The CAMP-USA Corsa Ice Axe is quite possibly the lightest weight ice axe in the world, weighing just 8.8 oz (250 grams) in a size 60 cm length, Despite its light weight, it is a fully functional UIAA-certified B ice axe capable of being used for self rescue, glissading, and strong enough to be used as a belay anchor. But the light weight of the Corsa is not without compromises and it is best used for hiking across moderately sloped snow-covered terrain, when low gear weight is deemed an essential.
Specs at a Glance
- Material: 7075-T6 aluminum alloy head and shaft
- 50 CM / 202 grams
- 60 CM / 250 grams
- 70 CM / 281 grams
- UIAA Certification: B
How to Use an Ice Axe
The CAMP Corsa is not an ice climbing axe but a walking axe, one whose primary function is to halt an uncontrolled slide down a slope (self-rescue). The stopping and braking action is performed with the pick end of the axe head and requires that you be able to span the pick and shaft with your hand using a special grip designed for that purpose (see short video about how to grip an ice axe).
Sequence of moves required for an ice axe self-arrest to get your chest and torso on top of the pick for maximum braking action. This is a worst case fall scenario, when you topple backwards. Doing it reliably takes practice. If you can’t do it reliably, you slide off a cliff or into a crevasse. Hard to sugar coat it.
Glissading, which is when you slide down a slope sitting up with feet first (never wearing crampons), is another common function of a walking axe. It also requires holding the axe is the ready position, but you brake with the axe’s spike at the base of the shaft. This is done by dragging the spike along your hip like a canoe rudder, digging it hard into the snow when you want to slow down.
There are other uses of an ice axe, but those are the two principal ones of interest by hikers and backpackers.
CAMP Corsa Dimensions
Made from aluminum, the Corsa is plenty strong, but the pick and adze of considerably shorter than heavier axes like the popular Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe. There’s also very little room for your hand to wrap around the pick and adze in a self-rescue readiness position, making it awkward to get a good grip when you’re wearing an insulated glove.
Here’s a side by side photo of the Black Diamond Raven pick and adze (top) and the CAMP Corsa (bottom) to put the dimension difference into perspective. Both axes are rated ‘B’ rated by the UIAA (International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation) and their shafts are made with aluminum to keep their weights low. However, the Raven has a steel head, while the Corsa has an aluminum one.
Comparison between Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe (Top) and CAMP Corsa Ice Ave (Bottom)
A 60cm CAMP Corsa weighs 250 grams while a 60cm Black Diamond Raven weighs 452 grams, and the nearly identical 60cm Black Diamond Raven Pro (not shown) weighs 392 grams. As you can see here, the Corsa has a noticeably shorter pick and smaller adze than the Raven. Despite the difference, I’ve found the Corsa perfectly satisfactory for self-arrests, provided you use good form and really dig in with the pick.
Less obvious, is the difference in grip comfort that results from having a shorter pick and adze. The Corsa is difficult to carry in the ready position while wearing thick insulated gloves because there isn’t space for them to wrap around the shaft which is flush against the pick and adze. The Raven, in contrast, is easy to carry in a ready self-arrest position, with the adze facing forward. The small grip size is less of an issue in warmer weather when you need less glove insulation against the cold aluminum. It’s an important nuance if you intend the use the Corsa for hiking in early spring weather or at an elevation where snow remains into the summer months and wearing heavy gloves isn’t necessary.
The Corsa also lacks a hole at the top of the shaft for securing an ice axe leash. That’s not necessarily a problem is you’re willing to use the CAMP Touring Leash which can slide up and down the shaft, but is prevented from falling off by a tight-fitting rubber O-ring. The adze, which can used to chop steps or dig into snow to make a tent platform, is also quite small and you’ll have to swing it more times to get the same result as the larger Raven adze. Not a show stopper, but far less convenient.
Comparison between Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe (Left) and CAMP Corsa Ice Ave (Right)
The Corsa also doesn’t have a traditional spike at the end of its shaft like the Raven, Instead, the aluminum shaft is open in the bottom, though plugged with a piece of foam to keep snow and ice from accumulating inside. Despite the difference, it is as easy to penetrate crusty snow with the end.
The CAMP Corsa is an ultralight mountaineering axe that trades weight for range of use and comfort. That’s a perfectly valid tradeoff, provided you backstop the difference with skills and prudent decision-making about where you’d be willing to travel with it. While mountaineering ice axes are designed for self-rescue, it’s a good day when you can keep one lashed to the back of your pack and not need to use it.
If you’re on an adventure where you believe reducing your gear weight is of paramount concern, then the CAMP Corsa is a good option to consider. But the Corsa can be more difficult to use in than a heavier mountaineering axe that has a longer pick and is easier to grip while wearing insulated gloves. However, if your trip is in warmer weather when a heavy insulated glove is not required to hold a metal axe and you plan to hike in predominantly low angle terrain, the Corsa is a good choice. For steeper and more challenging routes, I think carrying a heavier axe would be preferable in terms of safety and range.
Disclosure: CAMP provided the author with a Corsa Ice Axe for this review.
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