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Whether you’re backcountry skiing or high-altitude mountaineering, you may not be able to reach the summit (or the ground) without a trusty ice axe by your side. Held tightly to your body with a strap around your wrist, an ice axe will not only help you to dig your way up sheer, vertical glaciers but it will also save your life at a moment’s notice. So whenever you set out on an icy adventure, we highly recommend bringing along the best mountaineering ice axe you can find.

Unfortunately, finding the right ice axe for your needs can seem like a difficult task. For such a small piece of equipment, they’re pretty expensive. And how could you possibly know which one is capable of saving your life? Fortunately, our experts here at The Adventure Junkies picked out our ten favorite mountaineering ice axes to help make your decision a little easier. So read through the list below to find out which is your next companion.

For more of our top mountaineering gear recommendations, check out the Best Mountaineering Boots.

 

Quick Answer - The Best Mountaineering Ice Axes

  1. Black Diamond Raven
  2. Petzl Summit Evo
  3. Camp USA Corsa Nanotech
  4. Grivel Ghost Evo
  5. Black Diamond Venom Adze
  6. Cassin X-All
  7. Grivel G1/G1 Plus
  8. Petzl Ergo
  9. Trango Raptor
  10. Black Diamond Reactor

 

Comparison Table - Best Mountaineering Ice Axes

PictureNamePick ShapeShaft ShapeMaterialPriceRating
Black Diamond RavenBlack Diamond RavenClassic CurveStraightStainless-Steel And Aluminum Shaft$4.6
Petzl Summit EvoPetzl Summit EvoClassic CurveBentAluminum/Steel/Polyurethane$$4.9
Camp USA Corsa NanotechClassic CurveBentAluminum/Steel$$4.7
Grivel Ghost EvoClassic CurveBentCarbon Steel$$4.9
Black Diamond Venom AdzeClassic CurveBentAluminum/Stainless Steel$$4.9
Cassin X-AllReverse CurveBentAluminum/Chromoly Steel$$$4.3
Grivel G1/G1 PlusClassic CurveBentCarbon Steel$4.6
Petzl ErgoReverse CurveBentSteel Head And Aluminum Shaft$$$4.9
Trango RaptorReverse CurveBentAluminum, Steel And Rubber$$4.7
Black Diamond ReactorReverse CurveBentAluminum Shaft, Stainless Steel Head And Chromoly Steel Pick$$$4.6
PictureNamePick ShapeShaft ShapeMaterialPriceRating
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 for Mountaineering

Black Diamond Raven

Specs
  • Material: Stainless-Steel And Aluminum Shaft
  • Pick Shape: Classic Curve
  • Shaft Shape: Straight
Features
  • Aluminum Shaft Reduces Weight Without Sacrificing Strength
  • Teeth Securely Bite Snow
  • Ergonomic Hand Hold Creates Secure Grip
Black Diamond Raven

BEST FOR: EASIER ASCENTS

The classic design of the Black Diamond Raven gives climbers a secure and reliable tool for navigating icy slopes. Its sharp, stainless-steel teeth will bite into any surface and efficiently self-arrest you if you fall or glissade down a mountain face. The lightweight aluminum shaft will fit perfectly into any bag loop and won’t weigh heavily on your hike. 

With this ice axe, however, note that while the structure will help with self arrests and glissading, you may want a more streamlined design for serious ascents. This ice axe may not be able to chew away at the toughest of ice falls, so we recommend a stronger, more powerful axe for serious mountaineers.

Petzl Summit Evo

Specs
  • Material: Aluminum/Steel/Polyurethane
  • Pick Shape: Classic Curve
  • Shaft Shape: Bent
Features
  • Thin Pick Is Toothed At Tip For Maximum Traction
  • Head And Spike Have Holes For Carabiner Attachment
  • Bent Shaft Creates More Power
Petzl Summit Evo

BEST FOR: CLASSIC MOUNTAINEERING

The lightweight Summit Evo Ice axe is a versatile, strong tool that can dig into the roughest of surfaces. Easily held at the handle for strength or just under the pick for control, the Evo’s pick is made thicker in the middle for soft snow and sharp toothed at the tip for thick ice. The stainless steel spike itself will last through many expeditions while the grip ensures a comfortable feel. 

This is a strong, reliable, and lightweight axe that may take a bit of experience to perfect in use, but in the long run, will pay endless dividends. We highly suggest this axe to strong mountaineers looking to scale some serious terrain.

Camp USA Corsa Nanotech

Specs
  • Material: Aluminum/Steel
  • Pick Shape: Classic Curve
  • Shaft Shape: Bent
Features
  • Nylon Spike Plug Keeps Ice Out Of Shaft
  • Indicator Warns When Pick Is Too Dull For Use
  • Separately Sold Leash Attaches To Shaft

BEST FOR: SNOW TRAVEL AND SELF ARREST

Made uniquely with patented Sandvik Nanoflex steel, the Camp USA ice axe is 70% stronger and 20% more durable than normal steel ice axes. Even more impressive, this tradeoff does not result in an overly heavy ice axe, but rather a lightweight, bent tool that provides climbers with enough clearance to ascend without too much of a bent to irritate them. 

Other features include a separately sold leash that attaches to the shaft as well as a nylon plug that restricts ice from rattling around in the shaft of your axe. These small but useful features make the Camp USA stand out as one of the strongest and most reliable ice axes on the market. Take note, however, that with curiver ice axes, you may be able to get a bit more power than with this Camp axe.

Grivel Ghost Evo

Specs
  • Material: Carbon Steel
  • Pick Shape: Classic Curve
  • Shaft Shape: Bent
Features
  • Made With Strong Carbon Steel
  • Certified To European Health, Safety And Environmental Standards
  • Lightweight

BEST FOR: INTERMEDIATE MOUNTAINEERS

The unique, bent design of the Grivel Ghost Evo Ice Axe grants climbers enough clearance to ascend the steepest of slopes while its sharp toothed, curved pick allows climbers to get technical with their ascents as well. The carbon steel material will withstand more impact and wear than most other ice axes and the pick itself, which is more curved than competing models, may dig deeper into ice chunks for added stability. 

We recommend this ice axe for beginners looking to tackle technical ascents. The design and weight of it make it an easy-to-use technical ice axe.

Black Diamond Venom Adze

Specs
  • Material: Aluminum/Stainless Steel
  • Pick Shape: Classic Curve
  • Shaft Shape: Bent
Features
  • Precise And Adaptable To Any Terrain
  • Interchangeable Pick
  • Sliding Pommel Lock Allows For Higher And Lower Grips Depending On Terrain

BEST FOR: MULTISPORT CLIMBERS

The Black Diamond Venom Adze Ice Axe may cost more than others, but with a uniquely versatile design, it’s worth the investment. A light, fast shaft paired with a technical pick combines to make a super strong ice axe. And, with an adjustable pommel that you can slide up and down and lock into place with a small lever, you can use this tool on both steep and mild slopes. 

All together, it’s features make the Venom Ice Axe a well-rounded tool for mountaineering, back-country skiing, and snow climbing. Other axes may be more specialized, but if you have a wide variety of interests, we recommend the Venom Ice Axe for all your needs.

Cassin X-All

Specs
  • Material: Aluminum/Chromoly Steel
  • Pick Shape: Reverse Curve
  • Shaft Shape: Bent
Features
  • Interchangeable Ice Pick
  • Easy-To-Adjust Grip
  • Easily Attaches To A Carabiner

BEST FOR: LOW-ANGLE CLIMBING

There are few ice axes out there that come with a reverse curved pick and even fewer capable of digging into an ice fall when there’s little to no angle. Fortunately, the minds over at Cassin have crafted a near-unbeatable all-mountain ice axe that functions particularly well in low-angle climbing. This pick, with a very unique design, uses chromoly steel for digging into the ice and an easily adjustable grip for all hand sizes. 

Made in Italy, we suggest this to extreme, muli-sport mountaineers looking to climb large overhangs and ice waterfalls.

Grivel G1/G1 Plus

Specs
  • Material: Carbon Steel
  • Pick Shape: Classic Curve
  • Shaft Shape: Bent
Features
  • Spiked Shaft To Aid Climbing
  • Lightweight Design
  • Certified To European Health, Safety And Environmental Standards

BEST FOR: BACKCOUNTRY SKIING

Much Like Black Diamond’s Raven Ice Axe, the Grivel G1 and G1 Plus are classic, reliable ice axes for mild terrain and backcountry skiing. Unlike the Grivel G1, which boasts a straight shaft and curved pick, the G1 Plus adds in a slightly curved shaft to enhance mobility and power. So, if you’re a beginning climber and you’re looking for the most basic model out there, we recommend the G1, but if you’re slightly more experienced and only foresee using your ice axe for backcountry skiing and self arrests, we suggest the G1 Plus. It won’t weigh you down and is more than reliable for any moderate backcountry expedition.

Petzl Ergo

Specs
  • Material: Steel Head And Aluminum Shaft
  • Pick Shape: Reverse Curve
  • Shaft Shape: Bent
Features
  • Rubber Grip For Traction
  • Adjustable Handle For Multiple Grip Positions
  • Ultra-Curved For Extreme Clearance

BEST FOR: EXPERT MOUNTAINEERS

Though it may be the most expensive ice axe on our list, the Petzl Ergo is by far the most advanced tool we’ve found. Built especially for high-end, steep slope, technical climbers and mountaineers, the Petzl Ergo offers an unrivaled clearance of terrain with a design that enhances mobility and strength. Other features include an interchangeable dry-weather pick as well as an adjustable handle for more control in steep environments. 

If ice climbing is not just a passion for you but a way of life, then we highly recommend investing in an ice axe such as Petzl’s Ergo that can match your intensity.

Trango Raptor

Specs
  • Material: Aluminum, Steel And Rubber
  • Pick Shape: Reverse Curve
  • Shaft Shape: Bent
Features
  • One-Piece Molded Rubber For Grip
  • Deep Penetrating Pick That Cleans Easily
  • Removable Weights For Added Versatility

BEST FOR: ADVANCED MOUNTAINEERING

A well-crafted ice axe, the Trango Raptor sports a high quality, deep penetrating pick as well as a molded grip for comfort. This simple, yet effective ice axe can be counted on for any expedition and will do just fine on technical ascents as well as fitness-heavy climbs. With its curved design and reversed pick, it may not be best for backcountry skiers looking for a self-arresting ice axe, so we recommend this strictly to mountaineers and ice-climbers looking for a reliable tool to get themselves up the mountain.

Black Diamond Reactor

Specs
  • Material: Aluminum Shaft, Stainless Steel Head And Chromoly Steel Pick
  • Pick Shape: Reverse Curve
  • Shaft Shape: Bent
Features
  • Open Pick Angle Makes Climbing Ice Easier
  • Handle Offers Wide Grip And More Control
  • Short And Thin Pick Easily Digs Into Ice

BEST FOR: HIGH-LEVEL ICE CLIMBERS

With an extra wide, offset handle for control, when you’re climbing with the Black Diamond Reactor you’ll be able to get more strength and power behind each swing. The pick is made thin and short so that when it collides with the ice, instead of knocking off a huge chunk, it’ll slide right in like a needle. This design makes for a slightly heavier ice axe, but a much more reliable and precise one in the field of outdoor adventure. We highly recommend it to high-level ice climbers.

 

 

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING A MOUNTAINEERING ICE AXE

For such a pivotal piece of equipment, when you’re buying your first or next ice axe, you’re going to want to do some research to find out which is the best mountaineering ice axe for you. To get a good base, read through what REI has to say on Choosing An Ice Axe and the Ice Axe Knowledge EMS offers as well. Afterwards, take a quick glance through our list of key points to consider before buying your ice axe from the list above. 

 

ENVIRONMENT

Where and how do you intend on using your ice axe? The environment and weather conditions you plan on using your axe in will dramatically affect which one you should buy. Backcountry, snowy conditions will tend to a longer, lighter axe, while quick climbs and steep ascents will call for a shorter, sharper ice tool. 

 

LENGTH: ICE AXE VS. ICE TOOL

Though we’ve listed out all the above as ice axes, there is a technical distinction between ice axes and ice tools. Ice axes are often bigger and sport a more classic look. You’ll use these in snowy environments or while backcountry skiing. Ice tools are meant especially for ice climbing and their primary purpose is to get you up an incline. These are more technical tools so they will often be shorter and sport a few more features to improve their handling. 

 

SHAPE

If you’re ice climbing a waterfall, you’re almost definitely going to want a curved shaft as it’ll increase your control, but if you’re simply backpacking or hiking through extreme terrain, a straight or only slightly bent shaft will do as the tool’s primary purpose will be for an emergency self-arrest or added stability when traversing. 

 

COST

As a general rule of thumb, the cheaper the ice axe, the less technical the tool. Cheap ice axes will always work in snowy conditions, but if you find yourself climbing extensively, much like a cheap knife, they may not hold an edge as long. As always, if you’re climbing serious terrain, invest the money in serious equipment. It could save your life. 

 

FEATURES EXPLAINED

CLASSIC CURVE PICK

Great for self arrest and holds better in ice.

REVERSE CURVE PICK

Removes quickly and easily from ice. 

BENT SHAFT

An ice-axe shaft may be curved or bend slightly at a point.

READ MORE

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About The Author

While at the University of Virginia, Nate studied Spanish literature and contemporary philosophy and started for its Division 1 lacrosse team. At 20 years old, he began writing about his experiences attempting the world’s most insane adventures. From backcountry skiing in Patagonia to living in a Brazilian favela and high-altitude ice climbing in the Himalaya, Nate sheds light on parts and cultures of the world that remain widely unknown. He’s been featured on the top-rated travel podcast Extra Pack of Peanuts and has published work in a variety of outdoor publications. Currently Nate works as a freelance writer and explorer and competes for the Israeli National lacrosse team at tournaments around the world. He is fluent in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Nepali and proficient in French and Arabic. This past Spring, Nate became the first ever foreigner to porter in the Himalaya.

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