Classic Ice Primer- Chouinard Catalog 1968

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Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 1, 2009 - 05:34pm PT
Who made the first bent-shaft tools?
Lowe???

Never saw these out in the field; one piece stamped? Cut??
Steve you could probably duplicate these for us in a couple hours?



From Mountain number 68 July/August 1979

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 1, 2009 - 05:59pm PT
I could use em to install rigid foam too! LOL

The bent shaft thing had to be european with so many tweakers afoot there.
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Jan 1, 2009 - 06:51pm PT
Wow! We've seen so many shots of Yvon at his tin-shed forge that it's nice to get a look at Hamish in his shop. So similar, really, the slightly disheveled, slightly cluttered place where serious metalworking obviously happens.

All these shots show much later and more evolved McInnes tools than the ones I was thinking of from the late 60s. The blades on these look to be about one-third the thickness and of a high alloy. I'd like to swing those tools, and I bet they would work just fine.

The earlier things were indeed just hooking tools. You blasted a hole in ice then hooked it.

The one Hamish has in his hand is the same length as Don Jensen's tool. You're probably right, Tar, 40 cm. In the comparison shot from Climbing Ice I think the Piolet and North Wall Hammer are 50 or 55 cm.

The one I got was in total admiring imitation of Don Jensen. I was a puppy, an apprentice guide. He was not only Chief Guide in the Palisades, and later owner of PSOM, but he was the real deal cutting-edge alpine climber. His West Face of Mt. Huntington from '65 or so was the Alaskan climb of the decade. (Can't recall if the Cassin was done in the Sixties too.) He trained for all his Alaskan climbs in the spring in the Palisades, and down-soloing the V-Notch was just one snapshot out of weeks of soloing around up there, all alone. Not only is that a pretty small shaft to anchor a self-belay kicking steps downward, but in spring conditions I always worry about how bonded the snowpack is, really, to the burnished green ice below.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 1, 2009 - 07:24pm PT
Is that the same groundbreaking climb that David Roberts participated in and wrote about?
Maybe I'm thinking Mount Deborah.

Here is the current state of my Jensen pack:

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 1, 2009 - 09:01pm PT
I think Hamish went to work for the people that produced the Curver and several other not quite designs. Lots of design experimentation going on

Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 1, 2009 - 09:21pm PT
Yes the Snowdon Mouldings Curver,

Well executed design, but we called it “the platemaker”
The teeth at the tip of the pick were too deep.
(Probably the radical droop wasn't really so good for removal either)

Nowadays we would have known better and at least custom-filed them teeth a little bit…

It had a nice fiberglass shaft; real rough (good for gripping) and prefigured leashless in a way because it had a lump down by the ferrule.

In Chamonix I saw a very old wood shafted ice ax, but 60 cm, with that same sort of bulbous catch down by the ferrule:
I really really really wanted a picture of that; it was in a museum under glass.







Here’s a picture taken at Lee Vining in the late 70s,
I’m actually using a Curver here, (I wish I had it now, in an archival sense):





I got rid of it and happily “graduated” to a 60 cm Chouinard Piolet and a 55 cm Big Bird.
This is in the Mendel right couloir, 1980:



 Ultimate helmet
 Chouinard Fantasia rope
 Galibier Superguides
 Chouinard/Carmen Supergaitors
 SMC rigid 'poons
 Dachstein mitts
 Home sewn rucksack
 Home sewn overpants
 Black rock.fukkin.hard ice
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Jan 1, 2009 - 10:58pm PT
Yep, the same climb with Roberts, chronicled in his first book Mountain of my Fear. He went on to write Deborah: A Wilderness Narrative about his expedition there with Don in 1964. His description of first meeting Don is the opening passage of Deborah:

"I first met Don Jensen at the beginning of our sophomore year at Harvard. I had heard of Don -- other members of the club had told me what a strong, enthusiastic climber he was. But it was something of a surprise to meet him. That Friday afternoon, I had lugged my gear over to the entry of Lowell House, where the cars would pick us up. With the other beginners, I stood for a few moments in an awkward silence. Then one of them stepped aggressively toward me, stretching out an eager hand: "Hi! I'm Don Jensen."

"I was surprised because he seemed so boyishly friendly. I had imagined some cool, hard athlete. I could see that Don was powerful... His black hair and solid face were strong and masculine. But his face was also young, and terribly sincere. I was used to the Harvard 'style,' in which one affects a biting wit and a cold heart. ...he was nostalgic for the Sierra Nevada. He told me about a twenty-day trip he had taken alone, following the divide southward. I had never been out for that long, let alone by myself; I suggested that he must have got lonely. On the contrary, he had found the several people he had run into a disappointment. Once he had seen a large group of Sierra Club hikers, and had deliberately skirted them so that he would not have to talk to them."


I'll get to telling my own Jensen stories, but when I found this I had to copy it out. A different take, but so obviously the same guy and the same boyish enthusiasm I loved in him.
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Jan 1, 2009 - 11:16pm PT
Interesting to think of Hamish going on to work at Snowdon Mouldings. And especially interesting to hear about actual experience swinging a Curver.

My Chouinard-trained eye saw the droop as too curved, going beyond mirroring the arc of swinging the tool. So I suspected it wouldn't work and never tried one. On the other hand, even the backwards curve that came out later seemed to stick just fine, and with the same swing. I've never quite understood that.

To further confound things, I was accosted in a pub in Sheffield in the mid-Nineties by the story that the first drooped-pick axes were made by Scots, re-forging their axes heated over a Primus stove.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 2, 2009 - 12:56am PT
DR said:
"To further confound things, I was accosted in a pub in Sheffield in the mid-Nineties by the story that the first drooped-pick axes were made by Scots, re-forging their axes heated over a Primus stove."

Out here in Colorado Bill Roos and Paul Sibley were tinkering with ice axes, maybe as early as late 60s and certainly into the 70s.

Below is a picture of my sewing shop where I created many sewn items including Fish Products portaledges throughout the 90s.
On the wall to the left you can see an old stamp remnant from the Forrest ice ax manufacturing process.




In the enlarged photo below,
On the far left side is a Clog tool, (a short north wall hammer), unaltered.
To the right of that,
Also on the left side of the double doors hang twin custom short 45 cm tools.
These appear to have Simond Chacal blades welded onto some other sort of head and shaft.

To the right are two other similar examples, more toward ax length (particularly the yellow one) along with a 60 cm Chouinard Piolet.
Up in the high right corner is some sort of north wall hammer, with a mid-length wooden tool handle, no ferrule, wrapped in tennis racket grip leather!



These guys were experimenting with radically drooped pics fairly early on: I’m not sure when they started. Paul has mentioned something about doing it in a similar timeframe to that of McInnis. So Doug Robinson, your story about having been accosted by the gearhead Scotsmen: they could apparently get a little of that rivalry from these Colorado boys!

(Maybe best just to drink the scotch, or beer, marvel the tool-relics and wander outside under the sky, breathe some fresh air ... haha!)

Somewhere else in the mix was something more representative of their earlier work, with a simple droop which they augmented from a generic wood shafted short ax. Most of what you see on the wall here is reverse curve modification, so it represents their late 70s noodlings.
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Jan 2, 2009 - 11:29am PT
Boy oh boy Roy,

Another fine shop. Gotta love that multi-functional feel when the acetylene rig is within reach from the sewing machine. OT, but I can't help noticing some boards off to the right with pins on em. And a couple of those tools appear to be still dripping from that Mendel Right black ice outing.

I'd pour a Scotch here but not yet. Enjoying too much the Peets hour.

We seem to have another case of simultaneous invention here, or at least ultra-rapid spread of drooped-pick experimentation worldwide. If there was a Nobel Prize hanging in the balance, or even if Oli was into ice, we could escalate to a full-scale Taco Brand(TM) conflagration. The only corner of the alpine world still apparently silent here is the Alps. Or maybe they represent the Old School -- been climbing ice for well over a hundred years, thank you very much, and forging tools for it so long too, that they had gotten stubborn or complacent about how it's done.

Pause again to look at that Chouinard Equipment catalog that started this thread. (Thanks once again, Steve) Happen to have an original, on paper, right handy. Really can't tell from the tiny prints of those classic shots of French Technique if YC's axe has a curved pick. And I can't find right now my copies of Climbing Ice, with better reproductions of the same photos. Certainly by the next catalog the date of introduction of the Piolet is listed as 1969. And by October of that year Yvon delivered to me on the edge of the Palisade Glacier the hickory-handled 70 cm one (and that hand-forged Alpine Hammer) that we put to good use on the V-Notch the next day.

None of this really answers the question of where first the droop. Yvon's Piolet was such a high point esthetically -- still is the most beautiful ice tool I own and use. And it was so well marketed, including adroit use of the media -- a Chouinard trademark -- like my article about the V-Notch "Truckin' my Blues Away" (which had to be in Mountain? 1970?), that the question never arose, for me, until forcefully presented that night in Sheffield.

Wish I recalled better. Certainly remember pushing through a loud, crowded Pub. Certainly he was a Climber of Standing (TM) -- I was being escorted around and introduced, after giving a slide show in a big, tiered auditorium. He was definitely poking a finger toward my chest, which sloshed his beer. He was very intent on letting me know in no uncertain terms about Scottish primogeniture of the droop. Others listening agreed. May have even said that YC had come through Scotland to take in their development.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 2, 2009 - 01:07pm PT
"If there was a Nobel Prize hanging in the balance, or even if Oli was into ice, we could escalate to a full-scale Taco Brand(TM) conflagration. "

hahahahahahahahaha!
We could only hope for such a sh#t storm of entertainment!
Sadly I think it's just you and me on the sidelines, toasting our scotches and coffees with this one...

No doubt, and no argument, the aesthetics, execution and branding of the Piolet stands as a masterpiece of our generation.
It ought to be curated in the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York City.


Not for sleuthing purposes but for flavor:
(Clearly, Chouinard set a new standard in ad copy aesthetics with his clean lines and innovative fonts)



(Ad Mountain Magazine number 40 November 1974)


Sometime this year there was a pretty darn good article in the New Yorker about simultaneous mass propagation, but independently, of parallel innovations.

Oh well,
Eagerly awaiting some Don Jensen tidbits.
He had a bit of the innovator in him yes?
I love the clean lines on that Rivendell Jensen pack.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 2, 2009 - 01:48pm PT
Never used one of these tents designed by Jensen,
And by some accounts it was pretty tiny but very stable in high winds.
Certainly it has elegant lines from a design perspective.

Those Rivendell Mountain Works ads also displayed a bit of class:



(also from Nov 74 Mountain)
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 2, 2009 - 02:29pm PT
Here's some reference to the adoption of the curved picks.
As a sideliner, I'm more interested in appreciating the craftsmanship and aesthetic of the tooling.
But the instigation and timeline of innovation is cool too:




Some general commentary on applicable designs:



Reprinted from Mountain number 40
full article to follow....
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 2, 2009 - 02:51pm PT
From Mountain Magazine number 40 November 1974,

The Changing Styles of Scottish Winter Climbing

Summary:
An appraisal of the last four years of Scottish winter climbing since the introduction of new techniques and equipment.






Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 2, 2009 - 02:52pm PT




Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 2, 2009 - 09:01pm PT
Man did those blokes get some mileage out of those Salewa adjustables! I remember that article well as it came out at what seemed to be the height of classic Scottish winter climbing activity. Great post!

All day today I have been pondering the crafty and Promethean Scots re-forging their axe tips over a Primus stove. LOL

There must be quite a few exciting pick failure stories to go along with all the tweaking and innovation. It seems like people were zeroed in on stick and not on ease of extraction for another decade.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 2, 2009 - 09:25pm PT
There can be now doubt about that stick priority.
That Curver beast really stuck and routinely manufactured some serious dinner plates on the way out.

Sibley and Roos told me that one of their early re-drooping exercises produced a pick which frequently came out of alignment!
Must have been some metallurgical considerations at play...
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 2, 2009 - 10:19pm PT
Lots of these early mixed routes were done with Salewa adjustable crampons strapped onto leather boots. Very light and simple design (complete with period duct tape anti-bot wrap).





Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 2, 2009 - 10:49pm PT
My, aren't you the tidy archivist!
Just look at those cute little red twisty ties keeping order over your Beck neoprene straps.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 2, 2009 - 10:50pm PT
Just how many axes of marginally differentiated design did a girl need back in 1979???



(From Mountain number 67)
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