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DMM Cirque Ice Axe Review

DMM Cirque Ice Axe

DMM’s classic walking and mountaineering axe, a popular workhorse improved to be stronger and sleeker.









With the arrival of Winter many of you will be dusting off seasonal kit, especially if you’re planning trips into the Mountains.  Unlike most people you’re no doubt waiting for an excuse to don the crampons and crack out the Ice Axe, the latter being a very useful and misunderstood tool that every winter warrior should have in their armory.

If you’re planning a trip out during the winter months we strongly recommend you take one of these with you…

Lets face it, one of the great things about the outdoors is all the fantastic kit and clothing available these days and the Cirque from DMM is no exception.  Quality is evident from the moment you pick it up and although it’s slightly heavier than some of it’s competitors, to me, felt much more comfortable in the hand.







The new handle provides superb grip and the fully T-rated pick and shaft provides ultimate security in self-arrest and belay building. Now also available in a hammer option for when the going gets steeper and two axes are required.  A perfect pairing for lightweight semi technical mountaineering.

I can hand on heart fully support it’s self-arrest capabilities, as on it’s first outing a minor slip led to rapid acceleration in the wrong direction.  Whilst I was never likely to have been severely hurt, it may have at least resulted in some reasonable bumps, bruises and abrasions.  The Cirque performed admirably!

To say there’s a divide in the WalkHikeClimb camp with regard to axe choice would be way too dramatic, however, one of the major selling points for me (aside from the excellent design, quality and ergonomics!) is the fact it’s manufactured very close to home!

All About DMM...

Founded in 1981 as Moorhouse Engineering in Bethesda, soon to become DMM and move to more suitable premises in Llanberis in 1986, the company celebrated 30 years of manufacturing in 2011. In 1981 the company employed just 4 people, and now thirty years later we are an important employer in this area with just over 150 men and women on payroll.

The original premise of the founding Directors was to make the best possible equipment at the best price. A simple premise you might think, but one that has remained central to our thinking over the intervening years, and one that has spurred us on to continue to develop and innovate, to bring unique and world leading products to the market.

From the very outset the company has developed products in two main areas; Recreational Climbing and Mountaineering has developed alongside products aimed more at the more Industrial markets. Both areas compliment each other and the areas of overlap benefit both sides. In short both sides of the business are important to sustain us in the future.

Innovation is key to our development, and we have continually invested not just in the fabric of the Factory, in plant, machinery, tooling etc but also in ambitious product development plans which can be very costly. However we recognise that it’s not sufficient to stand still and copy, we need to lead the field in our specialist areas and over the years we have done just that and all from our base here in North Wales. We have a well trained and loyal workforce and have amassed a wealth of knowledge over the years which stands us in good stead as one of the leading Brands in our field worldwide.

We have just added a large extension to the Factory site to allow us to lay out a purpose built Assembly area and also a CNC machining area. This was a considerable investment for the company, but as with all our other efforts, it will enable us to be more efficient, competitive, and maintain our unique position as the sole Manufacturer of Climbing Hardware in the UK.

Ice Axe Basics...

1 – pick
2 – head
3 – adze
4 – leash
5 – leash stop
6 – shaft with rubber grip
7 – spike

If you’re planning a trip into the mountains knowing they’ll be plenty of snow, freezing temperatures and a risk of ice not only should you be taking your camera to capture this beauty, the addition of appropriate winter kit is essential.  An Ice Axe is just one of those critical items you need.

So first off, let talk about that sticky subject of length.  Regardless of what anyone tells you, length really is import!  There’s wealth of information out there but I stuck to the rule of thumb that; if I am standing with the axe hanging by my side the spike should barely touch the floor. The following chart will give you an idea based around height, but we would always recommend holding the axe in your hand see how it fits so to speak…

Your Height Axe Length
<5’8″ (<1.72m) 50-60cm
5’8″-6’0″ (1.72-1.8m) 60-70cm
>6’0″ (>1.8m) 60-75cm

Don’t forget that if the Axe is to long it will make a self arrest very difficult and ultimately this is one of the more important features of a trekking axe; stopping you sliding of the mountain.

The guys at have produced an excellent video on arresting techniques.

Whilst we all try to keep our gear weight to a minimum, don’t get too hung up on comparing grams between axes.  This underlines why it’s so important to visit you’re local outdoor specialist for specific advice AND to actually try them out.  An axe which is heavier on paper may well feel more balance and comfortable that an ultra lightweight version.  This is exactly the position I found myself in; having a preconceived idea of weight saving driving choice, I actually selected the DMM partly due to it’s addition grams.

My preference is to choose something that is robust enough to take using the Adze to cut out steps in the ice and won’t become distorted hitting rocks beneath the snow cover when your using it as prop on an ascent up a mountain side trying to find cornices or soft shoulders.







The activity is also important as well when deciding which axe to buy. The shorter Ice axe is often considered better for technical ice climbs while the longer version excels on the lower angled terrain. So if your going to be on the steep slopes more then bringing a short axe to the party is best but you could also fit some collapsible poles for the rest of the terrain or even a second longer axe on your pack, you can never be to prepared. You should also consider the CEN rating of your ice axe to give you a good gauge on the correct one.

Standards and Ratings...

Standards and ratings

The CEN standard for ice tools is EN13089:2011, with the UIAA 152 safety label being broadly similar with a few additional requirements. The CEN standard has two categories, based on the strength of the shaft and pick. The category should be clearly marked on the shaft of the tool.

B: Basic. These are basic tools with the minimum necessary strengths for pick and shaft. Tools are suitable for glacier travel, ski mountaineering and winter walking where reduced weight is important.

T: Technical. Technical tools have a higher strength pick and shaft, important for technical ice and mixed climbing but also for mountaineering where tools may need to form part of a belay.

PPE Cat2: Not tested to the CEN standard. Radical tools only suitable for dry tooling and competitions.

General mountaineering axes are designated with a B (basic) stamp. These are usually lighter, less expensive and less durable. Basic axes are NOT strong enough for technical climbing! Technical ice axes and ice tools are designated with a T (technical) stamp. These are generally heavier, more expensive and more durable (Enter the “T” rated Cirque from DMM)

So obviously this is just an overview of the requirements to take into account but we can’t stress enough the importance of visiting a store and trying out the axe of your choice, just to make sure it fits and feels right.  Ultimately this bit of kit could save your life…so make sure you get it right.

Check out the First Impression tabs for further details or visit the DMM Climbing home page and checkout their extensive range of equipment

Having spent more than a few hours musing over which axe to buy, I finally settled on the DMM Cirque.  This isn’t to say it’s better than the we reviewed recently, which is a firm favourite with a few of the WalkHikeClimb team, it’s purely down to personal choice and anatomical differences.  Lets check out some of the Cirque’s great features.

Cirque Ice Axe






Having research exactly what type of Axe best suited my needs, I gravitated towards DMM Cirque which is a brand I was familiar with but had actually had an opportunity to try out.  One of the great things with niche manufacturers is that the quality and addition to detail can sometimes far exceed that of the bigger brands.  The quality of materials, finish and execution is exemplary, I even got a chance to try out a self-arrest on it’s first outing thanks (or not!) to a slip.

I’ve certainly not been disappointed with the quality and functionality of the Axe in the field (or slopes!) and far from getting in the way it’s been an absolute Godsend.  Thankfully I’ve not had to perform a self-arrest whilst trekking, but I have practiced on a safe section of mountain and can report it performed admirably.  Build and detail are of high quality and bearing in mind this axe in particularly wasn’t a substantial investment, it’s been worth every penny.







The addition of an injection molded grip lower down the shaft

DSC_2835 DSC_2846






and sliding leash are a really great idea.

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They add to the overall feel of the axe and the sense of security it gives which are excellent. At no point have I been correcting my hold or grip, which is something I have found in the past.

As far as product quality, conformity and standards are concerned, you’ve not need to be…

Product Conformance, Standards and Quality Assurance...

BS EN ISO 9001:2008 Quality Management System
The Quality Management System maintained by DMM is registered to BS EN ISO 9001:2008 Quality Management System Requirements. The main aim of this system is reflected in our Mission Statement:

“Together each one of us will make a better, safer product for our customers”

Our system has evolved and continues to evolve as a result of nearly 30 years of development, investment and improvement to all of our activities. ‘Quality’ both actual and perceived is our number one objective, reflecting the fact that each and every day thousands of people around the world rely on DMM products to save their lives. Our system is audited and supervised by SGS (UK) Ltd  & other independent third party auditors (e.g. customers & potential customers, trading standards and other regulatory bodies) at regular intervals to ensure continuing compliance to the requirements of BS EN ISO9001:2008, and as part of our commitment to continuous improvement.

CE Marking & Product Conformance
The CE marking process is known as ‘Type Examination’ and is an important supplement to our Quality Management System. In line with the requirements of European Union Personal Protective Equipment [PPE] Directive 89/686/EEC, all products designed and manufactured by DMM which are classified as PPE are independently Type Examined and tested to the relevant European Standard for Mountaineering & Industrial Fall Arrest. Only after meeting the requirements of the PPE Directive and the relevant European Standard are we allowed to mark 0120CE [the “CE” mark] on our products, type examination and CE marking is a legal requirement in Europe for all height safety PPE whether for industrial or leisure use.
BS EN ISO 9001:2008 compliance and CE marking/ product conformance are monitored by CEN [Committee for European Normalization. Notified Body No. 0120 [SGS UK Ltd., Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset, UK]. It is also a legal requirement that we maintain our Quality Management System as part of the PPE Directive ‘CE’ marking process.
In addition, many DMM products also conform to other non-European standards (for example ANSI and CAN/CSA for North American conformance). More information about these products can be found on our web site or by enquiring directly to our Sales Team.

3-Sigma Testing
This is our system for setting and monitoring the strength ratings as marked on our products, in line with the minimum requirements of the relevant European and other Standards, the ‘3 Sigma Testing’ method. DMM were the first company in our industry to use this Statistical Quality Control [SQC] technique. Using test data derived from samples tested to destruction at the design stage we can set the strength rating of the product. We then have a system of ongoing batch testing which monitors and ensures that the 3 Sigma Rated Strength is maintained and actually exceeded.
Part of our philosophy at DMM is to continue to improve the breaking strength of our products in excess of the standards which may be required. We do this to lessen the chance of failure in situations and conditions which might not be reflected in the standard but which we know as climbers ourselves can cause product failure.

UIAA Safety Labels
The UIAA stands for the Union of International Alpinists Associations and it is a body which promotes the safety and interests of all parties involved in mountaineering and related activities worldwide. The UIAA publish standards for mountaineering equipment which supplement the requirements of the corresponding European Standards mentioned above.
All DMM Mountaineering products are also certified to the relevant UIAA Mountaineering
Standard and a list of UIAA certified products can be found on their website: in the link “Safety labels”.







The Cirque from DMM is “T” rated and as such inspires confidence and feel similar to something Thor might carry around which a shaft made from 7075 Aluminum Alloy.







The hot forged pick with teeth engineered for that self arrest are perfect for mountain trekking. I have no fears of this axe not performing when you need it most.







The Adze is broad and ideal for cutting out ice steps when traversing up a gully or frozen rock face. Obviously not suitable for technical climbs, but ideal for angled ascent or descents.







The spike can be used for poking and plunging into snow and ice, but on the whole provides balance when walking, ascending / descending snowy ground.  Being fully “T” rated with Belay holes at the top and bottom adds extra flexibility.







The Sliding leash also features a hand-loop to prevent you loosing it on steep ground, should it happen to slip from your fingers.

DSC_2840 DSC_2841







  • Durable 7075 grade aluminum alloy shaft
  • Fully “T” Rated Pick and Shaft
  • Hot forged ergonomic handle
  • Adze and Hammer versions available
  • Supplied with DMM Standard Leash
  • Picks curve and teeth engineered for self arresting.
  • Equipped with a slider leash
  • Variable lengths and fixed hammer versions available








  • Durable 7075 grade aluminum alloy shaft
  • Fully “T” Rated Pick and Shaft
  • Hot forged ergonomic handle
  • Adze and Hammer versions available
  • Supplied with DMM Standard Leash
  • Picks curve and teeth engineered for self arresting.
  • Equipped with a slider leash
  • Variable lengths and fixed hammer versions available

Tech Specs

Variant Length Weight Cat No
Cirque Adze 50cm 565g A0241
Cirque Adze 55cm 583g A0242
Cirque Adze 60cm 604g A0243
Cirque Adze 65cm 626g A0244
Cirque Hammer 50cm 591g A0246

1 X DMM Cirque Ice Axe with sliding leash

Capture DSC_2839









Cirque Ice Axe






The Cirque from DMM… A superb quality, well built, designed and engineered product made here in the UK.  Fully “T” rated and the ideal companion for your winter exploits.







Nothing has disappointed me about this axe and it has been this winters essential piece of kit. As mentioned previously, always seek expert advice and try before you buy!  Most outdoor stores carry a good array of Ice Axes from numerous manufacturers and just like a pair of shoes, some fit better than others.







If you’re planning a trip out during the winter months we strongly recommend you take one of these with you…

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About us

Cotswold Outdoor started life in 1974 as Cotswold Camping, selling a range of basic camping accessories from a small outbuilding in the Cotswolds. 40 years later, the company is an award winning multi-channel retailer with stores throughout the UK.

With four decades of experience in outdoor retail, we offer one of the most extensive and comprehensive ranges of outdoor clothing, products and equipment. Selecting from over 250 internationally recognised brands allows us to bring you the latest in outdoor technology and styles. Not only this, but each product is carefully selected and tested to ensure a high level of quality and value for money for our customers.

Our people


We share your passion for the outdoors. From climbing the Old Man of Hoy to cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats, our staff are brought together by a love for anything and everything outdoors. In our spare time, we are walkers, climbers, cyclists, trail runners, skiers, hikers, swimmers, kayakers – you name it, we do it…

As a company, we invest in expert training for our staff, to make sure that you get the best help and advice when you are choosing kit for your next adventure. We offer a range of expert in-store services including boot-fitting, rucksack fitting and kit talks.

You make us what we are

Without you, we would not be here. That’s why we work hard to provide the best possible service to not only exceed our customers’ needs but also make the customer experience both pleasurable and informative. Whether you choose to visit our stores, shop online or use our mail order service, you will benefit from the same high standard of service and level of expertise.

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