Excellent all-around axe
Great at self-arresting
Innovative adze design
Ability to climb steep terrain
The Petzl Summit
was our favorite all-around product for general mountaineering and modest alpine routes. We picked the Summit because it's lightweight, comfortable to carry and scored at the top of our review for self-arresting, use as an improvised anchor, and was near the the best for steep snow and ice climbing among the non-modular ice axes. The Petzl Summit Evo was in the running and is a slightly better ice axe for steeper routes. If you want something the will excel just a little more at steeper routes, check out the Petzl Summit Evo which is near the same but adds a rubber grip for use while swinging the axe in Piolet Traxion. For an all around axe we thought the Summit climbed steep snow well enough and was lighter weight.
Read full review: Petzl Summit
Best Bang for the Buck
Black Diamond Raven
Good adze performance
Heavier than some models
Not good at penetrating hard ice
Performs below average on steep snow
There is a large price difference among the products we tested ranging from $75 to $240. The Black Diamond Raven
gets our Best Buy Award because it is a solid axe for general mountaineering and was the most comfortable model to carry - all at an awesome price. The Raven's primary drawbacks are that it is a little heavy, it self-arrests just okay, and performs poorly on steep ice. While we think the Raven is a sweet axe for the price we do think if you are willing to spend another $25, you might consider the Grivel G1 or Petzl Glacier because of the four ounces of weight savings on the Glaciers part or both products superior self-arresting and steep snow climbing prowess.
Read full review: Black Diamond Raven
Top Pick for a Modular Model on Steeper Snow & Ice
Great performance on steep ice
Awesome slider pommel
Excellent ice chopping ability
Only decent self-arresting performance
Modular models that blur the lines between an axe and an ice tool are becoming more popular and is a rapidly growing category for traditional mountaineering axes that manufacturers are responding too. These axes aren't quite ice tools because they are lighter, come in longer lengths, and have larger non-modular adzes that are still more oriented toward mountaineering rather than pure ice climbing. While there are many options available we reviewed our two favorites on the market, which both performed well overall. The Petzl Sum'tec
did edge out the Black Diamond Venom for a few reasons and during our side-by-side testing the Sum'tec did score higher in nearly every category. The Sum'tec is slightly lighter, has a better adze, has a cool sliding pommel that our testers loved and found super functional, but the thing that set the Sum'tec apart the most was its hot-forged pick that climbed ice better and was more durable.
Read full review: Petzl Sum'tec
Top Pick for Lightweight Axe
Petzl Glacier Literide
Lightest axe featuring a spike
Solid at self-arresting
Average performance on steep snow
We consider an axe ultralight if it weighs less than 12 ounces or only comes in smaller sizes. These are typically axes that are intended for use on mellower snow and glacier routes, ski mountaineering, alpine rock climbing, or early season hiking. This is a category with several niche products and depending on your needs, one of these products could work better for a given user. For example, we think the all aluminum CAMP Corsa at 7.5 ounces is rad for early season hiking and alpine rock climbs but it wouldn't be a good option for many other applications because it's just too light and won't give the user as much security on firm snow. In the end we gave our Top Pick award to the Petzl Glacier Literide
at 11.2 ounces because it's still super light, has a real spike that won't fill with snow and a hot-forged pick that will inspire as much confidence as a much heavier axe. Compared to the Raven Ultra it blows it away in every category from self-arrest, to steep snow climbing prowess to anchor building and step chopping. The Raven ultra was a tiny bit more comfortable to carry in self-arrest position, but this was nominal.
Read full review: Petzl Glacier Literide
Top Pick for its Unique Design
CAMP Corsa Nanotech
Excellent steep snow performance
Self-arrest performance is decent
This was a tough discussion with no runaway winner. We finally chose the CAMP Corsa Nanotech
after long debate, side-by-side comparisons, long phone calls with partners, and a roundtable discussion with a group of fellow guides. We asked everyone, "If you could only have one axe for everything, what would it be?" The winner was the Petzl Summit because it was one of the top performers in every category. The Grivel Air Tech Evolution performed equally well in nearly every category but the Summit scored slightly better, is cheaper, and is slightly lighter. We saw many other good axes. The Black Diamond Raven Pro is a good all-arounder and lighter than either the Summit or the Evolution.
Read full review: CAMP Corsa Nanotech