CAMP Corsa Nanotech Ice Axe
Blister’s Measured Weight: 249 grams
Available Sizes: 50, 60, 70 cm
Reviewer Height: 5’ 6”
Test Locations: Juneau, Alaska; Squamish, British Columbia
Days Tested: 10
Whether you’re traversing a steep summer snow patch or bootpacking up a couloir, you need a self-arrest tool. But sometimes, a long glacier ice axe is overkill, while a technical tool just makes you look like a badass.
Enter the Corsa Nanotech. Weighing only 249 grams, this 50cm-long ice axe made from aluminum and steel is designed for long ascents when you want to reduce your load. While not quite heavy or strong enough to be considered technical, this axe fills a niche between a simple self-arrest and a sustained climbing tool.
As soon as I picked up this ice axe, I was impressed by how light it was. I am used to the 528-gram Black Diamond Venom, which weighs more than twice as much as the Corsa Nanotech.
Let me be clear—this is one of the main benefits of the Corsa Nanotech. It’s a great option for those doing fast-and-light trips without much technical climbing. Light is right when it comes to speed, energy savings, and physical comfort. Why not cut more than half a pound from your pack if the terrain doesn’t require a true technical tool? But there are definitely some drawbacks to using an axe this light.
CAMP was able to reduce weight by using primarily aluminum in the Corsa Nanotech. Aluminum is light, but it’s also significantly softer than steel or other heavier metals. I dented the axe’s head slightly after I pounded just one picket into semi-stiff summer snow. Compare that to my Petzl Quark, which after mutiple trips only has a small paint scratch on the steel hammer.
A lighter axe also has less swing weight, and so you need to exert more energy to penetrate the ice. During a steep (80°) single pitch of ice climbing on summer glacial ice, I had to concentrate much harder on my swing to get solid purchase with the Corsa Nanotech than I did with the Petzl Quark, which I was using in my other hand. Take note—the Corsa Nanotech is almost useless on solid blue ice since it won’t penetrate the surface at all.
So while the Nanotech is not designed for vertical ice climbing, you can make it work for short sections on softer ice if you need to.
The adze is also made from aluminum. It’s rounded, and a fair bit smaller than the adze of the Black Diamond Venom, which means it’s less effective at chopping steps or digging anchors in case of a crevasse rescue.
But less effective does not mean ineffective. I have successfully cleared out an ice screw placement in summer glacial ice, but my clearing was bumpier and less accurate than that of my partner who was using the steel triangular adze of a Petzl Summit.
The head is made primarily of T075-T6 aluminum, but it has a steel pick attached by two rivets. This steel pick penetrates hard snow or ice better than if it were 100% aluminum, plus it’s stronger and more durable. I’ve used the Corsa Nanotech to lower myself across rock bands in the snow, and I’m happy to say that I haven’t noticed much wear to the pick.
The head fits pretty well in my hand. The lower edge has grooves apparently designed for your fingers to rest while you’re grabbing the axe like a staff. For my small, thin hands, these cups are a bit wider and more spread out than necessary, but I think people with bigger hands or thicker gloves won’t have this problem.
The shaft is bent at the upper section, much like the Black Diamond Venom or Petzl Summit, giving it the increased clearance of a technical tool intended for steep snow or ice. The bent shaft is very useful for those 55-degree bootpacks when it’s too steep to balance on two feet, but too mellow to be swinging a tool. My hand fits well on the bent section, and it keeps my fingers out of the snow—critical if you want dry gloves and happy knuckles. A bent shaft also give you clearance for those interesting pitches that require drytooling moves through rock.
The shaft ends at the steel pick. The shaft itself is oval-shaped aluminum, but the end is plugged with a synthetic plug, inset roughly one inch from the edge of the aluminum tube. After using the Nanotech as a staff while I descended through a 3,000-foot boulder field in the dark, I was happy to see that the shaft and pick seemed just as durable as those on my Black Diamond Venom.
After 10 days of use, this axe has proven to be versatile and pretty durable (other than the dent on the head). At this point, I don’t think it will wear down any faster than any other ice axe with an aluminum shaft that I’ve used.
Finally, I should note that there are two patches of grip tape on the lower end of the aluminum shaft, each about five-inches long. The roughness is comparable to 40-grit sandpaper. Since the naked shaft is surprisingly slippery, the tape strengthens your grip for those times when a climb gets scary.
This axe can definitely be used as a self-arrest tool. Its shaft is straight enough to allow for deep penetration into the snow, while also allowing you to pull up on the shaft to set the pick. And the grip tape I mentioned above is crucial when you’re for pulling up on the shaft during a self-arrest.
Weight can be a drawback here—just as this axe doesn’t have enough swing weight for technical climbing, it will require strong, precise placement in the event of self-arrest. If handled loosely, this axe may skitter more on the hard snowpack than the heavier Black Diamond Venom would.
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