of wear.
When it comes to penetrating hard ice, the pick performs only slightly above average. However, it is improved from the pre-2008 Raven Pro that was slightly below average. On steep, firm snow and ice, it performs slightly better than the Ushba Altai, about the same as the SMC Capra and Camp Neve and slightly worse than a Petzl Summit or Petzl Snowalker.
Similar to the Raven, the Raven Pro is a perfect axe for general mountaineering. Its weight saving is small but it is enough to make "carry over" climbs not such a big deal. It is maybe light enough for adventure racers and early season backpackers. Ski mountaineers who desire a real spike will love this axe. It is not ideal at semi-steep snow and ice climbs (40-60 degrees) or on routes where it might be paired with another ice tool. However, in a pinch it could work.
You pay an extra $20 over the Raven to save 2.5 ounces. For many, that is worth it, especially considering it is $130 less expensive than only lighter axe with a spike: the Ushba Altai.
Black Diamond Raven and the Black Diamond Raven Ultra
— Ian Nicholson
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: August 11, 2010
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