Old Piton From The Higher Spire-Circa?

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guido

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Topic Author's Original Post - Dec 17, 2011 - 09:19pm PT
In the process of visiting an old friend yesterday, Skip Allan, and the construction of his new catamaran project we got into a discussion of old climbing gear. You know, when you are around sailors you talk climbing and conversely when around climbers, often sailing will come up.

Well, Skip is a world class sailor but his climbing background is rather bleak. A Stanford alumni he had the advantage of climbing with schoolmate Chuck Kroger in the early days in the Valley. On an ascent of the Higher Spire, sometime during the late 60s or early 70s, he had the misfortune of clipping into an old pin and the dubious luck soon thereafter of falling. He thinks it was on one of the lower pitches. But then again he can't remember who he climbed it with or what year. Often the case with all of us looking back so many years.

During our discussion he wandered over to his tool chest and among all the old broken chisels, screwdrivers and other vintage paraphernalia he produced this piton. I am curious if this could be one of the original pins placed on the first ascent in 1934? I believe most of the gear was of Sporthaus Schuster origin. Stubai, Cassin,Schuster, Holubar, Army?

Big eye, small head, soft metal, not galvanized and no markings visible. Sound like someone you know?

Any ideas?

Fritz

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Dec 17, 2011 - 10:11pm PT
Guido! I am not close to being an authority on pre-1970 pitons, but----that does look a lot like one of the classic Sierra Club Knifeblades.

Chuck Wilts shared the "how-to:" for those with a home machine-shop in the Sierra Club Classic "Belaying the Leader."



WBraun

climber
Dec 17, 2011 - 10:14pm PT
It's a piece of metal with a hole in it and rust all over it.

Throw it in the dumpster ......
guido

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 17, 2011 - 10:25pm PT
WOW! I just found this cool website:

dumpsterdiving.com registered to a WBraun at Curmudgeon Inc. lol
Fritz

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Dec 17, 2011 - 10:25pm PT
Werner:

If you don't choose to be incinerated: future collectors will be clucking over “highly collectable Werner-bones.

Collectors will collect, and cluck about their finds.

It’s Human nature.

Most-Everyone has to have a hobby.
johnboy

Trad climber
Can't get here from there
Dec 17, 2011 - 10:32pm PT
Looks like an old army issue to me.
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Dec 18, 2011 - 07:38am PT
It looks like some old army pitons I'd seen, but I have no info on pre- WWII pins, so it could be older. I don't think it's an old knifeblade. I have a couple of old, home-made (not by me) knifeblades that look like they were made according to Wilts's specs, and they're much shorter and thinner.

John
PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Dec 18, 2011 - 11:22am PT
Guido:
If I was to guess, I would say that piton was from Europe. I used to have a large collection of soft metal pins from the Alps, and that one sure looks familiar. I gave that rack of pins away. Who would of thought that old soft iron pins would ever be of value someday?
Seems like one of the older climbers should recognize it, if their memory still works!
John Morton

climber
Dec 18, 2011 - 11:35am PT
Funny, when I first went to buy pitons there were "verticals", "horizontals" and "angles". I bought some verticals, but soon Chouinard designed his way around the vertical/horizontal thing with his combined Lost Arrow model. Shortly there was no soft iron at all in Yosemite.

Forged tool steel was another matter. Bruce Cook and especially John Salathe made some in classic shapes, and of course knifeblades are impossible in mild steel.

The peg in the photo is certainly not a knifeblade. My European pitons all had stamped markings, so if there are none it would suggest Army issue. So maybe not from the FA - did the US Army show any interest in rock climbing before the war?
John
PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Dec 18, 2011 - 12:09pm PT
John:
That is a very interesting historical question: when did the US military first become involved in the mountain sports?
Was the 10th Mountain Division the first time technical climbing and skiing were thought of as tactics?
Back to the piton. Could that have been made by one of the early USA piton makers?
couchmaster

climber
pdx
Dec 18, 2011 - 12:55pm PT
True story: I know someone who outbid me for a Werner Braun stamped Friend ..or 2....collectors items. So as a minimum, don't do what he says but do as he does: follow Werners lead and put that old gear on the internetz!

Better option, send it to Ken Yeager with the story and a $100 bill (or without) to help the Yos museum. I've done that one and it's the most satisfying.
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
Dec 18, 2011 - 01:12pm PT
When I saw your photo's of the pin, I thought...hmmm...that looks kinda familiar. A friend of mine gave me a couple of pitons he said were Jules Eichorn's.

So, I googled. From wiki:

"In 1934, Eichorn, Robinson and Dick Leonard of the Cragmont Climbing Club assembled the most advanced set of climbing gear then in use in North America, much of which they had obtained from Germany, and successfully climbed Higher Cathedral Spire in Yosemite Valley.[11] This was the first major technical ascent in the valley that later became a mecca of rock climbing.[12] This was the first climb in California to utilize pitons. Writing about this climb, Bestor Robinson described Eichorn's "remarkable sense of balance and ability to stick to next to nothing." [13]"

13: Robinson, Bestor (1973 (republished 1995)). "The First Ascent of the Higher Cathedral Spire". In Galen Rowell. The Vertical World of Yosemite. Berkeley, CA: Wilderness Press. pp. 11. ISBN 911824-87-1.

I'll have to dig up those pins and post a photo.

Interesting...
survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Dec 18, 2011 - 01:38pm PT
dumpsterdiving.com registered to a WBraun at Curmudgeon Inc. lol



BWA HA HA hahahaaaa!!!

Guido for the win once again. My new phrase: Dude, you've been Guidoed!


Beautiful pin by the way.
Fritz

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Dec 18, 2011 - 02:27pm PT
Here is a photo of a newer military style piton given to me by RDB, and a nicely-rusted one: I found on a 1940's Fred Becky route in the Sawtooths (I am not asserting it dates to Fred though).

The newer unused one is 4" long, the older one is 4 1/4" long and both appear to be a little shorter than the one Guido posted.


It appears that design was standard for many a year. The pitons are narrower, longer, & just slightly (3/16" vs 1/8") thicker at the eye, than the Chuck Wilts Sierra Club Knifeblade.

Question? I always thought of this design as a "knifeblade?" Is it too thick, and thus a "horizontal?"
John Morton

climber
Dec 18, 2011 - 05:48pm PT
True story: I know someone who outbid me for a Werner Braun stamped Friend ..or 2....collectors items. So as a minimum, don't do what he says but do as he does: follow Werners lead and put that old gear on the internetz!

Better option, send it to Ken Yeager with the story and a $100 bill (or without) to help the Yos museum. I've done that one and it's the most satisfying.

Does Ken really have room to collect the old junk? I made a set of Friends about 20 yrs. ago, but eventually got bothered by the dubious looks from partners, and let them provide the cams. The museum is welcome to them, but then I'm not Werner Braun.

Question? I always thought of this design as a "knifeblade?" Is it too thick, and thus a "horizontal?"


Not a knifeblade, look at the Wilts drawing. The knifeblade tapers from .037" to .020" - very thin, which requires forged tool steel. RURPs need that too. Vertical and horizontal types were named for the cracks where they were used, but that all went away with the Lost Arrow. It all looks different in limestone, where they mash any old thing into those wavy cracks and leave them there until they rust away. Or at least they used to ...
jogill

climber
Colorado
Dec 18, 2011 - 07:27pm PT
Is it too thick, and thus a "horizontal?"

Way too thick. The knife blade was an evolutionary step in piton development. This thing looks like a Sportshaus Schuster or maybe US Army issue. Possibly a Holubar if it was embossed.
Juan Maderita

Trad climber
"OBcean" San Diego, CA
Dec 18, 2011 - 08:18pm PT
All three of the pitons pictured above are "vertical" type pitons, for use in vertical cracks.
guido

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 18, 2011 - 08:26pm PT
Sporthaus had a large embossment, Holubar a little smaller and the tip looks too narrow for an Army one?
jogill

climber
Colorado
Dec 18, 2011 - 08:34pm PT
I used to have one that looked a lot like the third photo down. I retrieved it from a Needles (Black Hills) climb back in the 1950s. It was pitted more than this one and I assumed it was placed by a climber there in the 1930s, perhaps. Wiessner or one of his companions, maybe. It disappeared from my collection some time ago.
guido

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 19, 2011 - 09:14pm PT
Some old catalogs shots from the 60s and the "diverse" selection we had:

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