/ NEW REVIEW: Toby Archer Reviews the DMM Switch Ice Axes
UKC Gear Tester Toby Archer finds out...
Read more at http://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/review.php?id=6189
Nice review Toby... albeit, I'm not with you on all the cases.
I'll try to write a few things here later in the day.
Good review and thanks for the heads up of Nick Bullock's blog.
Did you find the metal grip makes your hands cold?
The only exposed metal that you might grip is the shaft if you haven't put the tape on it (you can see the shaft wrapped and un-wrapped in these pics http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=235770 ) so yes, I think on really cold days having tape is better. But the hand rest 'hook' thingies are metal skeletons but covered in the same rubber as the rest of the handle, so there are no problems.
gotcha...i had thought the red stuff was metal too.
Nope - some sort of rubbery plastic. Good and grippy but seems pretty tough too.
Thanks for that - I have now added it to the review.
Hey Toby, good review. I think Switches are built to withstand abuse that Nomics can't (how many loose heads so far?) So weight I think it's a by-product of durability, specially for scottish stuff. But I think you could have gone into more detail about grips and picks. Nowadays all tools are very similar, you can climb hard with any model in the market. Even the shaft geometry is pretty much set, give or take. It's all about the details now. I thought DMM pick design is really behind compared to competitors, specially when you are talking to the top end tool, so I would expect a bit more in-depth detail there. Also the grip design I thought wasn't as ergonomic as some competitors. Specially the grip rests, they are really flat and non-customiseable, which would be a massive plus point. I think you are doing easy stuff on them it doesn't matter, but if you want to push the boat out a little, these details make a huge difference, basically it would dictate what tool I would buy.
Fair points and I don't climb hard enough to do the things with them that you might do - so as best I can...
Picks - I thought they worked fine from new. They weren't excessively 'sticky' when new as some picks I've used in the past have been and I feel they go into ice no better or worse than others. I haven't done huge amounts of torquing with them, but they haven't bent at all when I have. What picks do you think are good? And are thinking of dry tool or ice?
The grip-rests/hand hook-thingies aren't really "flat", the have a decent curve on them. Look at the pic of it next to the Nomic - the upper grip rest is very similar to the Nomic's one. The lower one is same as the upper one. It's more open than the Fusion II, but we were just talking about that last Sunday - the Fusion one is oddly small. You can't get your pinky in there very well if its cold and you are wearing thick gloves. I guess BD designed it thinking of people just wearing thinnish dry tooling gloves - but I guess DMM were thinking "Scotland" in making the Switch's grip rest big enough for big handed people wearing thick gloves. But you are right about it generally being non-customisable beyond sticking tape or sugru on.
As I say, for really hard stuff we need to ask Nick Bullock for an opinion, I guess he has done more hard climbing on Switches than anyone else thus far. Although of course Nick is sponsored by DMM so would have to tell us how great they are. ;)
BTW, I don't know anyone who has broken a head of a Nomic but the funny looking Austri Alpin tool in the picture got beheaded by its owner whilst training on his home wall recently! I think you (and DMM in their comment in the review) make a fair point though - the Switches do seem tough, double rivets for instance where some tools only have one. So perhaps more designed more with Scottish winter and Stanley Headwall type stuff in mind than state of the art, single pitch bolted mixed or drytool perhaps?
Good point Ramon. I've always thought BD heads have always seemed very strong with very tough looking screws to hold the picks on. Nomics on the other hand look like a very soft alloy. The DMM ones seem more like the Nomics so I wonder what their durability would be like over the longer term with a few pick changes now and then?
I agree with you to some extent. Basically the modern ice-oriented ergo-handle tools are pretty much the same, when it comes to angles and weight. But it tends to be the details on what matter. Be it the grips and how they adjust or how good they are... or the head... or the picks.
Thus far, I've tested numerous different tools including the Switches Toby tested. And pretty much every single one has something to improve. For me, the Fusion IIs handles would be pretty much perfect, if then lower grips pinky-rest would be more open.
But the main thing with almost all theses modern tools is the ugly fact, that pretty much none have good hammers. The only one I've come across, with a reasonable hammer is BD Reactor. But none of the usual candidates have such (BD, Petzl, Grivel, Austria Alpin or DMM).
Do you mean the material that the head is made off? In which case, yes the Switch is an alloy. BD use steel heads but I think Ramon meant heads snapping out the shafts? I haven't heard of a heads themselves snapping since Mountain Tech Vertiges in the 90s - although I'm sure it can/does happen. I remember Ian Parnell snapped the shaft of one of the original BD fusions in Scotland which is a pretty impressive effort! But it does show everything can fail if used enough.
If I understood Ramon's point correctly, I think that is why DMM have double riveted the Switch head on. Looking at the photo in my review, the Nomic next to it only seems to have one head rivet.
Yep, the reactor hammer is OK, as is the hammer on the Vipers. But I would put the Reactors in the mid-curve group of tools, as opposed to what in the review I call the radically curved tools (Nomics, Fusions, Switches and the Grivel funky ones). It's funny that Vipers feel "conservative" after a winter of using the Switches but that does mean you can use the hammer some what. Still not as good for placing pitons as my straight shafted Pulsars circa 1994 though. :)
All true, but to be honest I still think the hammers (and Adzes) on these "radical" tools is mostly a joke. Which is the reason, why I think BD dropped the hammer from the new Fuel....
Actually this got me thinkin' that about the perfect tool (for me), would be modified grips from Fusion II and shaft of Fusion II as well. But with the pick angles and curvature of Nomic. And naturally the classic BD head, so one could use the micro or proper hammer on them (or none).
I agree, I liked the Fusion 2 grip better than the Nomics. I'd like to like Nomics more, glob knows everyone else loves them, but I have Cobras as I much preferred the swing (not to mention better versatility for alpine). But as you say (in brackets) - 'for me'. Tools are one thing that different people have quite different natural preferences, if only due to hand size or arm strength.
Toby, I read just recently of someone breaking a tool head on a big alpine route and a mate broke a BD Rage head clean through in Antarctica around 2005-ish. It definitely still happens.
no i mean the bolts holding the picks on....the petzl ones seem to be a very soft alloy.
Don't know about the ones on the Nomics now, but that was definitely the case with the old Quarks. I stripped mine despite using the correct sized allen key years back. Fortunately never needed to swap the blades since because I guess I would be drilling them out if I did need too!
Funny here that the grivel and cassin tools are not discussed much. :) I like the hammer on my cassin all mountain. I haven't tried that many tools so I can't comment much on the rest. I absolutely love my cassins and will buy them again when they go caput. It would be interesting to see a group review of different types of climbers trying all the big tools and then showing a comparison.
Indeed, it's just that Cassin/Camp and Grivel aren't really that easy to get here in Fin.
Indeed, the hammer on your Cassin is not bad. But the same thing can be said about Vipers, Quarks or Cobras. But again, the hammer on Cassin/Camp X-dream is equally bad as that on Fusions. And if I'm not greatly mistaken, most Grivel ergo tools are missing the hammer completely.
In fact, the only ergo tool, that might have a useful hammer might the be one from e-climb (maybe), you can fit the hammer on them ergo tools? Right Ramon? But can't really say that either, as I hav never even touched them e-climbs.
CAMP's distributor in the UK, Allcord, has been around for a long time, but at least according to their pages, they don't bring the Cassin tools into the UK besides the X-alp http://www.allcord.co.uk/shop/category.php?id_category=34 so I guess most British climbers just can't buy the ones like you have.
It's funny - maybe Allcord's main business is industrial/roped access and that sort of thing because CAMP/CASSIN don't seem to get marketed that heavily in the UK. I don't remember seeing CAMP ads here on UKC for example, or on other web media. I might be totally wrong there, but at least that's the impression. Allcord always used to have full page ads in the magazines, but not sure if they do as much online.
I think CAMP USA does a really good job of promoting the brand there. Their website has loads of useful info on it. The last CAMP tools that I remember seeing in loads of magazines ads in the UK were the bizarre looking Woodpeckers and that must have been 15 years ago!
Grivel though is just as easy to get in the UK as Petzl, BD and DMM - there UK distributors are active in marketing that brand. All those brands (and Edelrid) were in last winter's comparative review http://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/review.php?id=4473 I just wasn't involved in that Eärendel so no interesting tools to try out around here! :)
I tried the Cassin X-Dream, a sweet tool despite the weirdly short pick, but the unique handle adjustment works really well. The thing is they don't import it to UK, as I assume it wouldn't sell so well.
My original points about Nomics heads was that with enough abuse the head comes loose and pivots on the one rivet. A two rivet design and a thicker shaft tube would sort the problem, whcih is what DMM has done and hence the increase of weight.
My criticism about the picks was meant to be about the actual geometry and teeth design (angle of teeth, beveled fronts for easy penetration...). I had a close look and it looks like the picks that were design 10 years ago. Namely Petzl picks haven't evolved much, but there loads to improve in that territory. BD, despite using a cheap manufacturing process, keeps updating the teeth design and geometry. And if you look at an E-Climb pick, all other picks feel from the stone age (I'm really trying no to be viased here despite being sponsored by them).
For the grip, I think Switches generally are really good, as is basically a nomic grip, which is tried and tested. But they could have produced a detachable grip rest so you could fit 3 grip rests, alpine (spike and loose fitting), ice (no spike but clip on hole as is, but tighter fit) and and dry (no spike or clip on hole and really snug fit for light gloves). That would have give the tool a real edge in my opinion.
At the moment DMM brought their collection of tools up to speed, but haven't advanced anything. I think it's got a great market for it, they really played it safe, but the lacking in options and design detail is worth mentioning in a review. Bit don't get me wrong, I love the brand and I think they are doing some great things. My words are only trying to be positive criticism.
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