Black Diamond Raven Pro (2014)

The Black Diamond Raven Pro’s curvaceous profile and the polished finish of the cast stainless steel head are instantly appealing. It’s also pretty lightweight at 467g (size 75cm), so you won’t mind carrying this on your pack or in your hand all day. The head has a gentle curve, making it ideal for self arrest and cutting steps, although the pick and adze are both slightly shorter than on some models, which is an advantage on ice but means you may have to work harder when there is snow cover to cut through to reach ice beneath. The axe lacks a rubber grip on the shaft or a leash, which some users may prefer as it makes this a neater tool to use, but you may want to consider adding these items, which of course increases cost and weight. The balance is slightly lighter in the head than some other axes, which makes it great for walking, but you might prefer a heavier head when cutting steps or using the spike. The Black Diamond Raven Pro is rated as basic, which means it isn’t designed to be used for roped belays. But when used for glacier walking or hill and mountain walking, it’s a great option if you want to save a few grams.

Classification basic (B)
Materials 7075-T6 alloy shaft, cast stainless steel pick and spike
Sizes 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 75cm
Weight 467g(75cm)
Website www.blackdiamondequipment.com

 

Verdict

The Black Diamond Raven Pro was voted best for mountains and glaciers in this test.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine January 2014

 


Black Diamond Raven Pro (2013)

The Black Diamond Raven Pro is a beautiful piece of engineering and it’s also a beautiful tool to use on the hill – and that’s why it has been a long-term favourite of Team Trail. The axe has a sleek, modern design with a polished head and spike. The head is slightly less aggressive than others so it is not quite as useful for mountaineering, but it’s far more suitable for glacier travel and walking than most. The axe does not have a rubber grip on the shaft, or a leash, which some users may prefer as it makes this a neater tool to use and it also helps keep the weight down, meaning this is a much lighter axe than others here (a 65cm long version weighs around 424g). The balance of the axe is ideal for walking and it sits very neatly in the hand too, while its large range of sizes mean that there is something to suit most people’s body height and personal axe length preference. The drawback is the price of this axe as you can get other models that will provide perfectly good service for much less cash. Still, the Black Diamond Raven Pro is a great option for walkers on snow and glaciers.

Classification basic
Materials 7075-T6 alloy shaft, cast stainless steel pick and spike
Sizes 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 75cm
Weight 385g (50cm)
Website
www.blackdiamondequipment.com

 

Verdict
The Black Diamond Raven Pro was the best hill and glacier ice axe in our test.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine January 2013


Black Diamond Contact Clip (2013)

The Black Diamond Contact Clip is made from stainless steel, which means it does not rust like most other crampons, and snow and ice do not stick to the crampon so readily. Stainless steel is also more durable than carbon steel so the points of the spikes are more likely to stay sharp even if you spend some of the day scraping them over rocks rather than ice when traversing mixed ground comprised of rock, snow and ice. There are 10 points that are 3cm long, which allows them to easily provide grip on ice that is covered in snow. The two front points allow this crampon to provide grip when ascending slopes, while the four spikes that are rotated provide some braking power to prevent slipping on descent. Anti-balling plates are pre-attached to ensure snow does not cling to the base of the crampon. The standard Contact Clip is fitted to a boot using a front toe cradle and a rear heel clip, meaning it can only be fitted to boots that have a heel lip. However, it is also available with a heel strap for boots without a heel lip. The Black Diamond Contact Clip is rated as C1, meaning it can be used with semi-flexible 3-4 season boots and 4-season boots.

Materials stainless steel
Sizes one size fits 34-46cm
Weight 876g (pair, including anti-balling plates)
Website
www.blackdiamondequipment.com

 

Verdict
The Black Diamond Contact Clips are the best crampons for mountain and glacier walking in this test.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine January 2013


Black Diamond Raven Pro 2012

The Black Diamond Raven Pro is the stripped-down version of the Raven, Black Diamond’s basic mountaineering ice axe. It is a stunning tool and has long been a favourite with Trail. The Pro version comes with a sleek, gripless shaft and a trimmed-down pick and adze. The balance is very much that of a walking axe and although it will happily chop steps and swing into névé it is not as good as its heavier-headed siblings. The head is well-contoured for the hand and carries well when used for walking. You get a straight shaft and a gently curved head. The adze and pick are perfectly shaped, and the attention to detail such as the bevelled pick and well-placed teeth are bang on. The only issue we have, and it’s a minor one, is the thin profile of the shaft. It does make plunging it into snow a tad easier but compromises the grip particularly if you have big hands. The Black Diamond Raven Pro’s 424g weight is excellent and will appeal to those wanting to trim down their load in both the UK and the Alps.

Classification basic
Materials 7075-T6 alloy shaft, cast stainless steel pick and spike
Sizes 55, 60, 65, 70,75cm
Weight 424g (65cm)
Website www.blackdiamondequipment.com

 

The Black Diamond Raven Pro is best for walking.

Review by Jeremy Ashcroft
First published in Trail magazine January 2012


Black Diamond Contact Strap 2011

Now made from stainless steel, the Black Diamond Contact Strap is an outstanding crampon that is low-weight and has top-notch build quality. It also comes fitted with anti-balling plates and these are an elaborate design to improve their resistance to snow balling. You get 10 points, four rotated through 90 degrees to improve grip on slopes. Some 3D stamping adds strength too. Adjustment is easy and the crampons can be easily fitted to boots with the straps. The stainless steel is an excellent choice of material. It sheds snow well and certainly takes the knocks and seems to be very resilient. The Contact Strap is a very clean design that is easy to use and ideal for general winter walking. It offers a good level of stability so when paired with the right boots it will tackle steeper terrain. But stainless steel still has its critics and so far Black Diamond is the only mainstream manufacturer to use it. It is a bit ‘blingy’, but we think it performs well.

Classification C1
Materials stainless steel
Sizes one size fits 34-46
Weight 820g (pair, including anti-balling plates)
Made in USA
Stores in the UK 250

The Black Diamond Contact Strap is a quality lightweight walking crampon that will allow you to tackle the odd bit of steep stuff. It was adjudged the best walking crampon in our test.

Review by Jeremy Ashcroft
First published in Trail magazine January 2011


Black Diamond Serac Clip 2011

The Black Diamond Serac Clip is a well-proven general mountaineering crampon. It is designed to take on everything from winter walking through to glacier work and moderately technical climbs. Black Diamond has broken convention and now makes them from stainless steel rather than the more traditional chromoly steel. Black Diamond’s arguments for using stainless steel is that it makes crampons that are lighter, more durable, resist snow balling and are less damaging to the environment as they do not need treating to resist rust. That is certainly backed up by our tests. But stainless steel still has its critics and so far Black Diamond is the only mainstream manufacturer to use it. It is a bit ‘blingy’ but we think it performs well.

Classification C2
Materials stainless steel
Sizes one size fits 34-46
Weight 990g (pair, including anti-balling plates)
Made in USA
Stores in the UK 250

The Black Diamond Serac Clip is an outstanding mountaineering crampon that just misses out on the top spot because of the newness of its material.

Review by Jeremy Ashcroft
First published in Trail magazine January 2011


Black Diamond Raven Pro 2011

The Black Diamond Raven Pro is a stripped-down version of the Raven, BD’s basic mountaineering range of ice axes. It is a stunning tool. The Pro version comes with a sleek, gripless shaft and a trimmed-down pick and adze. The balance is very much that of a walking axe and all though it will happily chop steps and swing into névé (compacted snow) it is not as good as its heavier-headed brothers. The head is well-contoured for the hand and carries well when used for walking. You get a straight shaft and a gently curved head. The adze and pick are perfectly shaped and the attention to detail such as the bevelled pick and well-placed teeth are spot on. The only (minor) issue we have with this axe is the thin profile of the shaft. It does make plunging it into snow a tad easier but compromises the grip, particularly if you have big hands. The 424g weight is excellent.  But the Black Diamond Raven Pro is only rated in the basic (B) category, so it is not for use as a rope belay. Some axes have a pre-curved shaft for easier placement in snow slopes. You do not get a spike protector.

Classification basic
Materials 7075-T6 alloy shaft; cast stainless steel pick and spike
Sizes 55, 60, 65, 70, 75cm
Weight 424g (size 65cm)
Made in China
Stores in the UK 250

The Black Diamond Raven Pro is a beautifully made all-round basic axe that’s ideal for walkers who regularly head out into British hills in winter and also make the occasional Alpine foray. It won ‘Best in Test’ for walking axes.

Review by Jeremy Ashcroft
First published in Trail magazine January 2011


Black Diamond Venom 2011

The Black Diamond Venom is a tried and tested workhorse. Being modular, it can take either a standard drop Alpine-type pick or a reverse-curve technical pick – making it a very versatile tool. It also comes in a hammerhead version so that you can have a matched pair for front pointing. The Venom is regularly chosen for use in lightweight trips to the Greater Ranges, which hints at the type of ground it is capable of tackling. For those who want to buy an axe that they can use on everything from a winter’s walk in Snowdonia to tackling a long Grade IV winter climb on the north face of Ben Nevis the Venom is the perfect choice. But the narrow diameter of the shaft makes plunging easy, but for those with big hands it can feel a little thin. The Black Diamond Venom is only rated as a ‘B’ (basic), which means it should not be used for axe belays.

Classification basic
Materials chromoly steel pick, alloy shaft and cast stainless steel adze and spike
Sizes 50, 57, 64cm
Weight 546g (size 57cm)
Made in China
Stores in the UK 250

The Black Diamond Venom is a beautifully made technical axe that is equally at home on the level as it is on the vertical.  It was voted “Best Value’ mountaineering ice axe in our test.

Review by Jeremy Ashcroft
First published in Trail magazine January 2011


Black Diamond Contact Strap 2009

The Black Diamond Contact Strap is an outstanding crampon, thanks to its low weight and top-notch build quality. It also comes fitted with anti-balling plates as standard and these are an elaborate design to improve their resistance to snow build up. There are10 points, four rotated through 90 degrees to improve grip on slopes and some 3D stamping adds to their strength too. Adjustment is simple and the crampons can be easily fitted to boots with the straps. Compared to others models, the price is very good too at £70 when you consider what you are getting. These have not gone up in price since 2006 either. These are a very clean design that is easy to use and ideal for general winter walking. They offer a good level of stability so when paired with the right boots they will tackle steeper terrain. But the Black Diamond Contact Strap’s spike points are very sharp, so you might snag these quite easily on gaiters before they wear down. The instructions do not feature diagrams so these aren’t the best for beginners. There are only 10 points rather than 12, so grip isn’t the best.

Classification C2
Materials NiCroMo steel
Sizes one size fits 34-46
Weight 880g including anti-balling plates
Made in USA
Stores no info provided
Stockist details tel. (01629) 580484, www.blackdiamondequipment.com

Verdict
The Black Diamond Contact Strap is a quality lightweight walking crampon that will allow you to tackle the odd bit of steep stuff. This 10-point model only just missed the top spot in our review, and was awarded ‘Best value’.

Review by Jeremy Ashcroft
First published in Trail magazine January 2009

Black Diamond Raven Pro 2008

The Black Diamond Raven Pro is a stunning ice axe and has been a favourite with Trail. The pro version comes with a recessed rubber grip and a slide-adjusted leash. The balance is excellent, which makes chopping steps and front pointing a delight. The head is well-contoured for the hand and carries well when used for walking. You get a straight shaft and a gently curved head. The adze and pick are perfectly shaped, and the attention to detail such as the bevelled pick and well-placed teeth are bang on. The only issue we have with this axe (and it’s a minor one) is the thin profile of the shaft. It does make plunging it into snow a tad easier but compromises the grip, particularly if you have big hands. The 540g weight (with leash) is very good, and ideal for the typical mixed conditions of UK winters. But the Black Diamond Raven Pro is only rated as basic, so it is not for use as a rope belay. Some axes are lighter too and others have a precurved shaft for easier placement in snow slopes. You do not get a spike protector either.

Classification basic
Materials 7075-T6 alloy shaft; cast stainless steel pick and spike
Sizes 55, 60, 65, 70, 75cm
Weight 540g (size 60cm with leash)
Made in China
Stores in the UK 200
Stockist details tel. (01629) 580484, www.blackdiamondequipment.com
Verdict
The Black Diamond Raven Pro is a beautifully made all-round basic axe ideal for walkers who regularly head out into British hills in winter and make the occasional Alpine foray.

Review by Jeremy Ashcroft
First published in Trail magazine January 2009

Black Diamond Venom hammer/adze

This is a low-weight ice axe that can be used as a pair with a hammer or adze head for steeper snow and ice-climbing. You get an interchangeable pick as well as an ergonomic head grip. The shaft is rubberised towards the spike for a better grip. There is a leash provided too with padded wrist loop and easy adjustment. The precurved shaft is ideal for easier placement in snow slopes while being ideal for steeper climbing moves. The whole axe is beautifully finished and well-balanced, and generally feels ideal in the hand. Use this for all-round mountaineering and it should be ideal. But surprisingly the pick is only given a B rating rather than a T rating, so it is not the strongest option. This is also a dedicated climbing axe, so it’s not so good if you just want a walker’s axe for Munro-bagging in winter. The high price tag is due to the replaceable head design, so you need to make sure you need it for the extra cash you have to pay.

Vital stats

Classification basic

Materials 7075-T6 alloy shaft; cast stainless steel pick and spike

Sizes 50, 57, 64cm

Weight 566g (size 57cm with leash)

Made in China

 

Verdict Ideal if you want a more swingable axe with interchangeable picks for mountaineering and walking rather than a lower-priced general axe.


Black Diamond Raven

The Black Diamond Raven has been a long-term favourite ice axe with Trail. The rubber shaft grip and leash have now been removed; however the axe is still very comfortable to hold, particularly as the head is well-contoured for the hand. You get a straight shaft and a gently curved head. The adze and pick are both well-designed for cutting steps and ice axe braking, but the head is a little more comfortable in the hand compared to some others, which is a real advantage for the walker. The 502g weight is very good, and ideal for the typical mixed conditions of UK winters. The shaft and head are exceptionally well-finished and the whole package can be yours for just £55. But this axe is only rated as basic, so it is not for use as a rope belay. Other axes are lighter too. Some axes have a precurved shaft for easier placement in snow slopes. You do not get a spike protector, pre-attached leash or a rubber grip, unlike the 2006 version.

Vital stats

Classification basic

Materials 7075-T6 alloy shaft; cast stainless steel pick and spike

Sizes 55, 60, 65, 70,75cm

Weight 502g (size 60cm without leash)

Made in China

 

Verdict A good all-round basic axe for walkers if heading more regularly to the snow and perhaps walking up snow-covered peaks abroad.


Black Diamond Contact Strap

The Black Diamond Contact Strap crampon regularly gets good reviews, mainly thanks to its low weight. It also comes fitted with anti-balling plates as standard and these are an elaborate design to improve their resistance to snow balling. You get 10 points, and four of these are rotated through 90 degrees to improve grip on slopes. Some 3D stamping adds to the strength of the crampons too. Adjustment is easy and the crampons can be easily fitted to boots with the straps. Compared to some other models, the price is very good too when you consider what you are getting. These are a very clean design that is easy to use and ideal for general winter walking if weight is your priority, rather than the ability to tackle steep snow slopes all day. But the anti-balling plates are not quite as good as the best here, particularly as a screwdriver is needed to remove them. The spike points are very sharp, so you might snag these quite easily on gaiters before they wear down. As the instructions do not feature diagrams, they aren’t the best for beginners. You are only getting 10 points rather than 12, so grip isn’t the best.

Vital stats
Classification
C2
Materials NiCroMo steel
Sizes one size fits 34-46
Weight 908g including anti-balling plates
Made in USA

Verdict A very good all-round lightweight crampon with good durability and features for winter walking.

 


Black Diamond Neve Strap

If you want to save weight, these crampons are ideal as they are 300g lighter than some others. They have 10 points, and four of these are rotated through 90 degrees to add a little extra grip. Length adjustment is easy to adjust due to the spring lock mechanism of the central bar, while heel and toe mouldings make fitting reasonably easy. The anti-balling plates come pre-attached, so you can grab these crampons and go. Instructions are also provided, giving details of how to fit and care for the crampons. Use these for ski-touring or days when snow is either going to be minimal or not necessarily expected, and they are ideal. But the aluminium used will wear down faster than steel, so care is required in the use of these crampons and they are certainly not ideal for mixed rock and ice terrain. The anti-balling plates are screwed in place so you’ll need a screwdriver to replace them. There are only 10 short points so you don’t get as much grip as others. The instructions are not annotated.

Materials aluminium
Classification C1
Sizes one size to fit 34-46
Weight 614g pair with anti-balling plates
Made in USA

Verdict A superb lightweight option but not as durable as steel crampons so only advised for minimal use on good snow, rather than regular use on mixed terrain

 


Black Diamond Serac Clip

These crampons’ point configuration is designed to add more stability on slopes; anti-balling plates supplied and fitted; very easy to fit; 3D stamping for added strength. But 1160g is very heavy; instructions lack diagrams to aid fitting; anti-balling plates require screwdriver to remove or refit; high price considering drawbacks.

Verdict: Buy it if you want a superb C2 crampon with additional slope security.


Black Diamond Mercury Mitt

7th favourite!; women’s fit; incredibly warm liner; wrist webbing adjustment; cord lock cuff; removable lining; liner mitt has first finger; leather palm; Kevlar reinforcement; nose wipe on thumb. But lining mitt isn’t ideal to be used alone (but it is okay for tying laces or belaying); shell is a bit too big to be used alone.

Verdict: Buy it if you want a very warm mitt, as nothing is better here for really cold weather.


Black Diamond Glissade

This is a very close-fitting winter glove that offers a higher level of freedom of movement and a closer fit than most. What is very noticeable is the thumb profile, which really enhances dexterity and fit. The glove has a long, narrow gauntlet that can be worn inside the cuff of your waterproof jacket. Elastication at the wrist plus a cuff drawcord makes the fit neat and close. The leather palms offer durability and there is a ‘sticky’ section between thumb and forefinger for extra grip on trekking poles or ice axes. You also get a soft nose wipe on the thumb. The fleece lining provides reasonable warmth and you could combine it with a thin liner glove for extra insulation. These features make it ideal for climbing, handling trekking poles, holding ice axes and gripping rock while scrambling. But this glove is not as warm as other gloves here. Also there is no removable liner provided. Although the fit and dexterity are very good, the finger tips could possibly be even better if the seams were moved from the finger tip ends to the tops of the fingers as featured in other gloves.

 

Material: waterproof shell; leather palm; fleece liner
Sizes: S-XL (men’s); XS-L (women’s)
Made in China
Stores in UK: no info provided

Verdict: Buy it if you want a very close-fitting, sensitive glove for moderately cold weather then this is ideal if you prefer a closer fit.


Black Diamond Venom

This ice axe is 530g (50cm), which is a low weight for the features; interchangeable pick; ergonomic head grip; rubberised shaft grip; leash provided with padded wrist loop; precurved shaft for easier placement in snow slopes; beautifully finished; very well-balanced; superb all-round mountaineering axe; technical rating so it can be used for rope belays. But very high price tag.

Verdict: Buy it if you want a more swingable technical axe with an interchangeable pick for mountaineering and walking.