CAMP USA Corsa Ice Axe Review

 CAMP USA Corsa Ice Axe (60cm)
Intro:
In an never ending cycle of trying to carry less weight while mountaineering, I've switched from a steel ice axe to an aluminum one. For the most part, I feel that if one is using aluminum ice axe or crampons that they work best in unison because the whole point in bringing aluminum mountaineering gear is to carry less weight. All of this is assuming that the mountaineering objectives and conditions are suitable to use aluminum instead of steel in the first place.

Material / Construction:
The CAMP USA Corsa ice axe uses 7075 aluminum just like their XLC crampon line.  The entire shaft, adze, and pick all utilize the 7075 aluminum which is a stronger alloy than the 6061 found in the pickets for mountaineering.  CAMP has given wear indicators on the side showing when it is time replace your ice axe. At the bottom of the ice axe's shaft are several indentations to provide grip when swinging the axe.

indentations on the bottom shaft 
Performance:
I've used the CAMP USA Corsa ice axe to summit Mt. Baker (twice), Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Hood as well as general conditioning hikes and approaches on snow. The Corsa ice axe is so lightweight that you hardly notice it on your back or in your hand. This makes long alpine starts for glacier climbs much less tiring and allowing you to move consistently fast towards the summit. The 7075 aluminum bites well for moderate to low angle snow climbs (most of the Cascadian volcanoes) but it's not the tool for serious ice. Mt. Hood's old chutes had sections of ice and the aluminum didn't bite as well as the steel ice axe would. Majority of the climb on Mt Hood in June was on snow and not ice making the aluminum ice axe preferable to steel.

The aluminum weight savings gets really noticeable when the approach to the mountain are very long (10+ miles). Glacier Peak and Mt. Olympus are great examples where the approaches to the mountain are all over 15+ miles and saving half a pound makes a very noticeable difference.

Aluminum will never match steel for durability, but the 7075 aluminum used for the corsa ice axe held up better than I expected when used in cane position on intermittent rock and volcanic scree sections. I was expecting the ice axe to show much more wear from using it on the bare rocks but this was not the case. I'm not advising to use the Corsa ice axe on bare rock but what I am saying is aluminum ice axes are fine for walking over small intermittent rock sections (not dry tooling in them). Pounding pickets with the Corsa works fairly well as the pickets are made with a softer aluminum alloy so the picket gets beat up and not your ice axe. That said, I personally wouldn't want to pound many pickets with the Corsa when you're much higher than the freezing level in very hard snow. Overall, the Corsa ice axe can handle almost anything you can throw at it, which is plenty for this mountaineer.

I was hesitant to use an aluminum ice axe at first but I am now a strong advocate of them. Majority of mountaineers are people who are not engaged in ice or mixed climbing, but are doing walk up routes on glaciers. Even more so, majority of those people are climbing in the summer when the snow is soft or firm and not on ice.  Popular climbing routes dominated by snow like the Emmons Winthrop or DC,  Mt. Rainier; Coleman Deming, Mt. Baker; South climb, Mt. Adams, etc... are all sutiable for aluminum ice axes. I've been so impressed with the Corsa  aluminum ice axe  that I would happily replace my steel ice axe with aluminum because these are the mountaineering climbs I predominately do.

My wife liked my ice axe so much that she bought herself the 50CM version of the Corsa ice axe. Oddly enough the 50CM doesn't come with a cap on the bottom of the ice axe so occasionally she gets long ice/snow cores inside the hallow shaft. Not exactly sure what CAMP was thinking, but its not a deal breaker.

Summit of Mt. Baker with CAMP USA Corsa Ice Axe
Summary:
CAMP USA's Corsa Ice axe sets the standard for lightweight ice axes. Simple, lightweight, durable, reliable. From Mt. Hood to Mt. Shuksan the Corsa ice axe has seen it all and excelled.

Pros:
  • Extremely light (hardly notice the weight on your back)
  • 7075 Aluminum is more durable than I expected
  • Very good price point
Cons:
  • Poor ice penetration
  • Wouldn't want to pound many pickets
  • Serrations on the pick go all the way to the shaft.

Comments

  1. Couldn't the problem with the ice penetration be due to the weight of the axe? It seems that reducing weight in this gear would be more harm than good.

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    Replies
    1. The Corsa ice axe really was never designed for ice, it was meant for snow. Think summer mountaineering or ski touring.

      Reducing the weight does impede ice penetration because it has less mass behind it. But because it's lighter, it is easier swing and the velocity is probably larger when it does hit the ice. Looking at the kinetic energy or the momentum of the ice axe, it should balance out (not going into the math) if we are not taking into account the ice axe material.

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