Gear Review: Black Diamond Raven Ultra Ice Axe
Sizes: 50cm, 55cm, 60cm
Weight: 50cm – 348 grams / 12 ounces
Summary: The Black Diamond Raven Ultra Ice Axe is the ideal axe for ski mountaineering and light alpine climbing. This ultralight axe features a streamlined design in a durable, strong, and compact package.
Find The Best Price On The BD Raven Ultra Ice Axe At Bottom Of Review
Need an ice axe for ski mountaineering or alpine climbing? When you’re going fast and light, the Black Diamond Raven Ultra Ice Axe is an ideal choice. Whether you’re setting a bootpack up a steep couloir, traversing a hanging snow field, or climbing an unrelenting glacier, the Raven Ultra is a plunge worthy companion.
The Raven Ultra qualifies as an ultralight ice axe. Compare it to the CAMP Corsa or its heavier big brother the Raven Pro. The Raven Ultra hosts a “investment-cast, polished stainless steel head” with an adze and an aggressive pick. The shaft is aluminum and is plugged and rimmed with investment cast steel for strength, penetration, and security.
The shaft is cut off at a 45 degree angle. I’ve heard some complaints that the angle cut will make the axe slip off the slope in firm conditions. If this happens, just turn the axe and you’re good to go. Overall, this has never been an issue for me or the countless ski partners who also use the Raven Ultra.
Here’s a closer look at the Black Diamond Raven Ultra Ice Axe:
- Stainless steel adze – Makes it easy to chop steps, build a platform, dig an anchor, trench a t-slot, or hammer a picket.
- Stainless steel pick – Ideal for self arresting when the conditions are slide for life or exposure demands it.
- Aluminum shaft – Keeps the ice axe lightweight.
- Steel plug – Will plunge into even the firmest snow.
- Carabiner holes – Fit most carabiners making it easy to create deadman anchors for belays.
This thing is strong and durable, while still being super lightweight. It has a nice swing weight and the ergonomic design makes it comfortable to grip. Black Diamond’s simple design rocks. I own the BD Raven Ultra ice axe in the 50cm length. I find this is ideal for ski mountaineering for a few of reasons:
- Compact size is small enough to fit in your backpack’s avalanche gear pocket next to your avalanche probe and shovel handle or it’s easy to strap it to your pack without noticing it. It’s also short enough to not spear you if you fall if on the outside of your pack.
- It also only weighs 12 ounces. For the security it provides on steep booters, sketchy down climbs, or precipitous ridge walks, the weight is nothing.
I don’t typically walk with my axe while skiing, which allows for a shorter length. I can use my ski poles or Whippet for any lower angle walking. When you combine the Whippet and the Raven Ultra on a steep slope, you have the ultimate package for the majority of ski mountaineering missions.
There are a few accessories available for the Black Diamond Raven Ultra ice axe. There’s an axe protector to cover the pick and adze. I like having this, especially when traveling. It keeps gear and luggage safe from sharp objects. You can also opt for a ice axe leash. I’m not a big fan of leashes in ski mountaineering applications.
If you look on the back of the adze, you’ll notice that the Raven Ultra is a Basic or B-Rated, (vs T-Rated) axe. It is not designed for technical climbing. B- Ratings are tested to 200kg on pick and shaft vs 400kg or a T-Rated axe. T-Rated axes are usually heavier and stronger. Read more about ratings on OutdoorGearLab. Unless you’re doing technical climbing, a B-Rated axe will more than meet your needs for most ski mountaineering objectives.
An ice axe is a valuable tool to have in the mountains. When you’re heading out to ski big lines, bring the Black Diamond Raven Ultra with you. It’s streamlined, ultralight, durable, versatile, and compact. Plus, it can save your life.