As with many products designed by Black Diamond, the Raven Pro is a fine example of functional and appealing design. If you’re looking for an ultra light ice axe it’s hard to go past it. A bead-blasted and anodised aluminium shaft and highly polished stainless steel head and ferrule present the Raven as a no-nonsense, elegant product. There’s no paint to chip, no plastic to crack and nothing to wear out.
The Raven Pro’s designed for backcountry snow travel, ski mountaineering and basic mountaineering and is aimed at the weight conscious (362g/50cm). This axe works as well as any in many alpine situations: it’s beautifully balanced for walking upright; the shaft is smooth and straight for easy plunging and it will enable self arrest with its snag-free head and curved, toothed pick. Weight saving usually means a compromise somewhere though, and in the case of the Raven it’s in its step cutting ability. A light head weight makes for harder work cutting steps compounded by a small adze. I’d prefer to see the adze 10mm wider – a minimal addition of weight for a more efficient cut. As for the lack of weight in the head; that’s something you have to accept with an axe this light.
This axe also has a very thick pick, which makes it great to hold when walking (the top of the axe is beautifully formed for this purpose) but it also means it’s poor at penetrating ice.
It comes without a leash, although Black Diamond make one you can attach to the axe.
Overall, a tool to add to your quiver if you’re a frequent and varied mountain traveller, but should be considered with caution if it’s your only ice axe as its range of ideal use is limited.