Mountain climbing is a discipline that requires quite a bit of gear to be accomplished safely, and that is under ideal conditions. When you throw weather and other considerations into the mix, you start to reach the point where you need specialized equipment to remain safe on the mountainside.
The best example of this would be climbing during the winter (also known as ice climbing), as you will need quite a bit of gear to be able to deal with the ice-sheathed flanks of the mountain. One of the most critical things you can look for as an ice climber is the best ice axe around, as they are versatile tools that are crucial for the discipline.
Unfortunately, it can often be a bit of a challenge to find the best mountaineering ice axe, as there isn't all that much that outwardly sets them apart. Most would assume that an axe is an axe, but there are a few fundamental differences that you will have to keep track of. This will ensure that you get the best ice climbing axe available.
Over the course of today’s article, we are going to be presenting our three choices for the title of best ice axe for mountaineering. Our expert reviews will go over dimensions, additional features, and everything else that you need to know before buying your new ice axe.
Of course, you’ll need a little bit more than reviews to ensure that you find the ideal product for your needs, so we’ll also provide some buying advice to finding the best ice switch axe.
Best Ice Axe
Let's take a look on our top recommendations for the best ice axe:
If you need the best ice axe on the market, you won’t find many products that can hope to compete with the Raven from Black Diamond. Known as one of the premier makers of climbing equipment, Black Diamond’s high-quality construction really shines through in this ice axe model. Specifications:
First off, the Raven is a versatile axe which comes in a range of different sizes, making it an ideal choice for climbers of various statures. Keep in mind that weight will vary with each size, though you may be surprised to learn that the heaviest model is the 75cm axe instead of the 90cm one.
This climbing axe features a head with an adze shape, which is meant to provide superior ice penetration on the first hit, reducing the amount of effort you need to use. Once you have broken through the ice, this axe can also be used to provide additional grip and leverage due to its semi-aggressive shape.
The pick and the teeth are both designed for self-arresting work, but you will want to keep in mind that this axe is much sharper than many competing models, so you’ll want to be careful. The Raven can easily cut through your climbing clothes, and it can slice you deeply if you aren’t careful.
Of course, the sharpness of this axe is also what makes it such an effective choice. The handle doesn’t feature any additional material for grip as that would make it harder to use the spike in the base of the handle. The axe head features some ergonomic modeling so that it is easier for you to carry.
If you need the best ice axe, then this model from Omega Pacific should probably be on your list. While this company is known for their production of carabiners and other similar climbing equipment, they also produce gear like this ice axe, and it is designed to be one of the strongest. Specifications:
This ice axe comes available in a range of different sizes, from 60cm all the way up to 80cm. A wide range of sizing options means that you’ll be able to find the right axe for your needs no matter how tall you are. Of course, as the size of these axes increases, so will the weight, from 622g up to 707g.
When you consider the size and resilience of these axes, the low weight is surprising, but that is mainly a result of the use of 6061 T6 aluminum in the handle. The base of this ice axe’s handle features a spike, and there is no additional material for grip on the handle to facilitate the use of that spike.
This axe features a head and spikes that use tig welding to improve strength and to ensure that they don’t end up shearing off under stress. The head on this ice axe is also exceptionally durable, as it is made out of 4130 CrMo steel. Almost every aspect of this axe is meant to improve its resilience.
Keep in mind that this axe is also surprisingly versatile, as you can use it to self-arrest, or you can create snow anchors or bollards with it. If you’re tired of your ice axes breaking or failing on you, then you’ll be sure to love the Omega Pacific Ice Axe.
The last model we'll be taking a look at in our search for the best ice axe on the market is this model from Grivel: the G Zero. Many see this axe as Grivel's best model due to its simple construction that manages to blend ergonomics and durability into one package at a reasonable price. Specifications:
First off, you can find this axe in three sizes ranging from 58cm all the way up to 74cm, which is a wide enough range for most climbers. This ice axe features a carbon steel blade with a shape that is a hybrid of a classical neutral and a classical negative shape, providing the chopping power you need.
On the other end of the axe head, you'll find a convenient shovel as well as a loop so that it won't fall out of your hands and be lost. One of the more impressive accessories that come included with this ice axe is the ergonomic blade cover which can remain attached while in use.
The axe blade cover ensures that you don’t accidentally cut yourself while handing the ergonomic axe head, but it also protects exposed skin from sticking to the blade in cold temperatures. Overall, this axe is designed to be as convenient as possible without sacrificing too much durability, and the designers have done a good job of that.
Before you buy yourself a brand new ice axe there are few things you should pay attention on:
When you're looking for the best ice axe for winter walking, you're always going to want to look for one that is compact enough not to burden you but large enough to get the job done. There are many different sizes of ice axes available, to suit the needs of climbers of different sizes and builds.
Overall size is important to consider because a larger axe will end up taking up more room in your pack, which will result in less space for other provisions or equipment. You will typically only want to bring an ice axe that is just as large as you need it to be, as anything bigger will inconvenience you.
The majority of ice axes will range in length from about one foot long to three feet long, depending on their application. Keep in mind that a longer axe will be able to break through ice with greater ease than a smaller model, but it will also be more unwieldy while you are climbing.
Of course, there are also smaller hand axes that are even shorter than a foot, and these are much easier to carry with you while climbing. The smallest of ice axes are typically meant to be used while you are perched in precarious positions where you wouldn’t be able to use a longer one.
Another aspect that is closely related to both the size and length of your axe is its weight, as that will also have a bearing on how many other things you can bring along with you. The mass of your axe is a crucial consideration when mountain climbing, and it is even more critical for ice climbers.
Every additional pound of gear that you bring along with you will make it that much harder to climb a mountain. When you add ice to the equation, it starts getting easier to slip as well. Try and opt for the lightest possible axe of the size that you're looking for, granted it retains its durability.
Almost every ice axe you come across will feature some form of curve to its blade, and there is a functional reason for this. The first consideration is that a curved blade can take up less space while retaining the same overall length as a short blade due to the simple shape of a curved blade.
More importantly, however, the curve in your ice axe’s blade greatly improves the amount of leverage it will provide you with when you chop into some ice. Leverage is integral to ice axes, and this is the reason why they share a very similar shape with an ice pick axe, though they have different purposes.
While we have discussed the overall size of ice axes as an important feature, though we failed to mention the individual elements. For example, some ice axes will feature a larger handle to facilitate grip in icy conditions, but increased length will also end up increasing the amount of leverage provided.
You’ll also want to take a look at the teeth that are on the ice axe’s blade, as every one of them will have different tooth sizes and arrangements. Larger teeth will often be able to get a firmer hold in the ice, though it will be harder to break through initially when you compare them to small-toothed axes.
Of course, when choosing the best ice axe for hiking, you’ll also need to account for the material that it’s made out of. The vast majority of climbing axes are made out of material that is as strong as possible but weighs as little as possible. Metals are the most common materials due to their high tensile strength.
More specifically, aluminum is the most common material that is used in the construction of ice axes due to its light weight and its reasonable cost. Some of the top end climbing axes on the market may be made out of titanium alloys for further improved strength over aluminum.
We hope that this guide has helped you find the ideal ice climbing axe for your needs. There are many different types of axes, and you’ll have to consider your climbing style as well as your physical size when making your choice. Thank you for taking the time to read through our reviews.