Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: $239.00
Pros: Lightweight, works well on steeper snow and ice climbs.
Cons: Expensive, not as hard as steel.
Best Uses: Alpine climbing, carry over alpine rock routes, routes or activities where weight is a factor.
This axe is 100 percent titanium (it will never rust or corrode) and is the lightest axe reviewed that comes with a fully functional spike. It is also by far the most expensive ice axe we looked at, as much as three times more expensive than the competition. Partially because of the price and partially because of limited distribution, this axe can be hard to find. If you're looking for something similar in price, consider the Black Diamond Raven Pro, Top Pick Award winner, or the CAMP Corsa, Editor's Choice Award Winner.
This is one of the better performing and lightest ice axes, which makes it a good choice for most climbers. It's biggest downside is the $240 price tag. The titanium is a little softer than steel but more durable than aluminum. Ian Nicholson has owned his for nine years and it is holding up great, but that is because he doesn't use it when guiding. It is excellent if you want real features at and ultralight weight and are not scared of the price.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
This axe is strong and light. It easily becomes a vertsatile snow anchor because of the large holes in the middle of the head and adze hole. Along with the Black Diamond Raven family, it is the easiest to use when in a hurry. The Altai is made of 100 percent titanium and at 12.5 ounces is lightest we tested with a fully functional spike. It was nearly lighter than any of the steel-headed ice axes we tested. Its pick climbed steeper snow pretty well, about the same as a Petzl Snow Walker and little better than the SMC Capra or Black Diamond Raven while not as good as a Grivel Air Tech Evolution or Petzl Summit. It was only average at chopping steps; it performs about the same as a REI Yeti and not as well as a Black Diamond Raven. We really liked its longer spike, which helped us drive the shaft vertically into the snow. Its spike penetrates firm snow easily and as well as could be expected on hard ice. The Altai was slightly above average for self-arresting; a little smoother than a Petzl Sum'Tec and not quite as smooth as a REI Yeti or a Black Diamond Raven. The titanium will last longer than the aluminum-headed models but probably not as long as steel-headed models.
It is $70 more than any other ice axe in this review and hard to find. Since it is so light, you need a little more umph in your swing to make it stick. While it can do okay on steeper firmer snow routes, hard ice routes might make you reach for a different axe. Titanium is a little softer than steel so if you plan on pounding a lot of snow picket or use it as a cane on talus, it will dull a little faster. Possibly because of its light weight, we didn't feel as if the adze got as good of a bite as others. Its adze was better than a CAMP Corsa and not as good as a Black Diamond Raven. It was just below average to carry as far as comfort: it's about the same as the Petzl Snow Walker and below the REI Yeti or Black Diamond Raven family.
This an great ice axe for almost any application. It is light enough for early season hikers and ski mountaineers and tough enough for climbers looking for a good all-around mountain axe. It climbs steeper alpine routes as long as there isn't too much pure water or bare glacial ice. In those conditions, the lighter titanium pick won't penetrate as well. It is an excellent option for alpine rock climbers who have to carry their ice axe up and over their routes or anyone willing to spend extra money to save a few ounces.
At $70 more than any other ice axe in this review, this is not an axe for those on a budget. If you want the lightest ice axe for most applications, you need to throw down some coin. After all, its is cool to have a 100 percent titanium ice axe
— Ian Nicholson
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Most recent review: January 14, 2010
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