The Raven Pro is Black Diamond’s lightweight yet highly functional non-technical ice axe.  Black Diamond also makes a non-pro version of the Raven, which is slightly heavier than the Raven Pro, but otherwise very similar.

I have been using the Raven Pro since 2007, and have used it on Rainier, Adams, the Brothers, Kent, Snoqualmie, Snow King, and many other local peaks.  I use it about 15 days per winter, and have recently purchased a second Raven Pro for my wife.

Raven Pro and Welcome Pass © Michael Cline

Non technical ice axes generally serve a broad class of functions, the most important of which being to allow you to safely self-arrest a potentially fatal slide on ice or snow and prevent a slip in the first place by using the ice axe as a temporary anchor between steps.  In addition, ice axes have numerous other uses such as balancing/trekking pole, to cut steps or carve a seat, to clear balled snow from your crampons, to cut through ice to reach drinking water, to anchor gear or your tent, and to poke at the camp-fire/bear, etc.

The Raven Pro is differentiated primarily by two things:  First, it is one of the lightest fully functional and durable ice axes on the market.  Second, it is extremely well machined to have tie points exactly where you need them and perfectly fit the hand.  The latter point is more important than you might think, especially since the heads of most ice axes are stamped out of steel and then bent into shape in a way that does not provide a nice hand rest.  For the vast majority of the hours spent using an ice axe, it will simply be with your hand resting on it in the ready position, and in the case of the Raven Pro, it is the most comfortable ice axe I have used.

Spike © Michael Cline

The Raven Pro has a slightly smaller adze and pick than some ice axes, but it is still highly effective.  I’ve used my Raven Pro to quickly arrest several intentional slides, and a few unintentional slides.  My only gripe with the Raven Pro is that you almost never find it packaged with an included tether, and the tether is very important.  However, a tether is easy to construct or purchase separately.

The bottom line is that almost any ice-axe will perform its primary functions, but a lighter and more comfortable ice axe is more likely to be in your hand when you need it and much more pleasant to use.  Based on this I highly recommend the Raven Pro for non-technical mountaineering and give it a full 5-stars.

Raven Pro and Welcome Pass © Michael Cline

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