The Alpinist Mountain Standards reviews apply Alpinist's tradition of excellence and authenticity to gear reviews by providing unbiased, candid feedback and anecdotal commentary to equipment tested (hard) in the field. Our panel is comprised of climbers who use the gear every day as part of their work and play. Only the gear they would actually buy themselves, at retail price, qualifies for the Alpinist Mountain Standards award. The five-star rating system is as follows:
One Star = Piece of junk.
Two Stars = Has one or more significant flaws, with some redeeming qualities.
Three Stars = Average. This solid piece of gear is middle-of-the-road on the current market.
Four Stars = Better than most comparable gear on the market. It has one or two drawbacks, but still 90% positive.
Five Stars = Is there such thing as perfection? An Alpinist Mountain Standards award-winner.
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C.A.M.P. Corsa Nanotech Ice Axe: Way Light, Way Functional
Posted on: July 21, 2010
Weight: 250 grams
The Corsa Nanotech ice axe by C.A.M.P. is disturbingly lightweight. At 250 grams, a couple fizzy drops more than a can of soda, the Corsa Nanotech is nearly half the weight of a standard mountaineering axe.
With an ultralight piece of equipment, I usually expect ultralight performance. So this spring I picked the mild Central Gully on Mt. Washington to test what I thought would be a weak axe. But the Corsa Nanotech ate it up with sticks and thunks. On water ice, the little axe whacked solid placements just like a technical tool. It even overdrove at times, forcing me to bang on the adze to get it out.
What makes the Corsa Nanotech unique from other mountaineering axes is its blend of aluminum and steel. Building off the design of the all-aluminum C.A.M.P. Corsa, the lightest CE B-rated aluminum axe availabe, the design team cut down the aluminum pick, replaced it with seven teeth of Sandvik Nanoflex steel, added a butt spike of the same durable metal, and bent the body into a more aggressive angle. These upgrades make an enormous difference in the axe's functionality and durability while keeping the weight down; the Corsa Nanotech now holds status as the second-lightest axe on the market.
This summer on Denali I carried the Corsa Nanotech again. My big question: how would it handle snow pickets? Banging some into the snow of the Kahiltna was easy, even if the hammering slightly dented the back of the shaft and scratched the paint. After a week of dragging sleds and schlepping packs, I was sold: the axe handled everything I thought it might, and then some.
On the descent I found my only reason to complain. Our tent stakes froze in at 14,000 feet, and the shovel's collapsing handle jammed half open. I used the only solid bit of metal around, my axe, to lever out the stakes and free the shovel handle. The process bent the very tip of the pick. Despite being made from the most "space age" of alloys, it looked like I'd been bashing rock with the axe. The damage was nothing a file could not fix—but the flattened tip exposed a slight gap in the soldering. Aside from the results of that misuse, this axe performed perfectly whether adzing through snow, crossing crevasse fields or climbing steep snow and ice.
The Corsa Nanotech was designed to be a high altitude and ski mountaineering tool and as such it excels. Its super light weight means that it can be thrown on a pack "just in case" at little cost. This makes it an ideal axe for climbers who are looking to go light and fast without compromising their safety on snow. Paired with an ice tool it makes an excellent combo for alpinists looking to move quickly over moderate terrain. This is the lightweight mountain axe and deserves the Alpinist Mountain Standards award.
Pros: Extremely functional for its ultra-light weight.
Cons: Soldering on the tip could be improved.