Assistance Needed Identifying Old Chouinard-Frost Piolet

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RK

climber
Santa Cruz, CA.
Topic Author's Original Post - Jun 10, 2010 - 08:41am PT
I was cleaning my attic and found a variety of old gear. In particular I pulled out my old Chouinard-Frost piolet which was still in good condition after 30+ years of retirement. I photographed it and was initially thinking of putting it and the other items up for sale, but I am having second thoughts and may just keep it.

Regardless (and to the point) can someone help identify the wood in the shaft? (See photos) There were various materials used for the shaft over the years and I am not good at identifying wood.

Any assistance is appreciated.

Thanks.

Credit: RK
Credit: RK
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Jun 10, 2010 - 08:56am PT
Hickory, doesn't look like bamboo although it could be, I'm no expert either.
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
Jun 10, 2010 - 09:27am PT
Looks like bamboo to me.

The pick has two sets of teeth. My recollection is that it's more common to see different wood shafts on the older C-F's that only had the one set of teeth by the end of the pick.

Darn clean lookin' tool.

Keep that thing!
Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Jun 10, 2010 - 10:03am PT
I think I'm going with "Rexilon shaft." Here's photos of a "slightly newer-Vintage 1978" Chouinard axe from the "double-notch" series: that I know is bamboo shaft.

Credit: Fritz

Credit: Fritz


The 1975-76 Chouinard cataog mentions the Piolet is available in both bamboo and Rexilon-(18-laminates of wood). The Rexilon shafts were stronger than bamboo, but slightly heavier. Bamboo axe was $60.00 and Rexilon was $55.00.



Here is a link to 2009 ST thread on the subject. http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=762638
Edge

Trad climber
New Durham, NH
Jun 10, 2010 - 10:13am PT
That definitely looks laminated to me. There would almost certainly be some variation in the width of the annular rings if it were natural wood.
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
Jun 10, 2010 - 10:34am PT
The 1975-76 Chouinard cataog mentions the Piolet is available in both bamboo and Rexilon-(18-laminates of wood). The Rexilon shafts were stronger than bamboo, but slightly heavier. Bamboo axe was $60.00 and Rexilon was $55.00.

I thought by 75/76, the axes were just marked "Chouinard" and had dropped "Frost" since he was no longer with the them?

Might count more than 18 laminates in that tool?

I have one that is very similar looking but I don't think it has the double teeth. Have to check the inventory.

Pretty sure I have an old hickory shaft one too, and, doesn't look anything like that. Seems like bamboo will color and look like that, though?

-Brian in SLC
Berk

Mountain climber
USA
Jun 10, 2010 - 10:40am PT
You should definitely get rid of it........like sell it to me.

EdBannister

Mountain climber
CA
Jun 10, 2010 - 10:49am PT
I have the same vintage axe, but mine does not look like yours!
Yours is collector quality condition!! The slightly darkened tone is perhaps from being oiled once or twice? That was a common practice, my axe is dented dinged, and way darker from oil. If you sell it, I'll bid 100 bucks right here... but you would be nuts to sell it, coolest piece of mountaineering gear that can go up on a wall, and you have the classic, of classics, even before the great expansion of the Yvonego, back when he was still giving credit where credit was due, to the designer, Tom Frost.

here is part of the story on your axe:
http://www.bradleyalpinist.com/cart/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=28

What was not reported here, is that CAMP had some left over heads with the "Frost" still on them, that were sold dark market in parts of Europe
less known to the Diamond C marketing machine, wait, no i did not say that,
but i did hear it directly from a Codega with six or so drinks in him over dinner in Munich.
the article is worth the read and will get you informed about the piolet.
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
Jun 10, 2010 - 10:56am PT
Some other information that might be useful (or not!)...

Weight and length.

Also, how many rivets hold the head to the shaft (should be three?)?
EdBannister

Mountain climber
CA
Jun 10, 2010 - 11:06am PT
Brian, not sure why you need to know, or why it makes a difference, but that is a 70, you can tell from the pic.
Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Jun 10, 2010 - 11:31am PT
Brian: My assertion that the info on Rexilon came from the 1975-76 Chouinard catalog is based mainly on "the history of Chouinard Firsts" on page 5 of the catalog, since the catalog does not have a publish date. The Chouinard Firsts only goes up to 1975, whereas my 1978-dated Chouinard catalog does go up to 1978 and shows the addition of Mode Zero & North Wall Hammer in 1976.

Here's photos.

Cover of Chouinard 1975-76 catalog.
Cover of Chouinard 1975-76 catalog.
Credit: Fritz

Piolet description from 1975-76 Chouinard catalog.  My original and we...
Piolet description from 1975-76 Chouinard catalog. My original and well-used bamboo shaft at left of photo.
Credit: Fritz
Ain't no flatlander

climber
Jun 10, 2010 - 11:44am PT
Yep, that is definitely a Rexilon shaft from about '76. Identical to mine, except for the condition.
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
Jun 10, 2010 - 11:46am PT
Brian, not sure why you need to know, or why it makes a difference, but that is a 70, you can tell from the pic.


Supposed to be a fair weight difference between bamboo and rexilon. Compared to the same length, or, a length per weight ratio, might be easy to tell what material the shaft is made from.

Fritz, good reference. Thanks!

Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Jun 10, 2010 - 11:47am PT
Ed: Thanks for your post and the link to the Chouinard Piolet article in Bradley Alpinest. Unfortunately I didn't see it until I posted my last photos.

I agree with all Bradley Alpinest has to say, except:
the shaft material changed again, first to a laminated hickory, then laminated ash for a short time, and eventually a synthetic called Rexilon in 1979, after the UIAA began to raise concerns with the integrity of "wooden" axe shafts.

Per my previous posts: Rexilon was available in 1975 or 1976.
Barbarian

Trad climber
The great white north, eh?
Jun 10, 2010 - 12:05pm PT
I want!
SGropp

Mountain climber
Eastsound, Wa
Jun 10, 2010 - 12:21pm PT
It looks like a laminated shaft, but not bamboo.
I have a axe just like that with a hickory shaft that I got in 72.
Mine has the second set of teeth near the shaft, but I filed them in myself.
rockermike

Trad climber
Berkeley
Jun 10, 2010 - 01:02pm PT
I had one that looked exactly like that; it was made of laminated Hickory. I'm pretty damn sure that's what you got there.
scuffy b

climber
Eastern Salinia
Jun 10, 2010 - 01:16pm PT
If that shaft is Hickory, then the grain is going the wrong way.
Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Jun 10, 2010 - 01:23pm PT
in 1979, after the UIAA began to raise concerns with the integrity of "wooden" axe shafts
About ten years after Larry Penberthy and MSR did. The MSR Thunderbird might not have been pretty, but it sure was a durable axe - and not just for chopping ice.
EdBannister

Mountain climber
CA
Jun 10, 2010 - 01:26pm PT
just a little unpublished minutia.
the actual maker of the axe is CAMP in Premana, a very little town on the side of a hill in Italy.
The Codegas are wonderful, warm, happy people, and the town is so small they have better than good relations with the host City, the Mayor, Claudio Villa, is the International Sales Manager, and also a great guy,
who responds to Claudio, or Mr. Mayor, with a smile.
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
Jun 10, 2010 - 01:43pm PT
About ten years after Larry Penberthy and MSR did. The MSR Thunderbird might not have been pretty, but it sure was a durable axe - and not just for chopping ice.

Didn't the Rainier rangers have a ice axe test they did for prospective climbers? Where they stopped on the shaft, and, if it broke...

Bill Sumner? I've always thought the Thunderbird pick design was fairly unique. Did Camp/Chouinard make the Bill Sumner REI model? Blue composite shaft with a t-bird pick profile. Heavy, burly tool. Anyone know that history?
EdBannister

Mountain climber
CA
Jun 10, 2010 - 01:46pm PT
where is Leversee when you need him?

I am not sure if CAMP made the blue one or not, Julio?????
RK

climber
Santa Cruz, CA.
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 10, 2010 - 02:04pm PT
Wow what a response! Lots of information.

One post asked if I had oiled it, and the answer is a qualified no, athough after 30 years my memory is not perfect. I did use a 50/50 mix of linseed oil and turpentine on a Climax and early verions of the standard hammer. As point of reference; the adze, pick and very upper part of the head were covered with a leather shealth during the 30 years and was amazingly bright and clean. The spike end and to lesser degree the metal mount at the shaft-head connection were tarnished, and slightly rusted. A quick brush over with 600 grit wet-dry paper followed by a buffing wheel and jewelers rouge polishing compound brought the whole thing back to really nice condition.

If it helps with the identification ... which the "voting" seems to be leaning towards Rexilon ... here is a photo of the shaft on the narrow side. Let me know if this changes anyones mind. Thanks for all the help.
Credit: RK
maldaly

Trad climber
Boulder, CO
Jun 10, 2010 - 02:27pm PT
I had that exact axe and trusted it for years as my main mountain tool. Rexilon it is and I beat the sh#t out of it.

One suggestion on it's disposition. Donate it to the American Alpine Club, the Access Fund or the ASCA, which ever is your favorite. I'll get Yvon and Tom to sign it and then the organization can auction it off for lots of money. At last year's AAC dinner, I auctioned off Jim McCarthy's piolet for over $6,000. It was the axe Jim used on some of his first ascents and Sibley and I welded up a nice metal frame with rusty iron and corrugated tin that invoked the image of the original shop. Nice use of baby angles, eh?
McCarthy's Piolet auctioned off at the AAC's 2009 Annual Dinner. The c...
McCarthy's Piolet auctioned off at the AAC's 2009 Annual Dinner. The card in the upper right is a place holder. As auctioned it held a provenance from Jim McCarthy.
Credit: maldaly

Just a thought.

Ed Bannister, Claudio Villa is now working for AluDesign/SSE, the largest carabiner manufacturer in the world. They make some of our carabiners, all of the carabiners for CAMP and lots of the frames for other big name companies. He's the export manager, the same position he held for so many years for CAMP. They are down in Lecco and I'm not sure if he drives to and from Premana every day.

Mal
EdBannister

Mountain climber
CA
Jun 10, 2010 - 02:32pm PT
Wow,
thanks for the update,
I miss those guys and the contact we had.
Claudio actually offered US Camp distributorship to me many years ago, but i did not have the cash to be able to do it correctly...
glad to hear he is doing well, thanks!
BJ

climber
Jun 10, 2010 - 03:37pm PT
Bill Sumner? I've always thought the Thunderbird pick design was fairly unique. Did Camp/Chouinard make the Bill Sumner REI model? Blue composite shaft with a t-bird pick profile. Heavy, burly tool. Anyone know that history?


Are you talking about this type of ice axe? This is not a MSR T-Bird, this is a MSR Sumner, circa 1977. It had a T-Bird profile, but much more droop. Aluminum shaft, originally covered with a heavy blue shrink tubing. I vaguely remember REI marketing a different Sumner ice axe at a much latter date. If this is correct, it was probably manufactured by SMC

Credit: BJ
Rokjox

Trad climber
Boys I'dunno
Jun 10, 2010 - 04:05pm PT
Yeah, thats one. Not the earliest, but that is one. That curve is exactly how I remember it.

Piece of art.


And yours looks new.
BJ

climber
Jun 10, 2010 - 05:24pm PT
OK Rox, MSR produced three ice axes: the T-bird, Sumner, and Eagle. The Eagle had a normal configuration. All were made by MSR at their South Park Seattle location, which they shared with Penberthy ElectroMelt. The T-bird was designed by Larry Penberthy, and the Eagle was presumably a knock off of several other commercial designs. Dr Bill Sumner PhD of Swallows Nest fame designed the Sumner as a more technical tool.

All tools were comparable in weight to other ice axes of the time, and in fact weighed much less than the SMC ice axes. Chouinard wooden ice axes were by far the most aesthetic, but as the short comings of wooden tools became more accepted, their uses diminished.

Here is another general mountaineering axe of the era, a Forest ice axe, circa 1980. I continue to use both tools for general mountaineering to this day. And ice axes continue to be ugly
Credit: BJ
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
Jun 10, 2010 - 08:08pm PT
Are you talking about this type of ice axe? This is not a MSR T-Bird, this is a MSR Sumner, circa 1977. It had a T-Bird profile, but much more droop. Aluminum shaft, originally covered with a heavy blue shrink tubing. I vaguely remember REI marketing a different Sumner ice axe at a much latter date. If this is correct, it was probably manufactured by SMC

Here's a (poor) shot of it:

REI Sumner ice axe
REI Sumner ice axe
Credit: Brian in SLC

Closer with a couple of Chouinard axes for comparison:

Sumner v Chouinard Piolets
Sumner v Chouinard Piolets
Credit: Brian in SLC

Beside the darker color of the shaft, and two rivets holding the head on, the construction looks exactly the same.

-Brian in SLC
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
Jun 10, 2010 - 08:39pm PT
Couple shots of CAMP tools and different shaft materials:

CAMP axes (l to r REI, ?, C-F, C-F)
CAMP axes (l to r REI, ?, C-F, C-F)
Credit: Brian in SLC

Left to right: REI, some strange version with a part metal sleeve and long slot in the head, two Chouinard-Frosts.

Close up of the shafts, in the same order:

CAMP axe shafts
CAMP axe shafts
Credit: Brian in SLC

If I had to hazard a guess at the shaft types...uhhh...maybe the second from the right is bamboo. The others might be hickory? Dunno.

Cheers,

-Brian in SLC
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Jun 10, 2010 - 08:41pm PT
Those axes are a sterling example of form exceeding function.
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
Jun 10, 2010 - 08:52pm PT
Catches up with all of us sooner or later...

Ha ha.

Cheers,

-Brian in SLC
BJ

climber
Jun 10, 2010 - 09:08pm PT
I vaguely remember the REI Sumner, probably showed up when Larry sold to his archenemy REI. It appears to not be manufactured by MSR or SMC, but rather Camp or Chouinard.

It looks like a poor beast
Jim Brennan

Trad climber
Vancouver Canada
Jun 10, 2010 - 09:15pm PT
I own a Chouinard - Frost Zero that was probably the last gasp of the line from Camp - Interalp.

Maybe it's something else, or the livin' end... I don't know.

I do know it has the classic profile that sent a thousand ships adrift and is shafted with Navy blue fibreglass with a smooth ferule and is the requisite 70 cm's long. Anyone else ?

ps. could be a trade show prototype. I know it's a strong buddy for a walking stick that also lets me dig in.
Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Jun 10, 2010 - 09:16pm PT
Brian & all: Since Donini mentioned "form exceeding function"-----we need a function photo-----or three.

Fritz on Cascade Couloir, Banff, Feb. 1974
Fritz on Cascade Couloir, Banff, Feb. 1974
Credit: Fritz

My 60 Cm. Chouinard Piolet and I were "an item" from early 1974 to about 1982. We have dated since, but I have not slept with it----like I used to in my younger days.

I do keep it in my bedroom!

Up Icicle Cr., near Leavenworth WA, 1975.
Up Icicle Cr., near Leavenworth WA, 1975.
Credit: Fritz
Fritz starting to wallow over the summit cornice (that fell off tw...
Fritz starting to wallow over the summit cornice (that fell off two hours later) on Chouinard Route, Mt. Fay, Canadian Rubblies, 1978.
Credit: Fritz

SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Jun 10, 2010 - 09:51pm PT

A great piece of work. I'll have to clean mine up and put
a shot of it here. . .1973 vintage. .
aguacaliente

climber
Jun 10, 2010 - 10:47pm PT
REI Sumner axe
REI Sumner axe
Credit: aguacaliente

Blue REI "Sumner" axe. It says USA on the pick, so guess it wasn't made by CAMP. Is that fiberglass cladding on the shaft? It's metal underneath.
BJ

climber
Jun 11, 2010 - 07:16am PT
If it says USA, the it certainly is of American origin. The details of the shaft seem similar to Chouinard equipment of circa '81-84, as does some of the welding.

My guess is that REI had Chouinard build these Sumner designed axes after REI bought MSR, and closed some portions of it.

I'm sure I had a full understanding of the facts 25 years ago, but I think this was a weird, trivial and short-lasting manufacturing event of a product that did not sell well.
RK

climber
Santa Cruz, CA.
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 11, 2010 - 07:32am PT
Regarding the post from 'Mal' suggesting to donate the axe, with signatures, to the AAC. If I decide to do this who would I contact to make this happen?

Right now I am leaning to keeping it versus my original focus of selling it, but donating is now an attractive option as well.

Thanks.

Ain't no flatlander

climber
Jun 11, 2010 - 08:34am PT
Note that much of the value in the axe that sold was in the signatures, plus the nice display (pity about the head cover and spike guard hiding the artwork of the tool). Your axe is a beautiful example but it still isn't worth much over $500. Add some signatures from the great ones and it becomes something to drive the bidding up. More signatures brings more money. See Chessler's site for examples.
BJ

climber
Jun 11, 2010 - 08:59am PT
Add some signatures from the great ones and it becomes something to drive the bidding up. More signatures brings more money. See Chessler's site for examples.


I can sign it as many times as needed. Bring the $$$$$$$$!

Credit: BJ

Credit: BJ
rockermike

Trad climber
Berkeley
Jun 11, 2010 - 09:17pm PT
re: OP; laminated hickory I tell you. Don't listen to those other wankers. Unless "rexelon" and laminated hickory is the same thing?? I thought rexalon was a synthetic shaft, which this clearly isn't.
RDB

Social climber
way out there
Jun 11, 2010 - 10:35pm PT
"The rexilon shaft on Chouinard ice axes was made of a laminate of
18-layers of beech ("faggio" in Italian). It was originally used for
pole-vaulting poles in the days before fiberglass composites. CAMP used
this before bamboo but both were available for a while."

As others have already said yours is Rexilon. Tough as nails but hated the funky white that showed up after hard use in the wet. Wish I had bought several now.

Hey Ray, trivia for you, the axe Gwain took to Deborah was a 75cm Rexilon that replaced with a 70cm synthetic handled orange Nanga Parbat. IIRC he then bought a short bamboo Piolet and dropped that one the Eiger.

Never could figure out why he wouldn't pay $5.00 more for a lighter axe. That Rexilon one was a real battle axe!

Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Jun 12, 2010 - 08:44am PT
Dane: I don’t recall stocking the Rexilon Piolets in my shop.

To me: it was all about the esthetics of the laminated bamboo.

As for needing a stronger shaft for the legendary “boot-axe” belay: I sure as hell, refused to sell the orange MSR Thunderbird (day-glow metal monsters). We didn't do the "boot-axe" belays either.



Here's a shot of you & Gwain at our bivy on Deborah, with a Piolet in background------and a Pterodactyl.

Credit: Fritz
RDB

Social climber
way out there
Jun 12, 2010 - 09:59am PT
Unbelieveable I just realised what I am doing there. Writing in my journal. I'll have to dig that out and see what I wrote. Gwain picking his feet or what :) But think he is cmaking water on an msr.


Two Piolets in that picture :) Yellow slinged one on the left sunk to the head is mine (still have it) directly in front of the terro with the red sling (Gwain's). Hey, remember that nasty mixed section from the previous night's climbing? And your wart hog I broke? I had liked Terros beforehand but decided Terros really rocked that night :) The Piolet in the back ground with the blue sling is Gwain's. It is Rexilon and loooong. Never did know for sure where he bought it but maybe it was Selkirk Bergsport in Spokane. I know he really liked my bamboo. (Hell he used my Zeros and left both of them in a thunder storm which took years to get back but that is as they say, "another story") Got the feeling he just refused to be a follower. But just as easily he could have got it in Seattle on sale! I never saw many of them. I do know exactly where he lost his though :) He refused to climb with a short Forrest axe we had as a spare. (BJ's picture previous) Bad morning that.



Funny with all the lore behind Jeff and Mike using 70cm piolets on the 1st ascent of Bridalveil, there is a pretty clear picture of Mike in Jeff's book using a short north wall hammer as well on the 2nd pitch of BFalls.

I asked Jello about it once but never heard back. Maybe he'll chime in here.

I'm reminded of that because I remember Gwain trying to lead the pillar on Louise with that battle axe (heavy and long) and my shorter piolet the same season as your pictures posted above. We failed of course. Took a set of terrodactyls to finally get up the thing. Which were then lowered to the second. Pretty funny now in retrospect when we climb the pillar now :)

Anyone remember bending the picks on a Terrodactyl?
RDB

Social climber
way out there
Jun 12, 2010 - 10:19am PT
Here is a short hickory Piolet



and a longer bamboo Piolet



Pretty easy to recognise the difference when you see all three (if you add the Rexilon) together.


Gwain terro in hand.



James with a Zero bamboo hammer on Deltaform.

rockermike

Trad climber
Berkeley
Jun 12, 2010 - 02:02pm PT
from: http://www.bradleyalpinist.com/cart/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=28

Chouinard-Frost Piolet
First a little history on the Piolet. Alpinism is said to have been born in the Alps as early as 1786 with the first summit of Mont Blanc. By 1840, the Piolet or ice axe became the inseparable companion and icon of the Alpinist. In 1919, one notable piolet manufacturer in the Alps was Construzione Articoli Montagna Premana (translates to Articles for Mountaineering Made in Premana), or what we know even today as C.A.M.P., which was operated by Antonio Codega, the son of a prominent blacksmith in Premana, Italy, Nicola Codega. Hand forged in Nicola's original shop, Antonio Codega was contracted by the Italian government to produce piolets and other mountain equipment for the military. Eventually joined by Antonio's four sons, C.A.M.P. began making many other tools for climbing, such as pitons, hammers, and crampons. A frequenter of Premana, the famous Italian mountaineer, Riccardo Cassin began helping the Codegas on design innovations. Somewhere long about 1969, Yvon Chouinard and Tom Frost, of Chouinard Equipment in Ventura, California, commissioned the Codega brothers to build an axe to their specifications. This axe, called the Chouinard-Frost Piolet, featured a hand forged, ground and polished chrome-nickle steel head and a hickory shaft, and has since been a mountaineering equipment classic in the both the US and in the Alps. By printing time of Chouinard Equipment's first catalog in 1972, the Chouinard Piolet shown on page 34 had a new laminated bamboo shaft design, dubbed to be lighter weight and just as strong as the hickory shafted orginal. Over the next 7 years, the Chouinard Piolet went through a few other design changes, including a revised marking on the head, omitting "Frost" from "Chouinard-Frost". This change was first seen in the 1978 catalog, even though Tom Frost had left the company years earlier, in 1975. Other designs of the Piolet included a version with two sections of teeth or notches(double-toothed) on the drooped and curved pick. In other modifications, the shaft material changed again, first to a laminated hickory, then laminated ash for a short time, and eventually a synthetic called Rexilon in 1979, after the UIAA began to raise concerns with the integrity of "wooden" axe shafts. All wooden shafted variations of the Chouinard's Piolet were made by C.A.M.P., but the axe model was phased out of production after 1979. Following this, the Codegas still offered virtually the same ice axe (same head, with bamboo or hickory shafts)in Europe, sans the Chouinard marking (although markings still included "Interalp", "CAMP" and "Made in Premana" which are all also found on the "Chouinard-Frost: and "Chouinard" stamped versions). In the early 80's, the REI Coop contracted with with C.A.M.P., having this same axe design orginated by Chouinard, stamped with the REI logo. These axes were offered in REI's original Seattle store through the mid 1980's. From time to time we will feature these classic Chouinard Piolets on this site, and are always open to buying them from those ready to part with the most trusted companion of their early mountaineering days. These items are sold as "used", and the condition of each item will vary; however, we will not sell one of these vintage axes that is worse for wear, and/or "classic challenged". These Piolets are for collectors, and are gear you'll want to hang on the wall or over the fireplace. In each case, when we have a Piolet available, and it is sold, a percentage of the proceeds will be donated to particular climbing related charity, rescue/recovery fund, or memorial fund. If we have not listed any Piolets today, please keep checking back with us, or perhaps you would like us to buy yours. The charity beneficiary that is associated with an available axe will be indicated in the description. BE SURE TO SEE OUR ALPINIST'S PIOLET CUFF (bracelet), inspired by the double toothed pick version of the Chouinard-Frost Piolet, found in the Alpinist Jewlery section of this site. Its a must have signiture piece for both men and women.
Tobia

Social climber
GA
Jun 12, 2010 - 02:29pm PT
Credit: Tobia

The only ice I have ever used this axe on was either frozen red clay on wheels of my truck or in a bird bath... that is just about all you would use it for in GA.

I am posting it here hoping a certain lurker from the Tahoe area will recognize it. It looks just like it did 28 years or so ago when he gave it to me after a summer in the meadows.

He must have used it extensively from the wear on it and the brazed repair. I don't know if it is a Chouinard-Frost or not; the name would be stamped right where the repair was made. His name is carved in the handle on the other side and I will put it up later if he doesn't bite.

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jun 12, 2010 - 09:02pm PT
The adze looks to be cupped which would rule out anything Chouinard. Well used tool though!
RDB

Social climber
way out there
Jun 12, 2010 - 09:18pm PT
Steve, I'd bet the axe above is a Stubia, serrate adze gives it away. Good droop in the pick would make it a Everest Ralling (likely) or a Nanga Parbat. It should be marked. Tobia?

Mike, with due respect, I don't think the Bradley comments are the end all in historical accuracy. Looks more like a sales pitch to off load over priced axes.

2nd soft cover catalog in '76 offered Rexilon piolets. Which means the rexilon was out way before the '76 printing. I know they were available winter of '75/'76 because my partner had one! By the fall of '78 the Chouinard bamboo Piolets were gone in the US and Europe. They weren't strong enough to meet the UIAA standards in either form. Even Snell's in Cham didn't have them but they did have a few of the bamboo Interalp clones in the sale bin...I bought three to bring home and made 50cm Zeros out of them.

Bottom axe is a Piolet bamboo clone cut as a Zero. The other two are bamboo as well, one new and the other well used.


The '78 catalog shows painted bamboo Zeros as carbon fiber and the first carbon fiber piolets with Interalp hand forged heads.

Europe got hickory, rexilon and bamboo Chouinard tools and a big dump of hickory and bamboo non Chouinard marked piolets in the end. The Chouinard-Frost logo changed to Chouinard sometime between '76 and before '78. Long before '78 if the cataog typical publish date and when the gear was available was any indication. Catalogs were always months if not years behind current production and availability.

No laminated ash or hickory that I know or seen anyone document beyond speculation. Rexilon is not a synthetic but a simple wood laminate. Grivel also used Rexilon for some of their early technical axes from the same time frame, mid '70s.
Credit: RDB

Interalp/Camp did make a McKindley axe that was similar to the Chouinard Piolet for REI as early as 1980. Close examination shows there are a lot of differences. They had a positive clearence pick, a slightly curved adze and a ash or rexilon shaft. 1980 catalog shows ash shafted axes. Same big profile Chouinard spike though. They show on ebay once in awhile but they aren't piolets or a close copy of the original.



rexilon


Couple of threads here including the "Ice Primer" thread that offer some good references by those involved at the time. Doug Robinson's comments come to mind.

This is recent picture of an untouched bamboo piolet (dbl teeth, single Chouinard stamped) with the sales stickers still atatched circa 1978. You can see how it is yellowed over time.



Here is a hickory piolet in similar shape without the stickers and the natural darker color and grain of hickory showing well.



And finally hickory handled hammers with bamboo axes. As you can see hickory could come with losts of variation.
rockermike

Trad climber
Berkeley
Jun 13, 2010 - 01:09pm PT
Maybe we can get Yvon to call this contest. Anyone less and I'm not giving an inch. I know I was TOLD mine was laminated Hickory when I bought it - and that's what I'm sticking to. lol

BTW, my recollection of the history matches Bradely's write up to a tee. But my Alzheimers does kick in occasionally. Its not impossible I'm wrong.
RDB

Social climber
way out there
Jun 13, 2010 - 05:30pm PT
Funny stuff. If it helps Rexilon looks a lot like what you would think laminated hickory should look like. Heck if I ever saw a catalog or flyer from Chouinard saying they sold "laminated hickory" or any laminate beyond Rexilon I might believe if was laminated hickory :)

My partner was told his axe pictured in Fritz's photo was Rexilon. He was very proud of his heavy POS and the fact it was a Rexilon axe :)

Fitz's photo was taken in May of 1976 and he bought the axe in the fall/winter of '75.

Here is what we do know of RK's axe:

Very nice axe in excellent condition worth $300+ to $500 in today's collector market
We know it is a dbl tooth axe
We know it is a chouinard-frost axe
We know the handle is not laminated bamboo
We knwo the handle is not straight Hickory
We know the handle is laminated

(more)
It should have the later three rivet head
Early Chouinard-Frost axes had a 2 rivets and a single set of teeth
we don't know what the wood laminate is (but most agree it is Rexilon)

DR (if that is appropriate) or Coonyard can make the definate judgement call on the handle material :)

Come on, someone here knows Chouinard's email..send him the pictures and ask!





Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Jun 13, 2010 - 07:44pm PT
Rockermike:

Re:
BTW, my recollection of the history matches Bradely's write up to a tee. But my Alzheimers does kick in occasionally. Its not impossible I'm wrong.

Thank you for leaving the window of doubt on your memories.

Early on in this thread : I posted photos out of a Chouinard 1975-76 catalog with a page that had copy on Rexilon Piolets.

RDB has "first-person stories about his climbing buddy buying and using a Rexilon axe in the mid-1970's. That is backed up with his photos of a Chouinard axe collection that “makes me salivate.” (I only own 60, 70, & 80 Cm. bamboo piolets).



So-----rockermike--------would you post up photos of your hickory piolet for us to critique?

Otherwise: I must go to evaluating your input, based on: those “who really want to believe” criteria.







Did you vote for G.W. Bush both times? Do you own "beachfront" property in Florida,------or do you believe there is a "large ark on the moon?"

If so-------I can no longer discuss this topic with you.

Well-----maybe, if I had a tough day, and drink some wine.
Tobia

Social climber
GA
Jun 13, 2010 - 08:02pm PT
The axe i posted had no markings i could find... The Mastadon would know, it belonged to him.

I have a copy of that Chouinard Catalog with the mountains on the back cover.
RDB

Social climber
way out there
Jun 13, 2010 - 10:41pm PT
Fitz, fwiw I have given away or sold most of my Chouinard axe collection in the last year. Felt like I was getting a little greedy :) One went to BD as they didn't have one in the hardware collection and it seem required to me.

I have kept my original bamboo and a second, early, 2 rivet duplicate that is in like new, and unused condition. I just never liked the thicker bladed dbl tooth tools. Then or now. Totally different feel and look for me from the earliest Piolets. That and the fact that most everyone I have seen has a slightly bent pick from the hand forging. Looking at the pick straight on almost all bend slightly to the right. The thicker bladed dbl tooth picks even more so.

new
Credit: RDB
old
Credit: RDB

Fun that so many of us used these tools as our first technical tool. I climbed my first water ice with one. And truely loved climbing water ice with a Zero axe later on. I used a Zero and a Chacal for many pure water ice routes till the spring of '82. Thing I find the most amazing is the Piolet was only available for a very short amount of time, between late 1969 and fall of 1978.

I cracked the shaft on my origial piolet on a Canadian waterfall back in winter of '76/'77 and then relagated it to guiding for years until I just couldn't justify it any more by late '80s.

Crack is the small black line bottom right of the tang.
Credit: RDB

By then generally only older guides would know what it was. And clients were questioning my choice of equipment, "climbing with a "wooden" axe" ;-) Rewelded the tip several times early on and did a terrible job last year bringing it back to "new". Just haven't gotten around to redoing it yet. Way more work than I remember.

Piolet on a late fall ascent of Ptarmigan ridge in '75.


In better days, summit of Liberty Cap on a guided traverse N/S in '78.


Rainier in obviously '80s fashion style! And one of the last guided trips I used my original piolet on. I had taped the shaft top to bottom to protect the bamboo by the point. I realised doing so negated much of the reason I wanted to use it



A toast to all the good days out we spent with our piolets!
RDB

Social climber
way out there
Jun 13, 2010 - 11:11pm PT
Re: the Bradley web info?

It first pays to realise this info is used to promote a piece of jewelery.
Hard to take it seriously in that context as "history".

The Alpinist's Piolet Cuff $210.00

http://www.bradleyalpinist.com/cart/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=2&products_id=465&zenid=m7t4j7uovhe0r5hd4rel5daf87

I think much of the important info on the Chouinard Piolet from the Bradley web site is pure fiction. Let me detail why. I would be pleased if anyone can dispute my comments and would offer first hand evidence of their own details. I am only looking to document the truth, nothing more.

My comments are highlighted.


from: http://www.bradleyalpinist.com/cart/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=28

RE: Chouinard-Frost Piolet
"Somewhere long about 1969, Yvon Chouinard and Tom Frost, of Chouinard Equipment in Ventura, California, commissioned the Codega brothers to build an axe to their specifications. This axe, called the Chouinard-Frost Piolet, featured a hand forged, ground and polished chrome-nickle steel head and a hickory shaft, and has since been a mountaineering equipment classic in the both the US and in the Alps. By printing time of Chouinard Equipment's first catalog in 1972, the Chouinard Piolet shown on page 34 had a new laminated bamboo shaft design, dubbed to be lighter weight and just as strong as the hickory shafted orginal.

Over the next 7 years, the Chouinard Piolet went through a few other design changes, including a revised marking on the head, omitting "Frost" from "Chouinard-Frost". This change was first seen in the 1978 catalog, even though Tom Frost had left the company years earlier, in 1975."

Chouinard catalogs were long known to retailers for being late to the retail market with many items discontinued or unavailable by the time the catalog made it to print and to the dealers. By 1978 the wooden handle Chouinard axes of any type were no longer available in Europe or by then easily available in the USA. And by the fall of '78 even Snell's in Chamonix had the Camp bamboo Chouinard clones on sale, what few they did have. Mind you these were "newest" three rivet dbl tooth heads but with no Chouinard marking. In 1978 The last of the US imported axes had a 3 rivet head and only Chouinard stamped on them.

The 1978 Great Pacific Iron Works catalog (formerly Chouinard and their 3rd catalog) is a interesting mix of the newest carbon fiber Piolet with a hand forged head and "fake" carbon fiber Zeros with bamboo shafts painted to resemble carbon fiber. Clearly a transition time for Chouinard piolets. The Carbon fiber axes were available by the winter of '79. I bought both a carbon fiber piolet and a Zero axe that winter. Found the early carbon fiber lacking on hard Canadian ice and went back to a bamboo Zero axe, now, in '79, extremely hard to find.


"Other designs of the Piolet included a version with two sections of teeth or notches(double-toothed) on the drooped and curved pick. In other modifications, the shaft material changed again, first to a laminated hickory, then laminated ash for a short time, and eventually a synthetic called Rexilon in 1979, after the UIAA began to raise concerns with the integrity of "wooden" axe shafts. All wooden shafted variations of the Chouinard's Piolet were made by C.A.M.P., but the axe model was phased out of production after 1979."

I have never seen laminated hickory or laminated ash Chouinard Piolets in Europe or the NA market. Even more importantly I have no record of either in any Chouinard or GPIW printed material. (3 catalogs and one major update flyer) I was told by sales people at Snell's in the fall of '78 that CAMP would no longer produce either the Chouinard piolets in any wooden form or the CAMP clones. The reasoning behind that was the new UIAA guidelines for shaft strength. Imagine my surprise with two of us showing up for the late alpine ice season thinking we'd buy new tools at Snell's! Plan "B" wasn't all that attactive.

My partner bought a Rexilon marked shaft Piolet in either Spokane or Seattle the 1st half of the winter of '75/'76. And I have owned a number of both hickory and bamboo piolets.


Codegas offered virtually the same ice axe (same head, with bamboo or hickory shafts)in Europe, sans the Chouinard marking (although markings still included "Interalp", "CAMP" and "Made in Premana" which are all also found on the "Chouinard-Frost: and "Chouinard" stamped versions).

True, but as mentioned above it ended fall of '78

"In the early 80's, the REI Coop contracted with with C.A.M.P., having this same axe design orginated by Chouinard, stamped with the REI logo. These axes were offered in REI's original Seattle store through the mid 1980's."

Again, close but not accurate. The CAMP McKinley was offered in the '80 catalog and maybe even earlier but while a CAMP axe it was not a clone of the original Chouinard Piolet design.

I worked at several retail climbing shops from '73 to '85, which is where some of my comments come from.


Slightly off topic but worth repeating after finding the info again.
Someone mentioned the first Chacal? (widely acknowledged as the first reverse curved blade)

THE very first Chacel was Gordon Smith's and the design didn't become commercially available until '79. Simond gave samples to all the climbers attending the International Resemblance in Chamonix in '79.

From the "Ice Primer" thread:

"In 1978 I got hold of THE prototype Chacal from Luger Simond - He was going to make a straight drooped pick but I held the shaft of the axe while he cut holes in an ordinary curved pick blank reversed. Then he cut teeth and changed the angle of the end of the pick to make a point to penetrate the ice and lo, the first reversed banana pick. Worked brilliantly!!
Gordon Smith"
Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Jun 13, 2010 - 11:20pm PT
I have the Northwall hammer version of that piolet. I'll take a photo in the morning (think it's [big]bambu')

Used to have an
MSR T-bird as well (my first axe)until thieves stole it...
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Jun 14, 2010 - 07:40am PT
My memory can make swiss cheese look comparatively like solid granite, but as I recall:

Rexilon = laminated hickory.



And I gotta say it: What is that piece-of-sh*t MSR axe doing in this thread? Any time they bumped into anything they would vibrate like a tuning fork. And some were bright orange? -- give me a break!

Plus they look and feel sort of like an industrial accident compared to the graceful lines of the Piolet.

I don't know if Penberthy was an aerospace guy -- it's tempting to think of all Seattle engineers as ex-Boeing -- but his error in thinking that led to "positive hooking angle" reminds me of the classic mistake aeronautical engineers made regarding the sound barrier. See, if they calculated flying a steady speed right at the speed of sound, the aircraft would develop harmonic vibrations and tear itself apart. Only when they re-imagined the problem as flying through the sound barrier could that difficulty evaporate.

The Piolet's wooden shafts -- any of the batch -- gave important dampening to vibration. YC couldn't begin to consider a bare aluminum tube for a shaft, and even though concerned about strength he didn't go away from wood until the blue carbon shafts, which were a lot more vibration-damp, and almost approached wood in that regard.

Somewhere -- probably Climbing Ice -- YC and I made short work of debunking the theory of hooking angle. See, if the snow-ice surface is so bulletproof that it could matter, it's way too dense to arrest on anyway. When you're arresting, the tip of the pick is buried in the snow, so its angle becomes irrelevant...

The chisel tip on the Piolet is anyway designed for the far more important positive task of penetration and holding on water ice, not for the catch-up work of arresting a fall.

End of rant.
RDB

Social climber
way out there
Jun 14, 2010 - 09:00am PT
And a good rant it is..you ought to write more often DR :)

But...and I don't know sh#t beyond what I find on the net, there are 3 referneces that Rexilon is a Beech wood laminate in 16, 18 and 20 form. I suspect that is the number of wood layers ina specific measurement, .10" or one mm maybe.

Flywheel Rotor Safe-Life Technology: Literature Search Summary By J. B. Chang, D. A. Christopher, J. K. H. Ratner

http://www.varioustopics.com/climbing/656481-rexilon.html

Minor trivia of interest to almost nobody:

"The rexilon shaft on Chouinard ice axes was made of a laminate of
18-layers of beech ("faggio" in Italian). It was originally used for
pole-vaulting poles in the days before fiberglass composites. CAMP used
this before bamboo but both were available for a while.

BTW the CAMP/Cassin factory in Premana is very cool. Not many companies
do their own heat treating (usually sub-contracted) as well as most
other steps of production. A true family business in a beautiful
location."

I also can't find a reference any where in the pole vaulting histories to actual use of Rexilon wood laminated vaulting pole past the uncredited "climbing" comment. Although Bamboo is mentioned often and I would assume that was a laminate.
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Jun 14, 2010 - 09:09am PT
Thanks, Dane.

And, I so appreciate your joy in ferreting out the accurate history of the tools and techniques for carving up so brittle and exacting a medium. Not to mention your vast and cutting-edge career of carrying that onward and upward.

Joyful (even to sleeping with your tools?) but never lapsing into OCD.

All while carrying an Ultima Thule, no less.
BJ

climber
Jun 14, 2010 - 09:20am PT



And I gotta say it: What is that piece-of-sh*t MSR axe doing in this thread? Any time they bumped into anything they would vibrate like a tuning fork. And some were bright orange? -- give me a break!

Agreed

Plus they look and feel sort of like an industrial accident compared to the graceful lines of the Piolet.

Double agree

I don't know if Penberthy was an aerospace guy -- it's tempting to think of all Seattle engineers as ex-Boeing


Larry was a ME, who as a young man worked at the Holden Mine site. His main enterprise was a type of electrical resistance melting, and the company was Penberthy ElectroMelt. His love was being a mad outdoor scientist, and he invented good, bad and weird products. The MSR liquid fuel stoves are still Larry products.

The ice axes were a bombproof products built for glacier travel and general climbing misuse. They were never good for ice climbing and technical use.

They are among the most butt ugly ice axes ever built, although the REI Sumner is even uglier!
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Jun 14, 2010 - 09:26am PT
Yeah, that axe was really a fitting tool for Northwest bumbly snow sloggers. No offense -- in the least -- to those of you from the NW who actually climbed.

Larry's stove irked me too.

It was a good design, though: solid footing, fairly light, burned common fuels and was/is a white hot boiler. Clever roll-up windscreen, too.

But cranking one up in the gentle quiet of a mountain morning shattered the calm with all the subtlety of a jet engine.

I've always burned propane.
RDB

Social climber
way out there
Jun 14, 2010 - 09:28am PT
Hey, you promised not to mention anything in public about "sleeping with my tools".

But Doug, seriously.

Rexilon = laminated hickory? Or was there Rexilon and a laminated hickory production? How about the laminated ash?

Anyone we could actually ask the would know the background?
Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Jun 14, 2010 - 09:29am PT
The MSR Thunderbird was sturdy and reliable, unlike anything else on the market in the early 1970s that was affordable. (If I remember rightly, the T-Bird cost about half what the Chouinard-Frost axe did.) It was one of the first axes the shaft of which didn't often break. The T-Bird was made for real mountains, where it was as likely to be used for chopping wood, bush, or a tent platform as it was for chopping snow or ice. It was also properly designed for self-arrest, one of the first axes with that attribute.

Yes, they were endearingly ugly, and yes, Larry Penberthy had some
interesting ideas - one of which was that reliable climbing equipment was as much an engineering as a design problem. But they were very functional.

As for MSR stoves. Well, they had interesting innovations, e.g. pressurized fuel reservoir that was separate from the burner, windscreen. But the burner itself wasn't anything new.

Must post a photo of my own Chouinard-Frost axe.
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Jun 14, 2010 - 09:33am PT
Yes, they were endearingly ugly

I love your wit, Anders.

And yeah, the esthetics of YC's tools even then strained a dirtbag budget. Though a couple of years of swinging one of Penberthy's clanking, dayglo monsters -- even for chopping roots out of a tent platform -- was enough to encourage stepping up to the expense of a real tool, finely crafted.

Worked for you, right?




Edit: Oops, sorry Dane.
RDB

Social climber
way out there
Jun 14, 2010 - 09:46am PT
Hey I just left a call for YC but he is out till Nov. But did get someone there looking for a reliable and quotable source on shaft materials that actually did make production on the piolet. Likely they will be calling DR!

Also left a message @ Tom Frost's new business phone asking the same.

I'd like to see the questions on shaft materials used put to rest once and for all.
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Jun 14, 2010 - 09:47am PT
I think the name Rexilon is itself the red herring here. It sounds so techno-resin. It also sounds more Euro than named here. And I recall other brands of Euro axes (Grivel maybe, I'm thinking? A delicately-forged head, very light.) that had Rexilon shafts before Chouinard's Piolet did.

The layers of hickory are remarkably thin in those shafts. Which means that the glue used to laminate them became a significant portion of the overall shaft. I'm thinking the laminating glue was actually a resin of some kind, just from the handling qualities of the resulting axe, which were quite good.

BTW, in that narrow-side view of the shaft, we're looking at a rounded cut of a single lamination, hence the grain.

As for laminated ash: I'm stumped on that one.
Fritz

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Jan 29, 2013 - 08:59am PT
I'm currently selling an extra (excess?) Chouinard Piolet on E-Bay. The axe is only marked Chouinard and has the numeral 2 stamped on the shaft.

Note the 2 stamped into the shaft.
Note the 2 stamped into the shaft.
Credit: Fritz

I have memories that the very last bamboo shafts did have numbers stamped on them, but it is argued that the 2 means the product was a second.

Anyone have memories, or better yet a photo of a wood shaft Piolet with a different numberal on it?

In search of an answer, I contacted the original Chouinard rep for the Northwest. He worked the territory from around 1973 to the early 1980's and does not wish to have his name quoted on the internet.

He writes:

Hello Ray,
The ice axes came from Inter Alp in large wooden shipping boxes.
The axes were individually packaged in a zip lock bag.
The boxes were lined with a waxed shipping paper to prevent moisture from entering them
The lids were removed and the inventory was stored in those boxes for shipment.
There was no inspection of the axes in the US.
They were shipped to the retailer or mail order customer as is.
There were two models in two sizes, Rexalon and Bamboo, 60 and 70 cm.
The ice axe in the image is the second generation with the additional set of teeth near the handle for frozen waterfalls climbing.
There were no seconds produced or sold ( intentionally).
I do not know about the stamp mark.
D.

I do appreciate memories from 1978 are suspect, so I would love a photo of your axe with a numeral on the shaft.
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Jan 29, 2013 - 09:07am PT
Y'all don't know sh!t - the Thunderbird was for chopping wood, yo. Or prying boulders.
The venerable jet engine/stove is a paradigm of dependability. My '76 model stills roars
at Mach 1 and I've never done a thing to it, yo.

And, yes, Larry was weird. But what genius isn't?
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jan 29, 2013 - 10:26am PT
Funny what passes for sh#t these days...

The MSR Thunderbird was designed specifically for self arrest on ice, as unlikely a prospect as that may seem to mainstream ice climbers. Other than that it was made not to break catastrophically in belay applications.

Larry Penberthy wasn't the first to concern himself with catastrophic ice axe failure but he was the first to address the lack of pick performance during self arrest.

As an active Search and Rescue expert, Hamish MacInnes got disgusted with the death toll from axe shaft failures while belaying and was the first that I know of to turn to metal shafts resulting in the MacInnes-Massey axe.


The Fox of Glencoe fiddling in his shop from John Cleare's Mountains. MacInnes-Massey axe in the lower foreground.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jan 30, 2013 - 03:36pm PT
That Bradley Alpinist site is pretty definitive...

I was going to give Tom a call but it doesn't seem necessary with that clear progression.
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
Jan 30, 2013 - 04:03pm PT
Here are my old relics.
Very tarnished, Whats the best way to clean em up?
Tad
Early 70's Chouinard Piolet and Alpine Hammer
Early 70's Chouinard Piolet and Alpine Hammer
Credit: T Hocking
Early 70's Chouinard Piolet and Alpine Hammer
Early 70's Chouinard Piolet and Alpine Hammer
Credit: T Hocking
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jan 30, 2013 - 04:13pm PT
ScotchBrite abrasive pads used carefully in line with the grain of the metal finishing. Start with fine and some elbow grease and watch the shine come back out. Use more abrasive pads if the need arises to clear off any stubborn rust but work into it cautiously.
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
Jan 30, 2013 - 04:18pm PT
Thanks Steve, I'll give that a try.
I'll post an after pic if successful.
Tad
Fritz

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Jan 30, 2013 - 04:48pm PT
Steve. Re your mention:
That Bradley Alpinist site is pretty definitive...


RDB & I both know they are absolutely wrong in dating the Rexilon shafts to 1979:

and eventually a synthetic called Rexilon in 1979, after the UIAA began to raise concerns with the integrity of "wooden" axe shafts.

These photos are out of Chouinard's 1975-77 catalog series. Clearly Rexilon Piolets were in their line at that time.
copy from Chouinard 1975-77 catalog, from the Piolet page.
copy from Chouinard 1975-77 catalog, from the Piolet page.
Credit: Fritz
Ice-climbing prices from Chouinard's 1975-77 catalog.
Ice-climbing prices from Chouinard's 1975-77 catalog.
Credit: Fritz

T Hocking! A little Bar Tenders Friend Powder on a Scothbrite helps with the heavy levels of Corrosion. You do have a lot of work in front of you.

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jan 30, 2013 - 04:53pm PT
Thanks for the clarification on errors in fact.

Unfortunately, with Tom leaving in 1975 my easy information source doesn't extend past that date.
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
Jan 30, 2013 - 07:44pm PT
Those MacInnes Massey ice axes were brutes!

MACINNES MASSEY ice axe w/ wood shaft
MACINNES MASSEY ice axe w/ wood shaft
Credit: Brian in SLC
Fritz

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Jan 30, 2013 - 08:08pm PT
OK! Brian. Once again you have a climbing item I've never seen or imagined.

Your MacInnes Massey ice axe with a wood shaft doesn't come up in the first page of Google Seaches on the subject. As we know; MacInnes was all about replacing wood shafts with metal, after doing a rescue of stiffs following the failure of a wood ice-axe shaft belay.

Here's the link to the article in The Scottish Mountaineering Journal, and the gist of it. http://www.smhc.co.uk/objects_item.asp?item_id=31980

April 9th - P.Knap (29), Birmingham, A.Beanland (31,__ Bradford, and M.Morgan (26), Qldbury, left Glen Nevis Camp to climb on Ben and failed to return that night. Rescuers did not know where to look. H.McInnes was out searching next night. Bodies found at 1pm on 11th April, roped together at foot of Zero Gully".

This stark and rather chilling account is extracted from the official Scottish Mountain Rescue Accident Reports for 1959, and unusually has a foot-note. "Leader fell from 3rd pitch and dragged others down. Both their axes snapped off and stumps were still embedded in the snow".

For Hamish Mclnnes, who had been involved in the rescue, this accident had a fairly profound effect. It was customary at that time to belay by driving the axe into the snow and taking turns around it with the rope. The deaths on Zero Gully proved this method to be woefully inadequate, as the then universal wooden shafted axes simply broke. A metal/alloy shafted axe was the answer so


Brian!
More photos of that wood axe please!!
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jan 30, 2013 - 08:18pm PT
from the '72 GPIW catalog: http://www.climbaz.com/chouinard72/chouinard.html

page 34 from the '72 Great Pacific Iron Works catalog
page 34 from the '72 Great Pacific Iron Works catalog
Credit: Ed Hartouni

and the previously posted '75 catalog: http://home.comcast.net/~e.hartouni/GPIW/GPIW.html

page 40 from the '75 Great Pacific Iron Works catalog
page 40 from the '75 Great Pacific Iron Works catalog
Credit: Ed Hartouni

page 41 from the '75 Great Pacific Ironworks catalog
page 41 from the '75 Great Pacific Ironworks catalog
Credit: Ed Hartouni
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
Jan 30, 2013 - 09:08pm PT
Full frontal...

MacInnes Massey ice axe
MacInnes Massey ice axe
Credit: Brian in SLC

The only thing that doesn't look vintage is the rivets holding the bottom spike on the shaft. Could be someone took a M-M axe and just added on a wood shaft. Well done though, and, the aging of the shaft seems to match the rest of the tool well. Orange paint still visible on the under side of the adze. No label on the reverse side of the head.

Couple more for fun:

USHBA Mountain Works  "A Bob Culp Design"
USHBA Mountain Works "A Bob Culp Design"
Credit: Brian in SLC

Always really liked the USHBA Culp designed ice axe. Nice swing/balance. Light and solid.

Camp Interalp Bernina ice axe
Camp Interalp Bernina ice axe
Credit: Brian in SLC

Slot is for nesting the axes together (adze fits)?

From whence they came:

Premana Italy
Premana Italy
Credit: Brian in SLC

Skinny little roads especially from the north side of Como. Up from Lecco not so bad.
Fritz

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Jan 30, 2013 - 09:19pm PT
Brian! I am truly----not just impressed, but astounded by that:


MacInnes Massey


WOOD-SHAFT!!

ice axe
Credit: Brian

Blakey

Trad climber
Sierra Vista
Jan 31, 2013 - 04:55am PT
One of my first ice tools was a metal shafted (coated with red rubber) McInnes Massey North Wall Hammer.

While undoubedly strong, it weighed half a tonne, the pick was as thick as your finger and stuck in nothing. Clumsey and heavy, it was truely useless as an ice climbing tool.

I used it once, on a disintergrating Grade 3 waterfall in the Winter Corries of Driesh. There wasn't much of it left (the waterfall) when I finished!

I don't know what I did with it, but it probably had considerable scrap metal value, given how much metal there was.

Steve
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jan 31, 2013 - 08:21am PT
Fritz and Brian- Now that is a treasure!

I wonder how many of those left the shop before the revolution?

Defintely not a water ice head shape!
Blakey

Trad climber
Sierra Vista
Feb 2, 2013 - 01:54am PT
Those interested might find the Scottish Mountain Heritage Collection site a useful resource....... Some really interesting stuff has been acquired.

http://www.smhc.co.uk/

Steve
middle joe

Trad climber
OC
Feb 25, 2013 - 02:09pm PT
I put my 72-74 Chouinard-Frost Piolet up for sale on eBay if anyone is interested.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/251234917943?ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1555.l2649

my 72-74 Chouinard-Frost Piolet
my 72-74 Chouinard-Frost Piolet
Credit: middle joe
abrams

Sport climber
Feb 25, 2013 - 02:17pm PT
Don't pee-o-lay in the US. We ass ask up mountains.

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Mar 13, 2013 - 08:52am PT
On a more recent note...I am trying to identify the first X15 tools put out by Chouinard. The red shafted ones stand out in my memory but I would like to confirm that hunch.

Show and tell anyone?!?
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
Mar 13, 2013 - 10:08am PT
RK,

Sorry to burst your bubble - but that ice axe is worthless piece of sh#t.

Being the nice guy that I am, and can take that axe off your hands and make sure that it gets recycled properly. I will even send you a postage-paid label to make it easy for you.

Harry
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
Mar 13, 2013 - 12:35pm PT
I am trying to identify the first X15 tools put out by Chouinard. The red shafted ones stand out in my memory but I would like to confirm that hunch.

Steve, I think the red shafted models were BD tools.

Chouinard made, I dimly recall, two or three versions of the X-15. Blue shaft and black shaft. BD picked up at the black shaft then put out the fat BRS (bonded rubber shaft) version, then, onto red with the jet logos? Then they changed the tool name.

I recall in the Chouinard catalog, the original photo's of the X-15's show a two bolt design holding the pick to the tool. I'm not sure they actually produced that commercially? Anyone know?
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Mar 13, 2013 - 12:44pm PT
Hey T Hocking, dunno if its too late but I recommend you do not take steel wool or anything else for that matter, to those tools. Leave em be, they're more valuable that way.

DMT
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Mar 13, 2013 - 12:53pm PT
I thought by 75/76, the axes were just marked "Chouinard" and had dropped "Frost" since he was no longer with the them?

Wonder if he ever had cause to wish he'd stayed?
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Mar 15, 2013 - 11:07am PT
By my conversations with Tom, the break was inevitable as he didn't see any role for himself once the company emphasis shifted towards clothing.

I think the red axes stand out in my memory due to Chouinard's famous quip about "dayglow metal monsters" during his organic phase. Yvon was referencing MSR, of course, but the red certainly met the standard. LOL

You folks that have comprehensive catalogs for Chouinard, please take a look for the first X-15, if you would be so kind. A nice pair of red axes just floated through ebay and caught my eye but I try to land the first offering in any tool design, if I can.
eco-g

Social climber
Lyons, CO
Mar 24, 2013 - 03:46pm PT
Hey All - I've got an old ice axe, and was wondering if anyone might know of how to find what it's worth?
It's a steel shaft, and the imprint on it says "MacInnes Massey/ Made in Great Britain/ Patent Pending"
I found one online so far at the Scottish Mountain Heritage Collection. Same one. But just not sure how much it would be worth or where I could put it up for sale. Any help is appreciated!
Fritz

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Mar 25, 2013 - 07:14am PT
Steve: Sorry for a slow response on your request for X-15 info, but I have been a busy old guy.

The X tools, with replaceable picks, show up in Chouinard catalogs by 1983, but are not in my Chouinard 1980 catalog. I think they were always made with blue shafts per this photo from Chouinard's 1987 catalog.
Credit: Fritz

I have a Chouinard catalog for each year from 1983-to their last catalog in 1989, and the X-15 does not show.

The X-15 is introduced in the first Black Diamond catalog, in 1990----in black.
Credit: Fritz
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Mar 25, 2013 - 08:54am PT
Thanks Fritz!

It turns out that I have an early run Xtool already and will post a shot at some point.
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Mar 25, 2013 - 09:42am PT
I bet you can clean up that originally posted axe by polishing with some jeweler's rouge. It is very fine and if you just take off the oxidation, it will be a beauty.

You can get it here:

http://www.riogrande.com/Search/rouge
Branscomb

Trad climber
Lander, WY
Mar 25, 2013 - 02:09pm PT
I bought my C-F piolet (which I still have) out of the now famous and apparently hard to get 1976 (?) catalog with the Chinese painting on the front (looking at it right now---Chouinard rope.....11x165.....$49.50
Yosemite hammer.......$14.00/Chouinard Piolet...$33.50))

It says in the catalog, "these shafts are made of laminated bamboo..."

Fritz

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Mar 25, 2013 - 05:22pm PT
Branscomb. That Chouinard catalog you have is a classic! I cherish the one I have from back then.

It has been worked out on ST (with a lot of input from Marty) that it was published 1972-74 with different price-lists every 6 months or so.

Chouinard 1972-74 catalog.  More of a book than a catalog.
Chouinard 1972-74 catalog. More of a book than a catalog.
Credit: Fritz
Todd Eastman

climber
Bellingham, WA
Mar 25, 2013 - 06:00pm PT
Blue shafted "Zero" tools with the heads still made by Camp followed the bamboo, with the replaceable heads and replaceable picks made stateside soon after that.
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
Mar 25, 2013 - 10:12pm PT
Something interesting...I call this, the "Piolet X"...

Chouinard Piolet X
Chouinard Piolet X
Credit: Brian in SLC
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
Mar 25, 2013 - 10:29pm PT
Couple more odd items...

Chouinard pre X
Chouinard pre X
Credit: Brian in SLC

Not sure the double bolt on the head of the X tools was ever produced? If anyone has one they'd like to part with...

Was in the 1983 catalog, though:

Chouinard 1983 p4
Chouinard 1983 p4
Credit: Brian in SLC

Chouinard 1983 p5
Chouinard 1983 p5
Credit: Brian in SLC

The X tools were popular with the single bolt pick attachment:

Chouinard Zero X
Chouinard Zero X
Credit: Brian in SLC

Chouinard 1984
Chouinard 1984
Credit: Brian in SLC

Some time prior to convertin' over to Black Diamond...

Chouinard X 15 blue shaft w/ half tube pick
Chouinard X 15 blue shaft w/ half tube pick
Credit: Brian in SLC

Chouinard X-15 black shaft
Chouinard X-15 black shaft
Credit: Brian in SLC

Then, by 1991, was the Black Diamond X-15 BRS Ice Tools.

Black Diamond X-15 Winter 1996/1997
Black Diamond X-15 Winter 1996/1997
Credit: Brian in SLC

Cheers!

troutbreath

climber
Kanada
Mar 30, 2013 - 11:03am PT
1978 REI catalog
1978 REI catalog
Credit: troutbreath

Here's a shotfrom the 1978 REI catalog of what was being sold that year.

I also am trying to track down the year for this Stubai rock hammer that I found at the bottom of the Grand Wall in Squamish in 1975. Stubai is in small print on the side.Could possibly be from the earliest of accents as there was no trace of any wood from the handle. Can't find this hammer type by Stubai on the net so far. Maybe someone on here would know.

Credit: troutbreath

Also in photo is an old Stubai bolt. I had about 5 of them and it never made it into the rock before it bent. Got them from a store in Vancouver called Teepee sports or something like that that sold mostly european stuff. Got lots of pitons from them too and these scary things.

Credit: troutbreath
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