Best Overall Ice Axe
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.
Best Bang for the Buck
Black Diamond Raven
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.
Top Pick for a Modular Model on Steeper Snow & Ice
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.
Top Pick for Lightweight Axe
Petzl Glacier Literide
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.
Top Pick for its Unique Design
CAMP Corsa Nanotech
This was a tough discussion with no runaway winner. We finally picked a winner 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.