Review: DMM Cirque Alpine / Mountaineering axe

DMM Cirque mountaineering / Alpine axe.

The Cirque mountaineering / Alpine axe made by DMM in Wales, UK is a classic style alpine axe. Over the last few years we at Valdres Fjellguider have been using these axes on our Alpine courses and have found them to be a robust go to axe.

Weight: 650 grams (including sling)
Cost: between 870 to 999 nok.
Length: 55 to 60cm

Starting at the head (Pick and adze), the pick is of a moderate aggressive nature with simple teeth to aid purchase. The form of the pick is slightly drooping and this differs from a more traditional glacier axe that often have relative flat pick geometry and few if any teeth. This design aids in a more aggressive pick placement and is especially good in harder substrates, for example ice or frozen turf and finding the sweat spot when placing in a crack or other rock feature. This style of geometry also gives more confidence is placements as when the shaft is loaded the pick natural travels into the snow or ice. The pick isn’t overly aggressive, as found on more modern climbing picks, this gives the advantage of being easier to place /remove. The shovel end (adze) is of a simple nature with a slightly sharpened lip. Again it is well balanced to the pick and does not get in the way with normal axe usage. Our experience has shown the adze is good at cutting steps or more commonly slots for snow anchors. It is not overly sharp or aggressive and therefore isn’t a concern when strapping to a rucksack.

The shaft on our models is 60cm, which in our opinion makes it ideal for alpine / mountaineering. Glacier axes are often very long and while great for using as a walking stick on the glacier they are cumbersome while using in a more mountaineering mode. The 60cm axe is the best of both worlds, and can easily used for moderate climbing as well as general mountaineering. The shaft has a slight curve after the head which gives a better swing geometry and aids in more awkward placements. We feel this work well and does not effect plunging into deeper snow.

At the bottom of the shaft we find a soft grippy handel that works well. Often with summer alpine climbing one is wearing thinner gloves and this grippy handel gives good purchase when swinging the axe as well as better insulation than cold metal.

The spike at the bottom is a simple, symmetric spike made in the same form as the head. It is not aggressive and has a large hole to accommodate many types of karabiner. This is useful as many other models try and dictate what type of karabiner you can us.

The sling is simple, easy to adjust. Nothing fancy her.

The weight of the axes is on the heavy side at 650 grams compared to other models. This is both positive and negative. Clearly heavy to carry on your sack, however from our experience having a heavy axe swings better into ice, and generally climbs better. The axe is all T rates, which means it can be used confidently as part of a snow anchor belay. DMM make quality equipment that last, and with that comes a price, that being weight. Light is right, but also means they seldom last long, this DMM Cirque axe is heavier and will almost certainly survive longer that the user.

DMM have kept the price down by having a head made in two sections, opening the pick and then welded on the adze, rather than one forged piece. We have had no problems with this and you will find the weld is almost certainly the strongest part of the design. The head is riveted onto the shaft and in turn the shaft is riveted onto the handel and then the spike. Again we have seen no problems of play with this set up.

Other all we at Valdres Fjellguider as happy with the axe, its a robust work horse axe that will last many years, if not the life time of the company. It is a good balance between technical climbing axe and glacier mountaineering axe, making it ideal for alpine / general mountaineering.

We would definitely buy again.

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