Chouinard Alpine hammer and Piolet questions?


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karabin museum

Trad climber
phoenix, az
Dec 1, 2009 - 09:45pm PT
1967 - First Year of the Chouinard Alpine Hammer
1967 catalog shows a fuzzy picture of it. Looks like a Crag Hammer pick totally ground down. Handle should have a flat head screw to hold the webbing to the handle. Handle may have silver Chouinard stamp. ("May" - because I have never seen one of these hammers yet and the Yosemite hammers with the flat head screw have silver stamps. 11" handle

1968 - Alpine Hammer 2nd generation - new longer pick with 4 teeth near the tip. 11 1/2" handle, red Chouinard stamp on the handle, phillips head screw to hold the webbing to the handle. I am still trying to figure out the difference between the 1968 and 1971 Alpine Hammer (most peoples say 1972 because of the 1972 catalog).
1971 - Alpine Hammer 3rd generation - The 1971 catalog specifically introduces the new Alpine Hammer but has a fuzzy photo of it. 11 1/2" handle, red Chouinard stamp. Looks the same as the 1968 hammer. Both the 68' and 71' have 4 teeth near the tip. Below are two differences I have seen (the bottom photo top hammer), one has teeth even with the bottom edge of the head, the other the teeth are inset. The 1968 catalog and 1972 catalog both show the teeth even with the bottom edge. The 1968/69 catalog mentions a new handle shape, but not any talk about the new hammer head design.

From 1972 to 1974 the Chouinard catalog stayed the same but the price lists in the back of the catalogs changed. Comparing the 1971 Alpine Hammer to the Alpine Hammer shown in the 1975 catalog, it suddenly has a notch, six teeth near the tip and 5 more teeth near the handle. This is where it gets interesting! Brian-SLC has three Alpine Hammers that document the changes (below photo).
1973 - Alpine Hammer 4th generation - In the photo below the middle Alpine Hammer has 4 teeth near the tip and also has a notch. I have seen this version in old REI and EMS catalogs.
1974 - Alpine Hammer 5th generation - In the photo below the bottom Alpine Hammer has 4 teeth at the tip, space, 5 teeth near the handle. Has notch. I have not found any info on this hammer.
1975 - Alpine Hammer 6th generation - In the photo below the top Alpine Hammer has 6 teeth near the tip, space, 5 teeth near the handle. Has notch. This is the version shown in the 1975 Chouinard catalog.

To make it more fun, the 1973, 1974, 1975 hammers have two different length handles. 11 1/2 " handles have red Chouinard stamp, 13" handles have blue Chouinard stamp. I do not know if there was any rhyme or reason to this since it was not offered as an option in the catalogs. Maybe they ran out of the long handles and put the short ones on, who knows?
Also Brian and I have noticed that some of the heads are thicker and thinner than others. I am not sure if this is caused by the forging process, but the differences are quite noticeable. Differences in thickness also noticable in the 1972 Crag Hammers.

1977 - Alpine Hammer 7th generation. Notch, full teeth from tip to handle. This hammer looks like Chouinard dipped the teeth end in green plastic for shipping, or handling in the retail stores. 13" handle, blue Chouinard stamp.
From there the hammer handles became rubberized plastic.

The 1977 Chouinard catalog states that the Alpine Hammer has gone through 5 major design changes. If this is the case Marty's guess:
1967, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1977

I am not counting the 4 teeth space 5 teeth version that Brian-SLC has.
I am not counting the 6 teeth space 5 teeth version shown in the 1975 catalog. I believe that adding the notch to the head, and proof that EMS was selling the notch-4teeth only (1973) version was a big design change.

Rock on! Marty


Social climber
Christchurch New Zealand
Jan 9, 2011 - 09:52pm PT
Thanks for the last post.

I have been researching my Chouinard Frost piolet and Chouinard alpine hammer.

From the above information I think I have a 1973 Alpine hammer.
, (notch in the hammer head and 4 teeth at the tip)

I have more close up pictures on my blog The whole construction method of holding the head on with wedges and clips is quite different from an ordinay claw hammer. They only have wedges and the shape and friction of the wooden handle with the metal to hold the head. Nothing like putting your life on the line to have added security!!

The other useful item I found was a copy of the 1972 Chouinard Catalogue


Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Jan 9, 2011 - 10:52pm PT
Barold: Re your post:
From the above information I think I have a 1973 Alpine hammer.

I think that date is about right for your model of Alpine hammer. It may be a little bit earlier than 1973, since it doesn't have the additional teeth of the model I show. As you are aware: the hole in the shaft is not original to the hammer, but was drilled to rig a sling for hand-support.

I approached the same problem differently with my purchased in late 1973 or early 1974: Chouinard Alpine hammer. The hole in the head was drilled by me: to rig a sling for hand-support. Note extra-teeth in the pick, which was a later Chouinard modification over your model.


Social climber
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 9, 2011 - 11:25pm PT

Actually this is my photo, not Marty's. Ink color has no rational that I can see as I have different vintage hammers and different length hammers with both red and blue ink including the last version.

I'd also be careful where I'd give the credit to some of the hammers with a full set of cut teeth.

Social climber
Christchurch New Zealand
Jan 10, 2011 - 04:34am PT
Thanks for that

I didn't know about Chouinard before I got the ice axe and hammer. Once I started researching it, the whole story of Chouinard was really interesting and inspiring. From starting out hammering pitons on an anvil to support his climbing lifestyle, to then creating the company with the lifestyle policies and ecological perspective was great.

The climbing world is certainly interesting and innovative.

Trad climber
Sep 3, 2011 - 04:40pm PT
ca. 1978

Stewart Johnson

lake forest
Sep 3, 2011 - 11:04pm PT
how about this?

Trad climber
Sep 4, 2011 - 04:13am PT
Stewart- Nice piece o gear.
karabin museum

Trad climber
phoenix, az
Sep 4, 2011 - 10:33am PT

I have seen many versions of the Climaxe, but they do not have the Chouinard ink stamp on the handle. Looks like the regular hickory Alpine hammer handle placed onto a Climaxe head.

Can you show us a photo of the other side of your Climaxe?

Can I use your photo in my research?

If you are ever selling this Climaxe, please contact me.

RDB, A late thanks for using your photo of your three Alpine Hammers. I think I got the photo from some other source not knowing who to credit.

Rock on! Marty

Sep 7, 2011 - 10:21pm PT
nice gear all around

Trad climber
Woodinville, WA
Sep 9, 2012 - 12:23pm PT
Hey rockermike,

I picked up an old ice hammer at a garage sale for 10 bucks. I can't figure out what it is or any history behind it. It matches the one in the lower left corner of your post (from 2009!). Can you help me?

Good to know I am not the only one that loves this stuff!

Boom Boom

Social climber
Goodyear, Arizona
Sep 9, 2013 - 11:54am PT
Check out my auction on an original generation Chouinard alpine hammer on EBay. Auction ends in three days... today is 9/9/2013. The hammer is unused and in excellent condition.

eBay item number: 111161213322

Trad climber
Sierra Vista
Sep 9, 2013 - 01:29pm PT
This is worth looking at in the context of the discussion:


Trad climber
Bay Area
Sep 9, 2013 - 02:24pm PT
So I have a 1973 Short Handle.
I probably bought it from Trailwise, Berkeley in '74 or '75.
What was the purpose of the notch? I'm guessing better balance when using the pick. A heavy head would cause the hammer to twist when the pick struck. Which it does anyway.

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Sep 9, 2013 - 10:33pm PT
High Traverse & Tad: My thought on the "notch" on the newer Alpine-hammer end is: it lightened up the Alpine Hammer, and did not significantly change its performance.

Chouinard reduced the size & weight of the whole Alpine Hammer in his later models, but the "notch" catches our eyes.

Which is to say: folks like me could swing that newer Alpine Hammer most all day on a long climb----and I did.

The early version was heavy, clunky, and best-used by the Scotts for waterfalls,-----but then they discovered the joy of knuckle-bashing with Pterodactyls.

Here's RDB's photo of the major changes with earliest at left.

Todd Eastman

Bellingham, WA
Sep 9, 2013 - 11:23pm PT
Remember when those were state-of-the-art and we felt we could climb anything with them.

The smell of the linseed oil was the ice climbing equivalent to the pine tar we used on our skis, and in time, on our ice tools.

Big Wall climber
Stevensville, MT
Mar 28, 2018 - 12:00am PT
I know this is an old thread... but I have to chime in because I recently acquired a mint condition Chouinard hammer inside a tub of other exciting, vintage climbing gear, and I'm absolutley thrilled by it.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Mar 28, 2018 - 09:54am PT
They have been museum pieces for quite some time...below is Michael Kennedy wielding one on Latok 1 in 1978.


Social climber
Fall City WA
Mar 20, 2019 - 10:15am PT
A 1970 Piolet (?)
This little 55cm came my way, just today.
Something I’d noticed from Fritz’s earlier 1970 brouchure pic was that the spike ferrule appears to a smaller diameter where it meets the shaft. Also the bottom inch or of shaft is tapered slightly to effect the transition.
Anyhow, this rough jewel exhibits such smaller ferrule dia. at the top
measuring 3 3/8” rather than the 3 5/8” of my later ‘74. The bottom dia. of both ferrules is the same at 3”.
So, my own contribution to Piolet archeology.
I’m going to leave this one as it came to me, sadly “rode hard and put away wet” so to speak. Just as polishing an old coin or rebluing an old firearm only denigrates it’s value, for me erasing the wear and tear on this old girl would feel the same.
Thanks to all for the previous posts and images.
As some other folks posting on this and related threads, I too spent three days in ‘74 playing follow the leader behind “The Master”, my own experience on Mt. Baker’s lower Colman Glacier after a chance meeting at the old Boat Street Swallows Nest. It certainly helped save my butt and set me straight.

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Mar 20, 2019 - 11:40am PT
As an avid collector I don't think cleaning up ice axes to restore them sacrifices value provided it is done carefully. If the axe was owned by someone famous and/or was used on a significant climb that is a different situation as the cumulative wear can then be of historical consequence. Polishing the original black finish off of a piece of hardware does hurt the value since it isn't really restoration per se.
Messages 81 - 100 of total 105 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
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