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Mountaineering Axes/Piolets

Top Picks

How we choose: The best mountaineering axes/piolets highlighted here were selected based on 24 reviews of 16 products. Our top picks are those that are readily-available in the United States and have received the highest overall ratings from reviewers.

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Black Diamond Raven with Grip

user rating: 5 of 5 (2 reviews)

If you have ever wondered if you need an ice axe, the answer is yes and this is probably the one you need.

Reasons to Buy

  • Lightweight
  • Inexpensive
  • Cool grip
  • Feels good in hand
  • Durable
  • Solid swing

Reasons to Avoid

  • People still use wrist straps?

When your mountaineering requires a little pick swinging, but not enough to justify a hybrid tool like the Black Diamond Venom (I lost mine, then bought another later) the Raven is a very good choice.  The Raven is my fourth ice axe. I have climbed Mt. Adams, St. Helens, and I just returned from using my Raven on my second summit of Mt Rainier. I've also used axes on several smaller summit scrambles. My needs are mostly along the lines of balance, self-arrest, and lower angle snow climbing (up to 45 degrees).  Conditions Tested I used the Raven on Mt.

Read more: Black Diamond Raven with Grip reviews (2)

Black Diamond Venom Hammer Ice Axe

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

When you need a second tool, but not necessarily a technical ice tool.

Reasons to Buy

  • Curved shaft
  • Moderate weight
  • Rubber grip
  • Comes with a wrist leash
  • Replaceable pick
  • Safer self-arest
  • Less expensive than a dedicated ice tool

Reasons to Avoid

  • A compromise tool
  • One ounce heavier than the adze option

"You know when it's good picket snow when you drive one in and you really wish you had a hammer." These were the words of wisdom from my crevasse rescue instructor. He was basically saying that snow should be really hard if you intend to place a picket in vertically, otherwise you should bury it dead-man style.  "So I need to bring two tools?" I asked. "No," was his response. "Well if all I have is a hammer, then how do I dig in the snow?" What do you say to that smart guy? "With a shovel, which is way better than an ice axe, or dig with the picket itself," The guide countered. Oh, um OK, so I guess I don't know everything yet.  It makes sense.

Read more: Black Diamond Venom Hammer Ice Axe review (1)

CAMP Corsa Nanotech

user rating: 5 of 5 (2 reviews)

This is all the ice axe you need for any mountaineering objective that doesn't require a technical ice tool. There is simply no reason to own or consider using a more traditional / heavier ice axe, even for trips that involve mostly glacier walking. This axe is so light you'll never hesitate to bring it with you when other bigger axes might seem like a drag.

Reasons to Buy

  • Extremely light
  • Sharp, durable steel pick
  • All the ice axe you need for mountaineering

Reasons to Avoid

  • None

I've used this ice axe on a few dozen alpine climbing trips over the last two years in various mountain ranges in Washington and British Columbia. The best feature is of course its light weight which makes it less of a drag to carry on long approaches that are so common in the Cascades. The slightly lighter all-aluminum version is less useful because of the aluminum pick and spike, but the Nanotech version with its steel pick and spike is all the ice axe I've ever needed. Shortly after getting the Corsa Nanotech, I did a long glacier climb and decided to bring my old Raven Pro ice axe for more walking comfort.

Read more: CAMP Corsa Nanotech reviews (2)

Petzl Sum'Tec

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

Awesome multi purpose ice axe/tool hybrid. Climbs ice better than expected, and performs great as a ice tool. A perfect choice for the scrambler who wants a more climbing oriented axe, an alpinist looking for a tool to get across glaciers, snow, neve, and alpine ice, or the jack of all trades axe that can do it all.

Reasons to Buy

  • Good weight
  • Adjustable pommel
  • Good ice axe and ice tool
  • Ergonomic head

Reasons to Avoid

  • Cold shaft
  • Expensive
  • B rated picks
  • No hand grip

The Sum'tec is a terrific all round mountain tool. It's definitely an odd combination between a mountaineering axe and an ice tool. The tool definitely seems to be a perfect blend coming together as the perfect multipurpose alpine tool. As a an ice tool they are almost as curved as the Quark. The picks are fairly wide, 4.5mm, and they have rather blunt teeth, all in stainless steel. To me this seems a mistake. Any improvement in durability is offset by the challenge to sharpen them. Being replaceable picks I didn't see the need for added durability of stainless steel.

Read more: Petzl Sum'Tec review (1)

Black Diamond Raven Pro

user rating: 5 of 5 (3 reviews)

This axe is strong, light and comes pretty sharp out of the box, though I did sharpen it more. For spring, winter or fall I take this thing up the mountain. Great design!

Reasons to Buy

  • Light
  • Strong
  • Great pic for arresting

Reasons to Avoid

  • I wish color was more visible

I have used this axe as an anchor, a walking tool, a chopping tool and arrest tool. It is versatile and a great companion for my mountaineering journeys.

Read more: Black Diamond Raven Pro reviews (3)

Petzl Summit 2

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

Best in class ice axe for all around mountaineering use. Pick up a Quark Trigger Rest to make the perfect all round axe.

Reasons to Buy

  • Weight
  • Hand grip "a piolet"
  • Probing ability

Reasons to Avoid

  • Moderately expensive

The Summit 2 took the comfortable stainless steel head from its predecessor but removed all the superfluous rubber, shedding half its weight. At a impressive 400g for the 66cm it works tremendously well. Self arrests feel natural compared to the BD Raven as you don't have to alter your grip on the head, and I find when holding a fall feels more stable than with the Raven. For climbing it has a solid swing thanks to the weight being all in the head. The pick bites ice well, and doesn't pop out as easily as similar ice aces (I'm looking at you, Ravens).

Read more: Petzl Summit 2 review (1)

DMM Cirque

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (2 reviews)

My first axe.

Reasons to Buy

  • Fully T-rated (not just the pick)
  • Good silicon grip
  • Fair price
  • Standard lease

Reasons to Avoid

  • Somehow heavy
  • No protectors available

When I started looking for an ice axe I came across a lot of options for general mountaineering use, but not a single one included a sturdy technical grade one. I wouldn't know if a basic grade axe could withstand anything else than basically walking on soft snow so I really wanted a technical one but not something "exotic". So a hybrid axe it is! For now it's just walking and cutting steps since I never encountered a glacier in Crete to give it a go on ice, but I feel confident when the time comes due to its full T-rating.

Read more: DMM Cirque reviews (2)

Stubai Tour Lite Telescoping

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

This is a great tool for exploring a wide range of terrain. The telescoping feature is reliable and well designed.

Reasons to Buy

  • Strong design
  • Telescoping end holds well
  • Basket on end is secure
  • Works as an awesome defensive tool
  • Great for a wide range of terrain

Reasons to Avoid

  • Telescoping end can be removed and possibly dropped or lost
  • Not really for technical climbing

After much research  I finally bought the Stubai telescoping axe as a versatile hiking tool. The first thing I noticed about this tool was how well it was built . It has an aluminum head. Delivered with snow basket. Perfect for trekking and glacier walking. Its telescopic shaft can be adjusted according to individual requirements from 60 to 95 cm. It works well for me as I am 6'1" and need the length for more level terrain. It only takes a few seconds to adjust the  pole. It is marked every 10 cm.

Read more: Stubai Tour Lite Telescoping review (1)

Omega Pacific Mountain Axe

user rating: 4 of 5 (2 reviews)

I like this axe. I have used it on self-arrest practice and to climb steep, hard spring snowfields, no serious mountaineering though. It bites into the ice when I slip and cuts nice foot holds for the kids when I want it to. The point, I noticed, has a positive angle. The books say this isn't ideal and I may adjust it some with a grinder but the issue hasn't come up for me. As far as an axe is concerned, it does the job. I wrapped the head with athletic tape near the handle to save on my gloves after I saw an old mountaineer do the same to his. I know that this axe is considered inferior to more expensive ones but I can't see why. For a beginning mountaineer like me it does just fine.

Read more: Omega Pacific Mountain Axe reviews (2)

More Reviews of Mountaineering Axes/Piolets

Trailspace reviewers have shared 24 reviews of 16 different mountaineering axes/piolets.

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Other Types of Ice and Snow Gear

Find more ice and snow gear reviewed in these related categories:

Ice Tools


all Ice and Snow Gear

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