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Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe Review

Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe

Firstly lets be clear, the Raven Ice Axe from Black Diamond is an Alpine or Ski Mountaineering Axe and is not intended to be used for ice climbing as depicted in the above video…

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With the arrival of Winter many of you will be dusting off seasonal kit, especially if you’re planning trips into the Mountains.  Unlike most people you’re no doubt waiting for an excuse to don the crampons and crack out the Ice Axe, the latter being a very useful and misunderstood tool that every winter warrior should have in their armory.

If you’re planning a trip out during the winter months we strongly recommend you take one of these with you…

The Black Diamond Raven, my current choice of Ice Axe, is a classic mountaineer’s piolet with a low grip and Slide Leash for increased security and versatility.  The aircraft-grade aluminum shaft and investment-cast stainless steel head provide durable, classic functionality

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whether you’re plunging up a snowy chute or traversing a jagged crevasse field. The comfortable dual-density grip increases holding power for icy steps and short steep sections where you need to use the axe like a modern ice tool.


Ice Axe Basics...

Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe Review WalkHikeClimb

1 – pick
2 – head
3 – adze
4 – leash
5 – leash stop
6 – shaft with rubber grip
7 – spike


If you’re planning a trip into the mountains knowing they’ll be plenty of snow, freezing temperatures and a risk of ice not only should you be taking your camera to capture this beauty, the addition of appropriate winter kit is essential.  An Ice Axe is just one of those critical items you need.

So first off, let talk about that sticky subject of length.  Regardless of what anyone tells you, length really is import!  There’s wealth of information out there but I stuck to the rule of thumb that; if I am standing with the axe hanging by my side the spike should barely touch the floor. The following chart will give you an idea based around height, but we would always recommend holding the axe in your hand see how it fits so to speak…

Your Height Axe Length
<5’8″ (<1.72m) 50-60cm
5’8″-6’0″ (1.72-1.8m) 60-70cm
>6’0″ (>1.8m) 60-75cm

Don’t forget that if the Axe is to long it will make a self arrest very difficult and ultimately this is one of the more important features of a trekking axe; stopping you sliding of the mountain.

The guys at http://www.glenmorelodge.org.uk have produced an excellent video on arresting techniques.

Whilst we all try to keep our gear weight to a minimum, don’t get too hung up on comparing grams between axes.  This underlines why it’s so important to visit you’re local outdoor specialist for specific advice AND to actually try them out.  An axe which is heavier on paper may well feel more balance and comfortable that an ultra lightweight version.  My preference is to choose something that is robust enough to take using the Adze to cut out steps in the ice and won’t become distorted hitting rocks beneath the snow cover when your using it as prop on an ascent up a mountain side trying to find cornices or soft shoulders.

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The activity is also important as well when deciding which axe to buy. The shorter Ice axe is often considered better for technical ice climbs while the longer version excels on the lower angled terrain. So if your going to be on the steep slopes more then bringing a short axe to the party is best but you could also fit some collapsible poles for the rest of the terrain or even a second longer axe on your pack, you can never be to prepared. You should also consider the CEN rating of your ice axe to give you a good gauge on the correct one.


Standards and Ratings...

Standards and ratings

The CEN standard for ice tools is EN13089:2011, with the UIAA 152 safety label being broadly similar with a few additional requirements. The CEN standard has two categories, based on the strength of the shaft and pick. The category should be clearly marked on the shaft of the tool.

B: Basic. These are basic tools with the minimum necessary strengths for pick and shaft. Tools are suitable for glacier travel, ski mountaineering and winter walking where reduced weight is important.

T: Technical. Technical tools have a higher strength pick and shaft, important for technical ice and mixed climbing but also for mountaineering where tools may need to form part of a belay.

PPE Cat2: Not tested to the CEN standard. Radical tools only suitable for dry tooling and competitions.


General mountaineering axes are designated with a B (basic) stamp. These are usually lighter, less expensive and less durable. Basic axes are NOT strong enough for technical climbing! Technical ice axes and ice tools are designated with a T (technical) stamp. These are generally heavier, more expensive and more durable.

So obviously this is just an overview of the requirements to take into account but we can’t stress enough the importance of visiting a store and trying out the axe of your choice, just to make sure it fits and feels right.  Ultimately this bit of kit could save your life…so make sure you get it right.

Check out the First Impression tabs for further details or visit the Black Diamond home page and checkout their extensive range of equipment  http://eu.blackdiamondequipment.com/

Having spent a lot of time deciding on which axe to use, I finally settled on the Black Diamond Raven.  Sometimes it’s hard to make a choice with so many options, so lets take a look at the features that grabbed my attention.

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Having research exactly what type of Axe best suited my needs, I naturally gravitated towards Black Diamond as a known and respected brand who specialise in climbing and mountaineering equipment.  I’ve certainly not been disappointed with the quality and functionality of the Axe in the field (or slopes!) and far from getting in the way it’s been an absolute Godsend.  Thankfully I’ve not had to perform a self-arrest whilst trekking, but I have practiced on a safe section of mountain and can report it performed admirably.  Build and detail are of high quality and bearing in mind this axe in particularly wasn’t a substantial investment, it’s been worth every penny.

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The addition of a grip lower down the shaft

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and sliding leash are a really great idea.

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They add to the overall feel of the axe and the sense of security it gives excellent. At no point have I been correcting my hold or grip, which is something I have found in the past.

The aircraft grade aluminium shaft doesn’t give you any concerns about its durability and really does instil confidence in the axe.

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While it is CEN B graded material I still felt like there wasn’t a danger of distorting the material when plunging the axe into the snow looking for rocky crevasses.

The cast stainless steel head and pick curve with teeth engineered for that self arrest are perfect for mountain trekking. I have no fears of this axe not performing when you need it most.

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The Adze is ideally shaped in the stainless steel head for cutting out ice steps when traversing up a gully or frozen rock face. Obviously not suitable for technical climbs, but ideal for angled ascent or descents.

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The spike can be used for poking and plunging into snow and ice, but on the whole provides balance when walking, ascending / descending snowy ground.

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The head also has a particularly large hole for a carabiner when attaching it to your kit.

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The Sliding leash also features a hand-loop to prevent you loosing it on steep ground, should it happen to slip from your fingers.

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Features

  • Durable Aircraft grade aluminium shaft
  • Investment-cast, one-piece stainless steel head with a large hole for a carabineer
  • Comfortable dual density moulded grip.
  • Picks curve and teeth engineered for self arresting.
  • Equipped with a slider leash
  • CEN-B Certified.
  • Lengths available are 55cm to 75cm.
  • Grey in colour

Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe Review WalkHikeClimb

 

 

 

 

 

Features

  • Durable Aircraft grade aluminium shaft
  • Investment-cast, one-piece stainless steel head with a large hole for a carabineer
  • Comfortable dual density moulded grip.
  • Picks curve and teeth engineered for self arresting.
  • Equipped with a slider leash
  • CEN-B Certified.
  • Lengths available are 55cm to 75cm.
  • Grey in colour

Tech Specs

Head :   Stainless steel

Shaft :   Aluminum

Weight Without Leash :   [55 cm] 437 g (15 oz)

Recommended Use

Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe Review WalkHikeClimbBlack Diamond Raven Ice Axe Review WalkHikeClimb

1 X Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe with sliding leash

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The Black Diamond Raven… A well built and engineered ice axe that for lower terrain and angled ascents is a perfect companion for winter in the mountains.

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Nothing has disappointed me about this axe and it has been this winters essential piece of kit. As mentioned previously, always seek expert advice and try before you buy!  Most outdoor stores carry a good array of Ice Axes from numerous manufacturers and just like a pair of shoes, some fit better than others.

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If you’re planning a trip out during the winter months we strongly recommend you take one of these with you…

Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe Review WalkHikeClimb

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Cotswold Outdoor started life in 1974 as Cotswold Camping, selling a range of basic camping accessories from a small outbuilding in the Cotswolds. 40 years later, the company is an award winning multi-channel retailer with stores throughout the UK.

With four decades of experience in outdoor retail, we offer one of the most extensive and comprehensive ranges of outdoor clothing, products and equipment. Selecting from over 250 internationally recognised brands allows us to bring you the latest in outdoor technology and styles. Not only this, but each product is carefully selected and tested to ensure a high level of quality and value for money for our customers.

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Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe Review WalkHikeClimb

We share your passion for the outdoors. From climbing the Old Man of Hoy to cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats, our staff are brought together by a love for anything and everything outdoors. In our spare time, we are walkers, climbers, cyclists, trail runners, skiers, hikers, swimmers, kayakers – you name it, we do it…

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Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe Review WalkHikeClimb

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