Boasting DMM’s trademark tough build quality combined with no-nonsense looks, this simple but effective axe is made for hard use. It’s a competent performer in the hills and great value too.
Comfortable in the hand
Good self-arresting performance
Available in four lengths
No leash supplied
Shaft a little slippery
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DMM Spire: first impressions
New for winter 2021, the DMM Spire is the brand’s classic straight-shafted mountain axe – something that was previously missing from DMM’s more specialized and technical range of ice tools (such as the DMM Spire Tech, both of which feature in our best ice axe buying guide). Made in their North Wales factory, it features a high strength, steel alloy pick and welded adze, riveted to an anodized aluminum shaft. Unlike axes from most manufacturers, each end of the shaft is also glued with an epoxy, which adds stiffness and rigidity, while also preventing snow and ice meltwater from entering the shaft.
It’s a light axe, a feat which has been achieved by using a shaft made from slightly thinner aluminum tube than DMM’s other axes. This makes it more comfortable to carry on long mountain days as well as ensuring it is suitable for pursuits such as ski touring.
But as is the case with pretty much everything DMM builds, the Spire is still a tough beast. The steel head is heat-treated and hardened, then EP (electrophoretic paint) blacked to prevent corrosion. At the other end of the shaft, a durable spike secured with a nylon bung and rivet penetrates hard-packed snow easily and doesn’t slip on ice. You also get large tethering points in the pick and spike, for ease of clipping even with large carabiners. As you’d expect, the Spire is designed to work with DMM’s entire range of climbing hardware.
• RRP: £65 (UK)
• Weight (55cm version): 352g / 12.3oz
• Materials: Welded steel head, anodized aluminum shaft
• Available lengths: 55cm / 21½in, 60cm / 23½in, 65cm / 25½in, 75cm / 29½in
DMM Spire: in action
According to DMM, the angle of the pick has been designed to give optimum performance on steeper ground, and the front point has been improved to give better penetration into ice, whilst maintaining its durability. In fact, the brand claims it is superior in this regard to its much-loved but more technical predecessor, the DMM Cirque.
The pick is noticeably more aggressive than most hillwalking axes, with a very similar design to the Petzl Glacier. In terms of performance, there’s very little to choose between them. When used in piolet mode, holding the axe by the head, the Spire is also noticeably more comfortable than a lot of axes. We attributed this to the fact that the top of the pick has a partial chamfer, which makes it more forgiving to hold, as well as when plunging the axe (see also: How to use an ice axe: wield your ice tool with confidence).
Overall, there’s lots to like about the Spire’s design, which is deceptively simple, with just nine constituent parts in total. It’s extremely well-priced, undercutting most of the competition, yet performs as well as anything else in its class. It’s also worth noting that it comes in a generous range of sizes, from a compact 55cm to an extremely long 75cm. Our only niggles are the smooth shaft, which lacks any form of textured grip, and the fact that it isn’t supplied with a leash – though, of course, it would be simple to retrofit one or indeed to add a little grip tape if required.
An outdoors writer and editor, Matt Jones has been testing kit in the field for nearly a decade. Having worked for both the Ramblers and the Scouts, he knows one or two things about walking and camping, and loves all things adventure, particularly long-distance backpacking, wild camping and climbing mountains – especially in Wales. He’s based in Snowdonia and last year thru-hiked the Cambrian Way, which runs for 298 miles from Cardiff to Conwy, with a total ascent of 73,700 feet – that’s nearly 2½ times the height of Everest. Follow Matt on Instagram and Twitter.