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DMM Cirque Ice Axe

The DMM Cirque is aimed at winter walkers and easy winter or alpine climbing. It comes in a variety of lengths and is also available in a (50cm) hammer version.

The thing I like the most about the axe is it's construction. It uses a process called Hot Forging that DMM use in their karabiners. This means that the metal retains much of it's strength during the manufacturing process. Maximising the material's strength enables DMM to achieve what they call 'T Rated Integrity Construction (TRIC)'. In short this means that both the pick and shaft have the T (or Technical) rating for increased strength. This is relatively uncommon outside of out and out climbing axes. The down side to this is that it is relatively heavy compared to some of the competition, with some axes being nearly 100g lighter. If the axe is going to spend most of it's day attached to your pack, then you may want to consider something lighter, like the Petzl Glacier Axe.

Another nice feature is the large adze. The adzes on many axes have been decreasing in size or even disappearing as climbs become steeper and less reliant on snow belays. However the size of it makes it fast to dig out bucket seats or even snow holes, and combined with it's weight, gives a good swing for efficient step cutting. 

The classically curved pick is fine for daggering in to snow and self arrest. However it is not replaceable, so if you do expect to give it an awful lot of use, particularly in hard ice or cracks then the pick may limit the lifetime of the axe. Also if you would like the option of switching the pick to a more aggressive climbing orientated one, then the DMM Raptor may be more relevant to you.

An insulated grip on the shaft is a welcome feature, and the fact that it is recessed and so flush with the shaft makes it less likely to be damaged compared to some of the simpler designs on the market. The leash is simple, and provides reasonable support when swinging.

The slight curve to the shaft is probably a bit polarising. When swinging the axe it does give a little more clearance for you knuckles, but when plunging may put some people off as your hand won't be directly over the spike of the axe, and some people may feel this is a bit less easy to use than a conventional straight shaft. When plunging, holding the head of the axe is reasonably comfortable, but not as pleasant as the insulated covers on some Grivel axes, or the very ergonomic head of the Black Diamond Raven Grip.

Overall this is a real workhorse, with a robust, reliable feel. It is great for winter mountaineering, particularly if you are using the adze a lot, perhaps leading a group or instructing others. There are lighter and slightly more ergonomic alternatives available though.

Image for article DMM Cirque Ice Axe

17 December 2015 by Jon Wickham

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