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Black Diamond Raven Pro Review
Cons: Just okay self-arrest performance, doesn't penetrate hard ice well, below average steep snow performance.
The Black Diamond Raven Pro is the lighter cousin of the mega-popular Black Diamond Raven. The Raven Pro has all the same features but is 2 ounces lighter and $20 more expensive. The Raven Pro along with the rest of the Black Diamond Raven family are among the most comfortable ice axes to carry and work great for folks with smaller hands. The Raven Pro's only downsides are its very average self-arresting prowess and sub standard steep snow and ice climbing ability and adze performance.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Black Diamond Raven Pro scored average to slightly below average in our side-by-side self arrest testing. In softer snow the Raven Pro's wider pick was pretty effective to slow us down; however, when we tested it in firmer conditions the Raven Pro struggled to gain good purchase compared to many of the other ice axes in our review. The Raven Pro is designed with a straight shaft which remains solid for self arresting but all of our testers preferred the additional leverage that a slightly curved shaft provides. We thought the Raven Pro did not self-arrest as nicely as the Petzl Summit, Petzl Glacier, or the Grivel Evolution but performed better than the all-aluminum CAMP Corsa. We did think all of the ice axes in the Raven family including the Raven Ultra and base model Black Diamond Raven performed the same in our side-by-side self-arrest comparison.
Steep Ice and Snow Climbing Performance
Steep snow and ice is where the Raven Pro didn't score as well compared to most other ice axes on the market. The Raven Pro's pick is a little wider and less aggressive than most. Our testers thought the Raven Pro was fine when the snow was soft, but when swinging or daggering into ice the Raven was noticeably less secure. Compared to the similarly priced and similarly weight Petzl Glacier the Raven was below average. The steep snow and ice climbing category where all the entire line of Ravens performed below average compared to most other axes in our review.
Use as improvised Anchor
The Black Diamond 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 helps facilitate the Raven Pro to be inserted vertically for self-anchoring or as a back-up while belaying.
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 most other ice axes we tested including the similarly priced Petzl Glacier or Grivel G1. When it was super icy our testers felt they had to work noticeably harder to chop the same about of ice away. In softer conditions while digging T-slots for crevasse rescue the Raven performed average to above average and could get the job done.
Comfort to Carry
The comfort to carry category is where the Raven really shines and it was the most comfortable ice axe 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 was easily the best. We also felt that the Raven line of ice axes along with the Petzl Glacier and Glacier Litride were the most comfortable to carry for folks with smaller hands.
At 14 ounces the Black Diamond Raven Pro is average to marginally heavier than average among ice axes in our review. While the Raven is 2 ounces lighter than its cousin the standard Raven, its 1 ounce heavier than the much more versatile Petzl Summit and two ounces heavier than the better performing Petzl Glacier.
Best Applications, Value and the Bottom Line
The Raven Pro is best for generally 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 2 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 or if a lot of steeper alpine ice routes are in your future then check out the modular Petzl Sum'tec or the Black Diamond Venom.
— Ian Nicholson
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