Light yet solid; simple but effective - DMM's new Spire walking axe and Spire Tech mountaineering axe may not win awards for innovation, but both are superb value for money, says Dan Bailey, with the Spire Tech in particular being a bit of a winner all round.
They look good practical axes. My only raised eyebrow was the price difference given the similarity in specs. £25 for that amount more machining in the shaft?
My only other pause was the thought of my single axe bounding down a slope on its own from my slippy Dachstein mitt after a moment's distraction. I think there's a place for a lanyard on a walking axe
> My only other pause was the thought of my single axe bounding down a slope on its own from my slippy Dachstein mitt after a moment's distraction.
Wear some gloves you can actually grip things with then instead. Oh no! I've criticised the holy wooly mitts of the Eastern Alps! Please forgive me.
> I think there's a place for a lanyard on a walking axe
There is on axes like those. I had a quick look at both of these axes at Dan's the other week - my thoughts was that what the Spire tech needs is a sliding hand rest like on the Petzl Gullys or the Blue Ice Bluebird (and I think the on the similar BD one - the Swift is it?) so that you didn't need to use a wrist loop with it if you didn't want too, but could still pull on it.
(cough).. I don't actually have Dachsteins, but you got the point . Most often I'm in dot grip sealskins when walking.
On the sliding hand rest -the Petzl Trigrest (~£10-15 ) fits quite a few axes - I've used them on Singing Rock Edges and a Grivel Munro, so basically any 'standard' (if only!) shafted axe.
> My only other pause was the thought of my single axe bounding down a slope on its own from my slippy Dachstein mitt after a moment's distraction. I think there's a place for a lanyard on a walking axe
I use an old school wrist loop on my walking axe.
Metal shafted axes with no rubber insulation need a lanyard or old fashion leash/wrist loop. Commonly after plunging, or holding with snowy hands the wetness in the snow, or melt from the warmth of your hands will refreeze on the axe shaft as a very slippy ice coating.
Either a bit of inner tube directly (if you have a small enough diameter inner tube) or inner tube cut into tape and wrapped (no adhesive needed, just stretch and tuck the ends ) can last surprisingly long (years) and provide decent insulation and survive plunging.
On the axes I've fitted a Trig-rest to, the rubber wrap would have prevented the Trig Rest fitting or sliding so I slid an oversized section of (MTB) inner tube over the shaft above the Trig-rest. The rubber just follows the Trig Rest up or down if I move it, and is tacky enough to grip solid anywhere if I close my hand on it.
Not had any problems with my Blue Ice Bluebird that I've used a fair amount this winter. It has no rubber or any other grip material at the bottom of the shaft. Same with the Petzl Gully hammer I also bought this winter. No problem gripping either in a variety of gloves.
I’ve extensively used metal shafted uninsulated semi technical axes for nearly twenty years, being Scottish based I’m out most weekends and some days every winter have issues. Most days not a problem but some times they virtually end up verglassed.
The pinky rest on the axe in your photo would be definite improvement.
Yep, that's my point. If you have a metal shafted axe with just grooves in it (like the Spire Tech or like the Gully - the Bluebird has a slight change in texture in the 'grip area' not even etched grooves, you can grip them fine IF you have a hand-rest at the base. If not you are probably going to need a wrist loop for stability if you are going to swing it. That's why having had a quick look at Dan's Spire Tech reviewed here, I thought it was a shame DMM didn't produce a slidey handrest like the Petzl, Blue Ice and various other brand ones.
After decades of using mountaineering axes with wrist loops there is something nice about using a "leashless" designed one which promotes, for example, swapping the tool into the uphill hand if you are zigzagging up a snow slope for instance.
I'll stick some better pictures below of my Bluebird and Gully that I've been really enjoying using for easy routes this winter.
The "no rubber handle" axe I've had longest is a (still beautifully designed and made!) Grivel Airtech Racing. I've had it since 2000 I think - and at the time I don't think leashless was really getting started even at the ice comps, so of course like all mountaineering axes was designed to be used with a wrist loop - as I guess well all did back then. Or at least everyone in the UK, I remember seeing alpine guides not using them in summer, but a mate also told me about watching a French guy manage to lose his non wrist loop axe down a crevasse! I find with a wrist loop I've not had an issue with gripping the shaft for swinging it, but I've probably only used on up to maybe grade II ground and haven't done loads of technical climbing with it.
Funnily enough I’m using Grivel light wings from that period. Its definitely a case of swings and round -a-bouts and no right or wrong, just awareness.
IIRC the Glencoe MRT had a brief spell of saying in the 90’s only use the leash when swinging, as they had picked up casualties whom had slipped, failed to arrest, the fall hadn’t inflicted too much damage but the axe had in the tumble. I had a mate whom was in an alpine pile up. Three on a rope including the guide, roped party above them came off and they all went the distance. He can’t remember much, but can remember coming round to see the guide with his ice axe through the under side of his jaw and out of his cheek.
So the argument against a leash could be made quiet strongly, but like you I thought the lack of a pinkie rest was an omission and know that it could become more apparent in some icing conditions, and in those conditions the lack of a leash will make it nearly impossible to hold the axe on swinging terrain. Hence need a leash, which could of course be one in your pocket you can clip on, or wrapped round the head to allow leashes movement, but be available when required.
Despite this knowledge out of habit I still often use the leash on zig zagging slopes….you can lead a horse to water…and all that!
Hi everyone, thank you for your feedback so far. Just a few notes to reply to some of your comments:
- DMM will release a sliding finger rest this summer, compatible with both the Spire and Spire Tech ice axes
- You can also purchase DMM leashes compatible with all DMM ice axes
- The price difference between the Spire and Spire Tech comes from a few extra manufacturing steps; extra heat treatment, a bending operation to the shaft and machining operations to add grooves to the handle.
Looking forward to seeing these out on the mountains!
The news of a sliding rest is exciting - I’ve picked up a Spire Tech but haven’t used it yet as still defaulting to my faithful lime green Raptor!
Speaking of which… any chance of a sliding rest compatible with the Raptor in future? Having run into hard ice on mountaineering routes in the past I like the weight of the Raptor and it would be great to have the option of a finger rest. As it is I still carry the chokehold leash against the eventuality of needing to climb steeper stuff. Being able to take both an apex and a raptor with sliding rest is a very appealing prospect!