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You know that summiting mountains in the dead of winter, or even high icy peaks in the summer, is no small task. Not only do you have to be fit and healthy to summit, you need to be prepared. And well prepared. Traveling on ice requires specialized skills, and therefore, specialized tools, which you need to be ready to use at any moment should things start to go wrong. A strong and stable ice axe is a must in these types of situations. And because we know how important it is to invest in quality gear for dangerous sports like ice climbing, we here at The Adventure Junkies have compiled a list of the ten best ice axes to make your selection a little easier. 

The Freedom of the Hills is all yours with the proper ice axe to stabilize your footing if you slip, balance you on the descent, and to stop your fall in the event you find yourself needing to self-arrest. But relax, this list will get you to where you want to be, and get you there safely with the best choices in ice axes for you mountain travels.

For more of our top ice climbing gear recommendations, check out the Best Ice Climbing Boots.

 

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Quick Answer - The Best Ice Axes

  1. Black Diamond Raven
  2. Petzl Summit
  3. Grivel Air Tech Evolution
  4. Petzl Glacier Literide
  5. Petzl Summit Evo
  6. C.A.M.P. USA Corsa Nanotech
  7. Black Diamond Venom
  8. C.A.M.P. USA Neve
  9. Petzl Sum’tec

 

 

Comparison Table - Best Ice Axes

PictureNameWeightSizesPick ShapePriceRating
Black Diamond Raven16.1 oz55-80, 90 cm (every 5 cm)Classic Curve$$4.7
Petzl Summit13.4 oz52, 59, 66 cmClassic Curve$$$4.8
Grivel G115.83 oz58 and 66 cmClassic Curve$$4.3
Grivel Air Tech Evolution17.6 oz48, 53, 55, 66 cmClassic Curve$$$4.7
Petzl Glacier Literide11.2 oz50 cmClassic Curve$$4.8
Petzl Summit Evo14.8 oz52, 59, 66 cmClassic Curve$$4.9
C.A.M.P. USA Corsa Nanotech8.7 oz50, 60, 70 cmClassic Curve$$$4.5
Black Diamond Venom18.7 oz50, 57, 64 cm (50 and 57 cm with hammer)Classic Curve$$$4.9
C.A.M.P. USA Neve17.1 oz57, 65, 73 cmClassic Curve$$4.5
Petzl Sum’tec17.9 oz52, 59, 66, 73 cmReverse Curve$$$4.5
PictureNameWeightSizesPick ShapePriceRating

 

 

Want to learn more about a technical term? Check out our Features Explained section below.

Need buying advice? Take a look at these Things to Consider.

Reviews - The Best Ice Axes

Black Diamond Raven

Specs
  • Weight: 16.1 oz
  • Material: Aluminium
  • Pick Shape: Classic Curve
  • Sizes: 55-80, 90 cm (every 5 cm)
  • Leash: No
Features
  • Hole In Head Of Tool For Carabiner To Clip To
  • Full Size Pick To Ensure It Breaks Through Ice
  • Wider Than Average Pick For Better Support In Soft Conditions

BEST FOR: COMFORT

The Black Diamond Raven is a very simple, but classic ice axe. It can perform almost all the functions you need in an ice axe and is well within a reasonable budget. Made from aluminum, the overall weight of the axe is lighter, and it comes in a wide array of sizes that you can purchase in increments of 5 cm. 

Furthermore, the axe is rated to be used as an anchor should you find yourself in a situation where there is nothing to anchor to. You can easily make an anchor out of this ice axe with the help of the hole in the head where you can clip a carabiner and build yourself a true anchor. The pick is full size so you don’t have to worry about it not catching and grabbing the ice when you swing. You can also notice the pick is wider and tapers heavily at the end, which is a true advantage when you are looking for support and purchase in soft conditions like snow.

Petzl Summit

Specs
  • Weight: 13.4 oz
  • Material: Steel
  • Pick Shape: Classic Curve
  • Sizes: 52, 59, 66 cm
  • Leash: No
Features
  • Head And Spike Have Holes For Clipping Carabiners
  • Stainless Steel Pick Increases Durability
  • Ice Axe Compatible For Ice Climbing

BEST FOR: VERSATILITY

If you are looking for a good versatile tool, the Petzl Summit is a very solid option for you. Made with a very durable steel shaft and stainless steel pick, every swing you take with it will be golden. If you find you need something to anchor to, you can use the axe as the anchor and not only does the head have a hole in it, but the spike on the bottom does as well, so you have two places to hook a carabiner to for your anchoring needs. 

The pick is a classic curve shape and the shaft has a slight curve to it as well, allowing for more leverage and a more powerful swing. Also, because of the curved head and shaft, you can use this tool for ice climbing as well.

Grivel G1

Specs
  • Weight: 15.83 oz
  • Material: Carbon Steel/Aluminum
  • Pick Shape: Classic Curve
  • Sizes: 58 and 66 cm
  • Leash: No
Features
  • Made of Lightweight Carbon Steel
  • Hot Forged Pick Makes Axe Lightweight And Easy To Plunge In Snow
  • Ergonomically Shaped Shaft For Comfortable And Easy Grip

BEST FOR: SELF-ARREST

Grivel is no stranger to the mountain scene and the G1 ice axe proves that. With an ergonomically shaped shaft, it has a comfortable and easy grip, so no unexpected slipping to worry about. It is made of a lightweight carbon steel material, contributing to the overall low weight of the tool. The hot forged pick also makes this tool lighter, and with the lighter pick, the tool is easy to plunge into the ice and snow, which is certainly ideal in a self-arrest situation. The axe itself is also rated to be used as an anchor in the deep snow conditions where you need to belay or do a crevasse rescue. And coming in at just around $80, this is certainly a bargain of a tool!

Grivel Air Tech Evolution

Specs
  • Weight: 17.6 oz
  • Material: Steel
  • Pick Shape: Classic Curve
  • Sizes: 48, 53, 55, 66 cm
  • Leash: Yes
Features
  • Curved Shaft For Greater Power In Swing
  • Comes With Easy Sliding Spring Leash So You Won’t Accidentally Drop And Lose The Axe
  • Sliding Hand Rest Moves Up And Down Shaft For Versatility And Comfort

BEST FOR: RESTING

Another solid ice axe by Grivel is the Air Tech Evolution. While not the lightest tool out there, it is still a beast on the mountains. Designed with a classic curve pick for good purchase on your swings, it is also designed with a curved shaft to give you maximum power behind all of your swings. 

As a way to ensure you do not drop it down the side of a mountain, the Air Tech Evolution comes with an easy sliding spring leash that attaches to the spike and then the leash can be hooked on your harness. The spring in the leash also ensures you have enough extension and reach on the tool without the leash getting in the way. Furthermore, in deep snow, you can adjust the sliding hand rest to make the hold more comfortable and give you an overall better grip on the tool.

Petzl Glacier Literide

Specs
  • Weight: 11.2 oz
  • Material: Steel/Aluminum
  • Pick Shape: Classic Curve
  • Sizes: 50 cm
  • Leash: No
Features
  • Compact And Lightweight
  • Strong Steel Material Is Ideal For Cutting Snow
  • Handle Cut Into Shaft For Better Grip

BEST FOR: CUTTING SNOW STEPS

If you are looking for a super light ice axe for your long adventure where you cannot overpack, then the Petzl Glacier Literide is a tool you want to try. Weighing in at only 11.2 oz and coming in a single size of 50 cm, this tool is lightweight and compact, fitting easily into your pack. As with any good axe, this one is also rated to be used in an anchor system. The steel pick is strong and ensures you can cut into even the toughest ice. Unlike other lightweight tools, the Glacier Literide has a full sized adze that is strong and sturdy and able to cut steps in the snow with great ease. And moderately priced, this is the ice axe you want when you need to go light and fast on your winter expeditions.

Petzl Summit Evo

Specs
  • Weight: 14.8 oz
  • Material: Aluminum/Steel
  • Pick Shape: Classic Curve
  • Sizes: 52, 59, 66 cm
  • Leash: No
Features
  • Bent Shaft For Better Swings
  • Rubber Coated Handle For Better Grip
  • Head And Spike Holes To Clip Carabiners

BEST FOR: STEEP ROUTES

Petzl brings to you the Summit Evo, further evolved from the traditional summit. The shaft of this tool is bent so you get more purchase in every swing to break through tough ice and snow. And the handle at the base of the tool has a rubber coating to give you better grip strength, without having to add your own grip tape to it. Rated as well for anchor building, the tool also has holes in both the head and spike for carabiner attachment in anchor situations. With a classic curve shape in the pick, along with the other features, the Summit Evo is an excellent self-arrest tool, which in itself is worth its weight in gold. And the pick is also hot forged, making it sturdy, and it is also thinner with a narrower profile, allowing you to break through thick ice better than a lot of other axes out there.

C.A.M.P. USA Corsa Nanotech

Specs
  • Weight: 8.7 oz
  • Material: Aluminum/Steel
  • Pick Shape: Classic Curve
  • Sizes: 50, 60, 70 cm
  • Leash: No
Features
  • Bent Shaft For Better Swinging Power
  • Ultralightweight
  • Optional Sliding Leash Can Be Purchased

BEST FOR: LIGHTWEIGHT 

If lightweight is the name of the game, the C.A.M.P. USA Corsa Nanotech is what you need. Made with aluminum and steel that gives the tool its overall lightness, the pick and spike are also made with a lightweight Nanoflex steel that weighs 20% less than other steel.  So, the mid-range size barely registers on the scale at 8.7 oz! A classic curve in the pick coupled with the single bend shaft give you maximum power behind every swing, so you can feel confident that you will break through tough ice and snow. An optional sliding leash can be purchased with this axe if you want the added insurance that if you drop the tool it won’t be lost. And having a leash that slides makes it adjustable so it doesn’t interfere with your grip. While more expensive than other tools out there, it will save you in time and weight on your next icy adventure!

Black Diamond Venom

Specs
  • Weight: 18.7 oz
  • Material: Aluminum/Stainless Steel
  • Pick Shape: Classic Curve
  • Sizes: 50, 57, 64 cm (50 and 57 cm with hammer)
  • Leash: No
Features
  • Pick Is Interchangeable With Other Black Diamond Picks
  • Integrated Grip Handle
  • Sliding Lock Hand Rest To Choke Up On Tool

BEST FOR: ALPINE MOUNTAINEERING

The Black Diamond Venom is a solid ice axe for all the ski mountaineers out there. While not the lightest axe out there, it makes up for it with all the other features it has to offer. Offered in three different sizes, two of the sizes can be purchased with a hammer on the head in place of an adze, allowing for you to be able to chop away at thick ice, which is especially useful if you need to make a starter hole for an ice screw. 

The base of the axe has an integrated rubber grip handle so even with gloves, you hand will not slip. And with the sliding lock hand rest, you can adjust the hand rest, which will allow you to choke up on the ice axe should you need to get a higher reach on some steep terrain. And best of all, the pick is interchangeable with other Black Diamond picks, so you can change your pick and your style of mountaineering without needing two separate tools.

C.A.M.P. USA Neve

Specs
  • Weight: 17.1 oz
  • Material: Steel
  • Pick Shape: Classic Curve
  • Sizes: 57, 65, 73 cm
  • Leash: Yes
Features
  • Aggressive Shaped Adze For Better Digging
  • Adze Shape Articulated To Fit In Palm For Better Self Belay Grip
  • Head And Spike Holes For Carabiner Attachment

BEST FOR: SMALL BUDGETS

If you are new to the world of alpine and don’t want to invest a lot of money into an ice axe, but still want a tool that will allow you to perform, the C.A.M.P. USA Neve is a wise investment for you to choose. Featuring holes both in the head and the spike, this tool is rated and can be used effectively as an anchor and have carabiners attached for belaying. 

The adze itself is a wider shape and is shaped to fit better in the palm of your hand so when you are carrying the tool forward in self-belay mode, you hand is more comfortable. And the slightly more aggressive shape of the adze can give you a  better advantage if you need to do any digging for steps or pits. A sliding leash also comes with this ice axe, which is certainly a nice feature to have as a beginner to ensure you don’t lose the tool when you drop it while learning how to use it.

Petzl Sum’tec

Specs
  • Weight: 17.9 oz
  • Material: Steel/Aluminum
  • Pick Shape: Reverse Curve
  • Sizes: 52, 59, 66, 73 cm
  • Leash: No
Features
  • Head Can Be Fitted With Adze Or Hammer For Versatility
  • Bent Shaft For Powerful Swings
  • Sliding Hand Rest For Optimal Support And Grip

BEST FOR: VERSATILITY ON THE ICE

The Petzl Sum’Tec is a truly advanced ice axe that can even be used as an ice climbing tool. The pick is in a reverse curve, making it more aggressive, which really gives you an advantage on ice and gives you the best chance in a self-arrest. The head of the tool can be fitted either with an adze for situations where you need to dig more or a hammer for situations where you need to chop more. 

Coupled with the bent shaft, you couldn’t ask for more power behind a swing! While the head and bent shaft offer a lot of power behind your swings, assisting you in harder, steeper climbs, the sliding hand rest also provides more support and better grip, and allows you to choke up on the tool in those steeper situations. The brain-child of the late alpinist Ulei Steck, this tool is ready for the hardest of ice challenges!

 

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING ICE AXES

COST

Ice axes are not the most expensive piece of gear out there. However, there is some cost difference in the more general use axes versus the more technical axes. So it is important to know your needs and make sure cost does not interfere too much when deciding which axe will allow you to reach your goals safely.

 

 SHAPE

The shape of an axe you want really depends again on your needs. For general mountaineering and winter hikes, a straight shaft and non-aggressive head will be just fine. If you are getting into more technical terrain with more ice, you will probably look to get a more aggressive head to ensure you penetrate and get a good hook in the ice. 

 

SIZE

Measured from the tip of the axe to the top of the head, ice axe size is important. You need an axe that fits you. Too long will be too heavy and too much axe to swing, but too short will have you stooped over while swinging. There may be reasons to go for a longer axe, such as if you will be using it to build anchors. If you are trying to cut weight and know you will be repeatedly swinging the axe, you may want a shorter size. Make sure you get the right size ice axe for you

 

WEIGHT

The type of material an axe is made with can determine how much it weighs. More technical axes will be made lighter weight, mostly because they are used on harder and longer expeditions where you need to pack light. Otherwise, the size of the axe is the biggest difference in weight, with longer axes weighing more than shorter ones. 

 

FEATURES EXPLAINED

ADZE

An adze is on all mountaineering axes, on the head of the axe opposite the spike, and is multi-functional. The adze can be used to dig snow anchors, chop snow, cut steps, or make snow caves. Designed in a flat shape that makes it look like a shovel, the adze can also provide some serious grip in a self-arrest situation.

SHAFT

The straight, long portion of the axe which is primarily made of aluminum, steel, or carbon.

HEAD

The top portion of the axe with the pick and adze. 

PICK

Opposite to the adze on the head, the pick is the business end that is sharp and has teeth to be able to grip ice. Picks can either be straight or curved, for more aggressive needs.

SPIKE

Found on the base of all mountaineering axes, the spike is pointed and can assist in balance when walking on ice.

READ MORE

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About The Author

Born in Maryland, Lindsay Rohrbaugh is an avid rock-alpine climber and mountaineer. An urban wildlife biologist by trade, she is also a travel writer and student of Integrative Medicine. When not in school or conducting field work on bats and turtles in Washington, DC, she is out climbing rocks and peaks or scaling high points across the globe. She’s hiked the Lares Trek in Peru and Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and climbed various routes in Morocco, Peru, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. She has even tried her skills at deep water soloing! Her weekends are often spent with her husband in their newly self-built cabin in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

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