Pro Review – Black Diamond Raven Ultra Ice Axe

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Pro Reviewer:

Kevin-Avery

“I have used the Raven Ultra mainly for ski touring and ski mountaineering and itís lightweight simplicity, makes it perfect for this. It has a stainless steel head and pick which actually work on proper ice, unlike some of the lightweight aluminium axes I have used. The shaft of the axe is aluminium, has no rubberised grip or handle and can feel a bit slippery when you actually need to pull on it on steeper ground but you could add some self amalgamating plumbers tape for extra stickiness if you found this to be an issue. On terrain that was AD+ or harder, Iíd usually carry a proper ice tool anyway.”

“The Raven Ultra has a stainless steel spike integrated into the bottom of the aluminium shaft and whilst this is definitely more effective than some other lightweight models Iíve seen without this feature, offering greater durability and security when plunging it into snow and ice, it is definitely not as effective as a proper spike. However the Raven Ultra is all about compromise. It is a fantastic lightweight axe with a stainless steel pick that actually works in ice, and an adze that is very effective in chopping steps. The hole in the head can be used to attach a leash (old skool) and the adze and straight shaft allow the construction of a variety of snow anchors.”

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“As I said earlier the lightweight simplicity of the Raven Ultra make it perfect for skiing where weight is usually an issue. However Iíve also used mine on plenty of classic alpine routes up to AD and found it to work really well. I mentioned earlier that the shaft can feel slippy to hold, but holding the head feels pretty comfortable and secure and whilst itís not the most comfortable Iíve used, itís also not far off.”

“Due to itís light weight and compact size (I tested the 50 cm version but 55cm and 60cm are also available) I have found the Raven Ultra invaluable when approaching alpine rock climbs such as on the South Face of the Aiguille Du Midi or when crossing short sections of glacier. It fits inside my 25 litre pack and doesnít feel bulky or heavy to carry.”

“Whilst the Raven Ultra has some failings you have to remember the context of the review and the purpose that the ice axe is designed for. It is a lightweight, minimalist axe designed for easy climbs, ski mountaineering and short sections of approach and descent where using an axe may not form the main part of the day. But when you do need it the Raven Ultra works, and works well!”

Climbing Gear Reviews are an independent reviewer of climbing, skiing and mountaineering equipment. Fronted by Kevin Avery, a trainee IFMGA mountain guide and former Gear Editor at UKClimbing.com, alongside Yorkshire based MIA Dave Sarkar, they provide completely honest and 100% impartial reviews. Click here to see their page.

Black Diamond Raven Ultra Features:

  • Climbs moderate alpine ice and snow
  • Head designed with an aggressive pick and large carabiner hole
  • Unique angled spike penetrates hard snow
  • CEN-B certified

 

Full Black Diamond Raven Ultra description here

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