The Apex and Switch – DMM Ice Tool Review

DMM is not well known in the US. When you think of ice tools, you think Petzl, Black Diamond , Grivel and most recently Cassin, not DMM. Well once you have a look at these tools, you will start thinking about DMM.

In mid February, DMM gave NEice some of their newest ice tools to review. Since then we have tested them at Lake Willoughby, Cannon Cliff, Crawford Notch and Frankenstein cliff. We have climbed ice from 3+ to 5+ in temperatures ranging from  -5  to 45 degrees F. In all, we logged over 100 hours of climbing with these tools and they are fantastic!

The first thing you will notice about the tools is the quality. The manufacturing of these tools is some of the best I have seen. DMM has been around since 1981 and it shows in the construction and design of these fine tools.

Apex: After a few swings, the Apex felt like they had been mine for years.  – Chris Thomas 

Switch: In my 35 years of ice climbing, the Switch is the best ice tool I have ever used!  – Doug Millen

The Apex ($239)

I was lucky enough to demo pair of DMM Apex tools (thanks From the first time I held them I could tell that they were my next gear purchase. I’m not going to spend time on specifications, that’s what Google is for, I’m not technical enough to know why they matter. What I do know is these tools are perfect for the climbing I do and affordable enough that I’ll have new tools and enough left over to pay the tolls between me and the ice.

The first climb on the DMMs was a moderately steep pitch of 4 ice. A few swings of the Apex and I felt like they had been mine for years. The grip fit my hand well and the tool felt balanced, a little less top heavy than the Cobra. Although the shaft is straighter clearance between my hand and the ice was more than enough. The Apex felt more like the Petzl Quark then the Cobra having a different pull which you could feel in the angel of the wrist.

Bottom line… If you’ve been climbing on Vipers, Cobras. Quarks. etc. and dreaming about a more technical tool that climbs and canes even better, the DMM Apex is your next set of tools. When you consider price and performance of this tool there is no better for the majority of mere human climbers.

The Full Report .


  • Hot forged, ergonomic handle
  • T Rated Integrity Construction
  • Dual hand rests for leashless climbing
  • High clearance shaft
  • Pick weights for bullet hard ice and customized balance
  • Supplied with grip tape for handle/shaft customization
  • Supplied with T Rated Ice picks as standard
  • Can be used with leashes in traditional climbing mode, but excels without leashes
  • Mixed and Ice specific picks available separately. Compact Hammer, Compact Adze, Mountain Adze (Large)

~Chris Thomas

 The Switch ($279)

I have used Nomics for years and I was curious about these tools.

They are slightly heavier than the Nomic but the extra weight feels good and requires less swings in hard ice. The Pick weights are included but I found I did not need them. At about 1 inch longer than the Nomic it was easier to reach for better holds. The tool is fully T rated and you will not be able to break any part of this sturdy tool. The hand grips of the Nomic feel fragile and weak in comparison to the Switch. The handle is glove friendly, hot forged ergonomic with full strength upper and lower rests. If you use different gloves in different conditions you will like this grip and big hands fit well. The coating on the handle is great, I never felt like I was slipping out, even on overhanging ice. The swing of the tool is perfect too and so natural. I am a carpenter and I know a good swinging tool when I feel it. The picks come with the perfect shape for ice or mixed climbing and are pre-tuned. I never touched the picks with a file.  The Picks go right in, and come right out, no problem,  yet they feel really sticky and secure in the ice. The Switch as it’s name implies remains in balance when switching hands on the rests.

The only concern of mine is how the coating on the handle will hold up over time. So far, so good, not even a nick.

Bottom Line…I have switched from Nomics to the Switch, and I have loved every moment of the last 6 weeks climbing with this tool. The Switch is now my tool of 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 customized balance
  • Supplied with grip tape for handle/shaft customization
  • Supplied with T Rated Ice picks as standard
  • Mixed and Ice specific picks available separately. Compact Hammer, Compact Adze, Mountain Adze (Large)

 A few photos of the tools

You can get them at The Mountaineer

~Doug Millen


4 replies
  1. Larryk
    Larryk says:


    Looking at your pictures and the picture of the DMM Switch on the Mountaineer website, the tool looks like the Nomic, with a few differences such as the more defined hammer and adze attachments. I like the fact that it can handle a bigger glove, a problem I found with the Nomic. Does it really swing that much different than the Nomic? Also, is the eyelet (for the keeper leashe)plastic or metal? If it is plastic, any concerns about it breaking?

    I have been using the first generation Nomic for about six years and I am in the market for new tools so any comments or feedback would be appreciated.



  2. Doug
    Doug says:


    Swings like a Nomic, only better. Like you I have climbed with 1st gen. Nomics for a number of years and liked them a lot. Now this is the perfect tool for me. I just love the tool, it has all the features I was looking for. The keeper eyelet is all metal. The tool is beef! All T rated. The tool is a little heavier but I like that for cold New England ice. Swings and sticks like a dream!


  3. Nick
    Nick says:

    I picked up a pair of switches this season after demoing a few similar tools, the Grivel tech machine and the X-dream. The Switch was hands down the winner, when you put them all side by side the quality of the Switch is ummatched. The weight of the tool is great, it is heavier than some but feels great to swing. The concern about the coating is valid, I managed to scratch them up by some careless attachment to my pack, just need to keep that in mind when packing up for the day.

    I would like to see more DMM gear here in the States if it’s all the same high quality.


  4. Luc
    Luc says:

    Great tool for mixed, dry and technical ice climbing, tried them out on a bunch of outings last season.
    -The pick angles are the same for the ice and mixed versions.
    -The pick weights give a better balanced swing with superior penetration.
    -The picks are made for hooking, great that they very rarely get stuck but unless their buried to the head, do not pull them outward, they will slide out.
    -The Adze and hammer are useless unless you plan to use them for torquing.
    -You will not destroy them dry-tooling, solid construction!
    -The pick material seemed very durable, more than the Cassin and possibly Black Diamond.



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