Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Mountaineering Ice-Axes: Grivel Airtech Evolution vs Black Diamond Raven Pro

I have two ice-axes. On one view, that's one too many, yet on another, that's not actually enough. Time will tell, but I see me buying at least two more in the years to come - especially as my climbing becomes steeper and more technical. That said - how do my current axes, the Black Diamond Raven Pro and the Grivel Airtech Evolution, compare to each other? It's an edifying question when purchasing an ice-axe because it throws into stark relief the issues that need consideration.

Which is better rather depends on the use to which you'll be putting your piolet. The Raven Pro is very lightweight, yet strong. As a walker's axe, it has almost everything. The straight shaft is very comfortable, beautifully weighted and slips almost unbidden into snow. The head is also snug to hold when walking and so, for winter hillwalking, it's hard to fault. It will cut steps, although not as easily as others as the adze is not the widest, and requires a perfect technique for reasonable progress in this regard. As a self-arrest tool, it works adequately as the pick is long, adroitly curved and razor sharp.

Yet, for moving on to steeper terrain and what would be classed as a Scottish Winter Grade I (or worse) climb, I would find the Raven Pro somewhat disconcerting. This is where the Evo really pulls past it. At almost 100g heavier, it has a far more aggressive pick which penetrates névé and ice far more readily, and confidently, than the Raven Pro. The adze is wider, and sharper, and cuts steps (and consequently snow anchors) far more easily. The shaft is T-rated (unlike the B-rated Raven Pro) so buried ice-axe anchors and belays are possible, unlike the Raven Pro. The angle of the shaft means that knuckles are protected when it's used as a tool to ascend a steep slope. The grip is welcome in this theatre too. Its spike and shaft also drives well into snow when gripped at the head and used as a walking tool - not as well as the Raven Pro for obvious reasons, but still effectively enough.

So which is better? As I said - it depends on the use to which you are putting your piolet. The Evo is far more technical and better suited to steeper ground where the pick and adze, as well as the angled shaft (with a very effective grip), will enable better progress but will still cut it on the walk in as well. If you are unlikely to spend much time on steeper ground and will be on far more even ascents, then the Raven Pro is probably the better choice - if only because of the weight saving and the lack of a grip.


  1. i shouldn't do, but i want an evolution! i like my raven, but def agree on the adze. nice precis of the 2 styles, thanks

  2. I prefer the Evo but that's largely because it suits what I do with an axe.