Black Diamond Raven Pro Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Comfortable to carry in either position, lighter than average weight, smooth self-arresting
Cons: Doesn't penetrate hard ice well, below average steep snow performance
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Raven Pro was considered lightweight and high-performing when it was first released over a decade ago. Ten years later, this tried and true model is still reasonably light but is now rather average. While not one of the better scoring models for steep snow, it still offers up a high level of comfort and smooth self-arresting capabilities.
The Raven Pro is best for general mountaineering because it's comfortable to carry, is fairly light, and performs well at most general mountaineering applications. Climbers considering the Raven Pro should also check out the Petzl Glacier which is two ounces lighter and features a better performing pick. For climbers into steeper or more complex terrain, consider the general mountaineering axes the Petzl Summit and the Grivel Evolution.
The Raven Pro scored average in our self-arrest testing. In softer snow, its wider pick was effective at slowing us down; however, when we tested it in firmer conditions, it struggled to gain good purchase. The Raven Pro is designed with a straight shaft, which remains solid for self-arresting.
Digging and Step Chopping
The Raven Pro's adze is okay for hacking out icy tent platforms and chopping steps but didn't penetrate firmer snow as well as others, including the similarly priced Petzl Glacier or Grivel G1. When it was super icy, we had to work noticeably harder to chop the same ice away. In softer conditions, while digging T-slots for crevasse rescue, the Raven performed average, yet got the job done.
Use as Improvised Anchor
The Raven Pro is CEN-B rated and works wonderfully in a T-Slot or deadman set-up for crevasse rescue. The whole in the top of its head is a great size and accommodates most carabiners. The spike is well designed, which allows the axe to be inserted vertically for self-anchoring or as a back-up while belaying.
Steep Ice and Snow
Steep snow and ice are where the Raven Pro didn't particularly excel. The Raven Pro's pick is a little wider and less aggressive than most. Our testers thought the Raven Pro was decent when the snow was soft, but when swinging or daggering into ice, the Raven was noticeably less secure. Compared to the similarly priced and weighted Petzl Glacier, the Raven was below average.
Comfort to Carry
The comfort to carry category is where the Raven shines, as it was the most comfortable 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 outperformed the rest.
At 13 ounces, the Raven Pro is average, as it's both lighter and heavier than some in our fleet. While the Raven is two ounces lighter than its cousin the standard Raven, it's one ounce heavier than the much more versatile Petzl Summit, and two ounces heavier than the higher-performing Petzl Glacier.
For the price, this model offers a satisfactory overall value. It matches the middle of the road pricing to the middle of the road performance. It is an upgrade over the more basic Raven and is two ounces lighter for a slight price increase, which is a reasonable trade-off in our eyes. While it isn't a stand out performer in any one particular metric, it also won't break the bank. Its strongest competition comes from the Petzl Glacier, which offers similar performance, but is slightly less expensive.
The BD Raven Pro is a tried and true classic that brings respectable all-around performance at a reasonable price. It's ideal for snow routes or more basic mountaineering objectives (Mt. Rainier or Shasta); for complex or technical routes, climbers might want to consider upgrading to the Petzl Summit Evo or Black Diamond Swift. For the mountaineers and winter travelers who think those models are overkill for their intended uses, the Raven Pro is likely right up your alley - and it doesn't hurt that it is pretty reasonably priced as well.
— Ian Nicholson