Page 46 - 2016 AMA Autumn
P. 46

                                   kit on trial
 DMM Switch
 Reviewed by Paul Smith
The Switch is DMM’s leashless all- rounder, it shares many features with its sister ice axe, the Apex (reviewed in Spring 2016? Issue of the AMA journal), including the same pronounced curve of its shaft, but the main obvious difference is the addition of an ergonomic handle, at the minimal cost of less than 100 grams of additional weight.
DMM have created an ergonomic handle that allows your wrists to be in a more relaxed position when climbing, and certainly on steep ice it felt that I wasn’t having to use a ‘death-grip’ just to be able to get good purchase on the axe. With a full strength upper and lower rests as part of the handle, it allowed for straight forward hand swapping, something that was par- ticularly handy on mixed climbs. These rests also provided protection to your hands when climbing less steep angled
ground. The downside of this handle is its size, it doesn’t suit everyone’s hand size or choice of gloves – for me personally it worked really with thin to medium thickness gloves, while on particularly chilly days with extra thick gloves on, or while seconding a pitch after a prolonged belaying stint, I found myself struggling to hold the handle with the same amount of ease.
At the base of the handle is a rounded but still serrated ‘spike’ this does give a some amount of purchase on snow when the axes are used ‘piolet canne’, but it can and does bounce off hard ice, but have you really brought a Switch to use as a walking axe? This spike also allows you to clip a karabiner in to attach umbilical style tethers (for this test I used DMM’s Freedom Leash) and there is also a small hole to attach cord if you wish to attach the tethers via this instead. I preferred this second option as you don’t get any metal on metal rattling and it also limits the unwanted twisting and accidental unclipping.
On steep / vertical ice the Switch performed well and was certainly not the limiting factor in my climbing performance. But on less steep ground there were a number of little issues that kept coming up. The first was that the head of the axe was far too easy to bury, thanks to a combination of the pick angle and the curve of the shaft, sometimes this was a great relief, but mainly it caused the anxiety levels to rise as it proved difficult for to get the Switch to release its bite!
The second issue, was again on lower angled ground, the Switch, like many other curved handled ice tools, had a tendency to position your hands in such a way that you weren’t put down on the placement, but pulling slightly up and out. I learnt to counter this but using the higher hand position more frequently to reduce this leverage effect.
You can climb mid-grade ice with the Switch without any great drama but you may need adjust your swing and where you aim due to the very curved shafts, particu- larly if coming from mid-curved tools like the Fly. If you think it is unlikely that you will be climbing harder than winter grade V or WI4, then a more general technical tool like the Apex could be a better choice, particu- larly if you are mountaineering with them and want a ‘proper’ spike at the bottom. But if your winter climbing mainly consists of plumb vertical ice, freaky wind-formed cauliflowers, over-hanging hoared-up rock then the DMM Switches should be the perfect choice.
• Glove friendly, hot forged ergonomic handle with full strength upper and lower rests and supreme stability
• T Rated Integrity Construction
• Full strength clip-in point accessible from either rest
• High clearance shaft
• Inboard eyelet allows threading of cord for use with freedom leashes
• Pick weights for bullet hard ice and customised balance
• Supplied with grip tape for handle/ shaft customisation
• Supplied with T Rated Ice picks as standard
• Mixed and Ice specific picks available separately. Compact Hammer, Compact Adze, Mountain Adze (Large)

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