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Anarchist Editorial Review

Submitted by vegastradguy on 2007-02-27

Rating: 12345   Go Login to rate this article.   Votes: 3 | Comments: 8 | Views: 10971

by John Wilder

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DMM's Anarchist
DMM Wales
DMM's Anarchist - Photo: DMM Wales.

So there I was wondering what a rock climber from Vegas knew of ice climbing when I realized maybe the real question was what did he know about me. I mean there I am, an admitted scaler of frozen waterfalls and here he goes asking me to review a mixed climbing tool. Well he obviously knew I liked to play with new toys, and he obviously knew that despite lip service to particular disciplines of climbing, I dabble. It's a nasty rumour that I once chose to leave ice climbing over the new year to visit some Mexican rock and clip bolts..... really.

The DMM Anarchist is touted as a mixed, leashless tool but as I discovered, that is only part of the truth. I may have been extremely satisfied with my tools for the last six years and lagging in the current swing towards leashless, but this tool revised my opinions slightly. That process actually started last summer when I saw and held it, when I considered it to be one of the most aesthetic looking tools on the market. While it has been on the market in Europe since last winter, it was only this winter that DMM released it on the North American market. One of the most eye catching features is the shape of this tool. While most manufacturers favour tubular aluminum shafts, DMM took the hot forging techniques they use for carabiners and applied it to ice tools. The results are the only hot forged tools on the market, the Anarchist and the more standard Rebel. The Anarchist is the leashless version with an adjustable ergonomic handle, an I-beam cross section, and a very visually appealing presentation. This process allows removal of metal along the shaft making it lighter without compromising strength. The pick with it's "hedgehog topped" shape is similarly hot forged and useful when stein pulling or sometimes when walking up short snow slopes during a climb.

So off I go into the mountains and in the early season before the ice has really formed I actually dabble in some drytooling, but it's a toss up which will arrive first; the ice or the Anarchists. Well despite the ice arriving first, I continue to try some mixed amongst my ice swinging, often carrying two sets of tools. Now while familiarity plays a big part in my preference, with my own tools coming out on top, the Anarchists gradually gained respect. At first the ergonomic handles seemed awkward to control and having the pick strike to the side of where I'd aimed was offputting. This was a different beast though and I just needed to become familiar with it. In sections of rock, it was also a relatively new experience. Indeed the freedom from leashes allows switching, matching, choking up, and other shenanigans that can be fun at times. Stuff that's good to try on TR if it's not your forte.

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Grant transitions from rock to ice
Richard Carr
Grant transitions from rock to ice - Photo: Richard Carr.
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Grant transitions from ice to less than his forte
Richard Carr
Grant transitions from ice to less than his forte - Photo: Richard Carr.

It wasn't just the drytooling that these tools were handy at as I discovered when I took my roomates out for the first time ice climbing. As beginners, with the possibility of dropped tools, I relinquished my tools and leashes and instead lead away up the classic Cascade Falls W3 overlooking Banff. I found that when topping out bulges, the tools had a remarkably good swing when holding them by the upper handhold with the index finger over the pommel, the thumb behind the shaft, and the remaining fingers under the pommel, that suited such low angle terrain. It made for a shorter tool that was well balanced and swung just right for a solid placement. I later used the same technique with good results when downclimbing other climbs on the descent. On the other hand the ergonomic handle provides a poor stability when used piolet style despite the spikes embedded in the base of the handle, there was a tendancy to skate out on solid ice as the handle does not have the spikes to the very bottom. These same spikes do help greatly while on vertical ice because they are at the appropriate angle to bite into the ice face reducing the tendancy to slip sideways as you change body positions.

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Close up of the handle with the adjustable trigger grip and lower spikes.
Close up of the handle with the adjustable trigger grip and lower spikes - Photo: Darkside.
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Choking up on the upper pommel allows better swings on low angle terrain. Note the postion of the fingers.
Choking up on the upper pommel allows better swings on low angle terrain. Note the postion of the fingers - Photo: Darkside.

The injection moulded handle also features an adjustable trigger grip to suit various sized hands and it's lower pinkie rest is big enough to give reasonable protection from knuckle bashing. Overall a good handle for vertical ice and mixed but with it's poor lower spikes and lack of plunging ability, it's not surprisingly less than ideal for alpine terrain. That would be better suited to the Rebel.

I'm far from being a mixed master but maybe because of that I tended to subject the tools to a little bit of abuse. At times it made me cringe such as when I saw what I was doing to the nice paintwork. The shiney aesthetic coating seemed prone to chipping when jammed into cracks or between rocks for purchase, and the pick's powder coating like cover didn't fare any better. Merely planting them in ice started to flake the coating off and the lack of friction wasn't encouraging when I was willing them to jam in thin cracks or niches without slipping.

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The pick shows signs of wear, and the slight bird-beaking at the upper front edge
The pick shows signs of wear, and the slight bird-beaking at the upper front edge - Photo: Darkside.

The picks do seem to make for decent placements and a few friends who tried them thought favourably of them but I found that when the ice was brittle, there was more shattering than the picks of my own tool. I will admit that I'm biased on that, seeing as I already stated my preference. Where I found them lacking was when trying to remove the tool. Few manufacturers make picks that are perfect as sold so I tried bird-beaking the upper front of the picks. I always do this to my new picks and the result was improved extraction. Another modification I didn't try was to increase the bevel on the underside. I didn't feel it was neccesary but I'll leave that for you to discover.

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Grant enjoys a view of Banff and freedom from leashes on easier terrain
Grant enjoys a view of Banff and freedom from leashes on easier terrain.

The folks who designed this tool must have put some thought into it, and it shows in the details. Small things like the way the hole in the tool's head set has cut away edges streamlined for a leash rather than just merely a through hole. Even the clip in point mid shaft that allows for the use of a leash for people or times when leashes may be desirable, reflect consideration of making the tool more appealing.

Overall with it's high clearance and good balance, DMM have made a good tool with a modern look. While it has some less than perfect aspects, the Anarchist is a reasonable choice that proves to be useful for more than just leashless mixed climbing. While I'll choose my own tools for harder ice, when mixed fun is to be had, I may just go leashless again.

Tech Specs

  • Length - 50cm
  • Weight - 650g
  • Pick Type - B rated hot forged
  • Approximate retail - $270 usd

Go Go to the item in our Gear Database

Full Disclosure: The manufacturer of this gear provided it free of charge to for review. in turn provided to the reviewer as compensation for his review. This company does not currently advertise on Feb 25th, 2007


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8 Comments CommentAdd a Comment

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As there's no entry for the Rebels, I'll put this here.

I was quite interested in buying a set of Rebels, and ecstatic when they arrived at my local shop. That joy quickly turned to dismay as the shop owner packed them back up and shipped them back.


Well, the well-thought-out little adjustable index finger trigger wouldn't stay put. It slid - under only body weight. As tight as they could safely (and according to spec, and then not according to spec) crank the bolt down, the piece continued to slide.

They seemed to have good balance, but until the sliding trigger is corrected, they will not be given even a chance.

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I love my rebels, no problems at all. Good balance, great swing, good weight, durable, great clearence, good feel. I like them more than any tool I've ever even tried (except the takoons) and I've used a lot of tools.
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1 out of 5 stars I thought these tools were the best tools of the new year and sold my BD tools after trying them. The ice was very brittle this year and I had no problem with the ice shattering in fact they were the easiest tool I've used on brittle ice. I tested them and they have a longer reach than any other tools and required fewer swings to get up a climb. The piolet and plunging comments were dumb considering it has a handle on the bottom. They worked fantastic on the harder ice routes this year including several WI5's and 6's. You can swing, choke up on the handle, swing your next tool and cover a longer distance than other tools. Vegas sounds like he likes leashes, they make a clipper leash on the tool if you are afraid of dropping your tools or if you like making it easier hanging off your leashes while you're climbing. Everyone I climbed with this season climbed leashless while toproping or leading.
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Tai - unfortunate to hear about the stores concerns. I don't think it is really a safety concern as much a quality issue. I'm afraid I didn't adjust the trigger upwards as I have smaller hands and found it comfortable as it was, but I have heard of another person having similar problems. I'm afraid I have no data or further information to offer you on this, at this time.
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dcooke - perhaps you'd care to re-read my comments regarding the handle? I noted that anyone wanting to plunge them would find the Rebel a more appropriate choice, however this was not a review of the Rebel. My comments were meant as an evaluation of the Anarchist in a variety of situations and while plunging and piolet are hardly relevant uses in single pitch cragging, some more rounded climbers may wish to take these tools into more alpine environments. Just because you may have never encountered lower angled or snow sections on longer routes, doesn't mean other climbers haven't. As such, I put it to you that the comments were not only - not "dumb", but moreover, relevant. If you had a better appreciation of the use of the piolet technique in the alpine, then you would understand my evaluation. In short, although the Rebel may be more appropriate for alpine, having the spikes extend along the base would make the Anarchist even more versatile than it is.

As far as leashes are concerned, yes I like my leashes and think they are more appropriate in some situations however I never used leashes with the Anarchists.
BTW - I authored the review, not John. It is my opinion in the review but thank you for your input here.
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the reviews authors are always noted in the front page link, although i should probably ensure they are at the top of each review- sorry about that. i certainly know absolutley nothing about ice....i live in the desert and stay as far away from freezing temps as possible- hence the guy in Canada gets all the ice gear!

thanks for folks input as always!
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I just thought I would add my two cents worth, Grant having lent me the tools for quite a few days this year.

On mixed the tools feel solid, the handles provide a good range of grip combinations. The hammer is nicely rounded so as not to injure in the case of a tool popping. The spikes in the lower part of the handle contact the surface stabilising the tool when placed on a vertical section of ice and rock, when placed over a bulge the spikes do not contact and the rubber portion above the thumb grips rock well, but not ice.

On ice the tools are a different story. They require an agressive downwards flick to set them properly which is hard to do when you are pumped. More than once I have found that when I needed them most the tools bounced uselessly off the ice. This makes for scary ice top outs when pushing yourself on mixed bolted routes.

The adjustable finger notch is great.

In my opinion these tools are great on rock, poor on ice. Given the price I would choose Nomics over these tools. Something about the ergonomics mean they stick to rock like glue and swing into ice like butter when you need it most.

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I have had the chance to climb with numerous tools in numerous conditions, as far as I was concerened the Rebels were the only choice for me. These tools fit both my hands and style of swing perfect.
The transition from brittle vereglass ice to drytooling is fantastic. And although, not perfect at everything they have no glaring downfalls. Plunging is probably their greatest weakness, but not being designed as an mountianeering axe that is to be expected.
For me, there is no better tool.


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