Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: $120 | Compare prices at 8 resellers
Pros: Lightest B-rated ice axe
Cons: Little adze, no spike
Best Uses: Ski mountaineering, moderate snow and glacier routes, backpacking and alpine rock climbs
This is the lightest CEN B-rated ice axe in the world. It is made of 100 percent aluminum and the head is hot forged to dramatically increase its strength and durability. That said, aluminum still isn't as tough as steel. At 7.5 ounces it is 40 percent lighter than any other ice axe we tested. If you are looking for the lightest ice axe or can afford a quiver of axes, then the Corsa great to have. It self arrests smoothly and is strong enough to use as a snow anchor, which makes it useful for more than just ski mountaineers and early season hikers.
While the Corsa is the lightest B-rated ice axe, the Black Diamond Raven Ultra is the most versatile. Ski mountaineers should choose the Ultra while early season hikers and adventure racers should choose the Corsa. Alpine rock climbers will have to choose between the two depending on their needs. The Corsa doesn't pound pickets, chop steps or climb steep snow well. It does self-arrest nicely in the right snow, can be used as a snow anchor and provides a little more security if you are traversing semi-steep snow slopes. If you need an ice axe for only those fundamental applications and weight is the biggest concern, then the Corsa is the best and gets our Editors' Choice award for the ultralight ice axe category.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
A little history
CAMP has been around since 1889, producing ice axes since 1920 and is possibly the world's largest ice axe manufacturer, distributing to more than 65 countries. CAMP stands for Construzione Articoli Montagna Premana, which translates to English as Articles for Mountaineering Made in Premana. Premana is the small mountain village in Italy where founder Nicola Codega started manufacturing. Premana is located at the furthest end of the main valley running north out of Lecco. There are literally no roads running out of Premana other than the road coming in. The town is situated in the pre-Alps just shy of the Swiss border. CAMP still calls Premana home.
My favorite thing about the Corsa is that at 7.5 ounces it is pretty dang light, half the weight of most of the ice axes in this review. The Corsa was pleasant to hold, especially in self belay (Piolet Cane position) where it was near the top of my review. In self belay position it was not nearly as nice as the Black Diamond Raven Ultra or the rest of the Raven series but better than the Snow Walker. While I wouldn't want to climb any steep ice with it, the bottom of the shaft has six machined grooves for better grip while swinging. This is a nice touch for pulling over the occasional bergschrund. As long as the snow wasnt too hard, I found this axe self arrested relatively smoothly. Its spike is plugged up in the larger sizes to keep it from filling with snow, but is not plugged in the 50cm size.
The small aluminum adze chopped steps poorly and dug out tent platforms inadequately. It was at the bottom of the review. It worked well as a deadman but the holes in the adze and at the top of the shaft could have been designed a better to allow a larger range of carabiners to clip in. It was better than its big brother, the CAMP Neve, but not as nice as the Black Diamond Raven Ultra. Its self-arresting was rather average and not great in harder snow.
I would hesitate to pound many pickets with this ice axe for fear of damaging the aluminum head. I whacked away on a few for the review but I never really tested its long-term durability. The aluminum pick doesn't penetrate nearly as well into ice as a steel or titanium pick and dulls far more quickly. It doesn't have a real spike and the 50cm version of the Corsa comes with an unplugged shaft. So the added weight of the snow packing into your ice axe is an unpleasant thought. But I learned to use it to fling snow at my partners and fellow testers.
The Corsa is most at home with ski mountaineers, early season backpackers, alpine rock climbers, adventure racers and anyone else where weight is the biggest factor. Climbers needing only basic requirements of an axe will enjoy the Corsa's nearly unnoticeable weight. Mountaineers looking for a durable axe or one that will chop steps and climb steep snow efficiently will be unhappy with the Corsa's sub-par performance in those categories. Those carrying an ice axe "just in case" will love the Corsa. Climbers with a quiver of axes will find that with it they can save an extra half pound or more on certain general mountaineering trips when conditions are right.
It isn't as versatile as many other ice axes even when compared to its ultra light competitors. So for $120, you only get an axe that excels at specific applications. If those applications are all you need the axe for, then it is not a bad deal.
— Ian Nicholson
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: January 16, 2010
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