The CAMP Corsa Nanotech isn't a versatile all-arounder but is the perfect model for places like the Colorado Rockies or the Sierra, where you aren't traveling in complex glaciated terrain, but need an ice axe to provide security while accessing alpine rock climbs earlier in the season. The unique Corsa Nanotech nicely fills this niche by utilizing a unique design via performance characteristics, like low weight and excellent steep snow climbing prowess geared towards these users.
The Corsa Nanotech is hardly an all-arounder but is a lightweight, steep snow security-adding specialist.
The Corsa Nanotech self-arrested better than expected for a nearly all aluminum ice axe with such an aggressive and sharp pick. The sharp steel pick is riveted onto the end of the entirely aluminum head. During testing, we appreciated its bent shaft; our testers agreed it provided more leverage to drive the pick in while attempting to self-arrest.
The Corsa Nanotech is decent at self-arresting. However, it is more geared toward climbing steep snow slopes rather than arresting a fall.
This model's steel pick provided a solid "bit", but wasn't as smooth as more general purpose models; it almost bit too quickly in firmer conditions, where we had to focus so as to not lose control of our axe. In soft snow, the Corsa Nanotech's performance was average, while it fell a bit short in firm snow while trying to catch crevasse falls.
The Corsa Nanotech features a steel pick riveted onto the end of its otherwise aluminum head. This design, coupled with its curved shaft, perform well for ascending steeper slopes, even if they are fairly firm.
Digging and Step Chopping
The Corsa Nanotech boarders on non-functional when tasked with chopping steps in firm snow or ice and you certainly don't want to have to hack out a tent platform with it. In most cases, a well-shaped rock would do the job better than the Corsa Nanotech. The Corsa's adze is very small, rounded off on all sides to make it more comfortable to carry, and is made entirely of aluminum; when dealing with anything firm, don't count on it performing up to your standards.
The top view of the head of the Corsa Nanotech. While we liked many design aspects of this axe, its adze performance was not one of them. The adze's small size and rounded edges make it a poor choice for any type of chopping, from tent platform construction to improvised anchors.
Use As Improvised Anchor
The Corsa Nanotech is CEN-B certified and can be used as an anchor in a deadman or "T-slot" fashion. The hole in the aluminum head is big enough to clip a carabiner or sling to, though we rarely clip the top of our axe while building snow anchors.
Unlike a lot of ultralight axes which have nothing more than a diagonally sliced piece of shaft to add security when traveling in canne positions, CAMP has at last added a thin piece of steel to the spike (that is riveted onto its aluminum shaft).
Steep Ice and Snow
For most people, this is the most critical aspect of an ice axe, as it helps keep a climber secure while ascending steep snow. This is a category where this model performed exceptionally well. While super light, all of the weight is the head creates good swing weight alongside the razor-sharp nano steel tip, which bites into hard ice fantastically.
Here David and Dan Whitmore use a Corsa Nanotech to ascend steep snow slopes on the North Face of Whatcom Peak in the Picket Range of the North Cascades.
Our testers thought the Corsa Nanotech was one of the better steep snow climbing ultralight axes, with only the Petzl Gully performing better in firm snow. All of our testers appreciated the bend in the shaft, which helped create more clearance for our hand when in mid-dagger/piolet appui (hand in a fist position on the shaft below the head of the axe) as well as keep it slightly warmer and drier. There is a small amount of grip tape on the lower portion of the shaft which is nice, especially because this axe is so lightweight and heavily weighted towards the head. We found ourselves swinging it (piolet traction) more than with other axes as it was the easiest way to secure ourselves.
There is a small amount of a grip tape on the lower portion of the shaft which we utilized more so than with other models. Because the Corsa Nanotech is so lightweight and it's so heavily weighted towards the head, we found ourselves swinging it overhead (piolet traction) more than with other axes. Here Peter Webb gets ready to swing his Corsa Nanotech while pulling over the bergshrund - North Ridge of Mt. Stuart.
Comfort to Carry
The Corsa Nanotech is one of the few ice axes we tested that is excellent to carry in self-belay/piolet canne position (pick forward), though below average in comfort for self-arrest position (pick backward). It is far less comfortable when carried in self-arrest position; this axe is meant for climbing up and will likely be taken into places that climbers are more likely to use the self-belay position, such as steep approaches. It isn't particularly designed for mellow glacier travel where climbers might use the self-arrest position for fear of falling in unseen crevasses.
Like many European models, the Corsa Nanotech is gear toward and far more comfortable to be carried in self-belay/piolet canne position (pick-forward). In self-arrest (pick-backward, shown here) position, the Corsa Nanotech was one the least comfortable in our review.
If you have concerns about it being less comfortable in self-arrest position, do note that it does not cause discomfort. You can also try carrying it in self-belay (pick forward position) knowing that not one person in Europe carries their axe pick backward (some may even correct you if they see you doing so).
All of our review team found the Corsa Nanotech to be far more versatile than we originally gave it credit for. We love it for ski-mountaineering, early season backpacking, alpine rock climbing, or any trip where weight is at a premium but some steep snow must be negotiated. Here Peter Webb climbs pitch 14 of the North Ridge of Mt. Stuart.
The Corsa Nanotech weighs in at 8.7 ounces and is one of the lightest ice axes on the market. In fact, it's the lightest ice axe that features both a steel pick and a steel spike (the steel pick is riveted on). The Corsa Nanotech is only marginally heavier than the non-steel tipped version, the CAMP Corsa, which is 100% aluminum and tips the scales at an impressively low 7.4 ounces. The only other model in our review that was lighter was the Petzl Ride (8.4 ounces), which only comes in a 45cm length; while it does feature a well-designed steel head, it does not have a spike.
The Corsa Nanotech is lighter than all the other widely considered ultralight models we tested, like the Petzl Gully (9.8 ounces), Grivel Haute Route (12.3), Black Diamond Raven Ultra (12 ounces), and Petzl Glacier Literide (11.2 ounces).
Weight is why you buy this model; at 8.7 ounces, it is one of the lightest ice axes on the market and is the lightest ice axe that features both a steel pick and a steel spike (even if that steel pick and spike are both riveted on).
While the Corsa Nanotech has a much wider range of use than our testers originally thought, it certainly isn't an "all-around" mountaineering axe. It's perfect for alpine rock routes with snowy or glaciated approaches, some general mountaineering, early season backpacking, and routes that feature a bit of steep snow climbing.
The Corsa Nanotech is perfect for ski mountaineering or alpine rock climbing, where weight is at a premium but there is steep enough snow that an ice axe is required. At half the weight of many other models in our review, it's an excellent option for crossing glaciers or seasonal snow. Here Danny Spreafico slips his Corsa Nanotech into his harness as he pulls from the bergshrund onto the rock.
We wouldn't recommend this axe for routes where you'll be pounding pickets or for complex glacier travel that involves heavily crevassed terrain. If you're frequenting ranges like the Sierra or the Colorado Rockies, this might be the ticket. However, for ranges like the Cascades, it would be more of a quiver axe for alpine rock-oriented ascents.
At $160, this niche product is a bit more on the expensive side of the spectrum.
At $160, the Corsa Nanotech is certainly on the more expensive side; however, we feel this niche product's price is justified. It's nearly double the price of the Black Diamond Raven, but has a better spike, climbs steep snow better, and is only about roughly half the weight. Compared to the Petzl Glacier Literide, it's four ounces lighter, climbs steep snow arguably better, but isn't quite a versatile.
This is a rad model for the right type of user and application, and is our Top Pick for the best ice axe for alpine rock climbs. While not incredibly versatile, it performs well in mountain ranges and climbs that require limited glacier travel. Its also plenty light and compact enough for ski-mountaineering, or early season backpacking. Here the Corsa is used on the Challenger Glacier to while crossing the North Picket Range.
The Corsa Nanotech is a niche axe for the right type of user; it's the winner of our Top Pick for Best Ice Axe for Alpine Rock Climbs. While it isn't incredibly versatile, its all most climbers need in mountain ranges with limited glacier travel, with a touch of steep snow which must be negotiated earlier in the season. It's lightweight and compact enough for ski-mountaineering or early season backpacking, or as a just-in-case axe while snowshoeing. It doesn't face any true direct competition, as no other model is quite like it; however, the Petzl Gully isn't much heavier and climbs steep snow better, while the Petzl Ride is marginally lighter and versatile, but doesn't ascend steep snow as well.