Assistance Needed Identifying Old Chouinard-Frost Piolet

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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 &#40;l to r REI, ?, C-F, C-F&#41;
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 &#40;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.
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