Black Diamond Raven Ultra Lightweight Ice Axe Review

After much happiness using the CAMP Corsa and Corsa Nanotech ice axes last winter, I looked about earlier this winter to see what else was lightweight and properly usable and Black Diamond’s Raven Ultra seemed like the best bet, and I’ve been swapping that with Corsa Nanotech the last few months.

It has a straight aluminium shaft which I prefer for walking, stainless steel shaft plug/spike and head, and it’s light at 378g for the 60cm version.
Tha shaft is plain and the orange gloss finish is rock hard, there’s hardly a mark on it so far. There’s no grip of any kind on the end of shaft for step cutting, so depending on what gloves you’re wearing doing that will either be frustrating or issue free. It does make for easy shaft placement on a slope of course, so it’s one of these things that you have to pick where you want to compromise a bit of performance or convenience.
The spike is a lovely shaped insert that cuts through a frozen crust and protects the shaft end very well, it’s also shallow so you don’t fill the shaft full of snow.

The head is a thing of beauty. The shape is ergonomic and the finish is outstanding, the curves make it the most comfortable axe I’ve ever held in my hand, and because your hand is more relaxed it doesn’t feel as cold somehow. The adze is nicely angled for an easy swing into the snow for digging a step or a bucket seat for enjoying a cuppa out of the wind, and the pick is sharp and smoothly curved for purchase on steep ground and for controllable self arrest. Both of which have been tried, the former intentionally, the later unintentionally.

The casting allows easy leash attachment in a position that’s out of the way. The leash you see there is one of my trusty old Troll models, simple, colourful, and now sadly unavailable.
I have to say this has quickly become my favourite axe, it’s heavier than the CAMP’s, but the simple fact that the head is so comfortable in my hand means I’m reaching for it first every time. If I’m less likely to use an axe, the CAMP Corsa will go on the pack.

10 thoughts on “Black Diamond Raven Ultra Lightweight Ice Axe Review

  1. You and ice axes!! Encouraging me and ice axes!! ;O)

    Happy for years with my ‘light’ Grivel Airtech and ‘really light’ Airtech Racing – then last year you force me to get a Corsa Nanotech, and this year the Raven Ultra!!

    At least they were both bargains – £50 for the Camp and £37 for the BD :))

    The 50cm Ultra is 330g before leash (I couldn’t find any of my favourite Wild Country leashes so Lyon had to do), but I do find a well adjusted leash, worn properly through the palm like a ski pole strap, does away with all issues about a non-grippy shaft.

  2. Ah, you’re a happier boy with the CAMP and the BD!

    I love Grivel crampons, but I’ve never been overly comfortable with their axes. The adze always seems too steeply down curved for me, cutting steps was a chore as it would bounce off or stick solid as I tried to get the angle right. The old Mountain Technology Alpine and Mountain axes were perfect that way for me and the CAMP and BD adze’s follow the same lines. It’s probably an arm length thing or some bloody obscure variable that ruins Grivel for me.

  3. As a side note my Camp Nanotech performed brilliantly at the winter skills at the weekend despite raising a few eyebrows.

    My only gripe is that I think the shaft may be a little too long for me. I’m half tempted to get a shorter one and stick the longer one on the OM classifieds.

    Is the pick on the BD Raven “B” or “T” rated?

  4. Good lad, looking forward to hearing about the weekend.

    The BD’s a B rated axe, which means you can’t hang off the pick or use it as belay anchor, but it’s good for “general alpinism” is the usual expression!

  5. Aye, we’ll get together soonish for a chinwag about kit, winterskills and general blox.

    Another interesting thing I noticed about the winterskills meet was that of the four who turned up all were using OMM packs. 3 villains (jiris werent really big enough for the extra gear, ropes etc) and a classic marathon 25.

  6. I weakened and replaced an already very light axe with the Corsa Nanotech for this season.

    Lovely.

    Lovely, lovely.

    The only gripe I have is that in common with many other axes I can’t get a D gate through the top of it for a Stomper belay (which has actually come in dead-handy before now.

    A bit of tat threaded through has done the trick but it spoils the lines somewhat.

    But I wouldn’t swap it. Or at least I thought I wouldn’t until I saw this! :)

  7. Ach indeed. I only managed to one outing with the Corsa (it was out on more, just not used!).

    I have a feeling I somehow partly missed out on a good season this year. But still, the skating made up for it :)

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