Chouinard Alpine hammer and Piolet questions?

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RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Topic Author's Original Post - Jan 13, 2009 - 07:36pm PT
I suspect someone here will know the answers.

According to the Great Pacific Iron Works catalog (Chouinard) '78/'79 the hickory handled alpine hammer went through 5 generations. The pictures below show the 3 cataloged versions.

I call them "first", "short dbl teeth" and "last". I have seen a long handled version of the dbl teeth head, call it the "long dbl teeth". I supect another version" is the "first" hammer but with some weight chopped off vertically on the hammer end.

Can anyone verify that guess on my part or offer different alternatives for the one or two missing generations of alpine hammer?

I climbed with a couple different versions at the time but never really noticed much difference as I was always grinding on my own tools making them lighter, adding a deeper curve or more teeth. Just noticed today that the dbl tooth hammer as a slightly deeper drop on the pick that either before or after versions.





Next question is about the Piolet.

I remember seeing the Piolet in ash (Euro only), hickory, bamboo and Rexilon. By '78/'79 the wood and laminate shafts were no longer imported into the USA. You couldn't buy a wood handled Chouinard piolet in Chamonix by the fall of '78. The hand forged head was now being attached to a synthetic shaft. Although I have seen all of the wood handle materials never seen a ash tool available in the USA. Although I have the later dbl toothed piolet with a hickory handle that I bought in England.

Doug Robinson mentioned getting his first piolet, "in 1969 and by October of that year Yvon delivered to me on the edge of the Palisade Glacier the hickory-handled 70 cm one"

Sounded like the Piolet became commercially available in the fall of '69 and were gone forever by '79. Although you could still find a few 70cm and 80cm CAMP versions of the Piolet in the sale bin @ Snells in Chamonix in Sept of '78. Same bamboo axe just no longer marked Chouinard-Frost.

So what is the deal with the axes only marked CHOUINARD and not CHOUINARD-FROST? At closer inspection...I'll post a picture a when i get time..it is obvious that the Chouinard-Frost stamp is a two part stamp. Can anyone tell me why the tools were marked with one or both names?

thanks!
Todd Eastman

climber
Bellingham, WA
Jan 13, 2009 - 08:00pm PT
Dane, there seemed to be several subtle variations on the hammer through the years. The first one I had from 71 had a thick pick and a piton hammer length handle. The double toothed hammer had a very thin pick that was prone to breakage and the notch behind the hammer face. The last version that I had, like the one you posted, teeth along most of the pick and the pick was a width between the two earlier models. The last model also had a longer handle. There was a later version with a blue nylon(?) shaft and interchangable picks.

The first Chouinard axe I bought was in 1971, was 55 cm, and had a hickory shaft. Later that year the bamboo shafts appeared. Interalp-Camp made mine and all the axes through the Zero series. Though the bamboo had that classic swing and dampening effect, it broke often. Some of the versions of the Chouinard axe were sold in Europe with ash shafts. After many returns at shops, the rising costs for wood and bamboo likely made the case for composites.
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 13, 2009 - 08:27pm PT
Good info Todd, thanks. If you have a minute, a couple of questions? (Rick too if he wants to join the conversation?) How many tools did you (or your US crew) typically go through in a season in the Alps back then?

What tools and gear did you end up prefering for the hard ice/mixed climbs you were doing?

I remember in the late '70s Duane and John coming back from the Chamonix meet sold on Simond tools. (Chacal and longer axe)

But it was quite a revolution in ice tools between 1971 and 1979. I find the early and mid years while tools were getting sorted out on harder climbs really interesting.
Bldrjac

Ice climber
Boulder
Jan 13, 2009 - 09:12pm PT
I remember going through alot of tools back in 1975-78.

Seemed like all of us who tramped to the Alps from Yosemite OR Colorado to Chamonix broke alot of picks. I went to the Apls with a pair of Chouinard bamboo North Wall hammers that were indestructable. Trouble was the pick was just not steep enough for when Steve Shea and i or Mugs would wander into the Dru Couloir and inadverdently climb some hard mixed variation. One day after several routes of hard climbing Steve, Mugs, Tobin and I all walked into the Charlet Moser factory with twelve broken tools between us. We talked to the main manager and explained to him how it was so many picks had been destroyed and he talked to the main pick forger who adjusted how he tempered the steel and immediately we had replacements made for us on the spot. It was very impressive.

I think the model was the Gabbaru Grade 6. It had a 45cm/50cm length with a very severe droop to it. They were really light and had great balance. I think I still have one at home.
The only tool that was more durable but with the same droop was the Snowdon Moldings curver.

I've also got my 70cm bamboo piolet. I think I gave away the
North Wall hammers.

JACK
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 13, 2009 - 09:37pm PT
Jack more good info, thanks. I had no idea Mugs was over there at the same time. So you, Rick, Todd, Tobin, Mugs, Steve Shea, Dick Jackson, and who else was climbing hard in Chamonix from the CA and CO at the time?

I only knew of a few guys from the NW that made the trip until Twight went over in the '80s.

Had a pair of the Ice Sixes myself. Beautiful tools but one of the few sets of tools I didn't keep. Too light for me on Canadian winter ice.
Todd Eastman

climber
Bellingham, WA
Jan 13, 2009 - 11:02pm PT
Dane, my main partner at that time was Jack Hunt. We lost some Chouinard tools on a climb and replaced them with the Chacals from Simond. Short, curved and wickedly effective. I sold mine but Jack, I believe, used his for many years of nasty new routes around the southern San Juans after he moved to Colorado in the late 70s.

As a note, Jack and I were from New York State and had done lots of climbing in the NE. We were surprised that we were considered serious climbers because we got up some cool routes. We were lucky to have been part of a very exciting era of NE winter climbing and have had our standards shifted upwards. It was really cool to meet the good American climbers (like Mike, Rick, and Tobin) in Chamonix and all the crazy Euros. The Americans had several great seasons over there.

To answer your question about breakage, we broke no axes or hammers in Chamonix but heard lots of rumors from British and American friends. Now cracked Chouinard/Salewa crampons, well... There was a reason why the Salewas were favored by some and the advances in the French crampons.
Tom

Big Wall climber
San Luis Obispo CA
Jan 14, 2009 - 12:18am PT
I had one of those ice hammers with the teeth only at the tip, not near the shaft (for thin waterfall ice). I cut it off, drilled a hole, and it's now a mini-Yosemite hammer for walls. It has the recess in the head near the shaft, to lighten it. It was purchased, used, at the GPIW in about 1976. The original shaft became cracked, and has been replaced by one that is noticeably longer. Theron Moses has the original shaft, for use with his (our?) open-source hammer project.




I bought a Piolet at the GPIW in about 1976/1977 that had a laminated shaft, not solid wood. I don't know if it was bamboo or Rexilon.





EDIT: I met Yvon and Tom at their shop, which for me, the little guy just getting into climbing, was about like meeting, today, Tiger Woods and Shaquille O'Neal at the same time.
steelmnkey

climber
Vision man...ya gotta have vision...
Jan 14, 2009 - 05:35am PT
Marty Karabin gave me a chart one time that had no less than 16 different renditions of the Chouinard hammers over the years. Differences were pretty small in some cases... teeth, no teeth, tooth spacing, etc.

One I don't see in your pictures above is the '75 version that has the long pick, but no notch in the back and no teeth.
Bldrjac

Ice climber
Boulder
Jan 14, 2009 - 06:46am PT
I'm almost sure that the differences for the last two generations had to do with handle length on the alpine hammers rather than any changes on the head with pick length or thickness. The handle got longer and I think the last version was made from ash.

Yvon and Tom Frost parted ways professionally and Yvon came out with the Climax. At that time all the manufactor's were still playing around with what length worked the best for shorter, more technical tools. Everyone seemed to settle on the 55cm length around the same time. I think I got my first Chacal around 1979 or so after the ascent of Huntington and climbing in Canada with Dale.

The main advantage was that it was the first technical tool (that I can remember) that had the first reverse curve pick and the pick could be replaced if it broke. Since it seemed that every other tool I used I broke it was nice to have that option. That little reverse pick made a huge difference at the time. The Lowe can out with the Big Bird and North Wall Hammer, clip-on crampons.

RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 14, 2009 - 11:16am PT
There was the obvious wall hammer, and a crag hammer, shorter pick and no teeth. What I was wondering about was just the wood handled alpine hammers. Not seen an ash one so that is news.

Adding some handle length was a big improvement. I was rereading the old catalogs last night. The '75 catalog says 4 versions of the alpine hammer, the '78 version says 5.

Steel mnkey:
"Marty Karabin gave me a chart one time that had no less than 16 different renditions of the Chouinard hammers over the years. Differences were pretty small in some cases... teeth, no teeth, tooth spacing, etc."

Wow, that would be interesting, love to see that list. Wall, crag and alpine hammers all listed I have to assume?

Tom that is a Rexilon shaft. Nice axe btw just a bit heavier than the Bamboo and I suspect a good bit stronger overtime.



Jack:
"I think I got my first Chacal around 1979 or so after the ascent of Huntington and climbing in Canada with Dale."

Jack, I'd bought a Chacel as well, same year '79. They were a big hit in Canada after Lauchlan and Elzinga came back from the '79 meet in Chamonix. (Simond gave all the particapants a Chacal) I used mine with a Bamboo Zero or a Curver to make the pair and later with a Simond Baracuda (axe version) as soon as they appeared. Used the Simond gear from early '80s through '86 or '87.





And another tool from the era, Clog Vulture...the hammer version was eventually recalled and discontinued for loosing the head. Owners were given a new Curver.



Th Curver axe


Good call Jack! Frost left the partnership in '75 and shortly after that all the axes were marked CHOUINARD only. '78 catalog clearly shows the new logo on the newest synthetic shafted piolet and the Zero. (which is painted bamboo in the catalog) Makes since just hadn't remembered seeing anything but Chouinard-Frost. So the axes in the above pics are from the last couple of years of production. Kool to know.





Todd:
"As a note, Jack and I were from New York State and had done lots of climbing in the NE. We were surprised that we were considered serious climbers because we got up some cool routes. We were lucky to have been part of a very exciting era of NE winter climbing and have had our standards shifted upwards. It was really cool to meet the good American climbers (like Mike, Rick, and Tobin) in Chamonix and all the crazy Euros. The Americans had several great seasons over there."

Todd, I was thinking about all this last night. Seemed many of the NW guys went to Alaska at the time. Few made it to Europe from our small circle. CO and CA were going to Europe. I had wondered what happened to the East Coast after Bouchard and crew had been to Chamonix? Fun to hear and imagine how each area developed.

I have been developing this personal theory that much of the difficult alpine climbing done round the world gets its start in Chamonix. Not many places where you can do that much alpine ice climbing in 30 days "easily"...as compared to say, Canada or Alaska.

But you and guys like Jack should have a more informed opinion on that. How instrumental was Chamonix to you? Obviously later but Twight and earlier Bouchard come to mind on this idea as well. Was your local cragging scene more of an influence on your mixed and alpine climbing?

Logdog

Trad climber
Sierra Nevada
Jan 14, 2009 - 11:21am PT
Does anybody have a wooden/ bamboo piolet they would part with? Chouinard or similar? For less than e-bay style $300? I'm lookin' to get old school!
Thanks,

-One Eyed Chuck
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 14, 2009 - 11:42am PT
Chuck when you figure the wood/laminate axes were only available from '69 to '78 and a good many of them were broken or had the tips filed well past being useful, $300 seems cheap for a usable example.

Not like I'd want to buy one for $300 though :)
klk

Trad climber
cali
Jan 14, 2009 - 11:55am PT
"One day after several routes of hard climbing Steve, Mugs, Tobin and I all walked into the Charlet Moser factory with twelve broken tools between us. We talked to the main manager and explained to him how it was so many picks had been destroyed and he talked to the main pick forger who adjusted how he tempered the steel and immediately we had replacements made for us on the spot."

Wonderful anecdote.
Ain't no flatlander

climber
Jan 14, 2009 - 11:58am PT
""Marty Karabin gave me a chart one time that had no less than 16 different renditions of the Chouinard hammers over the years. Differences were pretty small in some cases... teeth, no teeth, tooth spacing, etc."

Wow, that would be interesting, love to see that list. Wall, crag and alpine hammers all listed I have to assume?"

Pretty sure Gary Neptune has the full collection.

The UIAA is responsible for the demise of wood shafts in the late 70s, though Larry Penberthy rants probably hastened their demise in the US. Grivel gets around the standard by laminating wood and fiberglass for the shaft (sortof like rexilon) and making a lugged head but it isn't as nice as old-style wood axes. Sells for roughly $180 but I doubt you can buy a wood Chouinard for under $500 now.
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 14, 2009 - 12:36pm PT
Good info on the Neptune collection. Haven't had the chance to visit yet.

"but I doubt you can buy a wood Chouinard for under $500 now."

When they come up on Ebay the Chouinard Piolets seem to fetch $300/$350 or less. Zeros, usually more. But I saw a 60cm Zero axe, in almost perfect shape, go for $200 last Sunday. Deals are still out there if you look around.
Tom

Big Wall climber
San Luis Obispo CA
Jan 14, 2009 - 02:22pm PT
One I don't see in your pictures above is the '75 version that has the long pick, but no notch in the back and no teeth.

Wasn't that the "clean climbing" hammer, intended for "testing fixed pins and removing chocks"? I remember seeing that in the GPIW catalog about '75 or '76. It was basically an unfinished ice hammer, coupled to some inspired marketing.
steelmnkey

climber
Vision man...ya gotta have vision...
Jan 14, 2009 - 02:32pm PT
My reading comprehension meter was off this morning. Missed the "alpine" part of the subject line.

The long pick, no teeth was the crag hammer.
Think it was '75 when it came out, IIRC.

Reilly

Mountain climber
Monrovia, CA
Jan 14, 2009 - 03:50pm PT
Dane,
I had/have one close to Steelmnky's but i recall it being even slimmer and toothed. I think it is down 'there' somewhere.

Reilly
Tom

Big Wall climber
San Luis Obispo CA
Jan 15, 2009 - 12:19am PT
Uh, Uhm, I also had one of those crag hammers, but, I guess I thought it best to let it go to someone who needed it more . . .

I kept the ice hammer, for later defacement.


Who'd know, way back then, that a simple artifact would be so valuable, on eBay, today?


EDIT: When I posted my Piolet on eBay with a $500 buy-it-now, it was GONE in sixty seconds.

EDIT -2: Not sixty seconds, but a short time, for sure. Amazing, how the market works.

EDIT -3: For what it's worth, I used the aforementioned ice axe Piolet on a moderate snow/ice slope, my first on ice, and it worked very well. I was a NooB, and a danger to myself and others, but I was well equipped, with my GPIW piolet.

Living, viva a priori, to tell the tale.


EDIT: my Latin is terrible
rockermike

Mountain climber
Jan 15, 2009 - 12:55am PT
The Piolet in Tom's post above I believe is laminated Hickory. That was the version I had. Came out after the laminated Bamboo ones. I was bumbed at the time not to get bamboo, but I suppose they were stronger. Never broke mine but didn't really do much real ice with it either.

If I'm not mistaken the first Chacal I saw was in '78. Carlos Bueler had a pair and was visiting Telluride after climbing extensively in Canada. Seemed the Canadian guys were a step ahead in ice climbing at the time; at least that was my impression.

Anybody remember the rooster heads? They didn't seem to last in the market too long. Kind of like one of the pictures above (in blue) but with a knuckle protector spike at base of a short shaft.

Dane, my ax and helmet will go in the mail tomorrow.

Hey, and I'll keep pitching these. ebay closes today (Thurs) at 3:00 or so. Way less then $500, sigh. Currently bid up to only $38 for the pair. They got to be worth more than that to someone.

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=280299950912&category=158981&_trksid=p3907.m263&_trkparms=algo%3DSI%26its%3DI%26itu%3DUCI%26otn%3D15%26po%3DLVI%26ps%3D54


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