A long snow route with a few pitches of ice like, for instance, the east ridge of Cook, is the hardest type of climbing to choose an appropriate tool for. You can either have a good ice tool that?s hopeless for self arresting and shaft belays, is heavier than you want and hard to walk with, or a standard axe that doesn?t perform on the ice.
However, I?ve found the Black Diamond Venom takes away this dilemma ?it plunges into the snow well and is designed to self arrest, but also performs excellently climbing ice. The Venom, which comes in both a hammer and an axe, and in 50cm and 57cm lengths, has a slight bend at the top of the shaft which allows it to perform in steep terrain, while still allowing it to be plunged into the snow for a belay.
It also has an interchangeable pick: with the axe this is a traditional curved pick, with the hammer it is reverse curved. Both tools are well balanced, with a decent head-weight that makes them easy to swing, and come with a lock-down leash.
The Venom?s aluminium shaft is thin, and plunges into the snow well, especially due to the no-frills spike at the end. I also find it easy to wrap my unusually stumpy fingers around. The rubber grip never impeded the plunging action as far as I could tell, but it was sticky and easy to grab.
I have taken my set of Venom?s on the likes of the Zurbriggens Ridge at the end of April when its been really icy, and the Hooker face of Cook and they?ve been great. I?ve also had them on three Himalayan expeditions and am convinced these are the way to go if the mountain in question is steep and technical. They perform well on steep ground but are much lighter than other technical tools due to their ?paired down? features and to me this is vitally important. The Venom will remain my tool of choice for future expeditions